The definition of ransoms in EVE is when one force simply threatens a cause and effect scenario. Pay us or else basically. This can take place in any section of space between two or more parties.
Interpretation of the rules of a ransom are as different and as various as the player base themselves. The most common scenario is when an overwhelming force holds a ship or pod and ceases fire but still prevents the escape of the vessel. A conversation ensues between both parties and the release of that ship is negotiated. The held ships pilot has an opportunity (created by the ransom provider) to exchange money/services/ships whatever. Often times both parties in the ransoming have other ideas on how to swindle or double cross the other party. Drama in sues.
In EVE not paying a ransom is looked at as a space badge of honor. See ‘You can take my life but never my liberty’ or any other bullshit like that. Many people view providing ransoms as just one more level of insult they can provide to a victim, and they provide ransoms with 0 intention of actually honoring them. Others, pay ransoms as just another expense of doing business, taking their chances and ‘rolling the dice’.
Before you pay a ransom you should always conduct a cause and effect understanding of the people you are dealing with. Do they have a history of honoring a ransom? What level of response will you perform and what will its effect be if they don’t honor the ransom?
What key thing I have found to be a very good rule of thumb, is the section of space you are in. There is a culture associated with different parts of space in EVE. In High sec and its target rich environment, people have little to no real regard for each other or future dealings with one another. There is always a steady supply of rubes you can double cross, because of a steady supply of new players who begin their lives there. In my experience playing this game, any ransom offered in high sec is almost never honored. This is just my experience.
As you get farther from the steady supply of ‘new’ or ‘sucker’ players the ransoms seem to be more often honored. Not out of some kind of space honor but for the simple fact, don’t burn a bridge you may need to pass yourself one day. The smaller the population, the more often people are more civil with each other. On one end of the spectrum you have high sec with a huge population base. Wormhole space with only 5% of the total EVE population so the odds of encountering the same group of people is higher.
Also in wormhole space, you can’t hide. Well you can cloak, but if you wish to live long term a POS is necessary. That POS can be removed by a large force. The repercussions of not honoring a ransom in wormhole space are greater than any other space in the game. The community majority feel that not honoring a ransom is a removable offense. Entire coalitions are sometimes formed to remove the offender. Where as in high sec or low, the offender and all his assets will sit in an invincible station and talk shit to you in local.
I’ll share my experiences with wormhole ransoms as someone who has both paid them and provided them.
My corp will offer a ransom in the following situations.
You are the last survivor of a wormhole combat, you are in your pod and you have no hope of escape. A haiku is offered. This is a simple Japanese poem form that you have 30 seconds to complete. Think of it as a EVE ‘gom jabbar’ or “Humanity Test”. Do you have some level of culture, that will spare you from the death of an animal?
Other types of ransoms occur when a wormhole resident done fucked up. They mouthed off in local or refused a fight one too many times. Invasion is eminent and a ransom is offered to the defenders to speed up the ISK/asset destruction process. I have paid this ransom, offered this ransom and participated with the execution of people who didn’t pay.
My wormhole crew has never not honored a ransom, it’s just bad for business. Word travels fast in wormholes of groups who don’t hold their end of the bargain, removal from your hole often follows.
Since EVE online is a sandbox, everyone plays the game differently. There isn’t any rules going forward, there is only past precedent, that may reflect future action.