Beliefs exercise

Pardon me if this is just that obvious, or is suggested elsewhere.

When thinking about Beliefs, and helping people write them, a pretty simple exercise came to mind: Think of a piece of popular fiction, and a character in it.

Now, write three Beliefs for that character. These Beliefs should meet as man of the following criteria as possible:

  1. They drive the character and/or the story forward
  2. They are challenged in a significant way, that moves the story along
  3. They prevent the character from doing something in an optimal way (aka, they get the character into trouble)

Going through this exercise for a number of characters has really helped me think about and develop Beliefs.

The best examples of fiction being driven by Beliefs is… The Pirates of the Caribbean series. Those characters will betray, lie, steal, murder and fight for their Beliefs, and they all contradict each other’s. It’s great!


Princess Bride.

I would love to have a player come up with a Belief that’s the equivalent of “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

What about “There’s not a lot of money in revenge. I’ll work for Vizzini to pay the bills.”

It’s easy. But you have to give the player context. Since this is a game and not a movie, don’t assume the player can create his motivation without outside influence. He can’t simply write a compelling back story and motivation in a vacuum. He needs his Count Rogen. Rogen didn’t just kill Inigo’s father, he’s the source of nearly all of the (immediate) woes in the story. He’s a brilliant antagonist. So it’s on you to take the idea that the character’s father was killed and blow it out into opposition for the whole group.

In this game I invented a nemesis with the belief “Jaraq killed my parents. He will pay!” Jaraq was then featured in another character’s belief as well and became the focus of the entire campaign. Colin (GM) made him a nasty piece of work too.

Tyrion Lannister (i made for a challenge to build him in as many systems as possible) in A Clash of Kings

I will prove myself in the eyes of my father by serving as the hand. My first step needs to be to look for powerfull alies to wed my sisters children too
Shae is my love, i will protect her whatever the cost
A Lanister allways pays his depts

“A Lanister always pays is debts” is an Instinct.

I saw Brick soon after being exposed to BW, and he’s one hell of a driven protagonist. The way he (in some cases literally) hurls himself into the story was really inspiring.

I was thinking about this too, but it is more then a simple instinct i think. Maybe he has this nobility trait for the extra belief and the GM made it, so that you have to Take your houses motto for ist…

I think pretty much every character from Farscape could be expressed in these terms.

Some examples for Chrichton:

  • I’m lost in this distant part of the galaxy. I need to find a way home.
  • I can’t let Scorpius get another shot at me. He needs to be shut down.
  • I love Aeryn. I’ll earn her love in return.

I dreamt this as soon as I read about Beliefs in BWR. Then I tried to sell BW to my ‘old group’ (from were I lived before) using “The Princess Bride” as reference. Only half had seen it!

This reminds me of a post here, which paraphased went something like: “Who cares about ‘cheating elves’, when you can have revenge on your father*!!!” (I immidiately added “/the six-fingered man who murdered your father!”

Note: A player in a one-on-one once wrote the Belief: “I will find out why my father was murdered.” His wife-beating, drunkenly miner of a father. It was way cool to tell him the NPCs Beliefs!

Baron: “The miner’s son must not know the secret!” "I will

Baron’s daughter: “My, that herald was a handsome bloke!”

… Though I got to play only one session of that game, I think it hinted that NPC Beliefs can move story and protagonists as well. The guard’s Belief: “Noone shall walk through this door unauthorized” comes to mind… :slight_smile:

Name: Fox Mulder
Occupation: FBI Special Agent
Date of birth: October 13, 1961

The truth is out there, and I going to find out
My sister was abducted by aliens
I will show Scully that the government is behind this conspiracy

Trust no one
I Want to Believe
When in doubt, seek help from The Lone Gunmen

Character Traits
Porn Collector

Name: William Thatcher
Alias: Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein
Lifepaths: Born City, lead to Noble Court, Squire


  1. With Sir Ector’s death, I have an opportunity to change my stars and live a life better than my father’s. I will become a true knight despite my lineage.

  2. Lady Jocelyn is my one true love. I would do anything to prove my devotion to her.

  3. Count Adhemar is a villain. I will not be content until he’s on his back, staring up at me from the ground.

A bit off-genre, but Breaking Bad is FULL of characters whose’ beliefs are the core element driving the story.

I agree wholeheartedly, and look where those beliefs are leading the story. Superb.

Totally agreed, even though I’m only partly through the second season.

Another aspect I like about longer-form fiction (TV series, novels, preferably novel series, movie series) is getting examples of Beliefs changing over time, and why they do so.

Haha, this is bang on. I love how Mulder had the same three Beliefs the entire series. I don’t think they ever changed once!

Was he really a porn collector though, or is that just a joke about David Duchovney? ^^

I quote from Wikipedia:

“However, during a period of time after Scully’s cancer went into remission (season 5), Mulder was convinced by Michael Kritschgau that aliens did not in fact exist, and that the government conspirators had merely concocted that threat as a smokescreen, to justify military activities and toy with him.”

To be a playable character, perhaps he needs at least one Belief related to the case at hand.

According to Wikipedia, he keeps a couple of boxes of pornographic magazines in his bedroom, and usually he sees porno in the TV.