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No Warping Zone
Faster-Than-Light Travel is often accompanied by certain regions of space where such travel is either impossible or extremely dangerous. Limiting when and where FTL can be used is needed to justify Cool Starships, Space Battles, or chase scenes.

The most common variant is a region surrounding a massive object as big as a star system or as small as a ship. If Hyperspace Is a Scary Place, the scariest regions might be effective No Warping Zones. Might also be the matter that at hyperluminal velocity, return to sublight might have enormous drift from miniscule variations in timing.

No relation to the Video Game equivalent of Warp Zones. See also Teleport Interdiction.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime  

     Film  

  • In Star Trek The Motion Picture, Kirk says that the urgency of their mission means that they have to take the "dangerous" risk of engaging warp drive while still within the solar system. As it turns out, that wasn't the problem. It was the improperly tuned warp engines, which created an unstable wormhole. Oddly, Original Series Trek had never described intra-system warp travel as dangerous before, or since.

     Literature  

  • In Vernor Vinge's Zones of Thought universe, FTL travel is impossible in the interior 80% or so of any given galaxy (in particular, including the Earth).
  • In the Foundation and Empire books by Isaac Asimov, hyperspace jumps close to a gravity well such as a star or planet are perfectly possible, but dangerous and difficult. Not only the passengers (and possibly the ships) suffer damage the closer to a gravity well; it also makes the the calculations necessary so immensely complex that by the time you could make a jump that isn't blind, you generally could have gotten far enough from the gravity well that a much simpler calculation would have been necessary. The same problem exists on the destination side, except doing a Blind Jump is a worse idea in that direction (making a blind jump out of a system is less liable to cause you to reenter normal space inside something than making a blind jump to a system).
  • In Larry Niven's Known Space series, starships can't go FTL near a star, black hole or other massive object or they will be lost forever. Ships thus need to leave a star system using normal engines before engaging their FTL drive, and if they get too close to any massive object while en route, they must drop to normal speeds or simply vanish. This is also implied to be the reason why we believe FTL travel is impossible in Real Life today — we live too close to a star's gravity well, which warps the way physics works, and thus our understanding of what is and isn't possible. This is why the humans would up having to buy FTL technology from the Outsiders. Humanity is implied to have been on the right basic track already, but since it didn't occur to anyone to try their experiments outside Neptune's orbit, they just assumed something was wrong with the equations.
  • Stars, and large planets, in Honor Harrington have a "hyperlimit." Ships can't transition to, or from hyperspace inside that limit. Attempting to leave hyperspace inside the hyperlimit is instant death.
    "A ship which attempted to translate out of hyper inside a star's hyper limit couldn't. As long as it made the attempt within the outer twenty percent of the hyper limit, all that happened was that it couldn't get into n-space. If it made the attempt any further in than that, however, Bad Things happened. Someone had once described the result as using a pulse cannon to fire soft-boiled eggs at a stone wall to see if they would bounce."
    • Even worse, a "hyperlimit" is not a strictly-defined sphere as it is in most such examples. It can easily be farther in one area than in another. It's usually a good idea to translate into n-space a fair distance from the "hyperlimit", if your charts don't have the "hyperlimit" of this system mapped.
  • In the Halo novels, you can't enter Slipspace while near large gravitational fields, like planets, due to the gravity fields being too hard to calculate. Unless you steal a Covenant vessel and use their improved sensors to Slipspace straight through the planet.
  • In Neal Asher's Polity books, USERS (spinning black holes inserted into and back out of Underspace) create wavelike distortions - like throwing a pebble into a pool, repeatedly - that knock ships back into normal space. Used for interdiction and incident containment by Polity Agents and other EC forces.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, starships (both conventional and biological) are unable to perform ZTT jumps or Swallow maneuvers within a certain radius of a gravitational field since local space is too warped to allow safe transmission. This radius is much smaller for the more sophisticated bitek Voidhawks, however, and Lagrange points (spaces where the gravitational pull of a planet is cancelled out by that of another celestial body such as a moon or star) theoretically allow FTL travel within a gravity well.
    • Until Joshua Calvert has to do it under pressure, that is. Then the Lagrange point dodge is fully confirmed.
    • And a blackhawk (a form of Voidhawk) "Swallowed" into, and back out of again, the Tranquility habitat (an O'Neill cylinder colony), as the spin-generated gravity had no effect on the jumps.
  • In Vladimir Vasilyev's No One but Us, three alien armadas are heading towards Earth and two other major human worlds. As part of defending them, powerful Nonlinear Field Generators are engaged, preventing the enemy from warping in, leaving only a tiny (by comparison) window, allowing them to "funnel" the enemy into a predictable position. This field is large enough to encompass the entire system. It also helps that any ship at FTL leaves an imprint at its destination that is detectable far in advance of the ship's arrival.
  • In Ryk E. Spoor's Grand Central Arena, Sandrisson Drives, even when inactive, interfere with each other, which wouldn't be an example of No Warping Zone except that drives jump from the volume of a planetary system to the artificial "Spheres" which are much smaller. A smallish number of ships occupying a Sphere can entirely prevent jumping from anywhere in the planetary system.
  • Murray Leinster's short story "First Contact" was published in the 1940s, when many astronomers believed that outer space was a perfect vacuum. The human-piloted starship in that story could only travel faster-than-light in a total vacuum — even the slightest wisp of atmosphere or nebula would be enough to prevent it.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe, it's stated that you can't use a FTL drive while within the 'mass shadow' of a planet or star. Entering a mass shadow while traveling FTL will pull you out of hyperspace, which in the case of a star, is a very bad thing. There are also ships, called interdictors, capable of generating artificial mass shadows that can yank a ship right out of hyperspace no matter how fast it's traveling. They were difficult to maneuver while performing this function and attracted space debris. The "gravity well projectors" that make this possible also sometimes appear on other ships, or in one case on a space station.
    • An upside for interdictors was found by Grand Admiral Thrawn, that Magnificent Bastard for all seasons. Normally, interdictors are used to prevent enemy ships from escaping via hyperspace. But it wasn't long before Thrawn began using them in more traditional No Warping Zones to snag his own ships. By maneuvering the interdictors just so, he could simply launch an entire fleet towards them and have them drop out of hyperspace, even in crowded conditions, with pinpoint accuracy.
    • It's also mentioned that certain jump points, especially those near dense asteroid clusters are not entirely stable. They can also be moved fractionally by interdictors. These jump points are safe, but tend to be miniscule and move rapidly, so they're only useful for small ships, require extreme precision, and carry a hefty risk. But the ability to slip a strike force where they aren't expected can sometimes pay off handsomely, so every once in a while someone uses them.
    • Much of the plot of Knights of the Old Republic 2 is driven by the fact that the Exile used a Mass Shadow Generator, presumably based on the same technology. It destroyed a whole Mandalorian battlefleet... and a planet.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's The Stars Are Cold Toys, the human jumper does not appear to have a No Warping Zone. However, they are never activated inside a planet's atmosphere. This is because they transport a large sphere around them. Suddenly removing a chunk of an atmosphere has consequences for the planet below.
