Ahoy! I have admired Burning Wheel from afar and am finally taking the plunge. I’ve read Hubs & Spokes, done some more reading online, and listened to an actual play podcast. I’d love some feedback on my first character’s BITs. Thanks in advance!
Concept: A noble born bastard who is designated the “spare heir” by his doting father. After a childhood spent at court learning etiquette and extortion, he joins the war as a foot soldier with hopes of earning knightly valor on the battlefield. Instead, he watched his friends die around him and becomes disillusioned in the whole system of governance that created both he and the war. He returns home to serve his father in court by day, and joins an armed rebellion as an insurrectionist by night, dreaming of a nation forged in love, fire, and lofty ideals.
Born Noble → Bastard → Foot Soldier → Insurrectionist Traits:
Bitter, Cynical, Romantic, Mark of Privilege, Bastard, Zealot
“Warriors Rhetoric (jedi-monk group another player is a part of) will be a crucial ally in my insurrection.
I must determine if Allson (that PC) is worth bringing into the fold.”
“Money is the root of all evil, and I will make them pay.
I must secure a loan, or come upon wealth, to finance my future plans.”
“My heart is adrift and surrounded by eyes and ashes on all sides.
I yearn to meet a lady who would look past my birth.”
Zealot Belief “The insurrection will bring low the privileged and self-centered of the city.
We must meet asap to select the next target, whether that be place or person.”
“Promises are just words. Assurances must be made.”
“I always carry a knife where nobody can see.”
“True love is never wrong.”
I like Beliefs that are structured as Big Thing: Smaller But Important Step Toward It because they offer a good balance between engaging exciting long-term world-changing stuff and being able to get Persona rather than just Fate. So, overall solid structure.
Beliefs feed and are fed by the setting, characters, and other aspects of the specific group so exact judgements of what will be exciting for a particular person are hard; however, the third belief feels a little less active than I might go for. Yearning can occur without doing anything; perhaps buff that up to an active plan to find a companion. Depending on taste, that might be “I will go to taverns in disguise so I know the interest I attract is not from my status” or something less bonkers.
The fact you’re putting a lot of thought into it is great. BITs will definitely develop and evolve during play, so don’t worry about having everything figured out straight away. Good instincts are the hardest part for me, so I try to focus on getting one good one in at the start, and slowly building to three. My biggest piece of advice would be to change anything which isn’t coming up.
This is a great slow burn belief to get fate from (and eventually persona), and great to link to another PC.
This a nice goal orientated belief, though I might consider editing the first part to link more to the action of the second; eg why do you need the finances, why is this immediately important.
This could be a nice like creed type fate farm belief, you could even consider combining this with your final instinct. I really like the logic of having: one moral compass / fate farm / creed type belief, one belief about another member of the party, and one very goal orientated (that can be completed in the session)
One thing to consider with this is that a good DM should challenge your beliefs, which means if the belief contains a fairly simple task, that task becomes difficult. So as your DM I’d put some obstacles in the path of either having the meeting or deciding the next target, which might be what you want, but it’s something to consider.
This Belief scans like it lacks conflict. How are you going to determine if Allson is worth bringing in? Maybe there’s s dynamic we don’t know about, but it scans like you’re just gonna sit back, watch Allson do some cool shit, then ask for a Persona point when they succeed or fail – No no no. What are you going to do?
And, more importantly, why? You need her group; what difference does it make if she’s worth bringing in or not? Shouldn’t you be convincing her to (help) get her group in play? Or maybe removing her from that group if she won’t play along?
More specificity would be good here, too. Whom will you make pay? And how? By engaging in a mutually agreed-upon transaction that ultimately benefits them – or by stumbling upon wealth by chance? That doesn’t siund very “making them pay” to me.
It would also be good to how your character – the lofty-goaled idealist – squares his belief that money is the root of all evil with his desire for money. Is he taking on a necessary evil? Is he “cleansing” the souls of his enemies and putting the proceeds to charitable use? Does he actually see himself as evil?
This is cute! Good luck, buddy!
This one’s fine, I guess. Though I’m a little skeptical about how charged having a meeting and selecting a target is. It could be pretty juicy, I guess. Might be more so if you had a target you wanted to direct them at…
This is a Belief, not an Instinct. Instincts are about action; this is just, like, an opinion, man. What does your character do because of this opinion? Do they, “Never trust a promise?” Do they, “Always secure blackmail to keep their allies in line?” Do they, “Secure leverage before beginning a negotiation?” Be specific; Instincts require little conscious consideration.
This one’s solid.
Here we have another Belief.
What will you do about this? “Never doubt an assertion of true love?” “Always put true love before other interests?” “If there’s a chance to find true love, take it?”
Something I’d add to Dave’s comments is that you should consider how much is feasible in one session. If you have 4x Big Thing: Small Step beliefs and your group is a part of 5 people who play for 3 hours then you won’t get to the 20 odd separate goals the group might have. Conversely if there are two players and you play for 6 hours a session then you absolutely will. This is why interparty stuff, and overarching stuff can be great, those beliefs can trigger while you help another party member complete a goal.
Thank you all for your generous feedback, critique, and the discussions they are prompting! What a rousing welcome! This is exactly the kind of analysis I was hoping to find.
