Note on Collisions

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A Word About StarShip Collisions

A lot of starships have been destroyed on TOS due to collisions, usually with a planet or star, occasionally with other ships or bases.

Nearly all of these collisions have been the result of the (mis)use of the autopilot feature of the navigation console.

Autopilot, in short, kills the unwary.

The Federation has always been the butt of jokes around the game because of its starship collisions. And yes, there have been a number of ships lost to collision in that empire. The first was USS Yorktown, which crashed in 1996 because her captain and crew did not understand how the space system worked. They tried to use the orbit command to swing around Sol at warp speed. They died. They had the excuse of having done this shortly after TOS Space 3.0, the first version of space in which collisions were possible, came on line in 1996. Some time afterward, USS Intrepid crashed into the star in the Centaurus system, in the first of the autopilot-induced crashes.

This crash, like many others, occurred because a navigator wanted to take a shortcut. The guy at the controls manually set a waypoint for the Centaurus system, and set the internal sector coordinates for 0,0,0 because he figured that was easiest. AS it happens, in any sector where there happens to be a star, that star is ALWAYS located at 0,0,0. So any waypoint for such a position will inevitably lead to a stellar collision, unless the navigator is careful. In the case of Intrepid and too many other collisions, he was not. The navigator in question set the waypoint, set the speed, and idled for a while, figuring the autopilot would stop the ship when it reached its destination. It did...right as the ship exploded.

A year or two later USS Excelsior died in much the same way, only this time the point of impact was Sol. Months after that, USS Republic crashed into Starbase One with the aid of her autopilot. The Republic crew had set a waypoint just outside the base, and when they were approaching the base using that waypoint on one particular night, they happened to be coming from the exact opposite side of the base. The autopilot drew a straight line to the waypoint, as it always will, and the ship flew directly into the base in an attempt to reach its destination. The USS Myron plunged into Vulcan several years later through a similar autopilot-induced crash, and USS Ardent was lost in the same way at Nimbus III.

All of this history has made the Federation the butt of many jokes. People talk about StarFleet Captains going on a Stellar Run. But it is worth noting that the other empires have had their share of collisions as well, although they were less publicized.

The Romulans have had two ships crash into stars, although the first was retconned as it occurred shortly after the activation of space in 1996. They also lost two ships to a ship-to-ship collision, the ChR Memory (ChR Ihlarei), a destroyer, and the RHA transport Star Dragon (HgR D'Hajhudh). This occurred May 31, 1997. In 2001, the HgR Ja'telaih, ironically the HgR D'Hajhudh's replacement, became the second ship to ram a star, Eisn (the Romulan home star), after being shanghai'd by an adolescent female who was trying to flee her RHA superior. In 2004, the ChR Khall'Terrh, a new scout, was destroyed shortly after being spaced during an Admin test-flight. Although an OOC blunder, it was covered as an IC event. The Romulans have lost count of how many shuttles have been destroyed, primarily due to twinks stealing them, or civilian navigation errors.

The Klingons have the granddaddy of all collision stories. See, when two ships crash, they blow up. The explosion is powerful... powerful enough to damage or destroy any other ship in close proximity. The Klingons have always loved to build more ships than they could possibly man, and they use prefix control to move multiple ships around at once. At one time, in 1998, they had so many ships that they did not have enough docking ports in their starbases to house them all, so they left ships parked just outside a given base. One night, a Klingon ship was returning to base, with another ship in tow, being controlled via prefix control of its nav console. Of course, the crew did not realize that this makes the two ships share waypoints. They both headed for the same waypoint, meaning they both moved to the exact same spot, where they collided and exploded. There were eight other unmanned, unpowered ships parked near the spot of the crash. The closest of these exploded as a result of damage sustained by the explosion from the collision. Its explosion destroyed the next nearest ship, which destroyed the next nearest. In the end, all ten ships blew up.


So collisions are not just the province of Federation navigators. But they do seem to happen to Feddies more often than anyone else. Why is that?

Well, it's simple, really. The Federation has pretty consistently had between two and four times the active population of the Romulan Empire and between four and six times that of the Klingons. (This is not an estimate...at least as late as 1999, there were online figures to support this, and while the author of this particular article has not been around much since then, I'm assuming, based on the consistency with which those ratios were maintained, that not much has changed.) The Federation has more players, but less player stability. That is, it gets a lot of newbie applicants, many of whom come and go over a period of a few months, whereas the other two Empires tend to consist more of a core of longer-running dedicated players. The Federation has a core like that as well, but the greater frequency of new players means there's a lot of turnover in the lower ranks, and often, less experienced people end up behind the wheel. That's part of it.

More significantly, however, during the "high tide" of StarFleet crashes, roughly from the Yorktown through the Republic, the Federation had more active ships, with more PCs stationed on them permanently, than was the case in other empires, and these ships were leaving dock with a far greater regularity than was the case in the other empires. More ships going out more often leads to a greater likelihood of mishap.

It is likely, unless the situation changes greatly in regards to activity levels in the empires, that StarFleet and the Federation will continue to lose more ships, to causes of all kinds, than the other empires.

That's not to say that some level of incompetence has not been demonstrated by all these crashes. But there's been enough incompetence to go around for all the empires. Don't want to crash a ship? Don't rely on autopilot. Watch your sensors, and when you get within a sector of anything you might hit, disengage the autopilot and alter your course slightly, trying to keep a degree or so from a direct collision course with any object in your path. Don't use autopilot to stop your ship, just use it to get close enough for you to fly in manually. If you TRY to hit something on manual, you will probably fail. It is very, very hard to hit another ship or base on manual control, it's not easy to hit a planet or moon, and it's possible but not that easy to hit a star. Bear that in mind and maybe there will be no more great crashes.