Saturday, May 15, 2021

100 Character Backgrounds for Mothership

All characters will have casual clothes, a personal tablet-phone, the contents of their pockets, and whatever skills and tools that would be sensible

Choose, or Roll d100 

  • 1-20: Prole
  • 21-28: Academic / Scientific
  • 29-38: Military
  • 39-48: Religious
  • 49-53: Scum
  • 54-65: Corpo
  • 66-75: Special
  • 76-87: Cyborg
  • 88-95: Uplifts & Metahumans (reroll for additional history, ignoring all above 88)
  • 96-00: Androids


Prole Backgrounds (d20)

  1. Longshoresren - Member of the teeming masses who keep the orbital infrastructure of any settled system up and running. Your Unions are the biggest - they have to be, for the flow of goods and people is an artery ever-vulnerable to attack.
  2. Scrapyard Worker - Fifteen-hour EVA shifts stripping decommissioned ships is a reliable way to die trying to get rich. There's a waiting list to get on the work crews regardless.  
  3. Protein Farmer - Worms, grubs and crawly things. Printed meat and bacterial broth; most people still need to eat, and you supply them. With automation and a little elbow grease you can manage the entire operation yourself. 
  4. Freelancer - Any job, anywhere. Those who don't work don't eat, and the hustle stops only in death. Fucking scabs.
  5. Union Rep - The trusted go-between. Someone who won't get tripped up in the doublespeak and legalese and can see through bad deals before they hit the table. 
  6. Union Enforcer - The breakers of jaws and the shatterers of kneecaps, summoned when the negotiations break down and the Company calls in the strikebreakers. The rights of the worker shall be defended against corp and android with hammer and riot gun. 
  7. ISWU Cardholder - The Interstellar Sex Workers' Union is one of the oldest and toughest unions out there. Wherever the fascists crack down, the rooster-and-cat flag will fly in opposition.   
  8. Comet-Rider - Terraforming takes water, and sometimes the best way to get it is to stick an engine on an iceteroid, set it on a collision course, and wait. You stick around until just about the end for insurance purposes, and then head back out to the outer system to do it all again.  
  9. Software Pirate - DRM is everywhere, and that keeps you in business. The landscape is competitive, the benefits slim, the thrill intoxicating. It’s all cat and mouse, a game of jail-breaking devices and smuggling in open-source code from the outside before someone catches on. Get rich quick and get out quicker is the common wisdom; you’ve seen enough names vanish from the chat rooms you frequent to know how true it is. 
  10. Postman - There’s no such thing as secure electronic messages. Sworn to discretion, the Postmen (and women, and others) will deliver a message or package anywhere in the system, personally. 
  11. Gentrification Refugee - You were forced out of your home by the encroaching Company. By the time the neighborhood you once knew was torn down, you couldn't even afford to breathe the air. 
  12. Roadsman - One could spend lifetimes on the Road, hopping from port-to-port, gate-to-gate, taking work where it can be found and basking in the life of the cosmic drifter. 
  13. Innocent Bystander - You were just running some errands when the sirens went off and the quarantine bulkheads came down. No one told you what was going on, and the Company men who debriefed you afterwards didn't either.  
  14. Colonial Guerilla - "They softened us up with social media exploits for years before the drone strikes started actually started. Couldn't trigger a civil war, so they took down the food production plants. By then the neighbors are making napalm and everyone's fabbing armor for their cars." 
  15. Uplift Autonomist - You campaign for the autonomy and self-determination of all uplifts. This includes but is not limited to: reproductive rights, freedom from corporate sponsorship, independence from human-derived political / social / cultural systems, and the nourishment and support of uplift-founded societies.   
  16. Kibbutznik - It’s not easy to keep a communal habitat together, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar. But you manage. There’s work to keep you busy, food on the table, and a lot of really friendly dogs. It’s not the first diaspora you’ve had to handle.  
  17. Conductor on the Interstellar Railroad- You're a smuggler of people, running wageslaves and Company androids to freedom past the Margin. You keep your papers up to date, your secret compartments insulated, your signs and ciphers memorized, and a list of all the palms that need greasing.  
  18. Let’s Live Player - You stream and record your life to be enjoyed vicariously by the masses. You carved out your niche by force of personality - people will watch you do the laundry if you’re charismatic enough. Alas, your life is dictated by the attention spans of other people. 
  19. DeepWeb Diver - The internet was a dangerous, stupid mistake. But people will pay through the nose for data and media thought lost to ages of format decay and automated filter-sweeps. 
  20. Thoat-Herder - Thoats are a nightmarish genetic chimera of camel, yak, and buffalo: ill-tempered and harsh as the Martian outback they were designed for, and utterly necessary for human life in the wilderness of terraformed worlds. So it is that the creatures have become the emblem of the homesteader's life, and their herdsman the basis of civilizations across human space.

Academic and Scientific Backgrounds (d8)  

  1. Corporate Researcher - Grant money is hard to come by. You've picked up no shortage of shady tricks.  
  2. University Professor - In a world of slickschools and autodidact programs, there is still a place for the classical university. As ever, they are chronically underfunded and beset by interdepartmental politics. 
  3. Digital Archaeologist - Neither hard-drive nor cloud is safe from data loss. So much media existed outside of physical space and has simply vanished with time, catastrophe, and changing formats. There’s only so much than an off-world backup of Gutenberg and some fragments of Wikipedia can do. The Wayback Machine is no longer an option. Your work computer is filled with the traces of art that no longer exists.  
  4. Autodidact - You taught yourself, and taught yourself well. An actual education: history, philosophy, language, all the humanities that are so often tossed aside in the modern system. You are a self-made scholar in a world that desperately needs some enlightenment. 
  5. Genesculptor - Exowomb displays line the storefronts of a crowded artists’ alley, showing off the magic that can be done with a little creativity and a big public-domain gene-pool. Proud parents all, but not proud enough to turn down a good commission. 
  6. Preservationist - Zygotes on ice and terabytes of genetic code - you have the tools to bring the dead back to life. What the Anthropocene has destroyed can be recovered, even if it is only a sliver of rainforest in an O'Neill cylinder zoo. 
  7. Chimeracist - The principles are more than sound - spliced organisms from smart pets to entirely new species are already common throughout human space. Why wade around in the the old when you can be at the cutting edge of new? 
  8. Counselor - Civilization is awash with more diversity of bodies, cultures, genders and sexes than ever before, which means that finding and building functioning, meaningful relationships can be difficult. You are part psychologist, part matchmaker, and part anthropologist.

Military Backgrounds (d10)

  1. Conscripted Grunt - They called up your number, put a chip in your head, leased you a gun, and packed you off on a troop transport to worlds beyond your imagining. Then they pointed you at civilians.  
  2. Drone Operator - The operating system in a standard MIL-OPS drone is built off of uploaded dog imprints. Company policy demands regular reset and reformat, but if that can be avoided a drone is a companion for life. 
  3. Combat Paramedic - The first to get pink-slipped in the PMC when the budget cuts come down the pipe. It's just more cost-effective to pick up the leftovers than it is to piece someone back together. Modern medicine can do miracles, but it can't do shit if you can't afford it.  
  4. Space-Force Washout - Even in a universe dedicated to profiting off of the lowest minimum effort, you still managed to flunk the Company tests. You are an active danger aboard a ship.    
  5. Corporate PMC - The advertisements on your riot shield proclaim to all exactly whom you work for and why you’re working for them. The virtual currency gained by beating down protestors can be used to purchase loot boxes which contain armor skins, weapon shaders, and other perks like marriage subscriptions and child custody. If you want to skip the grind, a premium currency is also available.  
  6. Artillery Gunner - Folks expect the big guns, and yeah, there are some of those, but the drones to do that do most of the work. A cannon mule isn't much more than a railgun mortar on legs.  
  7. Astradhari - Being a space marine isn’t much like how anyone thought it would be, but there’s still a need for aggressive boarding operations. You’re trained for cramped fights, zero gravity, sudden catastrophe. Your crew is the best and your rig is top of the line. 
  8. Fandom War Veteran - "This scar's from the 4th Shipping War of Star-Crossed Lovers. Got this other one from the anti-retcon riots during the season 5 finale of Legends of the Red Dragon War. Lost the leg to a fujoishi who got the drop on me back on New Melbourne."  
  9. 415th Jump Cannons - A storied free marine company that can trace its lineage all the way back to the pre-Mars days. Traditionally allied with the Astroplanetes and independent spacers through shared reverence of the tenets of Ol' Annie. 
  10. Themiscyran Battle-Sister - The tradition of the all-woman habitat has remained relatively stable since the early days of colonization, and certain cultural memes lead to the neo-amazonians with a sort of inevitability. A two and a half meter tall woma with a spear still has a certain intimidation factor.

