The 7 Best Starfield Backgrounds For New Characters

Not all skills are created equal.

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Starfield is finally here. Bethesda Game Studios’ long-awaited space RPG launched to pretty good (but not perfect) reviews and is drawing in millions of players thanks to its day-one status on Xbox Game Pass. With so many new players, and with so many ways to play the game, we’re breaking down the best backgrounds that have the skills you’ll actually use as you traverse the Settled Systems.

A captain’s job is never easy.

Bethesda Softworks

Starfield Backgrounds and Skills Explained

Before we dive into the best Starfield backgrounds, here's a quick rundown of what they are and how they influence the skills you’ll develop as you play. For starters, no skills are “locked” to any particular background. Nothing is exclusive and you’re free to mix and match as you play. The biggest caveat to the Starfield skill tree is you can’t progress with points alone. Each skill has four ranks, and if you want to invest a skill point on the next rank you must first complete an assigned challenge. For example, to upgrade Persuasion you have to first complete three successful persuasion attempts.

Each background starts you with three different skills already unlocked, so it gives you a headstart … but just barely. You’ll need to use the skills in order to upgrade them. There are 82 skills split across five skill trees. Each tree has four tiers, and you’ll unlock access to a new tier for every four skill points you spend. So spend four points and you can access Tier 2, spend eight points to access Tier 3, and so on. It sounds complicated, but once you start spending points you’ll be able to see where you want to go pretty easily.

The real question is what skills are most valuable? There are 21 backgrounds to choose from at the start of the game. There is some overlap in the skills, but in order to find success early on there are some skills that are more valuable than others. You’ll also get access to special dialogue/quest branches as you play depending on your starting background, too, a nice feature for anyone trying to get deeper into roleplaying. But in general these are the skills we’ve found to be most useful for surviving and thriving during the early parts of the game, and you’ll see some of them represented across the backgrounds below: Persuasion, Piloting, Targeting Control Systems, Medicine, Boost Pack Training, Stealth, Security, and Ballistics.

The 7 Best Starfield Backgrounds

It takes skills to win the dogfights.

Bethesda Softworks

Bounty Hunter

  • Piloting – You can now utilize ship thrusters.
  • Targeting Control Systems – Unlocks ship targeting functionality.
  • Boost Pack Training – You can now utilize boost packs.

Bounty Hunter puts emphasis on mobility, a smart move considering how much running around you’ll need to do in the game. Boost Pack Training is one of those sneaky Starfield skills that’s easy to miss, but without it you won’t be able to fly around planets even if you have the proper equipment. It’s a must-have skill. Getting a headstart on ship combat helps a lot too, especially targeting. With it, you can disable a ship’s engines and board it for some old-fashioned space piracy. When you’re outmatched you won’t need to take out an entire ship, just one system.


  • Persuasion – 10% increased chance of success when persuading someone.
  • Security – You can attempt to hack Advanced locks, and 2 auto attempts can be banked.
  • Research Methods – Resources required to craft items and complete research projects is reduced by 10%.

Persuasion and security are the two most common skill checks you’ll encounter in Starfield, and this is the only background that includes both. Which is probably why the devs put in a “meh” skill with Research Methods to balance everything out (it’s not worthless but isn’t really useful until later in the game). But if you’re the type of player who can’t stand to have things in your way, this is the way to go.

Choose your destiny wisely, there is no respec option in Starfield.

Bethesda Softworks

Space Scoundrel

  • Pistol Certification – Pistols do 10% more damage.
  • Piloting – You can now utilize ship thrusters.
  • Persuasion – 10% increased chance of success when persuading someone.

Persuasion and piloting are super useful, but don’t overlook that pistol certification. There are tons of guns in Starfield, not to mention all the weapon modifications you can do later, so a powerhouse pistol isn’t as hard to find as you’d think. You’re also likely to come across silenced pistols as well, making it easy to pivot into stealth combat too.

Cyber Runner

  • Stealth – Adds a Stealth Meter. You are 25% more difficult to detect when sneaking. Suppressed weapons do an additional 5% sneak attack damage.
  • Theft – Unlock the ability to pickpocket targets.
  • Security – You can attempt to hack Advanced locks, and 2 auto attempts can be banked.

This build is for anyone who wants to break the law early and often. There is plenty of stuff to steal, although only certain places will buy it from you. Credits are credits though, a great bonus for pickpocketing. You’ll also have the advantage of being able to earn money in the early game without having to schlep loot all over the place, a real time saver.

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  • Wellness – Increase your maximum health by 10%.
  • Ballistics – Ballistic weapons do 10% more damage.
  • Piloting – You can now utilize ship thrusters.

An all-around balanced build for the indecisive types. You get a little extra health, a little combat buff, and a good starter for space combat. Wellness is a particularly easy skill to upgrade too, since the challenges are met simply by healing your character. It’s not hard to get hurt in Starfield.

Cities like Neon are full of opportunities ... and skill checks.

Bethesda Softworks

Long Hauler

  • Weight Lifting – Increase total carrying capacity by 10 kilograms.
  • Piloting – You can now utilize ship thrusters.
  • Ballistic Weapon Systems – Ballistic ship weapons have 10% increased damage and cost 20% less to use in Targeting Mode.

Starfield is full of loot, and the boosted carry weight is extremely useful early on. Ten kilos may not seem like much, but a lot of high value weapons are only 2-3kg which starts to add up as you have more and more play sessions. The ballistic weapons buff is helpful too, although you’ll need to prioritize unlocking the Targeting Control Systems to take advantage of it.


  • Medicine – Med Packs, Trauma Packs, and Emergency Kits restore 10% additional Health 10% faster.
  • Security – You can attempt to hack Advanced locks, and 2 auto attempts can be banked.
  • Lasers – Laser weapons do 10% more damage.

This is a great Starfield background that’s easy to overlook in favor of some sexier-sounding ones but make no mistake, this is a potent trio of starter skills. The medicine skill is a literal lifesaver, especially during close battles. Laser weapons are plentiful (and crucially so is the ammo) so you won’t have any trouble finding a reliable rifle to carry you through the early game.

One final word on Starfield backgrounds: don’t overthink it. Maybe you think it’d be fun to be the Chef (probably the worst background). You’re not wrong! You also unlock skills at a pretty nice pace in the first few hours of the game, so there’s plenty of opportunity to pick up some of these all-around useful ones. The size and unpredictability of the game also means it’s hard to quantify the fun surprises that are attached to every background too. Maybe the chef has a hilarious quest branch we don’t know about yet. It’s a big universe, after all.

Starfield is currently available on Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Game Pass.

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