Getting Rewarded for Beliefs

Fellow Burners,

I had understood from my read-through of the rules that if you act on a Belief and fulfill it you get a Fate point (for acting on it) and a Persona point (for fulfilling it).

…is that correct? If not, what’s the correct ruling?

It’s either/or. If you pursue, but do not fulfill, a Belief, it’s Fate. If you fulfill, it’s Persona.

Picking a nit, but it actually says you get Fate for “manifesting your belief” and having it drive play. It’s pretty open. I don’t think it differentiates between whether you pursue it or play against it. Although, you can get a Persona when your charcater just has to go against everything their Beliefs and Instincts are driving toward, and you play out that struggle (moldbreaker).

Also, Persona for achieving a Personal Goal, which are usually part of your Beliefs but can be explicit goals not stated in beliefs.

I was basing what I said on Thor’s response in this thread:

Oh, I wasn’t disagreeing with that. Theyre mutually exclusive. When you fulfill a Belief and get a Persona, you don’t also get a Fate for pursuing it.

Basically, when a belief comes up in play, the decision is basically between awarding a Persona (Achieving a Goal or Moldbreaker) or Fate (manifesting in a convincing manner and driving play forward). Unless its a Deeds moment.

Thanks Burners! That was really helpful.

As stating I would just avoid double dipping on the same belief, one question that I have seen used and used is the question. Do you plan on pursuing this further or are you happy were it stands? if they are going to keep going, fate, if they are happy, persona and close that belief.

If they have completed the belief but don’t want to get rid of it, have them change the second half and keep going (the overall reason for two-part beliefs). If they are bored with the belief as a whole, have them change it to something else. Don’t only reward a belief with Fate if it’s been completed, it’s done and needs to be changed.

Sometimes a belief doesn’t change but still gets Persona. “I must deliver the MacGuffun!” gets Persona when it’s done, and then it’s time for a new belief. “I must protect the MacGuffin!” could get Persona when it has been dramatically protected at the climax of a storyline, but the character may still have that belief as a priority. They get the artha and they’re telling the GM that they still want the MacGuffin front and center in the character’s universe.

“I must protect the MacGuffin” is a poor belief since it doesn’t have any sort of end (and as such can never earn Persona unless you stop protecting it and get a mouldbreaker point). “I must protect the MacGuffin until we deliver it to the regent” is a much better belief. That way protecting the MacGuffin can keep happening with all sorts of intermediate goals that keep earning you that sweet sweet Persona artha.

While I see value in the “General; specific” form of belief, I don’t think it’s mandatory. Beliefs don’t need an end-point as long as they’re meaty, require actino, and can be challenged. Protecting things works there. Beliefs as written are often shorthand, and if a character is acting to protect the MacGuffin they should get Fate whether or not there are explicit sub-clauses. If a culmination is reached, there should be Persona.

“Bishop Olm is the best hope for reform in the corrupt Church, and I must defend him from his enemies and detractors!” is a belief I’ve had in play. It has no end, except when the player decides the character is done. It’s not necessarily clear when the belief is written when, or if, it will be done. Yes, it could have specific modifications. “…so I will discredit Cardinal Thierre,” “…so I will ensure we have spies in the household of the Constable,” “…so I will fend off the assassins sent by Bishop Hosca.” All possible, but not necessary. Those should all be clear enough as parts of the belief without writing them out.

What I’m saying is that a Belief without an end has segments, and when the story makes it clear that a substantial sub-belief was achieved you give persona. The GM should not be in the business of punishing players for not getting the minutiae of beliefs right. Clarity of intent and driving the game are much more worth pushing, enforcing, and rewarding than belief-lawyering.

I’m inclined to think that persona is for when something changes. If the Belief doesn’t become resolved, if you’ve just saved the bishop from the threat-of-the-week and no doubt something else will come along in a few days, you haven’t really PROTECTED him, yeah? Nothing’s really changed. Your character hasn’t really accomplished anything. That’s “fate” right there in the common sense of the word - it’s your fate to protect this guy and keep protecting him, forever and ever.
Persona should be more for big-turning-point character development. Your character resolves a goal that’s a core part of them, has a dramatic and life-changing moment, makes a decision between two paths. They accomplish the thing that was driving them - so what’s going to drive them now? A new page is turned, and persona is earned.

The rules only say that characters who accomplish explicitly-stated personal goals earn a persona point. So it’s not outside the rules to award persona for meeting an explicit goal that may or may not be relevant to a belief that doesn’t change. For goals that are part of beliefs, I’d argue that if the the belief hasn’t been changed at all and the threat remains, the goal hasn’t been accomplished - it hasn’t been RESOLVED, no matter what immediate threat may have been overcome. So no persona.
I dunno, maybe that’s splitting hairs. I don’t want to screw the players over because of semantics, either. But I guess that’s also why you ask them if they’re done with the belief, if THEY think it’s resolved. Yeah, then they get a persona. No, then they get a fate and the issue’s still an issue.
But the rules don’t say to award persona for a “culmination”.

(Hah hah, “A new page is turned, and persona is earned.” I’m going to say that to my players just to annoy them.)