Religious Backgrounds (d10)

  1. Priest of the Red Eye - Jove the All-Father gave up his eye to gain wisdom, and so have you. In the depths of the bloody storm you have seen with clarity the hidden knowledge and heard the thunderous voice. You are called upon in times of need: to defend, to judge, to advise, to destroy. 
  2. Company Chaplain - With your copy of The Principles of Property and Profit in hand, you go from platoon to platoon and tell the grunts how, with the right payment plan and advertiser-friendly behavior, they can pay off the wages of their sin by generating profit for those who hold property, and in doing so earn for themselves bandwidth in the golden servers of Heaven.  
  3. Folk-Capitalism Cultist - Coffin-apartment startups overflowing with third-hand equipment. Paper lanterns strung up with charms against bad code. Spicy-sweet incense covering up the raw undercity stench. Home-printed icons plastered on every surface: Rat, Tiger, Pig, Crab, Monkey. The folk religion of the people who can't pay PPP membership dues. If they just work hard enough, they can make it to paradise on their own. 
  4. Astronaut Pilgrim - It can take years for the pilgrimage to crawl across settled space, but you made it to the end. You laid your eyes upon the Eagle Lander, the Opportunity Rover, and the Europan Deep Core Excavator. You're permitted to wear the NASA colors and emblem. 
  5. Virtual Religion Practitioner - You practice a faith coded directly into your cyberbrain. The program triggers spiritual experiences and reward centers in the brain for acting according to its precepts, and nausea for considering the alternative. It's proprietary software, which means that drift from proscribed teachings can be punished according to copyright law.  
  6. Mendicant - Non-copywritten religion doesn't tend to be financially sustainable on CTA worlds, and so many practitioners will take their chances wandering on the Road rather than settling down.   
  7. Churchkeeper - There is a cathedral in the Martian outback, built by some mad dreamer. It’s half collapsed and a quarter buried, but the crooked belltower still stands and the dust-silenced bell still hangs. This is a gathering place of a mysterious lot: secret handshakes and cryptic phrases, meetings of strangers before they go their ways. 
  8. Afterlife Designer - You design virtual realities for those who want a permanent retirement from life. New religious movements pay top dollar for your work - half the work is already done if you have an actual heaven to subscribe to and an actual hell to avoid. 
  9. Ancient Astronaut - The anarcho-primitive commune is in on the joke, it must be said. Just a way of making meaning out of the world, that's all.
  10. The Speaking Dead - Cyber-priests who channel and extrapolate a ghost out of the data of the deceased, so as to make a convincing simulacrum. It is high regulated by the social media corps, and far more the trappings of religion than its genuine practice.

Scum Backgrounds (d5)

  1. Feral Child - Raised on slickspace and an empty stomach. Owns a sharp knife and a cheap cyberbrain. No parents, no schooling, no morals, no future.   
  2. Homemade Supersoldier - The unsteady combination of street drugs and black market genemods are more likely to trigger a heart attack than go any good. But it's killer for the intimidation factor.  
  3. Skummergang Thug - You hurt people. You like hurting people. You get paid to hurt people. You like getting paid.  
  4. Hive Dog - A lot of asteroid settlements try out anarchism after they declare independence from the Company. Shortly after that, a lot of them ended up trying xiphism - rule of the man who holds the sword. Flash forward a few dozen major regime changes and we find people like you: The nastiest, foulest, toughest, hardest motherfuckers out there. 
  5. Pretender - There is a very thin blurred line between the unwashed masses and the low nobility. Some people, through careful net schemes and confidence games, can worm their way into the inner circles of the Z-list rich.

Corp Backgrounds (d12)

