Creating characters in tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) is an art. Before we even put a pen to the page, our minds might already have a vision of our character. We know our character’s impulsive habits, their fatal flaws, and their love of honeyed candies. Then, we pick up the misshapen ball of clay and sculpt details until our character is standing there, breathing on the page before our very eyes.
A part of ourselves becomes attached to that player and we can usually see our own faces staring back at us. It can give us the opportunity to address shortcomings that we have or learn to see things from a different perspective. In a way, we level up in real-life alongside our fictional characters.
But how do you start with a broad idea and hammer out the dents to end up with a fully-fledged character? In Dungeons and Dragons 5E we start with a Background, like a Sailor or a Noble, and we also received prompts to determine flaws, bonds, and ideals to help breathe life into our newborns.
Pathfinder doesn’t have much specifically in terms of backgrounds to choose from, but we can choose specific traits that have some backstory to get the wheels turning.
But Starfinder presents us with a single word: Theme.
Starfinder Themes: Creative Rope
I’m instantly reminded of the scene in A Christmas Story when the teacher assigns Ralphie’s class the arduous task of writing a theme centered around what they wanted for Christmas. Red Rider BB Gun, anyone?
Starfinder doesn’t appear to leave us with a similar length of creative rope; only ten options? Really? How am I supposed to develop an original history and genealogy of my character when I’m shoehorned into a limiting background from the beginning?
That’s where I’ll jump in to say that you shouldn’t think that way.
Honestly, I LOVE that Starfinder limits us to a single choice of ten themes. For one, there are an extensive number of Feats to choose from. Having more starting options to memorize on top of those would simply be too much for a game trying to simplify the rules and character creation process.
Secondly, I’m a firm believer that limitations and restrictions breed more creativity than rabbits at a carrot festival. They force us to approach our characters with a fresh perspective. Let’s look at the Icon theme, for example.
Starfinder Icon Theme
“Popular and respected celebrity who can leverage the public’s adoration for specific needs.“ – Starfinder Core Rulebook
Alright, so this describes a character that everybody knows for some reason or another. Based on the phrasing, it seems like notoriety isn’t completely out of the question, but it is definitely a gray area. Why could somebody be famous on an interstellar level?
Music, dance, special FX, etc. Maybe you’re part of a galactic Blue Man Group or you’re a Kardashian of the Pact Worlds. Either way, your data-sticks are flying off the shelves straight into the hands of your loyal fans.
You’ve made leaps and bounds in the discoveries of other species and planets. You could be a geologist specializing in the terraformation of planetary features or an intelligent botanist who has cataloged countless samples from neighboring star systems.
Somebody used your face as part of a political campaign for your home planet and people recognize you everywhere. It’s kind of like being the Coppertone baby or Justin Long from Apple commercials. You might be trying to shrug off that past identity, or maybe you embrace it wholeheartedly. It might even come with its own set of perks.
Part of a historic family, you grew up in the limelight. You had to live up to your family’s name, so investigators and paparazzi scrutinized your every move. Why you don’t have any of that wealth now…that’s up for you to decide. Were you involved in a deal gone sour? Did you place too many bets at the galactic craps table?
Having scored the winning goal in the Interplanetary Scrooving Cup, you brought honor, wealth, and fame to your previously unimportant home planet. It doesn’t have to be scrooving of course, especially since I haven’t invented the rules…yet. It could be a podracing variant or even a form of space-jousting.
Starfinder Theme Focus: Paint Your Picture
You see, all it takes is a single word to have a canvas on which to build your character. In any of the samples above, you probably have a loose framework of how that person would act. For example, the scientist might bravely charge into the unknown for the sake of scientific discovery. The athlete might live a shallow life outside of their matches. Perhaps the billionaire uses their wealth as an illusory facade.
Be bold and stretch your imagination; we are no longer limited by the atmosphere.
All 10 Starfinder Themes: