"If you go to lowsec you will die." Say that aloud in your best Kosh impression. Sounds a bit silly, doesn't it? I've heard many NPC Corp old-timers recite this like a spell of doom whenever there is a newbie around asking about low security space. The merits of this practise as a way to dismiss a clueless newbie as quickly as possible are probably best left undisputed. But that said, I have to disagree that it would actually depict the lowsec accurately or in a funny way.
Of course dying is always a real possibility and thus, given enough time, everyone will eventually face death whether they accept it or not. There are some rare occasions where nothing can be done to avoid it but that wrong place at the wrong time might just aswell occur in high security space. The possibility of death can be significantly reduced by taking proper precautions. For example never going AFK and never using autopilot increases the chance of survival immensely in lowsec. Yet some people have managed to not die even if they are quilty of such blatant crimes against common sense. Obviously the chance of losing a ship in lowsec tends to get somewhat exaggerated.
Eventhough there is no CONCORD to help the victims of non-consensual PVP the sentry guns around every stargate and station do respond to criminal activity. Unless foolishly giving the pirates a chance to legitimate combat by stealing or shooting, your ship will be quite safe from any small ships by staying in range of the sentry guns. Bigger ships that are able to tank the sentries can pose a serious problem if you aren't able to warp out faster than they get a target lock on you. Flying a frigate through a gatecamp is usually safe. (Yes, I have done that more than once.) Shuttles and pods are almost invulnerable unless they land on a smartbomb disco or get lagged out. Fortunately smartbombing is uncommon. For a rational mind it all boils down to risk versus reward. If flirting with death is a reward for you like it is to me you will find yourself flying around in lowsec just for shits and giggles. Also, being the curious cat I am I just had to go see it as that's the only real way to find out what lowsec actually is.
So there I was, entering low security space again. This time it was not going to be a hasty trip in and out to fetch yet another skillbook I had bought without checking the security status of the system where it was sold. Neither was it going to be a quick flyby on the shortest route from A to B. This was going to be lowsec for real. I warped my rifter through the first couple system. Local channel showed around a dozen people in both. In the third system there was only one besides me. This started to look like a place where I could dare to explore beyond the protection of sentry guns.
While warping through the system the other person left and I had the system to myself. It was connected to 3 other lowsec systems and 1 highsec. There were no stations and only 6 asteroid belts. I went to see what the belt rats look like in lowsec. I came across some frigates and destroyers in the first belt. Second belt was empty, only a bunch of huge asteroids in there just like in the first one. On the third belt I found wrecks. Someone had been hunting rats there and apparently he ended up being hunted aswell - there was an Amarr battlecruiser wreck. I salvaged it and got a bunch of armor plates, not bad. To make hiding easier I made a safespot bookmark in midwarp while moving to the next belt. The bookmarking function found in the people & places window sure is handy. The fourth belt was empty. On the way to the fifth belt someone entered the system. I checked info and found out the guy had positive security status. Probably not a pirate. The fifth belt had a battleship sized rat with frigate escorts. The bounty on the Serpentis Baron seemed quite juicy as was the thought of the possible salvage I could pull off from it's wreck. But with someone lurking around I did not engage, I wasn't even sure if my little rifter had enough firepower to take it down...
I used directional scanner to gather more intel, scanning at maximum range and 360 degrees. There was a Myrmidon class battlecruiser in the system and it was closer than 14.35 AUs. I adjusted the range to 1 AU and scanner showed the battlecruiser again. Thinking he might be closing in on me I turned on my tail and warped to the safespot I had made, just to be sure. Sitting in the safespot my scanner showed no sign of him or any combat scanner probes so I relaxed and assessed the situation while hoping he would just move on to the next system. Myrmidon is a droneboat and a flock of small scout drones could easily catch and tear me to pieces so flying under it's guns would not be safe - engaging it would be madness. I checked info on Myrmidon to get a more detailed picture. It is slow to warp and align so it couldn't possibly catch anything as nimble as my rifter as long as I would keep warping around. Even with a sensor booster or two fitted a Myrmidon couldn't get a lock in the time it would take me to turn and flee should I decide to wait long enough to see it arrive. I concluded we posed no threat to each other and decided to check the sixth belt. Because it was out of scanner range I couldn't tell if he would be waiting there for me to land on his feet so I warped to 50 km. No Myrmidon, just a lone rat cruiser. 1 AU check on directional scanner with nothing showing up gave me enough confidence to engage the rat. While watching it go down I checked on directional scanner a couple times. The Myrmidon left system and I was alone to loot and salvage the rat in peace. I go through the belts again, ratting away the smaller targets before returning to the fifth belt to try my guns on the Serpentis Baron. The frigate escorts were easy to take out first while the clumsy big rat kept missing me completely.
Just as I was turning on the battleship someone arrived in the system almost immediately followed by the guy who was here earlier. A third one soon followed so it was safespot time again. Checking directional scanner in midwarp showed he was still flying the Myrmidon and another of the guys was in a shuttle. One of them had negative security status, but there was no sign of them or any probes so I felt safe. Soon one left the system, then another. Only the Myrmidon was left so I returned to the fifth belt warping in at 70 km. I approached the rat but kept at a distance in order to lure it away from the belt while staying out of it's range. Getting it far enough would buy me time if someone warped to the scene while I was fighting. Satisfied with the distance to the belt and even more satisfied with the Myrmidon leaving again I attacked the rat and got the shields down in two minutes or so. The armor on that beast gave away painstakingly slowly and regenerated to nearly full health while I reloaded my autocannons.
Checking the directional scanner every now and then whenever someone showed up in the system started to grow into a routine. I was getting bold enough to let people pass by without warping into the safespot every time like a mouse scared silly. Then two pilots entered the system from a nearby gate, a Harbinger and a Hurricane. They were closer than 150000 km so I didn't take any chances and warped to my safespot. Both had -10 security status and they were in the same corp. I anticipated I might have to abandon the system soon, but didn't see them or any probes around. In a few minutes they left and I returned to my rat killing project. It was still there but had regenerated all armor and almost half of shields. I suspected I might not have enough ammunition left to get the job done but decided to try it anyway. I got it to armor but again a ship appeared. A Vagabond piloted by someone with outlaw sec status, but not -10 yet... and he was coming straight for me! Just as I warp off I get to see a glimpse of red on my overview. Again I wait patiently while making sure no ship or probe is getting close. I realize I don't have enough ammunition left to get that rat even if it still is there. But I might get the loot or salvage, maybe the HAC pilot wouldn't bother collecting them... So I wait just a little bit longer and he leaves. To my disappointment, the Serpentis Baron was gone too.
I returned to highsec only a couple million ISK richer, but the experience I gained was priceless.