Earning Deeds points

I’ve now GM’d about 4 sessions, and played in 1, so I’m beginning to get a feel for the game. (It’s awesome, btw :P)

One major question I have, however, is in regards to Deeds artha. Since you need 20 fate, 10 persona, and 3 deeds artha in order to get an epiphany, and it looks like you get approximately 2 fate to each persona point, then maybe the ratio holds approximately? Which would suggest you should get one deeds point every 3-4 sessions?

Or are they only achievable by the sorts of characters inclined to do “great deeds,” as well as campaigns in which great deeds are realistically possible?

By that measure, for instance, could a villainous character, by definition, be unable to earn deed points through his villainy, no matter how great the scope? If we have an evil party, are they all unable to shade-shift?

Or if we have a campaign that’s only involved in small-scale stuff, where great, big deeds are just not in the realm of possibility… is it likewise impossible in such a campaign?

Or are deeds given in other contexts?

Thanks for your insights.

The game doesn’t differentiate between good and evil. There’s Beliefs, instincts and traits. Deciding who’s evil and who’s good isn’t in there.

Destroying King Arthur would be a Great Deed if it aligned with your BITs.

The rules for awarding Deeds points do specify that “To qualify for this award, you must do something that benefits more than just the character, and do it for reasons other than personal gain.” It’s never explicitly treated in “good and evil” terms per se, but it does sort of lean in that direction, doesn’t it? Villainous types aren’t typically known for their selflessness.

I think the idea is that “heroic” shade is reserved for characters who perform heroic deeds. If your game is operating at a more mundane scale, then shade shifting might not really be appropriate anyway. On the other hand, what’s worth a Deeds point ultimately comes down to the GM’s judgement.

Giving out artha is an art. The right amount is enough to keep your players feeling willing and able to spend it on major rolls, but not so much that they can spend it frivolously. One deeds every few sessions is probably a good start. Some people are going to say that every four sessions is too generous. I’d say it really depends on how much is happening in the game. Yes, you really do have to do major things to get Deeds.

Deeds aren’t about goodness, they’re about greatness. Deeds are given out for bringing about great changes to the setting at great cost. Both are at the scope of the game, though; a farmer who gives up his farm has made a great sacrifice, quite probably; a great lord giving up a plot of land has done no such thing. Convincing your friends and family to leave everything behind and start a new settlement might be worth deeds too, if that isn’t just getting what you want out of a belief.

Evil isn’t incompatible with deeds points, but pure selfishness is, because deeds are about something bigger than yourself. A good evil example might be allowing all your nefarious plans that will achieve your Beliefs to be thwarted and letting the heroes save the day because by giving up you can set loose a catastrophe of apocalyptic proportions. You don’t get what you wanted, but you do something of great significance at great personal cost.

A deeds moment should probably be worthy of passing into legend. It might be the kind of legends the bards sing, but it also might be the kind of legend told by peasants to each other over fires, or the kind that’s just a rhyme street kids recite, not remembering what it was originally about. Something that’s forever after remembered as an accursed even, an atrocity only spoken of in whispers, or the sort of thing that gets you shunned and banned utterly from all you ever held dear, that’s also deeds material.

Oh, I don’t know. Once you get to the level of world changing evil it’s always couched in selfless ideology. Racial purity, retribution, divine providence. It’s pretty rare that someone self identifies as evil. In most BW games I’ve played the idea of an “evil party” wouldn’t make any sense. Our characters, however, were not lilly white paramours of virtue. We stabbed people in the dark, mutilated our enemies, stole from innocents, poisoned, assassinated people from roof tops, and we considered ourselves the good guys.

This is awesome stuff.

I guess I’m thinking of a character of mine. One would easily get deeds points - it’s the campaign, the characters, it’s totally what they do.

But this other character, though, is a selfish, self-centered, emotionally-wounded person striving for survival and revenge. She’s got a lot of emotion to throw into things, and one day, bringing down the Assassin’s Guild that hunts her will be awesome…

… except even that once-in-a-campaign sort of event is done 100% for personal reasons. She doesn’t care about saving people, she wants to destroy them utterly and completely, for what they’ve done to her, and more importantly, what they’ve forced her to do.

Realistically speaking, she will never, in all her career, do anything on a grand scale for others.

The most selfless, amazing act that she’s done, in that vein, is that she chose to do something pretty much out of character for herself. She wants to be loved, even though she “knows” she doesn’t deserve it, and this guy caught her attention.

She was scared witless, like no combat or life-threat could do, and she chose to trust him. More importantly, she gave to the other PC all of her daggers… all of them, which she never does… and that was a symbolic act of trust the like of which she’s never done before in her life. It was a major, life-changing moment for her, the most terrified she’s ever been.

Mind, this is the heavily-modified Pathfinder game, but still, the point remains.

How could this ex-assassin rogue possibly get a deeds point, without a dramatic change of character? She’s rich, deep, and determined; she grows and changes, she’s one of the most “alive” characters I’ve ever made, in all her wounded glory. I find it strange to think that she, and characters like her, would be incapable of an entire domain of a mechanic, shade-shifting.