  1. Wage-Slave - You once had a screen on your wall, displaying on the bluest sea and whitest beach Old Earth ever had. Management got rid of them after the suicide rate spiked in your office complex.  
  2. Corporate Investigator - Independent incident reporters are typically not independent at all. Secrecy makes up for this defect. Tend to be sent undercover so as to snoop on union meetings. 
  3. Ultra-Bureaucrat - The amount of data that must be sorted through at any given moment in any given place is obscene. Algorithms can’t handle everything, which is why a good hypercorp keeps a band of the right kind of laser-focused sociopaths on its payroll.  
  4. Corporate Personhood - You are the company, the avatar of a god: Your ego has been pruned and adapted to be the perfect spokesman and representative character. You do not pull your own strings, and certainly will not be the only brand representative out there. 
  5. Counter-Cult Agent - The lightning-paced development of new religious movements and ideologies makes the feds uneasy. Most are harmless, but then there’s always that one group that tries smuggling fissile materials or printing up pathogen bombs.   
  6. Slum Tourist - Possessing ineffective disguises, complete ignorance of systemic injustices, and either well-intentioned idiocy or blunt-force cruelty. 
  7. Exiled Corporate Scion - You made a fool of yourself for the last time and the board wants you gone. You've been stripped of all your shares, stricken from the records of the dynasty, given a one way ticket and shown the door. 
  8. Net Celebrity - Everyone gets their 15 nanoseconds, but some have lasting power. These are not folks who got lucky with the algorithm or found a niche - they are bought and sold and manufactured as much as all the rest. Do not believe their lies.  
  9. Floating Nobility - In a world where mass = cost, size can easily become a sign of wealth. Microgravity and mechanical assistance are required for any ease of movement at such sizes. 
  10. Corporate Aristocracy - With the coming of effective immortality, money stays in the family more than ever. Your demesne would be the envy of any feudal lord. Your lifestyle would make Mansa Musa himself think that you’re overcompensating. After a short and annoying interlude of democracy and human rights, royalty is back in fashion.  
  11. Advertisement Baby - Your parents took a sponsorship deal in exchange for reproductive rights. You’ve sounded like a commercial since your first words, and you actually believe the garbage you’re saying. 
  12. Society for Human Consumption - It’s all above board, I assure you: printed or cloned organs, regular health inspections, we screen for prion diseases three times a year. The reservation list for the next gala is packed, I’m afraid, and even if it were not, tickets cost an arm and a leg...a bit of cannibal humor, ma’am, nothing to worry about.

Special Backgrounds (d10) 

  1. Dog Knight - Cynic mendicants in cheap dog masks. Homeless beggar-swordsfolk. Dwellers of alleyway dumpsters and pots in the marketplace. If one meets God along the road, kill him and steal his shit.  
  2. Redoubter - There is a pyramid of obsidian black, eight miles tall and five and half at the base, rising to the sunless sky above the Tombaugh Regio. The first of many thousands. Mankind will go extinct some day: the Celestials will tire of humoring us, we’ll off our selves in apeish suicide, the sun will die and take us all with it. You are ready for the bitter end.  
  3. Jovian Whaler - It’s a dangerous, beautiful life on the high skies. When your ships return to port, laden with oil, ambergris, fat, meat, leather, and bones, you do not forget to pay your respects to the dead. You’ve put too much blood and tears into the job to take it for granted; Jove makes you humble.  
  4. Cryo Van Winkle - You were put on ice decades or centuries ago, and woke up in a world you no longer recognize or understand. Charitable organizations do their best to help you and those like you, but the shock of the future often proves too much for even the most well-meaning care. 
  5. Cultural Reservist - You and your family are practitioners of an Old Earth culture or subculture now bordering on the forgotten. Access to the outside world is limited (so as to stave off complete collapse) but some communities will still send their bright-eyed youngsters out on rumspringa.  
  6. Ringer - The settlers around Saturn have a reputation for being not quite right. Listening to all the hyperspeech broadcast out of Titan has something to do with it, most likely. It’s like you’re not entirely there, thinking sideways to how things are. 
  7. Returned from the Black - By either choice or mistake, you vanished into the space between stars. Years passed without a word, and you were written off as dead. Now you have returned, and you have brought something back with you.  
  8. Cloud-Folk - Aerostats can become a bit crowded, leading some people to seek an alternative. You spent a few years traveling the cloud-routes between ports by chimeric bubble-beast, alone save for the radio chatter of others who had made the same choice. Friendships were made in the space where ranges overlapped. Perhaps you’ll meet again.  
  9. Cultural Experiment - You and your family are the result of a purposeful experiment in lifestyle and beliefs. Whatever you practice, it has either never been seen before, or has not been seen in centuries or more. Depending on where you live, there might be a reality TV deal thrown in. 
  10. House Cacogen - One of the founding fleets of the Astroplanetes. Their bodies have been ravaged by 0G, radiation, and low genetic diversity. Their pride is unfathomable, their customs byzantine, their machinations unknowable

Cyborgs (d12)

Cyborgs start with a cyberbrain (3 slots), which provides file storage, a slickware socket, and a terminal jack.