I’m getting ready to run a BW game, and rather than start a new thread, I’ll pose my interpretation of Beliefs here, to see if it’s approved.

Basically, beliefs are a fact, and a disposition about that fact. It doesn’t have to be a “true fact” but it has to be something the character believes is true, and the character has some kind of implicit or explicit disposition towards that fact, i.e., “X is true, and X is bad,” or “X is true, and X is good.” This gives two ways for any such belief to be challenged. You can challenge the truthfulness of that belief, or you can challenge the disposition of that belief.

To use the above example, “Bishop Olm is the best hope for reform of the corrupt Church” is a good belief, because the GM can challenge that by making Bishop Olm corrupt as well, or by making the Church not really corrupt. The implicit disposition in that belief is that reforming the corrupt Church is good, and that can be challenged by setting things up so a corrupt Church is the best possibility, i.e., that reforming the Church will cause massive social upheaval, wars, and loss of faith.

The latter half of the above example, “I must defend Bishop Olm against his enemies and detractors” isn’t as good, at least if it’s not paired with the half above. The only way to challenge it is to throw enemies and detractors at Bishop Olm. What if the Bishop doesn’t need defense, but support of another kind? What if the Bishop doesn’t really deserve that defense? Why do you have to defend the Bishop? The answer to that last question is the Belief.

In this sense, Beliefs aren’t really ever “fulfilled” or “unfulfilled.” They’re confirmed or falsified, relevant or irrelevant. Fulfilling a belief just means that the the fact and disposition have been fully confirmed to everybody involved, and thus it’s no longer a relevant, motivating fact. Facts are relevant when there’s uncertainty regarding their truthfulness by at least some of the characters involved in the situation, and those characters have a definite opinion on whether they want those facts to be true or not. Beliefs are the basis of goals, but are not themselves goals.

Does that sound right?

I’d say that it’s the opposite. A good belief tells you how a character will act, so saying that he will defend the Bishop against his enemies and detractors is good as it clearly shows what task he’s willing to do, and by extension how the player wants the character to be challenged. Being vague, like saying that the bishop is the best hope for reform, leaves many openings but it also means that it doesn’t drive the game very clearly and beliefs are a way for the players to show what they want in the campaign. Both kinds are fine according to the rules but, as said, I think it’s best for the players to really show what they want.

A belief doesn’t really need to explain much about why you do something either since it’s just a short description of what the player wants to do and doesn’t represent the entire story. Mostly it’s obvious why a character does it anyway because you get to know the characters during the game. That said my group likes to write one sentence explaining the character’s opinion and a second sentence explaining how they will act according to that. I still consider the final part to be the important part of the belief because that shows exactly how I am supposed challenge the player.

Linking to the past discussion I’m of the opinion that a belief that rewards Persona should be written with a clear goal in mind, like stating more precisely what threat to the bishop you will defend him against, or until which point in time you will defend him. This doesn’t have anything to do with screwing players that didn’t express themselves this way because when you see a player’s belief you should imo of course explain this to him.

That seems to me to confuse Beliefs with Intents too much though. Beliefs motivate Intents, which, together with the situation, define Tasks, but, Beliefs are not themselves either Intents or Tasks. Epistemologically, beliefs are propositions, and propositions can be either true or false. With regard to Artha, Persona points are awarded when the character makes his beliefs irrelevant, either by accepting the falsity of his beliefs or the necessity of acting as if they were false (making their irrelevance temporary and subjective), or by making his beliefs non-controversial, and thus no longer a source of conflict. This latter would be equivalent to “fulfilling a belief.” The belief “Bishop Olm is the best chance to reform the Church” is fulfilled when Bishop Olm has finally reformed the Church. It’s also mooted at that point. It’s also moot if Bishop Olm is killed. Manifesting the belief that “Bishop Olm…” in a way that’s fun and interesting, that gives other players good opportunities for manifesting their beliefs, and so forth, is worth a Fate Point. Participating in the activity that moots your belief is worth a Persona point.

Players show what they want in the campaign in the initial set-up, and in the kinds of conflicts they pursue. In the case of the Bishop above, if the players weren’t interested in the kind of political intrigue suggested by having the Bishop turn out to be corrupt too (why not?) they would ignore and bypass any hooks the GM throws at them to suggest that’s the case. And a good GM would know from the initial set-up that that’s not the kind of game the players want, and so wouldn’t throw those kinds of hooks out there.

There’s no confusion there, it’s supposed to be like that. When the book talks about how to go from an opinion about something to a finished belief it asks “what are you going to do about it?”. I can also refer to the AdBu that states, “the most common problem we see with Beliefs is that they either have an ideology but no action, or an action without a driving ideology. Each Belief needs a to-do so it’s clear when the character is pursuing his Belief and he can earn artha, and each Belief needs an ideology to back it up so the action has context.”. There’s quite possibly an equivalent to that in BWG but I don’t have the books with me, although the AdBu belief chapter pdf (available as free download) is on my computer so it was easy to refer to that with a direct quote.