Actually, my gut does say that giving over all one’s daggers in order to genuinely create a connection by trusting someone…that’s the sort of awesome thing that would get a Deeds point. Depending on how much of a big deal overall those daggers were.

But otherwise, realize that Burning Wheel is supposed to be challenging, and it is played (I think) with a heroic slant. Just as a heroic Orc would be “cut off” from engaging Hatred (unless they wanted to compromise their morals), a self-centered revenge-seeker will be cut off from a heroic shade. Deeds points are meant to prompt that dramatic moment where she is in position to destroy the Assassin’s Guild…and then changes her mind. She gives the information that she has to others, perhaps, because maybe the Assassin’s Guild is something that needs to be brought down for the good of others. But she knows that if she takes it down by her own hands, she’s going to change herself into a person that she can’t live with, because she’ll be destroying them to fulfill her own desires of revenge, and not to spare others.

That decision is what a Deeds point is made of. You sacrifice your own desires in a legendary way.

Again, deeds are about overcoming self for some greater cause. Bringing down the assassin’s guild for revenge is a persona point kind of thing. Not bringing them down when that goal is in reach because letting the guild survive is ultimately more important than personal revenge, that’s deeds. And it doesn’t have to be all altruistic! If the rest of the party, or this one important guy, really needs the assassins for something—even if it’s something terrible—and letting the assassins live is perfect for deeds. It’s recognition of something bigger than the self and giving up something important, vengeance, for that larger cause. It has to not be a more important personal goal, too; doing it to win this guy’s heart, no, that’s just differently self-serving. It has to be truly for others, regardless of good or evil!

The story of an Orc: he has begun to strike up an alliance with a king of Men willing to kill his rival and install him as leader of the clan. The Orc realizes that if it happens, the clan will be shattered, and they will forever after be dependent on this king and his kingdom. The Orc hates his rival; actually, he hates his clan too. But he realizes that as loathsome as they are, he cannot bring this fate down upon them. Not because he doesn’t want to rule mere ashes, but because he does not want his people destroyed. He knows that if not with his help, it will be with the help of another. The treachery of Men must be stopped before it can start! He leads a warband into the king’s castle and in an orgy of violence ensures that the king’s words will bend no other Orc’s ear. The kingdom falls. Men are thrown into disarray. But the Orc and his band have come away bleeding, only able to strike the king down and flee with little loot. The Orc knew this would happen; he lied to his followers to get them to help on the true goal. The Orc is mocked and derided as fool who picked a terrible fight and got nothing for it. His rival ascends to become a Great One and gloats. The Orc’s followers drift away, unwilling to follow such a leader. And with his black heart seething with a thousand torments for his rival, the Orc knows that he has saved his clan and gets a deeds point.

Is he good? Not by any stretch. Is saving his clan good? Arguably; from the perspective of the Men, it might well be perpetuating a terrible evil! But it was a sacrifice of his own standing and even blood for others for which he will receive no rewards despite his amazing achievement. Deeds.

That major, life-changing moment is a classic “Moldbreaker” persona point. Your character has her beliefs and instincts screaming not to trust, but she finds it in herself to overcome that. Bam, persona! Not deeds; there’s no accomplishment beyond the character and there’s no sacrifice.

Your character grows and changes, you say. Finding it in herself to give up her own needs at a climactic moment for others she cares for—not because it will get her something but because she cares—is what deeds is all about. BW is all fighting for what you believe, but deeds artha come when it’s no longer what you believe but what is right for more than just you and sacrifice yourself for it.


So there’s a major component / mechanic that’s only available for characters that are capable of self-sacrifice. I find that… strange. All characters can get fate and persona fairly evenly, by following their beliefs (regardless of how kind or cruel those beliefs are). But to achieve supernatural level of skill / ability, one must be capable of self-sacrifice… and repeatedly, at that.

Again, one character would get Deeds points like candy. It’s kind of her motif. Every other session would be kind of reasonable with her. But this other one simply could not.

Sure, she could continue to change, but it’s not enough for her to change, she has to change in this specific way. So for the moment, it is utterly impossible.

On one hand, I agree with the deeds system perfectly. That feeling you get, that strange sense of power and purpose, when you throw yourself at something because it matters, not because it benefits you - that is the essence of the deeds artha, and only those who can tap into that wellspring of human will, beyond self-interest, can achieve the ascension into the greater-than-merely-mortal.

From a strictly number-crunchy perspective, it does seem unfair in that not all characters can achieve it.

But, the more I think about it… maybe it really is okay to reserve that massive chunk of the mechanics for characters, good or evil, who really do go beyond the common, mortal scope of survival and petty lusts.

What makes it work is that characters don’t play games, people do. All characters are capable of getting a Deeds point because all players have the ability to put the characters in a situation that can give tem the opportunity to earn it.

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Not really. In a typical game, you’re spending Fate and Persona on all kinds of things, just to accomplish your goals or avoid BAD STUFF, but if you’re really driving for an epiphany, you’re focusing your Deeds usage on just that one skill/attribute.

