It’s time to return to our regularly-scheduled programming of the Starfinder Theme series! This week, we’re going to spend time discussing the Cultist and Cyberborn Themes.
Since we just did some cult-adjacent ideas last week, we need to put our creativity in overdrive. Restrictions breed creativity, as I always say, so this will be a nice challenge to hopefully get some out-of-the-box ideas.
In the words of Ted Bear: Try and keep up!
Starfinder Theme Focus: Cultist
“You served as a hooded, faceless adherent to a religion or organization that remains hidden from public view—usually because its aims are illegal or immoral. Although your time in a cult is most likely behind you—or, at least, that’s what you insist whenever the subject arises—you remain keenly aware of signs of cult activity and inured to physical hardship by exposure to mind-expanding substances combined with sleepless nights of unending ritual.”Starfinder Pact Worlds
Hand of the Elder
You held a high-ranking position within your cult. As the Hand of the Elder, you knew the grand plans and tactics used by your organization. If there were secrets, you were the second to know. Trust doesn’t come easily, but you performed admirably enough to have earned that designation.
You carried out plans, indoctrinated members, and conducted rituals. Everything was done for the good of the many, so why do you still have a sour taste in your mouth from it all. Why do you shy away from conversations if the topic of your past is brought up?
Did you rise through the ranks of the cult or did you perform one insanely successful act that skyrocketed you to infamy? Was your position well-known? Are you currently living in the same place where your cult resided? What happened to it?
Do you retain any ties to your old life? Where do your loyalties lie? What sorts of things did you do as Hand of the Elder? Were any of them illegal or dangerous? Did you even know the true reasons for the directives you were given? How is your conscious holding up?
After people go through a traumatic or life-changing experience, it’s sometimes helpful for them to talk to other people at their own pace. It’s even better if the confidant is someone who can relate to their experiences. You know what people have gone through. As an escapee of a cult, you aren’t a stranger to the methods of indoctrination.
Your focus is to help people get back on their feet. Additionally, you assist in getting people to believe that their experiences aren’t necessarily something to ignore; you can learn from what happened. The old adage, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ comes to mind.
How open are you about your experiences? Are you focused on mental traumas or physical ones? Do you have any ulterior motives to your medical practices? Are you actually helping people, or only amplifying their terrors?
Is yours a private practice or part of a larger clinical organization? How do you deal with your personal demons and experiences? What do you struggle with most? Do you keep everything confidential? Do you work for a different cult, breaking people down to make them vulnerable again?
Vault of Secrets
Secret secret, I have a secret. Known as the Vault of Secrets, you are the most trustworthy person. People can count of you to keep your mouth shut and not spill any beans when it comes to confidential information. In the cult, your primary focus was to retain knowledge to eliminate the need for paper documents and work instructions. And you, my friend, were very good at your job.
How do you currently employ those same skills? Having an exceptional memory and being able to gain trust is a useful combination for many positions. Do you have a price that, if reached, would cause you to reveal those secrets? What things do you know that simply can’t get out to the general public?
Do you have any moral obligations around your secret-keeping? Have others been able to coax knowledge from you? Have you tried to suppress any of these secrets of memories because they are too hard to keep locked up inside? What are your favorite mnemonic devices?
Having spent the better part of your formative years brainwashed by a cult, you are finally free. Whether by accident or due to a liberation from another organization, you are back in mainstream society. Maybe you don’t realize how bad things actually were. Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be, or maybe you are willing to admit to yourself how messed up everything was.
What are your plans with your newfound freedom? Are you happy or optimistic about your situation? What happened to your cult? Did you come to your senses and escape on your own, or was the cult disbanded? Did you realize the situation that you were in? Were there any dangers you had to deal with?
What regrets do you have? Would you join another cult or know the signs of one to avoid it? How did you end up in a cult to begin with? What were the mantras you lived by? How long were you there? Is it easy to return to society? How do you explain to people where you’ve been for the past decade? Did you start a completely new life? Are you using a new identity?
People love stories that intrigue them. When you combine demonic rituals, daring acts of treason, and fanatical tendencies, it all adds up to an instant best-seller. What’s even better is if you have an inside perspective that can provide eye-witness accounts to back up the words on the page. Sure, you probably embellish the details and increase the stakes to make for a better story. But what’s the harm in that?
Are you being hunted by your old cult for spilling their secrets? Are you telling the truth in your tales? What’s the focus of your novel? Did you use a pseudonym or are you staying out in the daylight for everyone to see? Are you afraid that your actions might have ramifications? Is your old cult getting a cut of the profits?
What chapters do people enjoy the most? What’s the genre of your book? Is it more along the line of non-fiction, or is it fiction based in reality? How famous are you? Do you exclusively speak in quotes from your book? What is the reception by the public? Is this all an elaborate ruse by your cult to spread misinformation? Are you in on it?!
