Interpretation issues with Beliefs and earning Artha

Hey guys,

Heres a situation we encounter during our sessions. Using the Adventure burner and BWG advices on writing beliefs, we manage to write some pretty interesting beliefs. Ethical ones, interpersonnal ones and goals using all kinds of tricks like phrasing them in two parts like:

Since I need to get on the throne, I will kill the prince.

Wich allow me to rephrase it like:

Since I need to get on the throne, I shall get the people of Freebourgh to like me.

The issue is that I’ve noticed that them beliefs become quite easy to achieve or at least get a Fate for driving the game forward with them…So someone who has 3 beliefs that write them down like this kinda finish with 5 or 6 beliefs because he kinda has 2 beliefs in one…I know that Artha are only earnt once by beliefs but still it gives the players two chances to get it, either by killing the prince or getting on the throne…or simple trying to drive the game toward one or the other.

Also, how do you guys interpret driving the game forward with a belief? What do the player needs to do to meet the requirement for the Fate point? Does he only need to state an intention that goes in that direction and roll it or does he need more? I’ve noticed that with three beliefs, it can be quite easy to write them in a way that allows you to reach the Fate requirement in 15-20 minutes of gameplay then the beliefs are all paid off and they kinda become useless…Have you ever encounter that kind of issue? What are we doing wrong here?

Thanks for helping!

Not that I’m an expert by any stretch, but…

Ideally, I think that beliefs are really about more than just earning a fate point. Beliefs are the core of the character, the story, and everything in the game. So if you’re seeing players resolving all three beliefs in 15-20 minutes of play, then perhaps there are not enough roadblocks? i.e. it’s too easy.

You give the example of a belief that’s about killing the prince so that you can sit on the throne. Is this belief resolved (in either way) that quickly? What does that look like in play? I’ve no idea what your character’s starting point is. For a village-born peasant I’m sure that would be an epically long struggle… but even for a noble-born character who has access to the prince - one does not simply kill a prince like it’s nothing. If the approach is a brutal assassination, what about the prince’s guards? Don’t they need to be fought past? Or bribed? Or taken out of the equation in some way? What about loyal nobles? Don’t you need to sway them to your side first, before you take out the knife? And if you’re going for a more subtle approach, that too should require quite a bit of time preparing. Find out how to make or acquire poisons… develop a relationship with the cook, or else with somebody who can influence the cook… etc etc etc.

Long story short, my advice is that the GM needs to throw more difficult obstacles in the way. If the objective is to off the prince and sit on the throne, and the GM says “Ok, well the prince is a good fighter, but you see him alone” and then lets you declare intent and task as “I intend to kill the prince by drawing my dagger and stabbing him,” then resolving the whole thing with a Bloody Versus, then I think that it’s all being done a bit too simply.

That said… One of the nice things about Burning Wheel is that it can scale pretty well, so if you want to play out an assassination and you’ve only got an hour, the GM can certainly tailor the adventure to fit that time frame. As opposed to some other RPG system which would take an hour just to fight the prince at the climax, never mind all of the subterfuge and political groundwork that must be laid before you can realistically get away with slaying a prince and then sitting on his throne.

The Belief I wrote as an example is just an example of a WAY to write beliefs that feels like it had more than one belief in it. Not to take in consideration for the interpretation issue toward earning artha. I understand the idea behind beliefs, my issue is concerning the relationship between the phrasing and the artha earning interpretation. Sometimes it feels like the Fate point can be earned quite fast simply by making an intention toward it and rolling dices…I’m wondering how you guys do it. How do interprete “Driving the game forward with a belief”? One dice roll toward it? 2 dice rolls toward it? the whole session going toward it…a conflict toward it?? Do you guys use a clear protocol or simply vote at the end?

Our group tends to take a bigger-picture view of things. Did the Belief drive the character’s actions and (sometimes poor) decisions through the session? Fate point. Did they achieve or Moldbreaker it? Persona point. Since it happens at end-of-session, that makes more sense to us. It’s also rather fuzzy. :smiley:

Fate should be easy to earn. The game is about following beliefs. If you’re not driving play, something’s wrong. The limit is mostly on spreading attention; if everyone in the party is gunning for a belief or two not everyone can pursue all the beliefs; even a single-player campaign may not have room for every belief in every session. If you’ve got a belief about killing the prince and taking the throne, the game should involve steps to do those things (in that order) and you get your fate point for it. If you’re really pushing it you can probably legitimately get 5+ points of fate in a session. That’s okay! Fate gets spent like water.

