Having trouble differentiating between Belief and Instinct

Newcomer here (first post, hi!) starting a MG campaign with my kids and their cousin (all aged 10 and under), all of whom are first-time role-players. Everyone’s enthusiastic about the game and their characters, but I’m essentially a novice GM (returning to the fold after 23 years), so while I’ve read and reread the rule book (and forum posts here and everywhere), I’m having a hard time telling if their Beliefs and Instincts are too closely related. I didn’t perform the recruitment process step by step as written in the book, instead having the kids create Beliefs and Instincts early in the process so they’d know what their character was like when it came time to choose skills and traits. Maybe generating the two things so close together was an error on my part.

We had to end the recruitment process prematurely, so we’ll be finishing these characters next weekend. In the meantime, I’d welcome any comments or suggestions to set these on the right path (or reassurance that they’re already there). Thanks!

The Patrol:
Clove, healer mouse and patrol leader
B: Mice in need should always be tended to.
I: I immediately help anymouse in distress.

Cracker, a rank and file guardmouse who’s caring but rough when there’s danger
B: The safety of other mice comes first.
I: I always step forward at the first sign of danger.

Goldblossom, the timid tenderpaw, mentored by Clove
B: All mice should have equal rights and be treated fairly.
I: Always survey the scene before acting.

To familiarize myself with the character generation process, I had previously created a practice character with another of my daughters (who won’t be playing), and we came up with the following:

Lucy, the armorer
B: Peace among mice must always be maintained.
I: I always help when I see another mouse in need.

Any tips that would help me clearly differentiate Beliefs and Instincts in my head would be greatly appreciated, as well.

Welcome to the forum!

I think of beliefs as decisive statements of the mouse’s guiding principal, often providing us insight as to why they did such an unmousy thing as join the Gaurd. Instinct is their gut reaction when presented with a specific situation.

The problem with the first mouse is you won’t know which one they’re following when you reward them with Fate. Their instinct definitely feels like a Belief to me. My question for that instinct is “you always help how?” Because helping someone beset by enemies is different from helping someone find a lost child. If it applies in both instances, it sounds like a Belief to me.

An instinct is an If/Then, Always or Never statement that encompass a physical action your character takes.

Thanks for the replies! The awarding of end-of-session Fate points is a good, definitive reason why the two should be distinctly different from one another – thanks, James. My first mouse actually meant for her Instinct to cut both ways: she’d help both someone under physical attack and someone crying alone on a street corner. The two are almost identical anyway, so I’ll have to help her come up with a new, complimentary Instinct. (I guess they don’t need to be complimentary, and for game purposes it might be more interesting if they weren’t, although perhaps more complex and difficult to play as a character.)

I did get that an Instinct is a statement with always, if/then, or never (thanks, Luke), and I used that hint to guide my players, but I hadn’t considered the “physical action” aspect of it, so that should help me.

Did I miss a similar such thumbnail guide for Beliefs? It seems to me that a Belief also could be always, if/then, or never-type statement – that seems to imply a pretty concrete guiding principle for the character – but then you run the risk of it being too similar to the Instinct. Maybe a better understanding of the rewards part of the game will make some of this clearer for me. More re-reading for me!

Apologies for working out my understanding of the game on the board here, but I appreciate your help in getting me up to speed.

having complimentary belief and instinct is not a bad thing. You could help Clove add distinction to her belief and instinct with a few added words.
B: Mice in poor health should always be tended to
I: I immediately help anymouse that cries in distress.

This gives a little added condition for the belief, and you can check how often she calls on her instinct by having mice cry out in distress during many events in-game.

A belief could be worded that way, but they tend not to be as strong of beliefs. I think a belief should be a little broader in scope. And think of it this way: if your belief is too narrow, you’re not going to get rewarded for it as often, and I’d say having conditional statements in a belief makes it much narrower.

Here’s the instructions on beliefs in the book. Does this help?

Write a Belief for your character based on how he views his role in the Guard. A Belief is an overarching ethical or moral stance. Page 311.

or this:

You write a Belief for your character. Beliefs should speak to some higher purpose. They shouldn’t be goals you can accomplish; they’re ideals you live up to. Page 30.

These distinctions are all definitely helping, thanks very much. So I figure I can guide my players like this:
Beliefs should be broader, less definitive (and thus less restrictive), describe an overarching worldview, provide a higher purpose that the character strives for or toward. The rule from page 311, asking how the character views his or her role in the Guard, is a great jumping-off point.

I also found this useful tidbit: “Beliefs can be about the Guard, your parents, your friend, your enemy, the Winter War, peace or a particular moral code.”

So, clearer, still a little fuzzy, but at least I feel like I can muddle through more confidently.

Now just wait for my question about distinguishing between weather and wilderness obstacles!

Pages 29-30 might also help.