Starter. Among Pokémon trainers-in-the-making, it immediately brings to mind giddy anticipation of getting that first Pokémon and beginning a new stage in life. More experienced trainers hear the word and think "my closest friend" or "oh, how many wonderful times we had together". The starter is that first companion, first life partner, and often an immeasurably trusted confidant. The starter is both student to be trained, and mentor who helps the trainer grow into a better trainer.
For a trainer with parents that have bred their Pokémon, the starter may be hatched by the trainer the day they begin their life as a trainer. Some gentle, family friendly, and long lived Pokémon have been 'passed down' from one generation to the next, having been raised by the parent, and now helping raise the child. Specialists often get their Starter from a specialist of similar Pokémon and spend years preparing to build from a curious beginning. Others get a starter from a Pokémon Center, Breeder, or Professor.
Culturally, anyone who abandons a starter is seen as something among lowest form of scum, only slightly above cannibalistic infant molesters who eat Lillipup and Skitty supplements. Knowingly insulting a trainer's starter is a good way to earn a life-long enemy; accidentally insulting the starter, if discovered, usually results in an immediate apology to both trainer and starter involving treating both to a nice meal at minimum. One trainer who deliberately killed a rival's starter was murdered by said rival, and the starter-killing was held as sufficient to qualify the murder as a cause of grief-induced temporary insanity, resulting in a not guilty verdict (the trainer spent nine years in therapy to help with the grief and guilt warring in his mind; it is unknown if he ever forgave his deceased rival). Even in regions where Pokémon-human marriage is illegal, some law enforcement officers have been known to turn a blind eye and pretend they did not see a trainer kissing his/her starter, the most common category of Pokémon-human romances.
Unless a trainer builds a whole team consisting of nothing but members of the starter's evolutionary line or removes the starter from the active lineup, identifying a starter is usually easy. Just look for the Pokémon that is from a theoretically weaker species than the rest of the team but is still included. Alternatively, look for the Pokémon that clearly has some measure of power and respect from all the team, even the ones that have type advantage or stronger stats, or has displayed power superior to the rest of the team. Sometimes the one Pokémon held in reserve for a whole tournament is the starter, being a trump card thanks to pure experience.
The League definition of starter is a bit stricter, but the cultural aspect is legally recognized in many respects. A starter purchased from or gifted by a League certified distributor must meet certain criteria.
Firstly- the Pokémon must be at a minimum level of demonstrated combat development so a trainer can catch more Pokémon and defend themselves immediately within a day of leaving their home. If it cannot take on a few Pidgey, it is not strong enough.
Secondly- the Pokémon, whether by species nature or by lack of training, must not present a major threat to an unskilled trainer. Even though all Pokémon have the potential to be able to easily kill a single human, it should take a while to reach that point with the starter.
Thirdly- the starter must provide enough of a challenge, whether through evolution or normal developmental path, to help the trainer develop the skills necessary to start training more challenging Pokémon in the future. The starter is a stepping stone toward more difficult challenges later on.
Starter Pokémon from League Certified Distributors are raised from before hatching to be Starters. Even when they were eggs, they were told about how their Trainer would be their best friend, partner for life, teacher, and student all in one. Starters, as a result, tend to be easy to bond with compared to a wild caught specimen.
Some of the Pokémon listed in this volume are also in Volume 4: Restricted Pokémon. This means that, while displaying the League mandated characteristics listed above, they are in some way rare, exploitable, or possess enough potential for dangerous power that they must be registered with the League. Registration services can be found at any Pokémon Center or Pokémon Professor's Lab. For the rare/endangered examples, participation in the Endangered Pokémon Restoration Movement – a program to help repopulate the species – is often encouraged or mandatory.
A/N Zocarik: As I have mentioned on my main page, I have already written up a list of Starters. It is unlikely that it will be changed at this point. Until G8 comes out and I add a few lines from there, The starter list is set. At least one of the Starter entries will be posted here before I upload the other three Volume intros. After that, anything goes.
Starters must be in a middle ground between able to protect, and not a threat to trainer. Just to clarify rules 1&2
The Endangered Pokémon Restoration Movement is based on the one mentioned in the Totodile entry in Pokédex Oneshots by Ysavvryl. If you have not begun reading it, I suggest that you do so, as there are many hidden gems in that project. Just a page or two a day. Or more. It's a big project.
... I need to learn more about how this site's interface works and get that into favorites.