Getting persona for personal goals should be a little more work. If a belief is “X, therefore I will talk to Sammy” you don’t might get fate for talking to Sammy if it moves the story forward in interesting ways. You won’t get persona for it; it’s not an accomplishment. The way I think is best is to have "X, therefore [chapter-level goal]. Killing a prince is a big deal and certainly worth persona, but it doesn’t guarantee the bigger X, taking the throne. You get fate for moving towards the Y part of the belief after the X. You get persona for achieving suitably weighty Y. Killing a prince sounds weighty to me. So does getting the populace of a town to flock to your banner and rise up to support your usurpation. Whether a goal is big enough is game-dependent; that’s why the table votes. It’s the players’ job to keep each other honest and not give artha for lame actions.

And if a belief is “X, therefore Y” that’s a flag for the GM that the player wants to get X via Y. It may not happen, but “X or Y, whichever is convenient” is not correct and a cop-out. This guy wants to take the throne and he’s saying the prince stands in his way. Fine, make the prince a big obstacle. Don’t make the throne available without doing something about that prince. If he wants to respect of the people of Freebourgh, then make their support key.

What’s enough to count as “driving” for me is just whether or not there’s a clear connection between the belief and what happened in the game. It’s that simple. You, GM and players, are all capable of evaluating that, and there’s nothing wrong with being generous or stingy, as the mood takes you, with unclear cases. There’s no judge over you to say you’re doing it wrong.

By rather fuzzy do you mean that 90% of the time it deserves a Fate point? Because its kinda easy to drive forward since thats what you have to do by playing your beliefs…so since thats what the game is about, it kinda means youll get a Fate point de facto…I mean really really often and easy because by writing the belief you’re engaging the game that way. My question is basically how often are you not getting those Fate point because it seems almost like youll get them anyway wich goes for a LOT of artha every sessions.

Well, I mean that the specific criteria are a bit fuzzy–it’s somewhere between “bring a Belief into play once” (because Burning Wheel doesn’t work like Fate) and “the Belief constantly showed up throughout the session”. But yeah, practically, it does mean that 90% of the time, you get Fate for a Belief, unless it didn’t come into play. Which has happened sometimes.

Also, you can use your own group’s standards to make Fate less frequent. If you’re more demanding of Fate-worthy actions, then those actions will rise to meet standards. If people aren’t really doing interesting things, just sorta giving token notice to their Beliefs once in the session, then yeah–raise your standards. But don’t raise them too high, because Fate flows swiftly.

Thats some great explanations guys. i deeply appreciate it. Sometimes you play for a while and it seems right and then you overthink and it feels wrong. those ideas will help me out.

Don’t overthink it. BW is a game about playing your beliefs. Playing your beliefs gives you fate points. Not getting fate points is a sign that the game is not working.

The above, a thousand times over. It’s rather wild how divergent the three types of artha are.

Fate gets you in touch with who your character is.
Persona gets you owning your character and defining them.
Deeds gets your character onto the grand stage, performing great heroics.

Can you give us some examples of your actual Beliefs?

Are you the GM or a player in this game?

Another thing to consider is that even if it only takes 15-20 minutes of play to earn a reward, if there are a few players gunning for their Beliefs, that’s an hour of play. With three players, that’s three hours of play if they all achieve their goals (unlikely), but that’s about right for a session.

I’m a GM and a player as well. Most of the time we play full collaboration where there’s almost no GM. Everybody narrates their stuff the player narrates on success and the other or the “GM” narrates on failures. We are three people around he table sometimes.

Here’s a few examples:

Honor is the way I shall live by this code. (ethical belief, fate mines)
Since Merrick is a gypsie, I don’t trust him, he shall leave the party. (interpersonal goal, fate until achieved)
Since the Duke is a bastard, I need to start an insurection to free the people of Buckletown. (goal, fate until achieved)
I need to know more about the talisman. (goal, fate until achieved)
It’s hard to survive in this world, fighting is a necessity.(ethical beliefs, fate mines)
I need a better quality long sword. (goal, faye until achieved)

My main question is: What do you guys considered to be driving the game forward with a belief? I mean, “I need a better quality sword” can get me a Fate point only by making a ressource test?, a circles test? Both? I might as well get it after these two…so it’s a quick persona? The thing is that sometiems we play the beliefs so hard that their done in 15-20 minutes maybe 30 but afterward we kinda wait for the other players to finish it feels weird it doesnt happen all the time but it hapened recently where we looked at each other like: are you done with your beliefs? ok, then make a couple rolls finish then we’ll write some new ones…weird.


“Cool stuff happens in the fiction,” basically.

You think the best way to get a good weapon is to win one in the tournament, so you get your fellow PCs to delay the expedition by a few weeks by convincing Sir Peter that this’ll be his best chance to humiliate his rival. Or you think the best way to get that sword is with a bag of money, so you take on some unsavory work on the side. It could be anything, really, but if it’s just “I went down to the bazaar and got one,” that’s probably a sign that it wasn’t a good belief in the first place. (I’ve had this happen in play, pretty rarely; at least once we just crossed off the belief and wrote another without awarding artha for it, since it was clear to both of us that it wasn’t really worthy of a belief.)

