Ah Burning Wheel – Part 4 – Beliefs

“Fight for what you believe in” pretty much sums up the goal of BWG.  Whether it is with words, maneuvers, fighting, spells, or faith, the system gives players the tools to fight for what they feel their characters would dying for.  It also gives the players a way to voice what is important to their characters; though beliefs.  Each character has three (possibly four) driving beliefs that define who he is and what his goals are.

In past games, this has been one of the toughest aspects of BWG for players to grasp.  I will be honest, before this commentary, I don’t think I grasped how to explain it very well.  The commentary gave a couple of insights on how to make beliefs more accessible to players which I plan on implementing immediately.

The first was to break up big beliefs into shorter term ones or goals.   The grander and longer term the goal, the less likely it is to evolve or be rewarded for completion.   Instead “My Enemy shall suffer for all eternity” (which was a fantastic one that my wife’s used in the last game), perhaps start down that path with a more immediate belief tied to the situation.  As our first game started in court, she could have used “My Enemy shall be disgraced in front of the King at court.”  Shorter term beliefs allow them to run their course, evolve, be played against or be replaced more frequently, and the player gets rewarded when this happens.

The other piece of advice that really hit home for me was their definition of types of beliefs.  I think I might make this a little more mandatory at my table.  Seeing as most of my players are new to BWG, I think it will help them get more explosive beliefs right from the start.  One of their three beliefs must tie them to the situation at the start of the game, one must tie them to another party member, and the third is wide open.  Maybe a philosophical belief, maybe a goal that has no chance of being completed, it is wide open.  And with two solid beliefs under their belts, I feel like this third one will be easier for them to define.  When paired with two beliefs that have a lot of traction in the story, this last belief provides some great character development opportunities.  

Beliefs are at the heart of the BWG system.  Now that the setting is established, and with this week’s question about the initial situation, we are close to starting character creation.  My goal is to get everyone’s concepts and beliefs done before we sit down to burn up characters.  With all the work the players have put into the Outlands, I am excited to see their beliefs develop and cannot wait to challenge them..


Addendum:  While reading the commentary in Adventure Burner, they brought something up that contradicts my previous thoughts on setting obstacles.  It seems, that as the GM I should wait to set the obstacle till the player is committed.  They must test once the Ob is declared, meaning they have to decide to roll before knowing the difficulty.  Once the Ob is declared, they can maneuver FORK’s, helping dice and advantage dice, but they must roll.  This is how I plan to run tests in my game going forward.  I feel like it plays to the system better.  It forces the players to accept failure of actions before they know what their chances are, and puts them in the mindset to jokey for the best possible test for advancement.



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