Character Themes give an additional level of flavour and characterisation in Starfinder and that’s almost always good. The examples given in the base book are:
There’s obvious overlap with class choices, allowing specialisation or broadening of character capabilities.
For the kinds of game more suited to MotSP I’d want to see some additions.
Taking ‘Noble’ as an example…
You have been bred for generations and trained since you were born for comportment and the capacity to lead. A strangely high number of interstellar societies bind themselves using tradition, and monarchies give them a strong sense of identity. Thanks to genetic engineering and technological learning tools, the ruling class can now be empowered to be truly benevolent dictators, not that it always takes. Still, you have a sagacity and an aura of command that comes from your noble birth and which gives you a great deal of influence. You can’t buy class, you have to be born to it.
Theme Knowledge (1st)
You have an encyclopaedic knowledge of bloodlines, heraldry, marriages and relationships between noble houses. When attempting a skill check to gain knowledge relating to noble (or mercantile or religious) positions, relationships or history you gain a +1 bonus. You gain Culture as a class skill, or gain a +1 bonus if it already is a class skill. You also gain an ability bonus of +1 to Wisdom.
You have the noble bearing that comes with your blood and your rigorous manners. You gain a +2 bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate towards anyone who recognises your authority and standing (subjects, diplomats, fellow nobles etc).
Your bonus to Diplomacy and Intimidate doubles to +4 and even those who do not acknowledge your standing cannot help but be impressed by you, giving you +2 to these checks against them.
Court Intrigue (18th)
You can hold court up to twice a day, officiating and meeting with people for at least an hour. At the end of the courtly session, you recover 1 Resolve point. Holding court is also a good way to gather information using Culture, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Sense Motive and Profession skills. Tests you make of these kinds during court gain a +2 bonus in addition to other bonuses.
You can get a lot of stuff on RPGNOW, and some of my freelance work is up there too. If you buy using these links, I also get a kickback, which is helpful to me! So worth pimping some of these out! Plus, I wrote them, so you know they’re cool. I’ll get a kickback if you use this link to purchase anything from there, so if you want to help me out on a more regular basis, you can bookmark that link and use it whenever you go to RPGNOW!
Like a hell of a lot of other game designers, I did a lot of stuff for D&D 3.5/Pathfinder. Amongst those, I wrote a good chunk of CITY OF STORMREACH for Eberron, bringing the setting from D&D Online (which I was in the position of having played) into tabletop. It was a bit of a challenging project with far ‘too many cooks’ making it hard to coordinate, but people seemed to like it!
Books of feats and other rules faff were a plage on 3rd edition, and I did more than my fair share of spreading that plague, but always with an eye to making things fun rather than just making things for the sake of it. I did a couple of Unorthodox books, RANGED COMBATANTS and MONK FEATS.
Louis Porter Junior is a rapid-fire powerhouse of OGL material and I worked with him on two things. One of these, the underdeveloped Pirates of the Bronze Sky, had me fleshing out races such as the KAYLATHEON and TOCARRA. With a little work these might even make interesting character races for Starfinder.
Much more complete was our horror/post apocalyptic setting ‘Obsidian Twilight’ over which I had a lot more influence. There’s a lot of material available for that, some of it free. So do check out the OBSIDIAN TWILIGHT CAMPAIGN SETTING and other material like THE WELL OF DEAD FLESH, OBSIDIAN APOCALYPSE, and more.
I also wrote an unusual adventure ‘Cross City Race’ for 4e in DUNGEON, but easily adaptable to other versions. That was good enough for me to win signed copies of the 4th Edition core books. Cool then, a source of eternal shame now!
For 5th Edition I’ve written a couple of third party products, freelance, for Asatania. THE PRISONER OF SPUR ROCK and THE NEW MINE MASTERS, which have been praised for accessibility and atmospheric writing.
Way back in the mists of time, when men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures were called halflings, I wrote a d20/OGL PUBLISHING GUIDE. Some of this is out of date, but since the OGL is still being used it’s not quite as out of date as it could have been. You may still find it useful.
Outside of D&D I’ve written material for lots of people. Not all of it is still available, it seems, or I’m not listed as a contributor, but of those that do there’s still plenty.
For Victoriana I contributed material to FACES IN THE SMOKE and FAULKNER’S MISCELLANY. I always preferred a more grounded type of Steampunk, so you may find the parts I wrote – at least – suited to other Steampunk games than the Victorian Shadowrun that Victoriana brings to mind.
While my relationship with the SLA Industries team has become a little fraught since Gamergate they still make very good stuff, and Dave Allsop is an artistic genius with a mind for horror that is unparalleled in games media, in my opinion. More recent material the publish with my name to it include URSA CARRIEN and HUNTER SHEETS 2.
If you’ve like my other fiction, you might enjoy the story I contributed to the DARK HARVEST collection, a number of stories set in the Legacy of Frankenstein RPG setting.
Some of my stuff has been republished in nicer format by Chronicle City, where I am still partnered with keystone of the UK RPG scene, Angus Abranson. We hope to get back into production there eventually, meanwhile you can buy the following things there:
FOREVER SUMMER: You play as a gang of children solving mysteries in the town Oceanview. If you liked Goonies, Monster Squad, Explorers, Eerie Indiana or even Stranger Things you might find something fun here.
@CTIV8: This is the second edition of my activist game, drawing on influences such as Anonymous and Global Frequency, it’s about ordinary – but skilled – people, making a difference in the world. This second edition is much tighter and more playable.
ARS GOETIA: If you’re after an ‘old school’ magic system that isn’t just the same old ‘whiz-bang’ Vancian magic or similar, this is for you. Based on the Goetia, a ‘real’ book of magic, this allows you to create a magician whose power and skill derives from his pacts and command over demons, angels and spirits – and whose soul is always at risk. This would work well with RPGPundit’s Lion & Dragon, with a bit of kitbashing.
100 SEEDS: I still publish most of these myself, but several turbocharged editions were created for Cubicle 7 and the rights have since moved to Chronicle City. So if you want the more professionally laid out versions of 100 FANTASY, 100 SCI FI or 100 HORROR adventure seeds, you know where to look!
This is the last entry in this monthly challenge, so I’m not paywalling it. We’ve mapped out the basics of the world and have some idea of the rules. Eventually, I’ll get around to turning them into an actual book! As regards this question though… I think short of roughly mapping the world and – perhaps – ‘hex crawling’ a section of the world as a starting area, I’d like to leave things rather vague. Talk of distant nations and lands without anyone being truly, entirely, sure of what is out there. A less defined world leaves far more room for Games Masters to add their own material and leaves room free for supplements and definition as good ideas occur.
Some things will be defined of course, and those have already been covered, while the ‘bottom page text’ – as with Machinations of the Space Princess, will contain plenty of rumours and story seeds.
I tend to have a few particular archetypes that I play most often. In the world that I have spelled out thus far I would play a rogue/thief type character who has come up from the slums in one of the fortress cities via sometimes grim and often criminal means. He would be a capable fighter, compensating for the relative lack of combat capability compared to a fighter by taking compensatory skills and specialising in particular weapons. He would mask a terror of falling back into poverty with bravado and a surface-level amoral and materialistic fixation. Beneath that he would be a good man forced to live in bad circumstances, but with sympathies for The Comity’s assault on the status quo.
He would not be above slitting a motherfucker’s throat in their sleep, but would also get drunk afterwards from the guilt.
He might look something like this…
Whatever my equivalent of halflings ends up being, these will be the most misunderstood race. There will be prejudice against them at all levels of society and in all ways. This will range from simple distrust and dislike to the degree of treating them as pests, in much the same way we would treat rats. While they’ll be known as thieves and pests to most other races, they will have a unique and interesting culture that explains and covers much of their behaviour, as it is seen by outsiders…
I’m torn in two directions on this. On the one hand the absolute, black-and-white morality found in – for example – the D&D alignment system is something I find incredibly dull. On the other hand there is a demand from some quarters to a return to that simplicity and to examples of pure good and unremitting evil. I am not a fan of the idea that, say, orcs are all born evil, with no hope whatsoever of ever being anything else. This leads to things like Paladins slaughtering goblin babies in their cribs…
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