  • Similarly, in Angel Station by Walter Jon Williams, ships entering or exiting a jump must do so far away from planets, as the process releases deadly radiation. The protagonists are forced to jump fairly close to an inhabited moon, realizing they're committing a heinous crime.
  • In Mikhail Akhmanov and Christopher Nicholas Gilmore's novel Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, there is no FTL travel. However, there are near-light STL jumps that allow a ship to travel to the destination with only a few seconds passing for the people aboard but decades or even centuries for everyone else. While the jump itself is quick (for the traveler), ships normally spend months accelerating using ion engines to get to the outskirts of the system before jumping. This is because precise calculations are required to jump with gravity wells increasing the likelihood of jumping into a "dangerous area" (e.g. the inside of a star). Given that Casual Interstellar Travel is averted in this novel (thousands of planets are colonized by humans in the 20,000 years of space exploration but only a few dozen ships regularly travel between them; a visit by a space trader is a momentous occasion on any world), the loss of even a single ship this way is bad for interstellar trade (such as it is).
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium universe (which is also the one featured in the novels The Mote in God's Eye and The Gripping Hand) has the entire universe, with the exception of certain very special regions, as a No Warping Zone. It's only possible to jump from certain points (and then only to certain other points). Predicting where these are, and where they go, is possible but difficult (and it seems to be related to overall energy flux; a protostar igniting changes the geometry of the nearby jump points). For the most part, this means you spend nearly all of your time traveling from a planet to a jump point or vice versa, or between two jump points within the same system. The jump itself is effectively instantaneous.
    • In the commentary "Building the Mote In God's Eye", Niven and Pournelle note that some version of this trope is required for any sort of stable interstellar government — if a ship can just appear out of nowhere within attack range of a planet, there won't be any empire or federation because belonging to one won't protect you.
  • In the Star Carrier series by William H. Keith, Jr. (a.k.a. "Ian Douglas") transiting to Alcubierre drive requires most ships to be at least ~40 AU from a star, and then only after accelerating to near-c in normal space. This doesn't apply to Slan ships, however, which can not only go FTL deep within the traditional No Warping Zone, but can do it without needing to accelerate, allowing them to Teleport Spam during combat.
  • In the Alliance/Union universe starships can only come out of hyperspace near massive stellar objects like stars; ships that set their destination for anywhere else are never heard from again. Ships enter and leave at the edge of each planetary system, but that seems to be because entering hyperspace requires accelerating to near light speed (and decelerating from near light speed at the destination), not because being too near a star blocks off the entrance.
  • In E.E. Smith's Lensman universe, FTL itself is unrestricted. However, the hyperspatial tube - by which the intervening space can be bypassed by those who don't want their passage observed - is so restricted, and the places in which their termini can open must be a certain distance from massive objects like stars or gas giants. Kim Kinnison goads the insane but brilliant Sir Austin Cardynge into co-operation by threatening that the enemy might drop something unpleasant (a planet-sized antimatter bomb) through one into his study. A quick calculation tells Cardynge they can't, but it has the desired effect of getting him interested in the problem, and the resultant body of work determines just how far out the terminus has to be. This becomes a plot point in a subsequent adventure, where Kinnison - trying to work out how certain baffling abductions are being pulled off - realises that the planet in question lies outside Cardynge's limit.