On the ideology aspect, if your belief says you’re going to protect the bishop, then writing that he’s the best chance to reform the church is a reason for that. However, if your goal is to reform the church (without the protect part) that belief doesn’t really say why. It becomes weak because it doesn’t really state much at all and you could even follow it up with “so I must kill him to prevent it from happening”, turning it upside down.

As for players showing what they want by ignoring hooks, that’s in itself a good argument for describing how they will act on something. That way the GM has less risk of spending time throwing out other hooks instead of focusing directly on what the player wants.

On a different note, if the goal is to reform the church that also seems a bit too large for a goal oriented belief. Reforming a church might be a very long process so it could be better advised to set up smaller goals on the way there, as personal goals must be clearly described.

Burning Wheel Beliefs-with-a-capital-B can and often should include goals. They’re not the same as “I believe the sun is the center of the universe” type beliefs, though they can include that sort of thing. The rules explicitly say that Persona is awarded for completing stated goals, and that these can be written in Beliefs. That’s not the same as rendering the ideological component irrelevant, and it does mean that yes, Beliefs should contain concrete goals.

Intent and Task is for the immediate thing the player is trying to do - “I get the door open.” “How?” “By smashing it with this hammer.” What’s on the other side of the door could very easily be relevant to the overall Belief, or not. I think you must be confused about something, the way you’re comparing the two.

The entire point of Beliefs is for the players to tell the GM what kind of game they want. A “good GM” may be able to deduce from their behavior what they want, maybe, but this system seeks to alleviate that burden by asking the players more directly. If the GM throws out hooks that the players ignore, then the GM is doing things wrong - they should have thrown out hooks about the Beliefs, since the players have said that those are the things they won’t ignore.
Making the GM play guessing games about what the players want, whether the GM’s good at it or not, isn’t a good use of the GM’s time.

Beliefs need to indicate action, at the very least so that the GM knows how best to challenge them, but also to be sure the Player knows how to take action towards Resolving them. One way that has been used to achieve this is to state an overarching belief and then follow it with an action that the player intends to pursue because the character holds that belief. It isn’t necessary, but helps to prevent a problem folks have seen too often, confusion between player and GM about how to pursue and challenge a particular belief.

As for challenging the objective truth of a Belief. That’s fine, but I’d be careful to include the player in an explicit discussion about this notion. Creating characters and beliefs and the world in which they reside, is a collaboration in BW. If I made a character with the belief “Dulcinea is beautiful and pure, I will win her heart” the question I’ve offered as interesting is “what will my character risk to win her heart?”. If you secretly decide she’s evil, my driving force behind the creation of the character is gutted. If we both know Dulcinea is less than pure, the same belief can take on a sense of irony and encourages me to naively expose my character to risks.

I’m hoping that I’m simply doing a bad job explaining myself, otherwise, I’m beginning to doubt my comprehension of the fundamentals. I’m not talking about the compound belief, “Bishop Olm is our best hope of reforming the Church, I must defend him against his detractors and enemies.” I’m talking about when you split them up into separate beliefs. “Bishop Olm is our best hope of reforming the Church,” and “I must defend Bishop Olm against his detractors and enemies,” and viewing them separately.

The first one seems like a perfectly actionable belief, with a wide array of possible challenges. It contains two fact claims, that Bishop Olm is the best hope, and that the Church is in need of reform. Implicit in it is the disposition that the Church being in need of reform is bad, and that Olm’s reformation of the Church is good. It’s manifested when the characters go make friends with him, offer their support, spread his word, and kill, subdue or convince his detractors. You get Fate for doing all those things. You get Persona when Bishop Olm no longer needs your support as his reformation is underway, or when you go against that belief in a convincing way.

The second leaves me with a question, “Why?” Without pairing it with the first half, it’s sort of a bad belief. It can really only be challenged in one way, by continually throwing attacks at him, and making friends with him, convincing him to accept your support, and spreading his word, can only be counted as defense of him if you’re willing to engage in a semantics game, “the best defense is a good offense.” This leads me to believe that the first half is the essential bit, and that the second part is at best superfluous as long as there is good communication from the get-go between the GM and the players, and at worst limiting.

I don’t dispute that Beliefs are more than just a fact-claim that the character happens to believe. But they are the fact-claims that drive the character’s behavior. If you want to write a belief that says, “I must…” or “I will…” you have to include the why, and once you have the why, you should re-evaluate whether you really need the “I must/will…” part.

edit to prevent double-posting: regarding the Dulcinea thing, absolutely, but I never thought the GM could really secretly decide something like that. I mean, he could try, but it’ll show up as the failure condition for some test, and when the player hears that, he can object to that kind of failure condition. The GM should absolutely respect that.

I agree that the “Why” is important, yes! But “Challenging a Belief” doesn’t just mean “Challenging the notion that the Belief is true”. It can also mean “Putting challenges in front of the PC as they pursue the Belief’s goal” or “Making the PC make challenging decisions about how best to pursue the Belief” or things of that ilk. Challenging a Belief by casting doubt on its factual truth is not the method I’D reach for first, personally, unless the player made it clear that their character was supposed to be mistaken. In fact, I generally assume that any facts about the world that a player puts in a Belief are true, barring contradictions with what’s already been established.
Generally, a good Belief combines the “Why” and the “What“.