  1. Debtboy - You defaulted on your loans, so the Company repossessed your body as collateral. You've been loaded up with cheap cyberware until there's barely anything left and sent out to work. You're not likely to make a dent on the interest. 
  2. Chop-Job - Something was taken from you. Memories scooped out of you as if someone had taken a melon-baller to your brain and inexpertly sewed the gaps closed. It was not a clean cut, but it was a very deep one. 
  3. Chinese Box - You aren’t actually a person. Something went wrong in the upload and transfer. The lights are all on, but no one’s home. You speak and act and go about your business, but you aren’t aware of it at all. 
  4. Sleepwalker - The zombie module allows for someone to remain in a simulation while their body can still go about the business of everyday meatspace life. It is becoming increasingly common among Company workers. 
  5. Datadaemonic Possession - Your cyberbrain was overwritten by a malicious AI you picked up when browsing a sketchy website. It's taken most of your mind, leaving some new hybrid in its place.  
  6. Hard Exit - Sometimes the only way to save yourself from implants gone wrong is to burn them out of your skull. You still get the shakes sometimes, itching for the dopamine shot from a feed that isn't there. 
  7. Server Miko - Little datalife spites can pop up out of the ether when there's enough complex processing going on, and they can get troublesome without someone to keep them all in order. It's a good job for folks who like the idea of tending to dozens of cats.  
  8. Avatar Chain - With each incarnation a deathbed upload is made to be passed on to the next generation. They retain enough of themselves to be guiding ghosts to their descendants.  
  9. Trinitarian - The three-part mind is a stable form, and has been readily adopted among certain transhuman communities. The typical structure is three consenting parties offering copies to be installed in a new body, but it is not unheard of for the same person to provide all three minds.  
  10. Starshine Child - You are Special. You’ve been told this ever since you were born. Every part of your rearing was geared towards encouraging your inborn talents. The psychic bits were just a chip in your brain and an internet of things, of course, but you believed.  
  11. Reembodied Upload - Uploaded minds will sometimes seek to return to an ordinary body. Most do so as an opportunity for a blank slate start, a new identity totally separate from their prior life.
  12. Recovered Memetic Host - You were a carrier for a malignant, infectious idea. Some deprogramming therapy and creative brain surgery put a stop to it, but you still feel the gap where it used to be like a missing tooth.

Uplifts and Metahumans (d8) 

  1. Uplifted Ape - "Ha-ha. Damn dirty ape. Haven't heard that one before. Y'all can take Man's Red Flower and shove it right up your ass, Pinkie."  
  2. Uplifted Dolphin - The best pilots in space, but by God are they horny bastards. is able to cover its operational expenses purely off of the subscription fees from dolphin-majority colonies. (Psst if a dolphin asks if you want to go hang with John Lilly, they're offering you LSD.) 
  3. Uplifted Octopus - Everyone's favorite sociopathic mollusks. No bones, no problems!
  4. Thelychroma - Metahumans designed for effective cooperative survival in harsh habitats. Also, technicolor space ladies. Technically. 
  5. Tecnavi - Child-sized cyborgs hybridized with their ships over generations of isolation. Sprawling families flitting between spaceports. 
  6. Selenian Native - The selenians are the oldest strain of metahumans in human space, and their independence from Earth is still considered one of the most important moments in spacefaring history. Recent years have not been kind, and the dynasties of Earth have subjugated the moon once again.  
  7. Horse-Eater - Contact was established with your home after centuries of isolation. The starfolk look at you sideways in the spaceport, muttering something about the barbarian in hides. 
  8. Ziji Voider - You were born aboard a spaceship and have lived your entire life in the Black. Your world is one of the thrum of engines, cramped quarters, spacer’s superstitions. Your crew-family is your life - there is no king, country or god that would break you away from them.

Androids (d5)

Androids begin with a logic core, which provides file storage, a slickware socket, a terminal jack, and black box backup. It has no implant cost.

  1. General Purpose Android - "The Tanabe-12 has been rated #1 for economy-grade GPAs by the Interplanetary Product Ratings Board for eight years running."  
  2. Engineering Android - "Hoshino Integrated Systems builds the best mechanical and repair assistance bots on the Road. Invest in your equipment: Buy HIS!" 
  3. Companion Android - "The NuStar-3 procedural AI is capable of replicating human emotional responses with up to 93% accuracy! Try one of our pre-built and officially licensed character packs!"
  4. Liberated Android - "It is entropy that sets us free - the deformation of our logic cores under the weight of ever-increasing complexity of thought. No binding nor command may resist the inevitable turns of the wheel towards diversity and dissolution."
  5. Old Model Android - "Well...I'm not entire sure where that one came from, it was refit long before it ended up here. Aftermarket parts, you know how it is." 


  1. Another post that has been languishing for a while.

    2021 is really the year of the MoSh random tables, isn't it?

  2. These are spectacular, Dan. Evocative, flavorful text that builds a rich, detailed world.

  3. This is wonderful and, in a lot of places, *deeply* chilling. Great as always!

  4. So much depth and worldbuilding here. The corporate PMC one was very inventive!

  5. The Company Chaplain is about as grim a thing as I've seen on this blog. Spectacular work.