Group is new to MG, need a little help with Beliefs and Instincts.

Hey guys. I’ve got a group of three players, and I think some of us could use a little advice regarding Beliefs and Instincts. One of my players has done an excellent job, in my opinion. His character was a Patrol Guard for a long time, doing independent scouting missions for the Guard, but he’s recently been promoted to Patrol Leader, and he’s in charge of our group. He’s very much about keeping quiet, keeping safe, and not doing anything that could get everyone killed. His belief is something to the effect of “Always do what must be done for the greater good”. I like that. It’s easy for me to challenge. I can just put him in a situation where, let’s say there’s a grain shipment that could help a starving community, and it’s about to get swept away in a river. And there’s a good friend, who’s also in danger. There’s only time to save one – does he still believe in doing what must be done for the greater good?

His Instinct is good, as well. It’s something along the lines of, “Never draw unwanted attention attention to yourself”. And that’s easy to challenge, too. All I have to do is put him in a situation where keeping quiet, and keeping hidden, might get someone else killed. Is he willing to carry that weight? Is he willing to make that call? Or will he try to be a hero?

I think his Belief and Instinct are really good. My two other players could use some work, though. Don’t get me wrong: I think they’re both on the right track, and they’re both doing an excellent job of writing things that fit their characters, but they don’t make for very good Beliefs or Instincts. Both of the other characters are Science-Mice, and for example, one of them suggested that her belief should be “There has to be a better way”. I get where she’s going with it. She wants he character to be innovative, and to always be on the look-out for non-traditional means to an end. She’s always experimenting with new ideas, you know? Always pushing herself to make that next discovery.

But I don’t think “There has to be a better way” is a very good Belief. Maybe you guys could offer some suggestions?

My other character wanted her Belief to be “You should always listen when addressed”, which sounds like it might be better as an Instinct. Still, how would I challenge that? I’m not sure I can. Her Instinct, right now, is “Keep your ears open and your pen ready”, which actually sounds like it might be better as a Belief. But again, how do I challenge that?

Do you guys have any alternative suggestions?

well, I agree that ‘there has to be a better way’ and ‘You should always listen when addressed’ are difficult beliefs to challenge. In fact, those are odd beliefs to base service in the Guard upon.

Encourage the pair to back up a step and imagine the situation that got their mouse involved in the Guard–not when they signed up–when they really decided the Guard was their identity. Use that to form a belief.

I made a pre-gen for another player once in which I used Wooddruff’s Grove as the hometown and explained that during the Winter War, this Guardmouse was assigned in Rustleaf. She was assigned to the other side of the territory while her parents, siblings, and friends were under seige. The player used this experience to form the belief, “No mouse should die unnaturally.” It worked really well to form a strong point of reference and a good belief. She held the belief through the first year and only changed it slightly during the second year.

Encourage (without forcing) the players to creatively generate some background about a pivotal moment that really binds their mouse into Guard service. That’s where beliefs are formed.

Instincts are an item I have less to say. My key advice is that if the instinct doesn’t have a trigger–especially a trigger other players can engage–it probably isn’t an instinct and won’t garner any reward.

“I will save the guard by doing away with their outmoded philosophies!”
“A Guard’s place is to listen and obey!”

Great advice, Ken.

Yeah, that really helped me out a lot, Ken. Thanks for that. Also, those altneratives that Noclue gave are actually really good. Thanks for that.

“There has to be a better way” could be challenged by the character running into a situation where a tried and true method is the right choice to make. Perhaps there is a centuries-old machine that, if left alone, will work just fine (even if it doesn’t appear to), but if tinkered with will fail and cause them to fail the conflict.