     Live-Action TV  

  • Star Trek features the occasional Negative Space Wedgie that prohibits the use of their FTL, the Warp Drive. Due to the way it works, this form of travel isn't used within a solar system except in emergencies. Mainly, because it's hard to plot a proper course with all the different gravity-wells of planets nearby, thus it is exceedingly dangerous due to the chance of collisions (with said planets or even the local star)
    • There was a Deep Space Nine episode where a changeling was about to induce a supernova in Bajor's sun. They get wind of it at the last second, but the only way to stop it is to warp through the system. Dax is aghast, but Kira, what with most of her species' lives on the line, is less restrained.
    • Star Trek: Voyager introduced the Omega Directive, which instructed that Omega Molecules be destroyed upon discovery- and even overrode the Prime Directive. Why? Because Omega Molecules had a nasty habit of exploding—and when they did, they created a huge void where FTL travel and communications didn't work, potentially crippling to The Federation and every other spacefaring race within a few thousand light years.
    • An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation centered around the dangers of warp travel in high traffic areas leading to the erosion of the fabric of space-time, causing catastrophic Negative Space Wedgies and, potentially, worse. As a result of this discovery, the Federation places a Warp 5 speed limit on their ships except in cases of emergency, until Starfleet can find and implement a viable solution to the problem. The Klingon Empire agrees to the same speed limit (other factions aren't accounted for). This is observed for the remainder of the series, but eventually discarded with a hand-wave about a technical solution having been found.
  • In Babylon 5, there are places in the hyperspace universe that aren't safe. Some of these are actually Shadow and Vorlon bases. While ships with their own jump engines can technically jump from and to anywhere, doing so other than to/from empty space can cause potentially catastrophic problems.
    • There's also the rule that at no time, ever, ever, are you to open a hyperspace jump inside a planetary atmosphere; your ship may or may not survive the jump AND you will create an atmospheric disaster area. So when Sheridan and crew on a ship are trapped in Jupiter's upper atmosphere, what with its large hydrogen concentration, they realize they just need a particularly strong surge of energy to set off a boom while they make a getaway...
      • In a thinner planetary atmosphere (say, Mars), it's considerably safer... except for the risk that you'll drop back into real space, going umpteen million miles an hour, and smack into a mountain.
    • Related: when a ship or jump gate opens a hyperspace jump, anything in realspace that happens to fall along the perimeter of the jump area is demolished in a messy fashion. If the perimeter crosses another open jump, though, the results can be downright catastrophic. The former has been used as a battle tactic, notably by the Minbari, although it requires extreme precision to be effective. The latter is considered incredibly hazardous even by those standards.
  • Averted in the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica, at least in the traditional "can't warp near a planet" way. In one episode, as part of a sneak attack, the Galactica jumps into the atmosphere of a planet, falls like a stone for a while while launching its fighters, and jumps back out when sufficiently close to the planet that it is identifiable from the surface. However, "slamming the ship through the atmosphere" caused severe structural strains to Galactica that led to quite a few problems down the way. So, jumping in a planet is not impossible, just extremely ill-advised.
    • At the same time, played straight in one of the season 4 episodes: when a Raptor jumps barely a stone's throw from the Galactica's hull, the gravitational shockwave tears out a good chunk of the hull and catastrophically damages the Galactica's already strained superstructure. So it's not like "you can't jump next to other ships", it's more "you CAN jump but you're a safety hazard for anyone nearby".
    • It's also shown that when a ship jumps, anything not solidly fixed down will be drawn to the point where it was. When Galactica jumps in New Caprica's atmosphere at the start of Season 3 it causes a massive upward wind surge with accompanying sonic boom, and when the Pegasus jumps from the burning Scorpia shipyards in Razor the flames and a lot of debris get pulled into the ship's former location. This would mean jumping would be safest when there's nothing larger than a grain of dust is in your immediate vicinity.
  • Farscape also uses the "hazardous to surroundings, not the ship" issue in regards to the Starburst transport used by the biomechanical Leviathan ships. Played straight if the ship tries to Starburst inside the hanger of another ship or other confined space; the contained energy causes the destruction of both ships.

