Baiting Beliefs versus Aura Reading

So, an interesting question came up last week. Let me lay out the case:

Old, good DOW advice on p. 398 talks about baiting Beliefs. This plays into the overall notion of radical transparency @ the table: the players all know everything about the characters at the table, and it’s considered a best practice to play against character Beliefs.

On the other hand, we have a fairly potent, difficult to get skill/trait deal called Aura Reading. Aura Reading allows the character to directly observe Beliefs, Instincts, Traits and other goodies.

The question is this: Does encouraging (allowing) players to leverage character Beliefs, along with the implication that the players of course know the Beliefs of the characters at the table, render moot the Aura Reading ability? Is there a strong implication that Aura Reading is really just intended for use against NPCs? Can players go ahead and leverage PC Beliefs but/and gain an advantage die for a successful Aura Reading?

There’s a whole player/character knowledge thing here and I’m not sure what the best advice for my players is. One player thinks Aura Reading means everyone needs to keep their BITs secret, which is just about the worst thing I can imagine for BW (other than maybe Rule Zero-ing the whole thing). I have an intuitive “well, players need information for authorship but you shouldn’t abuse that knowledge for your character” thing in my head but that’s way-mushy and just untenable. They’re kind of in a push-the-rules-to-their-limit mode right now anyhoo, so I’ve had to step up my rhetorical game a bit. :smiley:

For me it’s contextual.

Baiting beliefs is great. As written, it is possible in a DoW to attack your opponent drawing on your meta knowledge of a belief and leveraging an advantage dice.

There is a difference between your character saying something that “Just so happens” to bait a belief, and having your character peer in to the soul of his enemy, and announce to the world what his deep passionate desires are.

  1. Read your Beliefs out loud at the start of each session.

  2. Be a good player and mix your actions into your friend’s Beliefs.

Example: Pete writes a Belief for Merrick about atoning with his God. Pete has Merrick begin a ritual of prayer. I play Varda arguing with him that he should not atone.

As a player, I’ve provided Pete with an opportunity to challenge Merrick’s Belief. He can perform his ritual or he can shoot for mold-breaker. It’s up to him whether he does so or not.

  1. Aura Reading gives the character mystical knowledge about a Belief. The character knows that desire, philosophy, goal. He may act against it, subvert it, attack it, challenge it, reinforce it, exploit it directly—in the game as part of the narrative.

Does that help?

Not even a little bit!

That’s exactly where we are already. The issue is that they can’t tell where baiting (as a player) stops and using (as a character) starts. The former is collaborative, the latter is competitive.

Their characters never know each other’s Beliefs unless they use Aura Reading. In fact, characters don’t even know their own Beliefs.

Sure, yes. Good perspective.

So how does a player bait the characters’ Belief? How does that look different than a character baiting another character’s Belief? What’s the practical difference there?

Not actual play but realistic to our current situation:

One of the knights in our group has a Belief: “Anyone who has the curse of the werewolf is a sinner, because God would not inflict that on the righteous. In God’s name I must slay all who carry the curse.”

Another character has a problem with the local Baron and wants to see him dead. He really doesn’t know if the Baron’s a werewolf or not, but he’s convinced the knight that he is. So the player wants to enter a Duel of Wits with the knight on that point. Is that the player or the character who “wants” that? Yes yes, the character exists only at the behest of the player. The player wants what he wants, and the best way he knows is to hit the knight right in the B.

The player wants to win that contest and, more to the point, really really wants to see that Baron dead. And sure, the character wants that as well. So per standard DOW best practices, this is a hot conflict – made even hotter, say, by the knight’s second Belief, “I swear my unwavering allegiance to the Baron.” Whatever. Obvious moldbreaker-bait. And it’s cool that another player can look at that and engineer a win-win-win for everyone involved.

But in that case, what role does Aura Reading play? If the players are already encouraged to bait Beliefs, what practical difference does it make that the player “knows” the belief but the character does not? If we assume the DOW is designed to resolve player disagreements, we can assume that both players actually disagree and that there’s some vested interest in winning their side of the argument, yeah? I say this mostly to myself, because that seems to invalidate the idea that players looking at character Beliefs is somehow intended to be more collaborative.

I lean toward the practical answer: 1. Aura Reading really isn’t for reading PC Beliefs (but the non-BIT component is still awesome in PvP) and 2. Don’t directly infer/address the Belief you’re baiting if your character hasn’t Read it.

If the player knows of the other player’s Belief, but it’s never been acted upon or brought up through course of play, it’d be unfair to bring it up in a DoW as if it was a known fact. That’s the only line I have and that’s where Aura Reading would work vs PCs.

Otherwise, yes, it’s mostly a vs NPC skill. In fact, in our games, I don’t recall it ever being used vs a PC.

Without character knowledge, it’s good for “dramatic irony” or whatever, but shouldn’t be directly addressed.

With knowledge, the character can address the Belief as an Intent.

Luke’s example above was in-character knowledge - Merrick had gone on at length (GREAT length) about it. There was a period much earlier in the campaign, though, when Merrick was going around offing other members of his faith. The players knew it, but the characters did not. So they played off it - befriending other clerics, introducing them to Merrick, etc. But they didn’t step on the Belief directly until there was a reveal.

Could it help when you are possessed and have a “demon belief”. In this way the character could learn what the evil inside of him wants. (if he doesn’t allready)

In this particular situation, it sounds like Aura Reading isn’t necessary. The Knight is willing to talk. No need to suss out his motives.

But why aren’t they Aura Reading the Baron?!

The need, I think, would be to gain a tactical advantage in the DOW.

Not only does the tracker dude want to see the Baron dead, his player knows that the Knight is the way to do it! And he knows it because the Knight has this Belief, which the character has acted on a little in the course of play. But really, the player only knows-knows the Knight wants to kill werewolves because he knows that character’s Belief. Otherwise, you know, totally based on character knowledge, it might not be obvious that this is the Knight’s Belief. It could be he has a problem with the local immigrants (the werewolves tend to be loaded up more amongst the immigrant population) or it could be he has a problem with freaky shapeshifters popping up in front of him.

So Aura Reading test for motive linked to BoA roll?

I’m confused. You said that the player has convinced the knight that the Baron is a werewolf. Shouldn’t the character just ask the Knight for his help in slaying the Werewolf Baron? That’s not a DoW, just a request. When the Knight says, “my faith instructs that all such fell creatures must be slain, but I can not. I have sworn a sacred oath of fealty to the Baron,” now you’ve got a DoW. Two beliefs baited, no Aura Reading necessary. Of course, the knight may say something else and take things off in a different direction.Alternatively, you could use Aura Reading to learn that the Knight hates werewolves or that the Knight is feverishly loyal to the Baron and let that inform play.

Well…two things, James.

  1. This is just a hypothetical! And they’re never perfect. :frowning:

  2. You make an excellent point about slowing down and letting a conversation play out a bit, which is something we’re constantly fiddling with (I’ve been noshing on that on G+ lately). I think one place where we (as in all BW players) might sometimes be too fast to hit the dice is exactly this situation! The players are reading one anothers’ Beliefs and trying to be helpful by engineering situations and conflicts, but that’s all happening authorially and not inside the fiction. That’s pretty interesting. I hadn’t really put two and two together until now.