In my play so far we’ve probably awarded 1 Deeds per 10 Persona or so, at best. But it’s really based on what’s happening in the fiction rather than any kind of goal or schedule. If you want Deeds, you’ve gotta make it happen; it won’t happen automatically in the course of play.

Well, what’s self-sacrifice to one person may be self-destruction to another. You can totally play “baddies” who pick up Deeds points. You took back your kingdom from your brother but you’re totally going to waste your wealth on heretic-burning religious conversion? That’s not heroic in the slightest, but (depending on context, of course) it could be a Deeds point.

I don’t think the schema for Deeds really limits you much at all, beyond saying that the ideal BW-style protagonist cares about more than self-preservation and incremental gains. That’s a very wide range. Also, BITs already do that.

Yeah, I think you nailed it. :slight_smile: Burning Wheel is about sculpting characters into legends, but to become a legend, you have to transcend your own objectives. If you want to become greater, you need to rise above your personal circumstance.

OOH! I just realized something.

Fate is what you get for understanding the things that shape you (your Beliefs and Traits) and using them as your strengths.
Persona is the next level: it’s what you get for going above and beyond your Beliefs and Traits, achieving goals and making a name for yourself.
Deeds is a level beyond that: you step beyond yourself and achieve things for others.

It’s all about gradually increasing your perspective.

In life, one never knows what sacrifices they are able to make until they make them, perhaps the same could be true in game. It is the g.m.'s job to create situations that challenge our characters beliefs, intuitions, and traits. Using them for and against use to keep our stories moving in new and unexpected ways. And to me, a character who makes a sacrifice that bennefits others rather than themself for the goal of getting a deeds point is doing something for themself.

That doesn’t make any sense, your mixing up players and characters.

Maybe it is worth observing that if your character lacks the Gifted trait, they won’t have access to Sorcery, which is another whole chunk of mechanics. Or if they’re a non-Faithful human, they won’t have any emotional attribute at all. It’s not just Deeds - in fact, Deeds is never explicitly made unavailable the way those other things are.

Also, what Shaun said. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that playing a consistent, believable character means there’s only one path to take. If you want to earn Deeds points, you can find a way to make it happen without compromising your character’s integrity. After all, Burning Wheel is about characters who change.

Characters can’t do anything for deeds points. They aren’t aware of the artha cycle. Players can do things for deeds points, and that’s not only okay, that’s intended. Artha is supposed to be a motivation for players. A character who makes a sacrifice that benefits others

Another interesting note: a character with a bunch of altruistic, self-sacrificing beliefs has a very hard time earning deeds. All those sacrifices will be beliefs-congruent and just worth persona. I’ve been overgenerous on that sometimes, I think, and it’s also possible to have self-sacrifice that goes beyond superficial service to beliefs, but what deeds are really about is finding new depths to a character. You can’t get that if you already know your guy is going to bend over backwards for everyone else.

I do think that it’s somewhat important to note that the GM can and must set up situations that drive BITs and will virtually inevitably lead to fate and persona being awarded. The GM has no such obligation for deeds. Yes, it’s on the GM to set up the big moments that make deeds possible, but it’s completely on the players to decide whether the climax will be in keeping with character motivations and give persona or surmount the personal to become something larger and grant deeds. In fact, I think a lot of good deeds moments are also moldbreaker moments and also result in realizations about real priorities and change beliefs.

Not self-sacrifice. Think ideals! Principles! Cosmic Truths!

khana, if your character travels to the ends of the earth and beats insurmountable opposition to exact her revenge on the assassin guild and balance the scales of justice, or just to destroy them utterly for having the hubris to challenge her, I’m giving her a deeds even if she says she did it for selfish reasons.

shakes head

It was making sense to me, but this last comment threw me for another loop.

To make major, self-sacrificing choices for the benefits of others is worth a deeds point…

… unless the person had intended to do so ahead of time?

I mean, if I understand correctly, every time you have a direct objective that you intend to fulfil, you’re supposed to make it a belief.

But if it’s a belief, it doesn’t get a deeds point?

So thus, you can only get a deeds point when you do the major self-sacrificing thing… unexpectedly?

I gotta say, that just doesn’t work with me. If it’s your character’s objective to do something massively self-sacrificing, that shouldn’t forfeit the deeds point.

I do understand that there are some martyr characters who do “self-sacrificing” things for selfish reasons - maybe they feel worthless, and it’s the only way to justify their continued existence. Maybe they just want the attention, and so made a big deal about their “sacrifice.” Whatever. That wouldn’t get a deeds point IMO.

But looking at a war that you desperately don’t want to be a part of. Facing enemies that terrify you. Stepping forth and leading the army against those nightmare enemies, letting your little sister fight on the front lines, where you don’t know if she’ll survive… desperately wishing you could just run away, but these people need your help to survive…

That’s what one of my characters did - the one who would constantly be earning deeds points. This was a many, many sessions-long process, setting up. There would have been beliefs for every part of it - mostly likely conflicting ones, while we’re at it. She sweated during the whole process - especially when she was framed for murder and imprisoned by the very people she was trying to save. Oh, man, did she consider leaving them to their fate then!

If that’s not worthy of a deeds point, hell if I know what is.