Q: Are Silvers given free ships? And when?
A: The answer to this is YES. Because this is the most important question I'm going to emphasize this with bold and caps:
SILVER ACCOUNT HOLDERS, AS IN INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE NEVER PAID AND POSSIBLY WILL NEVER PAY A SINGLE CENT TO PLAY STAR TREK ONLINE, ARE GIVEN A FREE SHIP EVERY TEN LEVELS UNTIL (AND INCLUDING) LEVEL 40. THIS MEANS ONE TIER-1 SHIP, ONE TIER-2, ONE TIER-3, ONE TIER-4, AND ONE TIER-5 SHIP. THIS SHIP DOES NOT REQUIRE DILITHIUM, ENERGY CREDITS, LATINUM, C-POINTS, OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE TOKEN YOU GET AT PROMOTION. THIS IS ACCURATE AS OF THE TIME OF THIS WRITING, APRIL 14, 2012.
TO CASH IN ON THIS FREE SHIP YOU MUST DO THE PROMOTION MISSION AFTER YOU REACH EACH NEW RANK. THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL. NO MISSION, NO SHIP.
Please pass it along.
Q: But the F2P feature matrix said up to Lt. Cmdr? Shouldn't everyone be stuck in their Constitution/Saber/etc. class ships unless they pay?
A: No. The matrix is out of date or wrong.
Q: What about level 50?
A: No one, except for certain Vet Rewards recipients/special situations, gets a free ship beyond level 40.
Q: What types of ships do I get to choose from?
A: Base-level T1-T5 ships are available. No +1 ships are available, nor ships with extras.
Q: Can I save up my tokens for getting more higher-level ships?
A: Free ship tokens are locked to the tier of the rank you get them at. If you cash in your Lt. Cmdr and Captain token simultaneously you will be able to get one T2 and one T4 ship, not two T4 ships.
Q: I already have a free ship from a specific tier. What if I want a different ship that's not a C-Store ship?
A: All base ships are available for dilithium.
Q: What is a C-Store ship?
A: A C-Store ship is one that you pay for with C-Points (purchased "currency").
Q: What kinds of ships are C-Store ships?
A: Ships with "bonuses," "refit" versions of ships (most tiers have one), any "retrofit" ship, any T1 ship other than the starter, all Vice Admiral ships, and the flagships. Note some T5 ships have "skins" in the C-Store - these are cosmetic, not ships.
Q: How can I tell what's a C-Store ship and what's not?
A: C-Store ships are available in the C-Store or have a "C" icon as part of their price at Ship Requisitions. SpiderMitch has a excellent ship chart that shows which are which. Find the thread on it here.
Q: Can F2P players get C-Store ships?
A: Yes, same price for Silver or Gold.
Q: Are C-Store ships bought per-character?
Q: C-Store ships are account-wide unlocks (buy one, claim on all characters that can use it) and can be reclaimed for free if discharged. C-Store ships you get from sources other than the C-Store (e.g. Vet Rewards) are NOT reclaimable for free and are NOT account-wide.
Q: What about shuttles?
A: You get a basic shuttle for free when you pick up a mission that requires it. All small craft (shuttles, Runabouts, etc.) take up a ship slot, but you get one free with the first one.
Q: What about Runabouts?
A: Runabouts can be purchased for around 34,250 energy credits (price taken from the STO Wiki as of April 14, 2012). I highly recommend them.
Q: I heard about a mission to craft a Delta Flyer?
A: There was one once, but the mission is no longer available. The C-Store still has the Delta Flyer. If you have the Delta Flyer, do not discharge it or you'll need to pay to get it back.
Q: What's a ship slot?
A: A ship slot is a place where you can stick a ship in your ship inventory. You can see it when you're talking to a ship selection officer (you'll note there may be several slots marked empty). You normally get several ship slots free. These increase as you level up.
Q: What happens when I run out of ship slots?
A: You can't get a new ship - you'll need a new slot or get rid of an old ship.
Q: How do I get more ship slots?
A: There are a few ways.
* Rank up - you usually get some slots with this. I believe you get more while a Gold member. You should have enough by this even if you're a Silver so you don't have to throw away any free rank-up ships.
* Get a shuttle for the first time - The very first time you get a shuttle for a shuttle-only mission, you get a ship slot to go with it. That said, don't get rid of the shuttle! You'll need it to do the mission!
* Buy more slots. Up to a maximum of 25 per character.
* Veteran Rewards - You get extra ship slots with these at certain points.
* Discharge a ship. This does not, strictly speaking, get a new slot, but it makes room for a new ship by permanently removing a ship from one of the existing slots. READ ON BEFORE YOU DO THIS.
NOTE YOU DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY GET A FREE SLOT WITH C-STORE SHIPS.
