BURNING WHEEL: BELIEFS

Thor Olavsrud

Bokononist
Validated User
#11
Hi Martimus,

Back in March I was talking to another player new to Burning Wheel who was also a little unsure about how to utilize Beliefs.

I'm going to repurpose pretty much my entire response to him below. The 'proto-beliefs' I refer to are what his players had written down for Beliefs.

Here's my current thinking on Beliefs:
  • A belief should contain an ideological stance of some sort.
  • A belief should contain a goal in the "I achieve this goal and earn a Persona point" sense.
  • A belief should express how the ideological stance drives the character to achieve the goal.

Most of the beliefs you've got are good proto-beliefs. In other words, almost all of them contain an ideological stance:
  1. Valor is precious
  2. The strong must protect the weak
  3. Never trust someone I haven't fought with
  4. My gang is my family
  5. I will not see great men ignored
  6. I will support efforts against the nobility
  7. Violence alone accomplishes nothing.

All of these are strong ideological stances. With the addition of a goal and an action to achieve that goal, these will be very strong beliefs.

I should make an important point here: Beliefs are not meant to remain static. They are designed to grow and change. To be strengthened, weakened, resolved or broken. If a belief expresses something about your character that you never want to change, then it should be expressed as a trait instead.

A couple of the proto-beliefs build on a goal:
  1. I will carry us to the safe, rich side of town.
  2. I will get my brother back.

Now we're getting somewhere. Merged with an ideological stance, these will be beliefs that can be resolved and point players in a strongly proactive direction.

So let's take 1 and merge it with the crime family proto-belief:
My gang is my family and I will carry us to the safe, rich side of town.

That's much stronger. Now we know what he wants to accomplish (carrying them to the safe, rich side of town). Doing so will earn him a Persona point. We also know why he wants to do it (my gang is my family).

The only thing that's missing now is the 'how,' the action that will accomplish the goal.

It could be:
My gang is my family and I will carry us to the safe, rich side of town by destroying the gang that controls it now.

or maybe:
My gang is my family and I will carry us to the safe, rich side of town by turning us into a legit, respectable business.

The action really colors the belief, doesn't it? The two beliefs above are totally different in complexion, even though they appear similar.

Either way, with these beliefs, a player could use every scene he's in to push toward his goal, earning Fate every time. And when he resolves the goal, he'll earn a Persona. Then he'll rewrite the belief.

That's the player's responsibility. The GM's responsibility is to challenge the player's Beliefs. Find out how strong they are. Try to break them. Try to warp them. Make resolving Beliefs hard.That means opposition. It also means trying to introduce elements that make the player question the validity of his character's belief (or to sweep aside all questions and continue on single-mindedly).

If your player has the Belief:
My gang is my family and I will carry us to the safe, rich side of town by turning us into a legit, respectable business.

What does he do after members of the gang refuse to give up their criminal ways when he orders them? Does he still believe he can turn them into a legit, respectable business?

What if one of his lieutenants, a cousin, tries to off him over the changes he's making? Does he still consider the gang family?

And so on.

Does this make sense?
 
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#13
Thor that's a great break down of the rules.
I do get a little nervous at: 'Either way, with these beliefs, a player could use every scene he's in to push toward his goal, earning Fate every time. And when he resolves the goal, he'll earn a Persona. Then he'll rewrite the belief.

That strikes me as verging on the 'munchkin' side of using beliefs. Or perhaps a better way to put it would be it's a bit too much carrot and stick for my taste. I see the beliefs as providing a way to define some areas of the game world. Most assuredly if and when these beliefs come into play then artha will certainly be dished out. However I don't see beliefs as being simply a way to earn Fate, Deed or Persona points.

What I was more interested with in this thread are the actual beliefs people are using. Think of it as a way to take snap shot of the sort of fantasy worlds people are inventing.
 

Thor Olavsrud

Bokononist
Validated User
#14
martimus said:
That strikes me as verging on the 'munchkin' side of using beliefs. Or perhaps a better way to put it would be it's a bit too much carrot and stick for my taste. I see the beliefs as providing a way to define some areas of the game world. Most assuredly if and when these beliefs come into play then artha will certainly be dished out. However I don't see beliefs as being simply a way to earn Fate, Deed or Persona points.
The intention of Beliefs is that they fire all the time during play. They are what play should be about.

In our groups, players generally resolve and change a Belief every 2 to 3 sessions. A couple campaigns ago, we had a player who in the space of a seven session campaign managed to resolve all three of his Beliefs, change them as they were resolved, and then do it AGAIN. Six beliefs resolved in seven sessions of play.

It wasn't munchkinism. It was directed, proactive play. It was good stuff.

If you go two sessions without a Belief going off, it's dead weight in my opinion, and should be jettisoned for something else.
 

Thor Olavsrud

Bokononist
Validated User
#15
Here are a few of the Beliefs from my Burning Iberia game:

I may be a bastard, but I'm better than my legitimate brother Raoul. I will prove it by carving out my own fief.

Religion gives the people fire, and I will use shows of religion to win the people.

My brother Diego is touched by God. I will use my connection with King Fernando to make him Archbishop of Iria.

The Tower of my visions is the key to the magic of Iberia. I will go to any length to control the mysterious Tower.

The customs of this place are strange and enticing. I must keep Ulf from temptation and on the path to become a traditional viking king.
 
#16
Yikes, this rocks, because a friend and I almost got a Burning Wheel going, but we didnt have enough guys who wanted to as well.

Personally, Im jacked to run or play in one someday.
 
#17
Thor, now I see what you're getting at. I must admit I hadn't thought of churning out beliefs that rapidly. It makes it sound like quite rollicking swash buckling fest! I like the idea very much. It certainly puts a different spin on the way I was intending to use them.

Oh and Lord? It is a very well put together game. If you've read any of the other FORGE inspired games, you'll have no problems with BW.
 
#18
martimus said:
Thor, now I see what you're getting at. I must admit I hadn't thought of churning out beliefs that rapidly. It makes it sound like quite rollicking swash buckling fest! I like the idea very much. It certainly puts a different spin on the way I was intending to use them.

Oh and Lord? It is a very well put together game. If you've read any of the other FORGE inspired games, you'll have no problems with BW.
Well, were running Iron Hero now, and when we rap up with this we have Space:1889 and Shadowrun coming up, followed by Call of Cthulu. By then, dammit, they better be ready for BW.
 

Thor Olavsrud

Bokononist
Validated User
#19
martimus said:
Thor, now I see what you're getting at. I must admit I hadn't thought of churning out beliefs that rapidly. It makes it sound like quite rollicking swash buckling fest! I like the idea very much. It certainly puts a different spin on the way I was intending to use them.
Cool man. Glad I clarified.

We like to play at a very brisk pace at BWHQ, which is why we push for Beliefs to churn like that. It's cool to play it in a more leisurely fashion too, but the idea is the same, whether you aim to resolve one of your Beliefs every 2 to 3 sessions or every 4 to 6 sessions.

The important thing is that play needs to really revolve around the beliefs.
 
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