First character in The Burning Wheel, looking for thoughts before game time...

First character built for ‘The Burning Wheel’ and I went for a rather derivative ‘elven prince’ (if not a bit darker then is usual), looking for opinions on ‘Beliefs & Instincts’. I am new to this system and am rather excited about it. In this edited version of the character I am going to play, I felt with the falcon issue as best I could (via a relationship) and kept only one major relationship (a wife with a hobby for elven “crafts”, who I will post in a response)…

Name: Cú Morrígan

Concept/Bio: A young elven prince tasked by his infamous warlord mother to guard the mortal world from all things mythic.

Lifepaths: Born Etharch, Lead to Citadel, Soldier-Protector, Lead to Protector, Sword Singer, Lead to Etharch, Prince

Age : 213

Stats: Wi: B5, Pe: B5, Po: B5, Fo: B5, Ag: B5, Sp: B5, Stride: 8

Attributes: Ref: B5, Ste: G4, Hes: 5, Hea: B8, MW: B11, Grief: B2, Circles: B3, Resources: B1

PTGS: Su: B3 Li: B6 Mi: B8 Se: B9 Tr: B10 Mo: B11


All things are equal under the stars

Honor does the dead no favors

Protect the mortal world from the mythic


Assume leadership through initiative

Make light of dark times

Strike from advantage and confirm your kills

Traits: [Char] Born Under the Silver Stars, [Dt] Essence of the Earth, [Dt] Etharchal, [Char] Fair and Statuesque, [Char] Fea, [Dt] First Born, [Dt] Grief, [Dt] Keen Sight, [Dt] Prince of the Blood, [Dt] Sword of the White Towers

Skills: Alarm B2, Armor Training, Bow B4, Brawling B2, Elven Script B2, Etiquette B2, Falconry B2, Fletcher B2, Knives B2, Lament of Stars B2, Mending B2, Mounted Combat: Bowman Training, Musical Instrument B2, Poisons B2, Shield Training, Sing B2, Song of Lordship B2, Song of the Sword B3, Strain of Far Sight B2, Sword B4, Voice of Ages B2

Affiliations: 1D Swords of the White Towers

Reputations: 1D Wandering elven folk hero

Relationships: Lady Káta - Armorer, Quartermaster & Wife (Significant, immediate family, romantic love), Trained Falcon ‘Gheimhridh’ (Minor)

Gear: Elven Boots, Clothes & Traveling Gear, Elven Light Mail, Elven Steed ‘Epona’, Well-aged Elven Crwth

Property: Land Tract: hill-barrow overlooking river

Weapons: Elven Bow w/Bodkin Arrows, Elven Falcata (inwardly curved longsword)

Lady Káta…

Name: Lady Káta

Concept/Bio: Wife of the Prince Cú Morrígan and talented smith.

Lifepaths: Born Etharch, Lead to Citadel, Clothier

Age : 101

Stats: Wi: B5, Pe: B4, Po: B4, Fo: B3, Ag: B4, Sp: B4, Stride: 8

Attributes: Ref: B4, Ste: B4, Hes: 5, Hea: B7, MW: B9, Grief: B2, Circles: B2, Resources: B0

PTGS: Su: B2 Li: B4 Mi: B6 Se: B7 Tr: B8 Mo: B9


I strive for elegance and functional beauty in my work

My loyalty to my husband and liege cannot be shaken

Though a pacifist, I take solace in arming my lord


Look out for the prince

Quiet around others

When emotional, I work

Traits: [Char] Born Under the Silver Stars, [Char] Drop-Dead Gorgeous, [Dt] Essence of the Earth, [Dt] Etharchal, [Char] Fair and Statuesque, [Dt] First Born, [Dt] Grief, [Dt] Keen Sight

Skills: Armorer B2, Bowcraft B2, Elven Script B2, Leathercraft B2, Riddle of Steel B2, Sing B2, Tailor B2, Weaving Way B2

Relationships: Cú Morrígan - Husband, Prince (Significant, immediate family, romantic love)

Gear: Elven Steed, Elven Boots, Clothes & Traveling Gear, Smith’s Tools, Torcs of Marriage

All three of your Beliefs are what we call Guiding Light beliefs. They can be fine, but they don’t provide a lot of direction on their own. You may find something like “All things are equal under the stars, therefore I must kill King Harvold!” more useful. Especially if you know what your first step is.

Ok… I understand that thought. I intended it to be a statement of always trying to treat other people with dignity even if it was out of station. But, I am getting a better understanding of the systems intent by your answer. The second was to state that he was notably underhanded if the situation warranted… The third to state what he sought in terms of challenges. I was trying to show some dichotomy of character, a prince who exists among the people and will fight dirty to keep them safe from things which go “bump in the night”. Any ideas how to take those three basic themes and make them functioning beliefs? I am new and confused, so bare with me :wink:

No problem. They’re all fine beliefs individually, but having all three of them like that isn’t giving you much traction as a new player. My recommendation would be to look at the beliefs in light of what you know about the world you’re playing in and see which ones could support a bit of direction being baked in. Try “BELIEF…therefore I must do X” as a construct. The more concrete the better. I don’t know much about the world you folks set up, so you’re going to have to supply the details.

