After what seemed like waaaaay too long, some Level II missions started showing up for me in Eve Online. I'm feeling cocky, rocking the Caracal, 30 million isk in the bank, another 10 or so in minerals and material back in the hangar. I figure I'm wrapping up the Level I stuff. I've got enough BPOs to replace any decently rigged Kestrel with barely a dent in my mineral inventory, so even "Worlds Collide" is cake. Got a full back-up set of the shitty low-level implants in case of poddage. Stretch those wings and fly, you Caldari mission-runner, you.
The first Level II mission I get is "Stop the Thief" or something like that. Here's how I have the Caracal fitted:
High: 1 x Heavy Assault Launcher I (Terror), 1 x Heavy Launcher I (Havoc), 2 x Compact 'Limos' Assault Launcher (Bloodclaw), 1 x Salvager I
Medium: Named Afterburner, Medium Shield Booster I, Small Shield Extender I, Shield Boost Amplifier I
Low: Power Diagnostic Unit I, Ballistic Control System I
Like an idiot, I warp to zero, and I'm in a pack of elite mercs who have chewed into my armor within seconds. (It's a fucking Caracal, so my armor is basically a thick layer of gray paint.) I kite, take two mercs out, and warp out, chastened and shaking. I was seeing red rainbows, deep in hull, and I hit warp just in time to watch what would have been a ship-destroying clot of enemy missiles sail through the empty space where I'd been a moment before. Holy shit. Maybe I need a battlecruiser to solo Level IIs.
I limp back to station and drop over 200K on ship repairs. Reload the launchers. I brood. Then, without really thinking about what I was doing, I undock and try again. This time I warp to 30K. I immediately target the nearest guy, hit the afterburner, and head away from the blinky red crosses of death. Kiting the whole lot of them works like a charm. By keeping the nearest guy locked and hitting him with the light and assault missile, I could still have the next guy out well into armor with the heavy launcher and the other light launcher. Judicious shield boosting kept me at about 3/4 shield throughout the fight. Still, pretty hairy. And no good loot!
I'm gonna need better heavy launchers, and more of them, if this is what Level II missions are like. And that means they'll use more cap, which I ain't got, either. So. I can't afford to buy a Drake, much less fit it and fly it. I can run through a pretty much infinite number of humbly fitted Kestrels, but that would be suicidal, not to mention counter-productive.
And I really, really, really hate losing ships. I know, I'm playing the wrong game. But losing that Caracal, which fits out so nicely and I know so well, would really fucking suck. Especially losing it on a mission, for Pete's sake.
What to do?
I can see why people play this game without ever really playing it. Just sit in station and skill-train for three or four years until you're uber. Skills are another thing. Having purchased all the learning skills, I now feel the obsessive need to max them out, even though I know this is supremely illogical, and No Real Fun At All. I read somewhere that it takes 456% as long to train a skill to V as it does to go from I-IV. Egad. But that month I'll spend will shave a whole week off the time need to get that Titan! Yeah, right.
And this is what I really love about Eve: I'm not gonna decide right now. I'm gonna skill all the basic learning skills to IV, get all the secondary ones to III, and keep running missions until I have amassed a back-up Caracal BPO and all the assorted fitting BPOs. That's probably ten times more expensive than buying a Drake, but it suits my sit-at-the-edge-of-the-pool-with-one-toe-in-the-water style.
So by the time I buy a Drake I'll be rated to fly a Raven. That's the plan within the plan-without-a-plan.