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I'm just playing my first round of FTL and I'm wondering what can affect the speed of the rebel fleet that is pursuing me.

Does the time I spend in realtime in each system matter, or is only the number of jumps important?

What ways are there to slow down the fleet?

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No, while you spend time in a node (ie, repairing your craft, organizing your crew or weapons, shopping, upgrading, in combat, etc) there is no movement of the rebel fleet. They only move when you make a jump within a system.

In a non-nebula system, jumping through nebula will make the rebel fleet slow dramatically. It's hard to estimate the effect exactly, but at a glance their progress seems to be halved. I do not believe that the effect is as dramatic in nebula-type systems. If you hover over a nebula jump node in the system, you can see this on the tooltip.

There are also certain events that will either speed up or slow down the rebel advance. For instance, if you encounter a rebel scout and fail to destroy it before it charges its FTL drive, you'll find that the next advance of the rebel fleet will be much larger. Likewise, there are certain automated rebel craft that can be hacked to slow the fleet's advance.

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    There are also Pirates that can be paid to slow them down and some Rebel fighters that upon defeat will surrender and you can ask them to slow the rebel fleet down.
    – Holger
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 8:56
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    @Holger, Mercenaries, not pirates.
    – user2640
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 11:04
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    @Chuim All it does is let your FTL drive charge faster than your piloted engines would normally allow it, meaning you can jump out of combat or a dangerous beacon that much sooner.
    – Samthere
    Commented Sep 27, 2012 at 13:08
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    Also worth noting that some nebulas do not give the full delay benefit - they're marked on the tooltips as such. (Not in front of the game, but it's something to the effect of "the rebels know about this nebula and planned for it") Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 16:00
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    Does distance between nodes affect fleet progression?
    – user9983
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 21:06

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