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Thread: 1st time running BW:G - need help refining character beliefs.

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    Question 1st time running BW:G - need help refining character beliefs.

    Hello! I'm about to start running my first BW:G session, and I want to make sure the characters have appropriate and actionable beliefs. I feel like some of them are off to a good start, but there's room for improvement in many. In particular, many of the players lack goals tied to the current situation, which I view as a failing on my part. I'd really appreciate some suggestions and feedback.

    The Situation
    Two of the characters are children of a new noble family, having been up-jumped by the king following a recent war. Previously, the father was a pirate, and after "loaning" the king and his vassals a significant amount of resources, he was given a noble lady to marry, and some lands to rule. He has two children; his first-born son (p1) and a daughter (p2), both of whom have been betrothed. The daughter's soon-to-be husband is arriving to claim his bride, and he is bringing is bastard half-sister (p3), who has become somewhat of a matriarch to her own family. Skulking around all of them is a sailor (p4), a man who has found it difficult to give up the "old" ways of piracy.

    As an added complication, the land the family now owns was taken from a neighboring noble, who has nursed a grudge ever since and intends to get it back. He might be "sponsoring" local bandit activity, in a bid to weaken the father's credibility and press a claim for his own son to marry P2. This isn't set in stone; I'm still considering who/what could be presented as an external antagonist.

    Player 1 - The dutiful first son, who knows how tenuous the family's position is, and wants to ensure it's survival and prosperity.
    • Personal sacrifices must be made for the good of our family and smallfolk
    • The right choice is not always the moral or legal one
    • The family must persevere


    Player 2 - The willful daughter, who longs to become her own woman, regardless of what's best for her family.
    • My family does not define me, I will step out of their shadow
    • Art can be more powerful than a weapon, but I will defend my life
    • If I need it more, it's mine


    Player 3 - Half daughter of an older, more established house. She suspects these former pirates are not worthy to join with her own family.
    • My brother knows my worth, and soon all of my family will. I'll ensure my brother's betrothal is a suitable one, and find him a new one if it isn't
    • P2 seems to be spoiled and flighty, and my brother deserves a dutiful wife. I must be wary of any unsuitable behavior or whims
    • Man's world is harsh and violent to women, and I will do everything in my power to keep the women I care for safe


    Player 4 - The salty sailor, who never left his pirate roots behind.
    • The lords of the house don't deserve to benefit from the work of us "merchants." I aim to take what I'm owed
    • Fair fights are for lords and knights, and I'm neither
    • The life of piracy can't last forever, so I'll have to do whatever it takes to not end up a poor smuggler like my father


    Again, I appreciate any suggestions. Thanks again!

  2. #2
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    Hey there! Welcome to the wonderful world of Burning Wheel beliefs. A good rule of thumb I use for Beliefs is to ask the following question. Just by reading the playerís Beliefs, do I have a clear idea what kind of the actions the player will take this session?

    So for your Player 1, Personal sacrifices must be made for the good of our family and smallfolk. That is clearly a thing the player believes but I have no idea how he would show that in the game. What sacrifices is he thinking of? His own? His sister? Something else? Contrast these:

    Personal sacrifices must be made for the good of our family and smallfolk. I will convince my sister to go through with the arranged marriage.

    Personal sacrifices must be made for the good of our family and smallfolk. I will raise, equip and support a fighting force to protect my people from the bandits.

    Personal sacrifices must be made for the good of our family and smallfolk. I will broker peace between Father and our noble neighbor.

    All three would address the Belief but each is a very different campaign.

    So continuing with Player 1, the right choice is not always the moral or legal one. A good general truth and it tells you that the player wants you to hand him difficult choices and bargains. But it isnít really something you can work toward. Ask him to come up with a hard choice he is trying to make and craft a belief around it

    The family must persevere. How? What are you going to do today to make sure your family will survive?

    Player 2 - The willful daughter, who longs to become her own woman, regardless of what's best for her family.

    My family does not define me, I will step out of their shadow. This one is a great start. Ask her how? What is the first step in her grand plan of taking control of her life.

    Art can be more powerful than a weapon, but I will defend my life. Not so sure about this one. I donít get the connection between Art and defending her life.

    If I need it more, it's mine. Again ask her to be more concrete. What does she need more at this moment and who is she trying to take it from?

    Player 3 - Half daughter of an older, more established house. She suspects these former pirates are not worthy to join with her own family.

    My brother knows my worth, and soon all of my family will. I'll ensure my brother's betrothal is a suitable one, and find him a new one if it isn't. *applause* This is pretty good as is so long as the player knows what ďsuitableĒ means to her.