     Tabletop Games  

  • BattleTech's Kearny-Fuchida drives don't take well to gravity. At the same time, recharging the drive via solar sail obviously requires the ship to come out of jump reasonably close to a star to collect energy, and most JumpShips aren't capable of any great sublight acceleration. This results in commercial traffic mostly using a given system's zenith and nadir 'jump points' several AU away from its star and safely above or below most of the clutter in its orbital plane; if actual recharging stations happen to exist in-system, this is where they will be positioned as well. It's possible to jump closer to or from a star by judicious use of Lagrange points (where the star's gravitic pull and that of another celestial body just about cancel out), but since the smaller bodies obviously keep moving around, this requires highly accurate and up-to-date navigational charts and makes for riskier jumps even then.
    • There are other limiting factors for the K-F Drive too. Since jumping creates a "highly destructive" shockwave, it's apparent a bad idea to jump within 27 kilometers of anything whatsoever, and apparently another K-F drive nearby will cause the jump field to form incorrectly Which Would Be Very Bad Indeed.
  • In Traveller, a starship using its jump drive too close to a planetary body or star (within 100 diameters, some sources say 100 AUs which would be well over a hundred times longer in Sol system) has an increased chance of misjump.
  • In Spelljammer ships travel in straight line at the spelljamming speed (10^8 miles/day) but drops to the "tactical speed" if they need to maneuver or something big enough (10 space tons for standard engines) is close enough.
    • A common tactic to prevent a Hyperspeed Escape is to launch large amounts of chaff in the vicinity of your enemies. A common tactic to deal with pursuers is the same: the evader crawls at the tactical speed one locking radius from a jettisoned mass, but the pursuer must either slow down for twice this distance or try to circumvent it and risk going off the course; if the evader slows down again and steers while the pursuer is still locked and can't catch up, it probably got away.
  • In GURPS: Banestorm the title banestorms have screwed up the local laws of magic so badly that teleportation takes a penalty of -25. Not strictly impossible, but in GURPS a skill level of 20 is extraordinary.
  • In the Champions super-hero Tabletop RPG, characters or vehicles can purchase FTL Travel as a Power for only 10 Character Points. They are prohibited from using it in an atmosphere. (Curiously, there's no restriction against using FTL Travel while on the surface of an airless world. You could theoretically spend a few points on FTL Travel, a minimal amount of Flight, and enough Life Support to survive until you fly out of the atmosphere, then engage your FTL Travel and destroy the moon by ramming into it.)
  • In Warhammer 40,000 Tyranid fleets have the effect of making travel through the warp impossible to or from their location. This is naturally bad news for whatever planet they're approaching, unable to evacuate or receive timely reinforcements. This is because the Psychic Link between the (millions and millions of) creatures of the Tyranid fleets is done through the Warp, and so, any person with psychic powers, needed to travel in the Warp, is (painfully) overwhelmed. When the Imperium knows they're coming, they thus always scramble to reinforce the system's defenses beforehand.
    • Naturally occurring Warp Storms and currents (and unnaturally occurring ones, too: powerful daemons can affect the warp currents) can also cause this, preventing ships from entering the Warp, preventing ships from leaving, redirecting them to other places, or even locking off entire systems. Ships that try to force their way through Warp Storms sometimes explode, or vanish, or worse. In two famous examples, entire Imperial fleets have been obliterated: the unnamed warp storm (possibly coincidence, probably not) that prevented the Imperials from exterminating the Tau during the latter race's Iron Age, and the "Storm of the Emperor's Wrath" which "disappeared" a force belonging to the tyrant Goge Vandire and was taken as a sign of holy favor for those resisting him. On the other extreme, ships (and space hulks, which are too big to transition normally) are sometimes sucked into the Warp, only to be expelled in random other systems.
    • Also- warp transits are only supposed to happen in the outer system well away from anything, although the canon has provided several interpretations as to why that might be- accuracy of jumping back into real space is dubious at best, even for the best Navigators (and consequently massively worse for any factions which don't have Navigators), and so no-one wants to risk coming out of the Warp and accidentally ramming a planet; gravity stresses along the barrier between reality and the Warp make it too dangerous to jump in or out of the Warp too deep in a gravity well, on pain of breaking your ship (catastrophically, in some cases); the hole ships make in the fabric of reality when entering or leaving the Warp isn't large, and closes quickly, but it is generally larger than the ship (and, more importantly, larger than the bubble of sane reality formed by the ship's Geller Field), and there's always the possibility of stuff leaking into normal space. Given that the Warp is essentially Hell, no-one wants any chance of it landing on their planet.

