Interpretation issues with Beliefs and earning Artha

It was not GM-less. The “campaign” started as me GMing a solo quest for 5-6 sessions of sameoldj’s character, then he GMed in the same story and I created a character. So his character became a prominent NPC (with BITs) yet the story was entirely focussed on my character (BITS), but sometimes I was able to challenge sameold’s character BITs. Since there is not scenario, no metaplot and the narrative experience is a pure “emergent property”, it worked rather fine : what’s so different of switching the player and gm role during a session instead of between session? With scenarios and dungeons, or games that needs GM with hidden agenda (Call of Ctuhulu, etc…) yes, there is a huge difference… but with Burning Wheel? I think the thing just work… since we kind of “meta-game” the “plot”, well… why not the roles?

Hey Ben,

I think the main issue was concerning my interpretation issue toward artha earning, especially Fate ones. Since we write down beliefs and challenge them together as a groupe by switching roles it started to become a little futile to write beliefs because we manage to get the artha for too easily. I felt something was wrong. So I asked and realize that we might have been victim of our dynamic meaning that we got sloppy on the belief phrasing and composition because nobody is taking the authoritary GM role in a way that creates true adversity toward our beliefs…when we share narration like we do it becomes “softer” and less specialize into creating conflict and adversity for the players since we ARE the players as well.

BUT dont get me wrong we have fun and it works fine, especially our one-on-one. Im more concerned with the other group im playing with. We got sloppy in our beliefs and sloppy in our adversity to a point where the whole BIT reward system became absurd. Because we we’re making rolls only to reach out beliefs individualy creating that vicious circle of writing beliefs only to earn Artha instead of creating beliefs to create drama and good narrative. It’s a little hard to explain but it’s actually quite basic gaming behavior. After a while playing “almost GM less”, nobody was there to put his foot down and say with an authoritary voice:“That belief is BULLSHYETTTT!!!” therefore we ended up writing easytogetartha beliefs (reward oriented beliefs) instead of characterisation and drama beliefs. So we ended up playing for Artha instead of story. Last game was particulary absurd in that sense and it stroked me as wrong…thats why I posted this thread…now I see why.
We need to tight up the way we write our beliefs and be more igid toward earning Arthat for them. That means negociation before next session…lollll

@Vanguard :

Concerning this

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!

I see this as a very “high-end” game. Gwyrrm might easily be some Mythic Beast that could almost end up yielding a Deed point depending on the paths leading to Gwyrrm’s death.

But what if the game is “lower-ends”.
A peasant won’t be seeking out the Fabled White-Woe Sword Of Gwyrrm Slaying, he might only look for a standard Sword to help him out driving some goblins off his Farmlands.

Then, What About the Character’s Concept / Context in the Story. Does that factor in “making it difficult to obtain” ?
What if the obtainability of said Sword isn’t just a “say yes” situation ?
Say our good old peasant is rather Poor and has a huge 0 Dice pool ressource on a ressource 3 Difficulty check. No way a GM would go with a Say Yes right ?

Does the “Context” help out making a belief “more dramatic” since let’s be honest, take the same belief for a Noble Knight needing a sword and you don’t have the same “steps” to go. The knight might have enough Ressources to just get a Say yes.

Whereas the Peasant might have to dig around to try (and possibly fail) to Obtain said sword / find the money / steal said sword / end up going somewhere else completely.

With the rotating GM kind of play everybody must keep each other on point and call out anything that could upset game balance. The group assumes that responsibility to hold each other accountable and group votes can veto weak beliefs or anything else that detracts from the game.

The main thing I’d do in a more down-to-earth game is clarify.

“I want a sword” - okay, why? To defend yourself on the road? To be properly equipped so you can petition your distant relation from the non-impoverished side of the family to become his squire? To look cool in front of the fine lad you’re wooing?

Doesn’t have to be big. Doesn’t have to be something you can really achieve just by having a sword. But I think a strong belief usually implies something about a larger change in the fiction — something that you want to see happen, or something that will happen if you don’t act, et cetera.

Well yes, context is everything, but I remain unconvinced “I will get a better quality sword” would be in acceptable belief in a low-end game because the character already has a sword in the belief as written. The OP even said, “Do we get a Fate/Persona” just for making that resource test? Clearly, it was written with that end game in mind. It reminds me of the disallowed goals in Torchbearer, like “I will light a Torch”. It’s got to be relevant to the fiction, which is what my suggestions were trying to demonstrate.

The larger point is that they’re resolving Beliefs too quickly, which means they’re Beliefs are too soft or the GM is not properly challenging them. It seems like it’s both.

Remember that Beliefs do several things. They’re how you get artha, yes, but they’re also signals to the GM that this is what the story is about.

Getting a sword could be a Say Yes event that happens in the background. It could be a single test. But if it’s the focus of a Belief, that is inappropriate. The player has said that acquiring a sword is a big deal and wants it to occupy a major space in the fiction. The GM’s job is to make getting that sword challenging and interesting, not trivial.

“I want a sword” is not a really gripping Belief, and the GM probably has to dig to get something better. But if it is the Belief, then it’s the GM’s job, like any Belief, to make it difficult, painful, engrossing, and eventually rewarding to see how it plays out.