Getting rid of ships
Q: How do I discharge a ship?
A: Click on the 'Discharge' button when the ship is up in the ship inventory when talking to a ship selection officer. READ ON BEFORE YOU DO THIS.
Q: When I discharge a ship, what happens?
A: The ship is gone and the slot is now open for a new ship.
Q: What do I do if I want to get my old ship back?
A: The long and the short of it is that some ships you can get back for free, some you can get back after paying, some you can NEVER get back.
Ships you can get back for free:
* Any C-Store ship - you can claim and discharge these at will.
Ships you can get back after paying:
* Ships you would normally get free at rank up, or any ship you buy with dilithium. You'll pay full dilithium price for them.
* Runabouts you pay for with energy credits.
* Lockbox ships - IF YOU CAN FIND A NEW PERSON TO BUY IT FROM, OR GET IT FROM A LOCKBOX. Lockbox ships get more rare over time (and will probably be eventually literally impossible to re-obtain unless re-released in game), and cost a staggering sum (over 100 million EC is common), unless you get it from a lockbox, which can take many Master Keys and lockboxes.
* Ships you normally have to pay for, but got for free - for instance, ships you get via Veteran Rewards, or some ships that were obtained by certain players prior to F2P.
Ships you can NEVER get back:
* Your starter ship. There is no way to ever get this ship back at this time.
* The prototype flagships - It is not currently known if they (or any variant thereof) will be made available again.
Q: What happens to the equipment on the ship I discharge?
A: If the computer lets you discharge with equipment on it, it goes down with the ship.
Q: What do I get for discharging a ship?
A: Your ship slot empty and ready for another ship. No dilithium, EC or C-Points.
Part 6 - Other questions
Q: What's this about a free Odyssey?
A: In February 2012, a prototype version of the Odyssey was introduced for free as part of STO's two-year anniversary. It was based primarily on the Science version and had a crew of 1,000 (although this was later upgraded to 2,500, presumably around the time the C-Store Odyssey became available). It was inferior to the current Odyssey (see SpiderMitch's chart), but it was free, and it is a perfectly good ship - there tons around right now. This Odyssey is not currently available. It is unknown if it will ever be made available again, either for free or at a price, or if any variant will be made free similarly.
Q: What about information for KDF?
A: Warning - I am not trying to stick the KDF off in the corner here, I simply do not have much experience with the faction. However, thanks to some contributors I do have some information. For the KDF, you get your promotion mission from Chancellor J'mpok instead of Admiral Quinn. You also use the transporter room to the First City to get to the shipyard. Your initial ship will also be a tier-2 Bird of Prey. You can also get a token for a free ship from J'mpok to get a Raptor or Cruiser.
Q: Do Gold players get any extra free ships?
A: Yes, with Veteran Rewards.
* 400 days - Captain's Yacht, a type of shuttle. (Don't know if you can discharge this one without having to pay to get it back, but I wouldn't try it)
* 600 days - VA ship token. Get a free version of certain VA-level ships normally sold in the C-Store. Exact details for these can be found in SpiderMitch's chart. If you discharge this ship you have to pay to get it back. NOT an account-wide unlock - on a per-character basis only.
* 1000 days - Starship variant. Details not known at this time.
Q: How do you know this?
A: Observation, witnesses, personal experience (got my Galaxy when Silver), having discharged/reclaimed C-Store ships, and lots of contributors.
Part 7 - Conclusion
Thank you for your attention. I've seen this question asked tons of times, and frankly I imagine that a lot of potential players wouldn't want to play if they thought they'd get stuck in a low-level ship endgame. Feel free to send me any corrections, and I'll incorporate them as I have time.
* 04/16/2012 - Added information about the KDF. Included an extra note in the all-bold section telling people to do the promotion mission, since I saw just today someone who thought they didn't have a free token, likely because of this.
* 04/18/2012 - A few errors cleaned up. Added link to the ship chart. Added several more questions/answers, especially about C-Store ships.
* 04/26/2012 - Major changes, streamlining, split into parts, lots of information about C-Store ships, ship slots, and throwing away ships added.
* dclxvii - Providing KDF information.
* kirian_darkstar - Pointing out a leftover error in KDF information.
* Tymer - The link to SpiderMitch's chart, which I was too lazy to get.
* SpiderMitch - The chart (which is a lot older than this thread).
* PWE_Branflakes - Setting this post "sticky."
* annemarie30 - An important warning about tossing away ships!
* PatricianVetinari - Several details about getting/tossing ships.
* captainstewart - Vet Rewards free ship information, Delta Flyer mission info.
* TaichoMuramasa - Ship slot information.
* BluegrassGeek - KDF info and Delta Flyer mission info.
* Everyone else - Thanks for reading! Please pass this info along if you're asked.