Baiting Beliefs and Transparency

On Page 398 of BWG, in the section on Baiting Beliefs, it recommends players should target their opponents BITs during a DoW exchange. How do other GMs handle this with regard to NPCs’ BITs? Do you lay out all of an NPC’s BITs to your players? Always? Sometimes?

Coming from very different (and frankly ‘old-school’) systems, I guess I’m having trouble wrapping my head around some of the GM transparency concepts in this game. How much do you lay out on the table for your Players? Do you allude to an NPC’s BITs through role-playing or do you just read the BITs straight off your notes?

Well, for most stuff, you should be pretty transparent. Don’t keep secrets just because the PCs wouldn’t know. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have surprises. Maybe the PC’s brother is working for the Dark Lord, and said worthy has a belief about it, but you feel that it’s gonna be way cooler for him to find out in a scene or two when he goes home and his father tells him. Tell the players his other two beliefs, then.

On the other hand, think about it before hiding anything. If the brothers had a huge argument and came to blows before one of them stormed out, you should ABSOLUTELY tell the players about his new position with the Dark Lord! They know he’s out there somewhere, probably up to no good. Telling them where, and what no-good he’s up to, builds anticipation (like when you know the killer’s in the attic but the teenagers don’t.)

The following is how I run my games. It may or may not be the correct way…

I think it rather boils down to common sense. While BW stresses GM transparency, that doesn’t mean the GM can’t build mysteries into his plot. You have to give the players the information they need to know in order to direct their own characters appropriately, but you don’t have to give away all the secrets. While it is fun to know something beforehand and anticipate it happening, it is also fun to be surprised at the end!

I rather enjoy mixing up the story with a bit of mystery. The most important thing for the GM is to make sure your mysteries relate to at least one PC’s Beliefs somehow. Make sure you give periodic hints to prompt the player, so they don’t switch their Beliefs in an entirely unrelated direction (and to help them nudge their Belief in an even more relevant direction). The hints don’t all have to be given IC either! You can flat out tell the player OOC that you’ve got something planned, and drop a few hints to help them figure it out. Also, I try and keep most of my mysteries small, solvable in a few game sessions at the most. You can’t guarantee a player will be interested in following up on a mystery, after all. The story needs to keep plowing forward according to the PCs’ Beliefs, and if the related player isn’t interested in your mystery, it’s not fair to require him to keep one of his PC’s Beliefs tied up in accordance with your planned plot hook. The plot must always follow the Beliefs!

If you look at BE it would say, give them everything. Full transparency - i don’t know if this is comparable to BW. I would at least tell the player generally what the NPC wants.

Something like, He wants to control the port at all cost.
The belief might be “If i control the ports the Dark Lord will release my wife from her curse”

I generally keep my NPCs’ Beliefs close to my chest but try to make them very apparent in my roleplaying unless the NPC is hiding it for some reason. However, when I want to award an important NPC Fate for playing a belief or Persona for accomplishing a goal, I usually reveal the Belief to the players so they understand why the NPC is gaining Artha. Sometimes, I choose not to take the Artha so I can continue to keep a Belief secret.

There are ways for players to discover an NPC’s beliefs in play. Aura Reading is an excellent way to do it. You can also make it your Statement of Purpose in a Duel of Wits. The sort of baiting of beliefs that Luke is talking about in that passage generally comes into play in long-term games where you encounter an antagonist multiple times and start to understand who they are and what they’re about. And, of course, players can use the technique when they get into Duels of Wits with each other.

Oooh claiming artha reward for an NPC, nice ;D I totally forgot about that when running my campaign.

It’s a tough balance though, transparent enough not to slow down play, build tension etc.

When it comes to revealing secrets, do you often reveal them in the meta? (his belief is:) or do you keep it in your hand and try to get the movie moment?

It is a tough balance. It essentially comes down to how good your sense of drama is as a GM. The “movie moment” is definitely fun, but a secret in an RPG is worthless if it never get revealed.

In my games, I do a mix a of the two. Some of of my NPCs’ beliefs are obvious when I play them, and I have no problem revealing them to the players after they’ve encountered the NPC a session or two. Others I keep hidden until I can get that “movie moment”.

One of my favorite things when GMing games is when the players get that final piece that helps them understand why an NPC has been acting a certain way, and it forces them to completely reassess what they think about that character. The best way I’ve found to achieve that is to lay the ground work by allowing them to learn a few of a character’s beliefs and make the final one a reveal for later.

I really appreciate when the GM is frank with the NPC beliefs from the get-go. I once used the same for a 1-on-1 with a very conservative (in the old-fashioned sense of the word) player, and while he asked - he really did see the value of knowing more in a co-operative game.

Beliefs like the Baron’s: “My secrets must be kept at all cost!” and “What is [character] doing here?”

and his daughter: “I love my father” and “Boy, that [herald character] sure was handsome!”

I also let him hear his siblings Beliefs, all centered around: “[Our brother] will come to the bottom of this!”

As a player were NPCs have open Beliefs I’ve not experienced any disrupting meta, if any at all. (We tend to forget them and focus on our own.:P)

I think it often comes down to a choice in the moment between mystery and irony.