I completely agree. This was the belief that felt the most lacking of a specific action to me as well. I felt like it was the one of the lot that was the least tied to the other PCs so I left it a little more open. But I agree, and I am considering taverns, masquerades, letters to far off bachelorettes, etc. as places to try to start my journey. Perhaps I should make it more specific.
RE: the last belief
I hadn’t considered how the GM would challenge this belief, but I see the group as an unorganized bag of firebrands and radicals so deciding who or what the next target is might be mighty difficult. Or having the meeting interrupted, our letters intercepted, or worse! All of this sounds like juicy fodder for drama. I embrace failure as another step in life for my characters, so I’m game!
RE: belief 1
Mmm. There is missing context, yes. I didn’t realize how important it was to this. Allson and I used to know each other years ago, and even attended a few protests together. But then they joined their monastery for a while and have only recently returned to the city almost a decade later. If the monks can be swayed to side with the rebellion, that could be huge. They have government funding, their flock serve as advisors in key courts, and more. By rekindling our friendship and testing the waters a bit, I hope to figure out if Allson is the same rebel kid at heart I once knew, or if that spark has been quenched. (And out of character, Allson’s player specifically built Allson to be questioning their monastery’s way for not going quite far enough to create social change, so this belief will fit hand-in-glove with theirs. All that remains to be seen is if the insurrection is the “far enough” that Allson had in mind…)
RE: the first and third instincts
I see him instinctively demanding concrete assurances (a cash or valuable deposit, for example) to back up the vows made by others. Or if he doesn’t, it is acting against his nature. He does this because he is bitter and cynical, but also because I want him to potentially piss people off even when they vow to help him. Drama!
I think you are right. If there was a specific goal & step he was taking to accomplish it, this is a belief. Instead, I thought of this as an instinct because I want my character to instinctively trust and believe anything that he thinks is being shared or done in the name of true love. I like the tension between the first and last belief (trust nobody vs. trust is freely given in love). I want to set him up for femme fatales and getting duped by brothers-in-arms. So he’ll take risks and clean up other people’s messes in the name of love without thinking or questioning it. That was my thought about making it an instinct, anyway.
Beliefs don’t require goals or actions. Check Ethical or Philosophical Stances in the Codex (Page 81) for more info. But any philosophical value (like the importance of true love) can make for a Belief. Instincts, meanwhile, “rather than reflect who or what a character is, help define how the character acts.” (56, BWGR) Instincts aren’t Beliefs without goals.
100% this, instincts should be specific triggers, when x happens do y, or always do x. There shouldn’t be too much to consider beyond this, only ‘will I trigger my instinct’. Beliefs as guiding principles are great, because they inform how you act when the focus is on another character’s belief (and earn you fate).
Ahh, I see. Yeah, the beliefs I had read about in Hubs & Spokes that were less tied to specific goals & actions were a little confusing for me. I can see those being helpful as distillations of the character’s general philosophy like, say, a priest writing one about trusting the church’s doctrine above all things. To guide them in broad aspects of life. Mechanically, I wanted to stick with more concretely achievable beliefs at first. But I will have to read up more about them. My GM has a copy of the Codex but I haven’t cracked it more than to check out the few sections they’ve pointed out.
If it helps, I am imaging this instinct to function more like, “I implicitly trust things told to me if I perceive them to be said in the spirit of true love”. When x person who “loves” me says y thing, I always believe them. Does that feel more like an instinct? I was trying to set something up for him to get duped by crafty frienemies.
Failed Circles Test "The count’s sister writes you back. She has since reconciled with her brother, and will not abide your slanders. She writes, “If you cannot restrain that lying tongue, I shall pay you a visit with sword in hand and remove from you its burden.”
You’ve got 4 beliefs so I’d say write at least one that’s guiding philosophy. For example a priest in my current game has the belief: ‘Thou art a wretched sinner, utterly unworthy of God’s love. A fountain of pollution is deep within thy nature, and thou livest as a winter tree; unprofitable, fit only to be hewn down and burned. Steep thy life in prayer, and pray that God sees fit to show mercy on thy corrupted soul.’ which he definitely stole from somewhere, but gives a lot of guidance on his character.
So there’s an interesting meta game aspect to this. You can probably change the wording a bit and make it into an always type instinct, but from a meta game perspective, instincts only get you fate when they get you in trouble, beliefs get you fate whenever they come up. Also beliefs can be way more general, as there’s not condition which needs to be satisfied. (as a DM I’m also way more liberal giving out fate for beliefs than anything else).
First and foremost, that belief made me drop my jaw. What a portrait of that character’s inner psychology, philosophy, theology, and background. Bravo. If I’m going to write a guiding philosophy belief, that is one heck of a north star.
yep it’s worked out really well to guide his character, I can’t remember where he got it from, some puritan treatise or something. You can get away with something really simple though, just like ‘I must protect the weak from the strong’, anything which you feel will guide you and be relevant to events within the game. (you can then of course develop the belief into “guiding philosophy: thing which has triggered the philosophy and I want to resolve”)
For sure. Either of the first two would work especially well. I was hoping to include my fellow brothers-in-arms from the war or the most zealous members of my insurrection as well, but perhaps that is too broad.
In particular, “Never doubt a lover’s words,” seems perfect. I would likely expand it to fit brotherly/fraternal (philia) love as well.