But, really, for the sword one I’d try to write a belief to be clearer about why this is important. Like, what special thing will happen if you don’t have the sword? (Or, alternatively, what special thing will happen if you do? Usually one kinda implies the other anyway.) Like, “I’m a knight now. I need a sword more worthy of my station.” That implies that maybe your status is riding on this a bit. Or at least your ego. >.>

My longest-running and hands-down favorite game started with this belief driving the first two sessions: “I need a bow for food and protection. I must gain one, by any means.” The strength of that was the implied desperation: this is my livelihood, my sustenance, my safety; if I don’t pursue this goal I’ll starve or someone may try to hurt me. (The desperation is under a veneer of practicality, because it’s good to work characterization into your belief statements. But it’s there! So much desperation!)

You’re playing outside of the recommended tolerances for Burning Wheel. In Burning Wheel, the game master’s job is to mercilessly, remorselessly strip you of everything you care about; to bow your head with the force of adversity blown against you; to be heedless of your wishes or desires and question everything you think to be true.

Without a player in this role, the game doesn’t work.

Yeah, that’s what I was attempting to get at. Luke said it better, and I guess he’s earned the right to hit the nail on the head :wink:

(FWIW, I think BW could work Polaris-style (where there’s no set GM but there is a fixed non-protagonist “bring the trouble!” player in every scene). But that’s pretty advanced stuff and you’re kinda veering towards a bunch of round-robin one-on-ones rather than a campaign in a traditional sense. That’s definitely not “First Reading” territory at that point.)

We rotate gm duties in accordance to who has a storyline idea or whose character has down time coming. If my wizard is doing research for a season or two I take up the reins and steer the story for the group. If our fighter is healing from his latest battle his player has control. But someone has to step out to gm (if their character must participate it dose so marginally as an n.p.c.).

Note: This could very well be a bad habit carried over from all of the other games we’ve played. But it seems to work for us.

You’re having trouble for two reasons. The first is that you’re breaking the intended setup of the game. Other posters have already covered this, but I would move to a traditional GM and players structure and stick with it for a few sessions.

The second is that the Belief examples you provided are kind of weak. “Honor is the way I shall live by this code” just doesn’t really give a GM anything to work with. What do they mean by honor? What code? I would either make my player get more specific about what they mean by honor or write out a few basic tenets of the code. For example, “My name and honor shall be the same. I will never willingly break any laws” or “I live and die by the Paladin’s Code. I shall never violate it.” In either case, the GM would then put you in situations where the most painful action is adhering to your belief.

I won’t go through every belief you provided, but most of them have a very straight forward, low bar of success. The sword one, for example, would never fly as a belief in my campaign unless there was some reason as to why finding said sword would be difficult. Remember, if there isn’t some interesting drama to be had, just Say Yes and move on. However, this is an easy one to make more interesting. “The Sword of White Woe is the only weapon that can slay Gwyrrm. I will learn of it’s whereabouts.” With this belief, getting that better quality sword is a multi-step process that will be an entire adventure in of itself. The first step is learning its whereabouts, which, of course, will be somewhere far away and dangerous. The second step then traveling to get there. The third step is retrieving it. The fourth, and final step, is then slaying Gwyrrm. I’m skeptical that such a course of action could be resolved in 15-20 minutes but would instead likely take 5-10 sessions, and that’s only one belief!

Quote: "We rotate gm duties in accordance to who has a storyline idea or whose character has down time coming. If my wizard is doing research for a season or two I take up the reins and steer the story for the group. If our fighter is healing from his latest battle his player has control. But someone has to step out to gm (if their character must participate it dose so marginally as an n.p.c.).

Note: This could very well be a bad habit carried over from all of the other games we’ve played. But it seems to work for us."

Thats exactly how we do it. For us it seemed natural to play like that. The game become super collaborative because everybody narrates stuff according to how good the idea is and who’s concern in the situation at hand. that collaborative aspect is actually the main reason why i like BW. BUT by reading everybody’s comment I realize that might as well be our curse. Meaning that by taking away the GM’s role/authority, everyones beliefs becomes almost futile in the sense of everybody ends up taking turn on their beliefs and it creates that vicious circle I mentioned in my first post. it’s a plague really.

i do like Vanguard’s comment. It might be very true that the beliefs are too soft, not deep enough therefore too easy to achieve…we got sloppy. I do honestly believe we got sloppy on how we write down beliefs and thats another pervert effect of the game…well, it’s not the game’s fault it’s just that the reward system is crucial for the fun factor therefore the players wants to get them Artha…so after a while we kinda became a little self supportive in the way we write our beliefs. We probably started slowly but surely to write easytogetartha beliefs and after a while it became a bad habit to the point where it became absurd in the gameplay/experience of play. Thats definitly an insidious habit and an insidious effect. Have you guys encounter that effect before? have you ever heard of it before?