     Video Games  

  • As noted on Hyperspeed Escape: Escape Velocity doesn't allow you to enter hyperspace too close to the center of an inhabited system.
  • Elite, possibly the Trope Codifier of "mass-locked" warp drives.
  • The video game Solar Winds displays "Can't hyperjump - Danger near" if you try to go FTL while there's another object on screen (enemies, planets, asteroids).
  • In the computer game Sins of a Solar Empire, ships are unable to conduct "phase jumps" within a gravity well of a stellar object, including stars, planets, asteroids, etc. There are exceptions to this rule, mostly for the Vasari race, whose phase jumping technology is much more advanced than human (either faction).
  • Master of Orion 2 has Warp Dissipator (prevents enemy ships from Hyperspeed Escape in the tactical combat map) and Warp Interdictor (slows down all enemy ships traveling to the system with an Interdictor equipped).
  • Freelancer has no interdicted space, but it does feature Cruise Disruptor missiles that can mess with the target's high-speed cruise engines.
    • These are particularly frustrating if you're running from a group of enemies since all weapons are locked down by engaging the cruise engines. Which would seem to mean that the Counter Measures are also disabled. They aren't, but it's not mentioned anywhere.
  • Sword of the Stars: While human and Zuul ships need to make for a node to escape, the other races have to make a seemingly arbitrary distance from enemy ships before they can retreat. And the Liir's Reactionless Drive is slowed to STL speeds near gravity wells.
  • In the Homeworld campaign, it is extremely dangerous for a ship to travel in hyperspace through a massive object in space, such as a planet or a star, or even a large asteroid. As such, a ship is always kicked out of hyperspace whenever such an object is detected ahead in order to make course corrections. This is sometimes used to trap ships, if the original course of the target ship is known. This is used a number of times during the course of the campaign; the Taiidan trap the Kushan twice this way, once through gravity well generators (by accident: they were keeping trapped the last important commander of the Taiidan Rebellion, and the Kushan's route just happened to cross the area), while the other involves placing a large, powered asteroid directly in the Kushan mothership's path, to both drop it out of hyperspace and careen into it. Additionally, Hiigara is protected by a number of hyperspace inhibitors, at least one of which must be destroyed before it can be assaulted.
  • In the first Noah mission in Nexus: The Jupiter Incident, the player's convoy is intercepted during its IP (interplanetary) jump by the Raptors, who have somehow obtained the technology to do this. This is the only time this happens in the game, though. Additionally, the Vardrag have the technology to lock down wormholes, preventing ships from getting in or out.
  • EVE Online has this as an actual gameplay mechanic, where Player versus Player combat encourages players to prevent enemy ships from escaping. This is where the Interdictors and Heavy Interdictors come in - these vessels can deploy large warp scrambling bubbles that prevent all ships from warping, and capital ships from using their Jump Drives (averted with Strategic Cruisers equipped with the Interdiction Nullifier subsystem, which makes them immune to this). If one needs a slightly more fixed solution, Mobile Warp Disruptor Fields can be manufactured/purchased from the market and anchored in space for the same effect. Players can also equip regular Warp Disruptors to prevent targetted ships from warping away.
  • InStar Trek Online, while you are in combat, you are at red alert and remain so until it clears (usually a few seconds after all engaged enemies have been disabled/destroyed). You can not change maps while at Red Alert. During space combat, this does mean no warp drive.
  • Evochron doesn't have any hard limits on when the Fulcrum Drive can be activated (bar having enough energy and a working navigation system), though in effect planets become no warp zones - The Fulcrum Drive works by accelerating the ship to truly stupendous speeds as it forces open a wormhole. Naturally, doing so inside an atmosphere will cause the ship to almost immediately break up from atmospheric stress. Exiting from a Fulcrum jump has less of a "wind-up", so it's possible to jump into thin atmosphere where it's not possible to jump out. Evochron Mercenary added nebula with sensor disrupting effects for player-versus-player combat, where the Fulcrum drive often cannot be activated.

     Web Comics  

  • Teraport Area Denial in Schlock Mercenary work by detecting and disrupting the wormholes used by the Teraport. Not really a pure No Warping Zone, since you can program your TAD to check for what are essentially "passwords" encoded in the wormholes themselves to let certain teraports through. They can also be circumvented, by using a teraport cage to block the sensors. Or just bulled through by using truly ridiculous amounts of power.
  • In Westward using Escherspace within a star system releases so much energy that it can alter the orbits of planets; using it anywhere near a massive object can have unpredictable effects. This doesn't necessarily make it impossible to do so — only insanely dangerous. At one point, an alien race that doesn't care much uses Escherspace to jump directly into our solar system, and the first sign of their arrival is when astronomers report a slight shift in the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. Throughout the webcomic, this restriction means that while Faster-Than-Light Travel through Escherspace is instantaneous, many months of conventional space travel with rockets are still required as part of any interstellar trip.

     Web Original  


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No Seat BeltsTropes in SpaceNumbered Homeworld
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