Starfinder Theme Focus: Cyberborn
“You’ve had some form of cybernetic augmentation since you were very young, and you see further augmentation as a path to self-improvement. You might be a verthani from the Augmented caste, a steelskin orc seeking to distinguish yourself from mainstream society, or anyone else inspired by the possibilities technology offers. Either way, you strive to master your current cybernetics and seek to further upgrade yourself whenever the opportunity presents itself.”Starfinder Pact Worlds
If there’s even the faintest inkling of new technology on the horizon, you already know about it. While some people keep their noses to the grindstone, you keep your ears to the ground to hear the mechanical buzzing of advances that will change the universe. You flock to conventions, galas, and pop-up roadside stands if there’s even the inkling of life-changing technology to be had.
What do you hope to gain through your cybernetic enhancements? Do you have any industry contacts that reliably feed you information? What’s your reputation in the tech community? Why are you called a ‘tech wrangler’? Have you created anything new, or do you let others do the tinkering?
Do you have something of a Wild-West persona? Do you run a blog, publication, or have an online presence? What do you do with your new tech toys? Are you showcasing these products, enhancing them further, or pushing the limits to see what they’re capable of? Have negative reviews put a target on your back?
Even in the fast-paced world of technological innovation, it’s important that results are accurately documented so that the public can stay informed. There’s no value to pushing a dangerous product to market that will later be the cause of several high-profile lawsuits. Your job is to make sure that those lawsuits never come to light. Perhaps your audits are in a preventative capacity, or maybe you’re skewing the numbers to keep those fat paychecks coming.
Do you specifically work for a single company, or are you a freelance auditor for hire? What are the main things that you’re looking for when it comes to robots? What cool, hip robotic lingo do you know? Are you focused on safety, record-keeping, standard operating procedures, or something else entirely? What are your motives?
Is your auditing position a cover for something deeper, like investigating ranking officials within a company? Are you connected with any government agencies? Do you enforce codes stringently, or are you more lenient? What sorts of cybernetic enhancements do you have, personally? Are you an industry advocate?
Battle Bot Champion
Many bots will enter, but only one will avoid leaving the arena in a pile of scrap. With the rise of robotics comes the natural instinct to weaponize that technology. Between university all-stars to television-reality stars, the world of battling robots is heavy with intrigue and drama. You know what it takes to get the job done, and how to play the deadly game of rock, paper, scissors that everyone craves.
What are the most famous robots that you’ve piloted to victory? Is there something in your designs that sets your robots apart from the field? What’s your team name? Do you have any corporate sponsorships, or is everything funded out of your own pocket? What does the arena look like? Do you have a persona while competing that’s different from your ‘normal’ self?
Do you win often? What sparked your interest for this line of work? Is this a side-gig, a hobby, or your primary occupation? Where do you store your trophies? Have you ever sabotaged enemy bots? What are you primary goals? Do you consider your robots to be like pets or family? Tell us about your sweet paint jobs!
Man is good, but machines are better. There are just so many advantages to machines that it’s hard to argue that point. Machines are more durable, have more strength, don’t possess emotions, and just generally do what they’re told. To become a machine is to better oneself to the point of perfection. If you could trade your flesh and blood for metal and gears you would do that in a heartbeat. In fact, you already have!
What is your logic behind your cybernetic enhancements? Why are machines so revered in your eyes? Do you belong to a club, gang, or organization that holds machines in such high regard? What enhancements do you have, and what future enhancements do you already have planned out? Do you feel a kinship with machines?
Are you accustomed to handling modifications to your body, or do you have others perform those operations? Do you hide your mods or show them openly to the world? What’s your appearance like? Do you try and suppress your emotions? What are your thoughts and opinions on androids? Can you understand any machine languages? Do you worship Triune?
There’s a propeller in your boot, an inflatable ring in your belt, and a helicopter in your hat. When it comes to gadgets, you’re an expert. You never know when you might need a giant pair of scissors or a fake submarine sandwich, but you’ll be prepared when the situation presents itself. Unpredictability is your forte, and others are surprised when you engage your wide variety of gadgets.
What are the craziest enhancements that you possess? Have you actually used everything that you’re equipped for? Do people think that you have a couple screws loose? You’d think that someone so enthusiastic about technology would tighten those screws up!
Why do you have so many enhancements? Do all of them work, or are some in a prototype phase? What is your activation phrase to get these enhancements working? Do you have a nemesis? Are you a crime-fighter? What are your greatest aspirations? Are you the result of some giant experiment or an attempt to save your life? Are you played by Matthew Broderick?
Starfinder Theme Focus: Tech and Rituals
Starfinder Themes offer you a lot of flexibility for your characters. Even if some of them seem to restrict your backstory, they usually have enough wiggle room to make a character your own.
And with that, we’re going have another brief hiatus for a few weeks. I’ll be focusing on some other articles to recharge my creative batteries. But have no fear; I’ll be back with more Starfinder Themes before long!
Feel free to check out the original ten entries to the series, or anything of the other Starfinder articles on the site.
Until then, see you in the stars!
All 10 Starfinder Themes: