Writing Higher Level Backstories?


Signal of Screams

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

A central conceit of Signal of Screams is that you start at 7th level, and offers one suggestion being that your PCs just completed Against the Aeon Throne and were given the trip to Elysium by their friend Cedona as a gift to celebrate their victory while not realizing the danger she's sending them into.

I really...REALLY don't like that setup, because I have a sort of OCD way of making characters to align with the narrative an AP is trying to tell, with the themes and ideas it explores. Against the Aeon Throne addresses very different ideas and themes than Signal of Screams. From my perspective, AtAT PCs going into SoS would be like dropping the protagonists of Star Wars into the narrative of Event Horizon, which some people may find fun, but I'm not one of them.

So...the only other option I can think of is just making a 7th-level PC and making SoS their first and only story. But that's something I've never really done before in my gaming career. The only other time I've done it is the RL AD&D game I'm in, where I was given a 10th level Cavalier by the DM and dropped into a vaguely-defined setting with a bunch of other characters he pre-made. Said Cavalier has very little in the way of actual personality as I have no real handle on the setting and culture the GM's made or an idea of who this character is and what they've achieved to get that far.

I worry the same thing would happen if I tried to write a backstory for a Starfinder PC who has already achieved 7th level. That implies that they've done great things very similar to completing the first three books of an AP like AtAT. How do you figure out the scale of things someone's done so that what they encounter in SoS feels like an escalation instead of them reacting like a hardened veteran for whom mysterious hallucinations and mutilating sadists are another day in the office? I'm so used to writing characters who are untested newbies because that's where, to date, all adventure paths assume you start. So when SoS comes along, I have no idea how to respond. I know it's been out for a while, and we're almost to the end of another 6-book AP ahead of two MORE 6-book APs, but I want more Starfinder in my life, and I'd like to figure out the best way to make a narratively-satisfying character in Signal of Screams.


The way I see it, just look at Against the Aeon Throne and Signal of Screams as two separate acts of a larger adventure path. There is narrative reasoning that makes sense, if your players played through AtAT and then found themselves thrust into the events of SoS. Though, I will admit this does make it feel like a "monster of the week" type universe (though I am okay with that).

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

We have very different definitions of "monster of the week," it seems. If I were writing an AP with a "monster of the week" flavor, each individual book would have a different plot, for a total of 6 overall arcs, rather than 2 three-book arcs. It'd be like if a show wrapped up its initial adventure plot-arc halfway through the season, so they started a horror plot arc that had nothing to do with the last one.

Signal of Screams and Against the Aeon Throne have very different narratives, touch on very different themes and ideas, and when designing characters to specifically address whatever an AP is trying to discuss, it means a lot of the characterization only works in the particular AP I'm planning to play the character in. I want my character's story to help the AP more fully tell its own story, rather than try to shoehorn a character in whose only purpose in the greater narrative is their role in the inevitable combat and starship encounters.


My advice would be to take a think back to other characters that have been level 7. What were their motivations and goals beyond the overarching story at that point in their lives?

A cleric I'm playing in a friends campaign's motivation was 'get the hell out of the shadow plane and find a nice safe place to crash for a few months'.

Find a short term goal. They've just accomplished it, and want a few days of peace and relaxation.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

My character is a militant xenodruid who hopes to one day become a WildKnight. To do so, however, she has to prove herself by helping to teach a new colony how to live in harmony with nature.

In order to get to said colony, she has taken a job on Elysium as the local botanist and envrionmental engineer. I'm not sure if it is a ship or a station yet, so I figure she is either riding it to her destination, or else saving up money to book passage for the trip.

She is 7th-level and armed to the teeth not because of her past adventures saving the galaxy, but because she has been training hard with the xenodruids for years in order to obtain her dream of becoming ordained as a WildKnight.


Archpaladin Zousha wrote:
Signal of Screams and Against the Aeon Throne have very different narratives, touch on very different themes and ideas, and when designing characters to specifically address whatever an AP is trying to discuss, it means a lot of the characterization only works in the particular AP I'm planning to play the character in. I want my character's story to help the AP more fully tell its own story, rather than try to shoehorn a character in whose only purpose in the greater narrative is their role in the inevitable combat and starship encounters.

I would argue that it has a very "fish out of water" effect. The later AP was written with a direct tie into the first. The argument I'm making is, perhaps its intentional that your characters aren't directly in line with the theme of the AP.

Also, a different way of looking at it is rather than 1 season split into two plot arcs is two seasons each with their own unique plot arc.

Dark Archive

I haven't read the adventurepaths, but one way to do this is to start in media res. Just have the GM start you of with an epic battle and you've got the semblance of a team that has been working together for some time now. The start of Guardians of the Galaxy 2 would be a good example.

If that doesn't work pick an appropriately challenged alien from the alien archives and claim that you have defeated it. You don't need to have a full account of all your victories. Other things that you might are a motivation for your character to be an adventurer and a reason to hang out with the other guys in your party. You should ask your GM for any other details you need.


I’ve thought about running this for new characters.

Here are some questions I’m considering asking the players:
What’s an important task your character accomplished on their previous adventures?
How did another party member help you do that?
How did your character help another party member accomplish their task?

Hopefully I’ll get something I can blend into a combined story—if the 2nd and 3rd questions don’t prompt the players to do it for me.


You against the aeon throne character may have seen some stuff, but they leveled up in star wars and now they're playing event horizon. All the experience.. doesn't always translate.

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