    P2 seems to be spoiled and flighty, and my brother deserves a dutiful wife. I must be wary of any unsuitable behavior or whims. The first part is great but the second half is a little reactive. As it is, it just means P3 is keeping her eyes open and hoping to spot something. But, twist it something like this, P2 seems to be spoiled and flighty, and my brother deserves a dutiful wife. I will convince of member of the household to spy on her for me to learn what she is really like. Now she can work towards her goal of testing P2ís nature.

    Man's world is harsh and violent to women, and I will do everything in my power to keep the women I care for safe. Awesome but letís make it more personal. Who are the women she cares for? Did one of them come with her or already live in the area? What threatens her and what steps is P3 taking to keep her safe?

    Player 4 - The salty sailor, who never left his pirate roots behind.

    The lords of the house don't deserve to benefit from the work of us "merchants." I aim to take what I'm owed. Great but again, dive into specifics. What does he think he is owed?

    Fair fights are for lords and knights, and I'm neither. This sounds more like a proto-instinct to me. Always assess for ambush sites where I travel.

    The life of piracy can't last forever, so I'll have to do whatever it takes to not end up a poor smuggler like my father. Great! Step one of the plan to not end up poor is?

    Oh, and Iíve got a suggestion to help kick start things for the game. Right before the game begins, the father of P1 and P2 gets a letter from the King. His Majesty states that he will be touring the kingdom and will be lodging at the family manor in three monthsí time. The King strongly hints that he would love to attend the marriages of his children while he is in the area. So now everything around the marriages and sorting out the bandits has to be resolved now before the King arrives. Nothing like a deadline to jolt people into action.
    When the GM grins, it is too late to run.

    Rich D

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    Oh man, these are great! Thanks Verrain, I appreciate it!

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    Verrain's advice is great and speaks to the most important part of Beliefs. There must be an achievable action within them, or the player can never collect that sweet Persona for completing them. Otherwise, they become Fate factories, as we like to call them. You can play them, but they never really pay off.

    Also, I like to post this whenever conversations pop up about making Beliefs for the first time. Three guides to help get the action flowing:
    1) A Belief about achieving the goal of the campaign. If the goal is too big, then make it about the first step towards completion.
    Example: I will take down the Emperor, but first I need allies. I will convince the priests of Berfibum to join my cause.

    2) A Belief about another players, either helping them achieve their own Beliefs... or hindering them.
    Example: Herpiderp (a PC) is wrong to want to save the Emperor. I will persuade him to abandon his crusade and, instead, join my cause.

    3) A belief about yourself, something like creating or improving a reputation, learning a skill that will be useful in the campaign, or buying a keep.
    Example: Although poisons are outlawed, it's too useful in my current situation. I will find a poisoner to teach me and learn it in secret.
    The thoughts and opinions reflected in my posts are not necessarily those of The Burning Wheel. If I am not quoting exact text and giving you a page for reference, please add "I BELIEVE" to the beginning of every single sentence I ever write ever.

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    Happy to help. Kublai makes a good point. My advice gives everyone goals to work toward but it doesn't tie the campaign together. As it is, your first three look pretty intertwined with all the marriage stuff but P4 is kind of on the edge of things unless you can tie his actions for monetary security into the noble families somehow.
    When the GM grins, it is too late to run.

    Rich D

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    That lack of integration between PC4 and the rest of the PCs and campaign hook should be a red flag. He made a character that isn't tied to anything other than getting some money. There's nothing about the marriage, for instance. Get him tied in somehow or else he's going to be sidelined and bored.

    Have you all agreed on what the campaign goal is? That's a big first step to having a smooth game. Reviewing again, it's not explicit in your post.

    Also, I just noticed, not one of the players cares about the neighboring lord nor the bandits. This is made clear by the distinct lack of beliefs about the situation. 12 Beliefs and not one mention of this major situation is also a big red flag. They need to care about it and make Beliefs or else they're going to get involved and not earn any Artha. Or worse? They won't get involved with the bandits until you force them to, and then there might be resistance - as though you were railroading them into it.
    The thoughts and opinions reflected in my posts are not necessarily those of The Burning Wheel. If I am not quoting exact text and giving you a page for reference, please add "I BELIEVE" to the beginning of every single sentence I ever write ever.

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    Verrain and Kublai give some good advice. I'm going to contradict Kublai's advice about the Fate mine Belief, though; I think they can work perfectly fine as Beliefs (though you'll never want to have more than one). They serve well to give your character direction in a wide range of situations ( Beliefs like "Those most opposed to us are most deserving of mercy" can be challenged in most any situation, for example), but in exchange, they give you less reward than a regular Belief which will only be challenged in specific situations. Furthermore, the Belief can always be modified to relate to a specific situation, when such an opportunity arises. You're rarely going to be able to address all players' goal-based beliefs in a single session, and having a Fate mine Belief will mean that players are less likely to go through a session without having a Belief challenged.