How about this… Instead of “I strive for elegance and functional beauty in my work” it gets changed to something like “No son of man can work steel like a lady of the elves”
Is that any better? (At least in the case of the wife character)

We’ll work on instincts next :wink:

I got you… Be it known, I started table top gaming a good long time ago. Not so much a rookie to RPG’s but to some of the “new” mechanics. My long standing ‘DM’ never moved passed that title (nor the supporting game). So some of the systems in The Burning Wheel are new to me. Great system though! I believe I am sold!
The environment we are playing in is dark ages Europe especially Ireland (or Innisfail). So elves would be Aos Si (descendents of the Tuatha Dé) and things like 'Sword of the White Towers" is changed to ‘Swords of Lugh’. What you are saying is that a good belief should provide a bit of a story ‘hook’ or some such, to help push things along?.. I will keep thinking…

I think language itself is getting in my way… “I will turn aside the fir bolg if by poison or throat slit sleeping” and for an instinct “I always take command by taking the initiative” am I getting any better? :expressionless:

A good Belief needs to drive the story. It’s not a hook that connects the character to the story; the GM’s job is to take the Beliefs given to him and make a story out of them.

It’s easy to think that Beliefs should be things that your character believes. They’re not, exactly, and you can go wrong very like that. Religious faith is a belief, but in itself not a good Belief. “Dwarves are all shifty, feckless, and not to be trusted” is quite literally a belief about Dwarves, but it’s again not a great Belief. It’s workable, but not great.

What really good Beliefs need to do, especially for beginners, is make a statement about the character’s relationship with the world that demands action, the more specific the action the better. “I will turn aside the fir bolg by X or Y” is missing the first part.

Let’s examine this one: “To protect the mortal world from mythic threats I must kill the fir bolg.” You have the belief part, where the character believes the mortal world must be protected. And you have the next step: protecting is going to start with killing the fir bolg. You could have a belief that the fir bolg should be stabbed in their sleep, or poisoned, or reasoned with and only killed as a last resort. Having that level of detail only matters if the detail is important to the character or the game.

Keep in mind that Beliefs are the players’ conversation with the GM. They’re how you signal what you’re interested in playing out. If you have this fir bolg Belief, you’re saying you want fir bolg as antagonists or threats in the story. The problem with “all things are equal under the stars” or “honor does the dead no favors” is that there’s no story there. Remember that you’re using these things as elements of the story so you get artha for following and resolving the Beliefs. You can’t resolve those, and they’re not clearly going to be sources of conflict and trouble.

A good rule of thumb is that someone looking at your three Beliefs should be able to instantly say what’s going to happen in the next session. It doesn’t have to be right, and it may not go that way, of course, but what’s next should be fairly obvious.

For Instincts, there are two things you can try to get: automatic behavior and [/i]trouble that gives you artha[/i].

The former is something your character will reliably do, always, that you want an advantage out of. “Never go out without a concealed knife” is an instinct that means that you’re going to have a knife handy—even if you didn’t mention it, even knives are out of place. “Always draw my sword at the first sign of danger” means you’ll have your sword out and ready at the beginning of fights where you have any warning at all. “Check over and groom the horses after every ride” means you’re not going to miss signs of lameness and signals a priority—horses first. You use these beliefs for an edge.

The latter, trouble Instincts, are intended to get you into hot water, which gives you a point of Fate artha. “Never back down from a fight” is an Instinct that will cause trouble. You can always choose to overcome an Instinct—the GM can’t use it to force you to do something—but if you abide by it you get artha. “Always draw my sword at the first sign of danger” is a classic double-duty Instinct: handy in a fight, but trouble (and artha) if the danger is social and pulling out a sword is inappropriate.

Your Instincts also have a muddiness problem. I don’t know what leadership through initiative means in Instinct terms; anything I can envision is too complex for an Instinct (i.e. you’re not doing the same thing on autopilot every time). Making light of dark times is fine, but it’s neither helpful nor, probably, good for milking artha. “Strike from advantage and confirm your kills” is the best of the lot, but again, “strike from advantage” is something anyone would do but that you can’t always do. Confirming kills is solid, though. The GM can’t say, “No, you left that guy for dead and now he’s back to trouble you again.” You have an Instinct that says you’re making very, very sure that every enemy down is dead.

Not a story hook. Something that is driving your character and what he’s going to do about it. “Honor does the dead no favors. So, I will sneak into camp of the fir bolg and poison them in their sleep.”
“I must convince The Prince that we are all equal under the stars, or the enemy will find our house divided.”

Your Beliefs are the story.

for instincts, keep it simple. A thing you always do or never do in a specific situation.

“Always protect the prince when the fighting starts.”
“Always take the most defensible position in the room.”
“Always make inappropriate jokes when things are their bleakest.”