Beliefs and Instincts

This new way of character creation is so different than anything I’ve seen, and while the book does have a good section on what they should be, I find myself hitting a wall with it, like I can’t quite get the idea out of my head into a simple sentence.

Anyone want to share some of the things they’ve written for characters?

Let’s see… Folker (played by my buddy Jerry) has the instinct “Never turn down a drink, especially if it’s free.” this has led to him circling up old friends to buy him drinks, persuading already present NPC’s, coercing other PC’s… He even occasionally has bought his own. He even took the resources hit to throw a party for Nola, one of his guardmice, when they both were back at sprucetuck, their hometown. It’s also been an artha mine.

The Patrol Guard in our playtest group, who was its most senior member, had the Instinct “Always delegate tasks to the less-experienced.” That one was really fun.

I don’t remember their Beliefs. One of the two Guardmice had one about becoming the best fighter in the Guard. The other had something about how home and a warm fire were the best things in life. The latter wasn’t the most heroic Belief for someone charged with protecting the Mouse Territories, but it played out well.

I recently played a lardass mouse with the Instinct:

If I am near food I eat it.

That led to him absent-mindedly tasting the honey we were pretty sure was poisoned, eating the patrol’s provisions, and falling to the allure of a seductive mouse cook, who’s apple pie feint ended up with him losing a huge conflict, getting married and leaving the guard.

I had great fun playing that Instinct and getting into all kinds of trouble.

His Belief changed over play. First Belief was

“Mice are all good and deserving of my protection.”
Then it changed to
“Barkstone would be a better place if it were run by better mice.”
And finally it changed to
“No matter what, my family is to be honored and protected.”

I stumbled on this today as we were making characters, because it seems that Instincts are something totally different in Mouse Guard than in Burning Wheel.

In BW, Instincts are there primarily to let you have done something without explicitly declaring it. So you can get a free action at the start of a fight, or have brought something along that you didn’t say.

In MG, Instincts apparently don’t affect your actions in play, and instead are there only to show off your character. You get a Fate point when you follow your Instinct – so it should be a distinctive thing that is a trademark of your character. Having played BW, I would prefer to call them something distinct like “Mannerisms”, since they seem quite different.

So, I have an extroverted, Musketeer-like Patrol Guard named Trevor – who is carousing, romantic with women, and friendly to everyone. I gave him an instinct of “When meeting a new mouse, always offer them something,” with his catch phrase being “Have a drink!” His belief is “Every mouse is a friend, or potential friend.” It seemed to fit together and gives an immediate picture of the person.

MG instincts are essentially a second belief.

BW/BE instincts are character macros.

BE/BW instincts can be macros, but since you have three of them it’s awfully easy to go ahead and let one or two of them also be mini-Beliefs (action items without attached ideologies). In my current BW game I think each player actually only has one system-oriented Instinct; the other two are just there to get them into trouble and earn F/P.

Instincts from our MG playtest: Never back down from a fight, always stock up before I leave a town, Run away if it’s bigger than a frog, take the long way around if the path looks dangerous, etc.

If it’s an action that will get your character into some trouble and introduce new complications, it’s probably a good MG instinct. That’s a tough thing to get your head wrapped around: why would I want to get my own character into trouble? Because trouble is how you’ll earn checks! You have to approach your character as your means of touching the fiction, not a precious and delicate embodiment of yourself.

Beliefs from our MG playtest: Completing the mission is the most important thing in my life (suitable for patrol leaders), the lands beyond the scent border are filled with mouse towns in danger, everyone has a nicer cloak than me, all for one and one for all.

I like having Beliefs that occasionally contradict the character’s Goal. Makes for interesting decisions along the way. I find streamlined, optimized goal-belief-instinct sets don’t provide enough traction (and therefore not enough F/P).


We used the aforementioned Instinct about delegating authority to break the rule in Mouse Guard that the mouse who comes up with a plan has to be the one to roll the dice.

Cool. That’s a house ruling, though, right? i.e. Not part of the rules as written.

MG instincts ar enot rule breakers as they are in BW/BE. They’re otherwise pretty similar.

By my reading of page 87, if the group comes up with a plan together, its up to the patrol leader to assign the task to someone. So Daniel’s example sounds fine. If a player volunteers directly, he must make the test, and can’t delegate it.

John: Anthony nails how we used it. The Instinct allowed the Patrol Guard to propose a plan of action and then have one of the other, lower-ranking guardmice make the test instead of him.

This was during the playtest and I can see from this thread we may have gone a little outside of the lines with that particular Instinct. The group’s other Instincts were things like “Always be the first one in a fight,” which seem to be more appropriate to Mouse Guard.

We’re trying out “Always read my book first.”

He’s a bookish Archivist tenderpaw who always carries a copy of his mentor’s journal wherever he goes. I had a vision of him on the run from a big old snake and he’s hightailing it down the road, with the book open in one hand.

He Belief is “Knowledge is a Weapon.”

Very informative bunch of posts here, and really helped me get itno the wing of it. My first character, Lucas the Mad, comes with the following:

Belief: The Guard knows what is best for all mice.
Instinct: Where words can’t, the axe can.

I built Lucas up to be psychologically scarred from the Winter War, as well as a sympathetic to Midnight’s cause, though with bonds too strong with the Guard itself to ever turn his axes upon it - he agreed with the idea that the Guard should be in charge of the Territories, but he would never try to achieve that by taking the fight to the Guard itself.

With a hair-trigger fuse conected to a bloody-minded fighting instinct directly liked to mental scars earned whilst fighting in the Winter War, he can turn simple negotiations or tavern-hall comments into outright brawls at the twitch of a nose. Insults to the Guard are met with comments thrown right back, and challenges are met with flying fists if not axes.

Then a simple rest stop or grain trade can turn into a decidedly more important diplomatic mission to try and smoothe things over.

I think those are great! Neat background, too. It’s like Saxon but… more bloody-minded and focused. I’d hate to be “re-educated” by him. :wink:

Agreed, Lucas the mad would be scary to cross for most mice. Exemplary of why not everyone wants the guard to be in charge!