    That said, I agree with Verrain that that belief in particular would be better worded as an instinct: "Never fight fair". It's a bit large in scope for an Instinct, and might work better if pared down a little (e.g., "always through the first punch," "always fight dirty [FoRK in Brawl]", etc.), but it would also work fine as is, so long as the player has a good idea what their character means by "never fight fair".
    -Matthias

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    You've already gotten some great advice on making these beliefs more concrete and actionable. All of the plaeyers seem to be hesitant to commit themselves. I would ask them to take stands. Also weave them together.

    P3 has two beliefs that basically say the same thing, "P2 would make a crappy wife. I'm going to find him someone better." That's Fantastic! Make the player committ to that, rather than spending forever trying to determine whether she's suitable. That gives P2 the opportunity to push against that belief right away. Also, maybe she's already found someone better. Who is it?

    Ask P1 what personal sacrifice his sister has to make? And how is he going to make sure she does it? Does he want the marriage to be consummated? Or cancelled?

    Ask P2, what part this new husband plays in her plans to get out from under her family's shadow. This betrothal would seem to important to the setup, but she doesn't mention it. When P3 comes gunning for her ouster is she just going to shrug and say "oh well?" Is it part of her plans, or an obstacle?

    P4 needs to figure out what he wants to take from these up jumped nobles. Did he know them before? Is this really about the merchants or did they get rewarded while he was overlooked? "Whatever it takes" is rarely good in a belief. Ask him what it will take and have him write a belief about taking it.
    Last edited by noclue; 09-06-2016 at 03:39 PM.
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    Ditto all the great advice here.

    "I will do whatever it takes"... Oh yeah? You would eat the corpse of your dead mother? "I'll do whatever it takes" is like one of those dead metaphors Orwell talked about in his essay on the English language; it's a phrase that doesn't mean anything. Make the player state exactly what he's is going to do otherwise you, the GM, should be given cart Blanche to push that belief hard, "whatever it takes?" Ok, put him in a situation where he can fulfill his belief, but he has to let something monsterously evil transpire or betray one of the other players characters etc. (which would be a fine moment to go against that belief for the player; I.E. The player comes to discover there are some things he won't do. Stannis Baratheon had a belief "I'll do whatever it takes to become king of Westeros" and the red witch challenged his belief by asking him if he would be willing to summoning demons to murder his brother or willing to kill his own daughter--answer? Yes, actually, he was willing to do anything.)

    And to reiterate an earlier point. You're don't seem committed to the bandits or the external antagonist, this has the potential to be a railroad if the players don't willing make beliefs around those things. We have to remember, BW isn't a game of GM railroads, you, as the GM, must be committed to challenging the players characters beliefs. If the players don't have beliefs about the bandits, you don't really get to push the bandit angle unless you can connect them to the players beliefs. It's a bit like starting B2 Keep on the borderlands, but the players are expecting D1 vault of the drow. Also, One belief should kind of be a short term adventure belief (like in torchbearer) a reason all the players are together in a scene. Especially if this is a first game for the group.

    Have a reason all the players are going into the woods to root out the bandits or something. The pirate could be " I need the money and i will take the most precious treasure at the hideout as payment for my help". Player 1 could have things like "our family must preservere, the bandits have stolen a small family heirloom that will help pay off a debt." This will create a nice duel of wits perhaps over who gets to take the heirloom at the end of the adventure.

    Player 2: "art is more powerful than violence, but I'll be violent when it's convenient". To paraphrase someone famous; nothing before the "but" really matters. Either the player believes art (beauty?) trumps violence, or the player will be violent when necessary. Can't have both. "I'm a pacifist except when I'm not". When the players stake their ground on a belief "I'm a pacifist" you can challenge that belief by creating a scenario where they might need to make a real choice to be violent or visa versa. If their beliefs can go both ways "I don't like violence except when I do" then you don't have much drama to work with. A belief can change. Let the player start with the belief "art trumps violence" and then the player can role play them realizing they need to use violence when "necessary" when you make them confront their belief.

    The codex page 60 really does hit the nail on the head for new players:

    Make beliefs about a quest (bandits?)
    Make beliefs about a struggle (family? Money? Keeping someone safe?)
    Or make beliefs about some sort of intrigue (antagonist?)

    The characters can have conflicting beliefs about these things, but they should all believe something about these same things.
    Last edited by Opcero; 09-07-2016 at 02:07 AM.

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