Frustrations with Beliefs

Hey all,

I’m currently running a BWG game for 7 people, and I keep finding that people will not write concrete enough Beliefs that will produce drama. Despite my best promptings, it’s almost like I’m running into an adamant wall in each of these people who will not risk their characters and who, when their characters do get hurt (one was dropped down a 65-foot deep well and took a Traumatic wound from a fellow player’s poor Engineering roll, and another one was just crushed to death by a snake) the response is of general dismay, even though (as I’ve repeatedly stated) you are supposed to risk and push characters as far as possible. I’m one for whom the “soft touch” is an alien tool, at best, so I’ve kept my mouth shut as best as I can, but I am nearing the end of my patience.

As a related problem, even when people make Beliefs that can make for a good situation, they don’t use them and push them.

Any thoughts on how to get these people to make beliefs that’ll actually make trouble? I’m assuming calling them all ****ing cowards won’t be the best route, but I’m tempted…

When they’re complaining about how tough things are point out that having Artha helps with that. And if they push their BITs and let them drive the story then they’ll have more Artha to spend on those difficult rolls.

Are you awarding MVP/Workhorse at the end of the session?
Are you reading Beliefs at the end of the session?

That said, I think seven players might be two too many. It’s very difficult to run a BW game for seven players.


It sounds like you have two things going on.

First, it sounds like maybe they’re not understanding how they’re supposed to use the rules, FORK, Help Dice, Linked tests etc. and to pick their battles about which actions to pursue and to get the most dice to do them.

I have a Quicksheet which might help?

Second, you might want to “reset” your game a bit - skip ahead to when the Traumatic character is healed, months later. Give the players a clean situation from which to start and let them build Beliefs based on that. Some players do better with a problem (“The throne is in contest!”) to build characters around. This is also true when you have a LOT of players- you want their characters “aimed” at the central conflict, which makes it easy to put them into scenes together.

Here’s some fallback questions that tend to help players get the right idea of what a Belief is about and an interesting situation with their characters:


Interesting side note: Workhorse and MVP are “end of scenario/adventure” awards, not end of session (unless the session comprised one whole “adventure” I suppose). We were doing Workhorse and MVP every sesh and it sort of led to artha inflation – obviously not a problem for your group, of course. More of an advanced play thing.

Balancing and managing BW’s artha economy is the heart of incentivized gameplay. If they don’t feel incentivized by the reward system, it’s not a reward and it won’t work for your players. You can try and load up more scripted conflicts. You can probably Say Yes a bit more and hold out for higher Obs. You might also make sure they really really care about their Beliefs! If they’re not engaged, it’s on the GM to swing the situation back around 'til they’re all locked on target again.

Another good GMing tool to keep in your back pocket: don’t rely on “injury” for many or even most of your consequences of failure. Make it something else! Push their Belief goals further away. The time involved with recovering from injury is one way, but there are others.

Last thought, but it only works if the incentive system is humming: Make sure folks are writing their Beliefs in the two-part format. First part is the ideology, second part is their to-do list. They should be able to accomplish at least one of their to-do items each session. Make sure they really NEED that Persona now and again and maybe, hopefully, they’ll gain traction.


This is what I think:

Split the players in two groups: maybe one with three players, and one with four.

Then create as a group a good starting point. (A good starting point is a situation in which everyone feels involved.) For example:

The king is dead. His two sons are disputing the crown. One has the support of the noble houses. The other has the support of the church. Both love each other, but have different ideas of how to rule his people. Who killed the King? Was it someone from the church angry by the recent passing of the law that allows religious freedom, seeking to put someone more manipulable on the throne? Or was one of his two offspring, too eager to wait until the time puts him in the proper place by right of birth? Who are you in this whole affair, and whose side are you?

Durning world burning and character burning, ask a lot of questions about almost anything. Let them feel involved in what’s going on and be the true protagonists of this story. One can be the prince, one the other, and one can be a noble, the cardinal, the mother of both, or whatever they want. Their Beliefs must to be things their characters think and goals they want to acomplish. (“I will find who killed my father, and I’ll make him suffer as I am suffering now.”)

But I’m no an expert. Do this at your own risk. :stuck_out_tongue:

Even better if the princes are twins, lots of mistaken identity stuff, and the final horrifying moment for one of them…
“Who killed the King, your grace??? I am you faithful servant your grace, I shall never tell, no matter how they torture me! Your secret is safe with me.”

Ive seen this. Don’t prompt, demand. Tell them that if you don’t know what to do with their Beleifs you won’t be able to help them earn Artha and the game will suck. And if they don’t have an idea on how they can pursue their Beliefs, they’re not going to be proactive in the game. Ask them what they are going to do in this session to pursue that belief. If they can’t give you some concrete steps to following at least one, hopefully two, of their Beliefs you’re really not ready to start playing.

…and who, when their characters do get hurt (one was dropped down a 65-foot deep well and took a Traumatic wound from a fellow player’s poor Engineering roll, and another one was just crushed to death by a snake) the response is of general dismay, even though (as I’ve repeatedly stated) you are supposed to risk and push characters as far as possible.

Hold on, you told them that a failed engineering roll would mean he takes damage before they made that roll, right? They went ahead with it knowing what the risks were, right?

As a related problem, even when people make Beliefs that can make for a good situation, they don’t use them and push them.

I think there’s no easy fix for this. I would continue to encourage the behaviors that add to the fun. Show them that pursuing and challenging Beliefs results in exciting play, allow the Artha rewards and Advancement to fully engage. And hope it starts to click. You can definitely talk about the problems your seeing, but calling them fucking cowards can have negative effects :smile:

Oh, yes. You get it. :wink:

Seven players is tough. I GMed for six players one session, and it was a very frustrating experience. One of the players actually dropped out because he realized that six is just too many for a quality BW game.

I have an idea, a bit of a Spark, actually: Try awarding Fate on the spot, during the session whenever appropriate, but keep Persona and Deeds awards for the end-of-session Artha recap. I think this might help. It will prompt the players to game towards Fate rewards. They’ll notice when the first FP is handed out. The immediate payoff is nice, gives players some short term goals to set their sights on. BW works best when Artha is a limited currency, but with seven players, I think you need to give them all the prompts you can to get them chasing their own Beliefs. Once they “catch on”, I reckon they’ll start wording their Beliefs a bit better.

Great advice so far, guys!

Yeah, I’ve noticed that 7 is just way too many. So very many that my head’s hurting. It doesn’t help the fact that this is my first actual Burning Wheel campaign, either. I have never claimed to be a smart man…

I’d also say that 7 is too many to really play good BW. 4 or 5 is the max I’d ever run for.

For the Beliefs thing, have you had a look at the Belief Workshop page on the wiki?

Yeah, I’m coming to that conclusion too. This game will be done mid-August (perhaps sooner, we’ll see) and I’ll know better. Everyone’s really invested so far, and they really want this to work. I’ve gotten quite a few good comments so far on the game, despite the difficulties. The only game most of these people have played is DnD, so I’m getting a lot of “I like this better” or “That’s not how I’m used to it!”. I’ve attempted to be diplomatic about the latter, but as CarpeGuittarrem can attest, subtlety is not a strong point of mine. I’m a rather… open… person at times.

Hey Paul. Where did you get that? Page 63 says Artha is awarded every session. Persona award frequency are is up to the table, “but usually only once per session.”

Just a couple pages further…

Page 63 is just explaining that Goals Persona might be awarded every session, as compared to Fate, which is pretty common Artha to earn.

Cool. Didn’t see that. We do it every session, but only if someone really earned it, which probably means one or the other gets awarded every other session or so on average. So, no noticeable inflation.