Problems come up when a Belief is just so obviously trivial that you can’t make it interesting. That’s when the GM has to step in and just say no, it’s not appropriate. My rule of thumb: if you can’t envision running at least one engrossing session entirely on a single Belief it’s probably not a good enough Belief. “I want a sword” might work out if you’re playing destitute goblins. It’s going to really fall apart if you’re the Lord Protector, or even if you’re just a fabulously wealthy shipping magnate.

An aside, though, on a point above: Saying Yes just because it seems obvious that the character will succeed with his huge dice pool is a bad habit. So is requiring a roll because the Ob is very high. I admit I’m guilty sometimes, especially of the former, but I try not to do it. There are several reasons.

  1. Characters need routine tests. Sometimes getting Ob 1 is important even if you don’t have B1 or B2. Don’t deny them. It’s eventually okay once routines no longer count for advancement, but I still think it’s important to call for those rolls, even if they’re easy, when there’s an interesting consequence. It lets the character show off skill. And hey, that test doesn’t count for anything, so it’s not harmful test mongering. Coming up with good cases where something is easy but failure is interesting is one of the tough skills for the BW GM. Practice it!

  2. Difficulty is not part of Say Yes. That’s purely a question of whether the test really matters. Obviously you shouldn’t Say Yes to things that break the fiction (“I want to buy the kingdom with my B1 Resources!”) but it’s okay to Say Yes to characters doing things that seem like a stretch if it’s not interesting or all that important. In fact, doing so is a key part of preventing test-mongering or weird, irrelevant, derailing consequences of failures. Maybe a peasant probably can’t start a fire in the storm with his Beginner’s Luck, but if it’s not important you don’t roll. He’s warm for the night anyway. Extending this to buying stuff is a little trickier, but it still holds. If getting a sword is expensive for a peasant but not interesting, you still don’t have to roll. Maybe he lucks into one for pennies at the market. Maybe a friend provides one. However it works out fictionally, you need to skip ahead to the good stuff.

The beliefs as written will work but I think that you would benefit from looking through the beliefs commentary section from the Adventurer Burning which the team out at BWHQ has made available HERE.

basically from what I have found from this chapter is that a belief, to maximize it’s effectiveness is to take a long term goal and break it into smaller pieces. You have been doing this with some. for those I like the Because, therefore statement. so The King is a bastard, I must overthrow him. Turns into Because the king is a bastard, I will convince the council of Scalaboro to deny him taxes. This allows you to farm the Artha that beliefs are for but it will also give the GM a statement of exactly what you want to see out of this belief. That is a weakness of rotating GMs but if it works for your group, while not optimal, if you are having fun you are doing it right.

The I must get a sword belief can work as a storyline for the poor villager as he sets out seeking a way to achieve his goal, but I would still suggest that each step towards that goal becomes a part of the belief. The sword is what you need, how you intend to get it is where the action is. Both should be in your belief.

You might not know ahead of time, though.

If you know the village headman has an old one under his bed and you intend to steal it before you take off into the night, one step ahead of the baron’s lackeys hunting for you because you haven’t paid back your loan, that’s one thing.

But if you know you need a sword but not where a sword can be found? Well, that’s fine, too.

To be clear, the Belief is not, “I must acquire a sword,” it’s, “I need to acquire a higher quality longsword.” While I don’t disagree with anything that’s been said, I do think that particular distinction seems to have been lost in the discussion. In this case, the character has a sword. If we’re talking Beliefs and making it challenging, why do they need (which is a good, strong word for pretty much any Belief) to get a better quality one? I think that’s the question that is not being asked at the OPs gaming table.

Even with “I need to acquire a higher quality longsword.” as a GM, i don’t fell i couldn’t have any grasp on this. For me this is an incomplete Belief. This is the “what do you wanna do” part of the belief. If this kind of belief was written from one of my player, i would push him to explain me why or how he/she need to acquire a higher quality longsword. Is this sword means something for him/her. Is it a family sword? or what he/she is gonna do with it? The “what do you wanna do” part of the belief must be complete with the “how or why are you going to do it” part.

Ex: “I need to acquire a higher quality longsword to impress the prince at the court”, “I need to acquire a higher quality longsword to be part of the joust”

By pushing a little bit forward, you tell your GM what your interest are and you gives him good clues how to challenge your belief.

Man this is a good thread, its definitly sharpening my sword…

Sameoldji, the game will only be as good as the Beliefs that create its core and drive it forward. The sword belief is a lackluster belief and it will tend to result in lackluster play. I say stack the deck in favor of tense, dramatic action and hard choices.

I sometimes have to stop and remind myself that beliefs are, well, “beliefs.”

A lot of good ones will contain specific goals, but a good belief is about passions, ideals, self-conception. For goal-based ones, I recommend sticking to goals that might kinda break you, at least a little, if you don’t achieve them.

I think we’ve been orbiting this particular point the entire thread, but one of the old tricks for writing beliefs is to break them into two parts:

  1. Statement of intent/goal/philosophy
  2. Action in service of intent/goal/philosophy

The Sword belief we’ve been discussing is the number 2 in the above equation without a number 1 to fuel it.