Last-minute Belief-writing suggestions?

I’ve read a lot about this. Here, here, and this are currently up as tabs, and I’ve read more than that. BUT.

I’ve never had to write Beliefs before in a game myself, so I’ll be an imperfect guide to my players Sunday when we do the second half of character burning (all the stuff with RPs and beyond).

Any last-minute advice to help me see them on their way to good conflicts, good relationships, and the necessary knowledge to write solid starter Beliefs? I’ll take any nuggets of wisdom anyone sees fit to drop, whether it be good advice or pitfalls to avoid. :slight_smile: Or further links to read!

Bottom line, can you as the GM work with it? Can you challenge it? Can you tell if it’s been challenged or completed? Can you tell what the intent of the player/character is, the motivations behind the Belief? If the answer to any of those is no, ask for clarification. Said clarification doesn’t necessarily have to be written into the Belief if the player prefers something more open-ended (which happens with players who aren’t used to how the game works), but it is necessary if you want to be sure that what you’re challenging the player with is something the player will enjoy.

Let’s take an example: “I’ll win the respect of the magistrate.”

This sounds like a solid Belief at first blush, but there’s some things missing. Why is it important to win his respect? (Note: that may be implicit in the setting, but work with me, I’m example-ing.) How does the player intend to go about doing it? What is the very next action the character plans to take to bring this goal to fruition? In order to solidly challenge a Belief in a way the player will love, these are the thing that you need to know.

I think I’m actually going to write those first questions down on a notecard and bring it with me to the session. Way to distill the essence of what I read into a single paragraph!

If you haven’t already, explain the situation that this is happening in - ideally you do this before anyone opens the book and puts together lifepaths.

Also clarify if the characters are supposed to be: a) a party working together with minor differences, if any, b) a party working together with potentially serious differences and cross goals, c) individuals who may or may not have opposing goals.

Now ask each player the following questions:
(Yes, you could set up Beliefs very differently, with different questions. But this is a good, fall back formula I find works well for defining characters and giving something to work with.)

  • “What’s in this for you? What do you have to lose? What do you absolutely NEED to see happen, or face ruin?”

This is your first belief. Ask how they generally plan to make something happen/not happen. I like to call this the Desperation Belief.

  • “Who do you care about who opposes you? What will you do to change their mind? Or keep them out of the way?”

This is your second belief. Make sure the opposing characters have some power in the situation, and emotional pull. Family, lovers, best friends, mentors, these are the folks who work here. Don’t let these be characters who are far away and unable to get involved. I call this the Soap Opera Belief.

  • “What is the line you are -this close- to crossing, and you’re desperately afraid of doing so? Who are you afraid of becoming, or becoming again?”

This is your third belief. Make sure it’s relevant to the situation and something the player might consider actually happening. “I have to struggle to not eat children” is not viable (well, in most games) - “I don’t want to appear a failure in the eyes of my father”, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to start lying to my brother”, “I don’t want to have to kill again, but can I really stop them otherwise?” I call this the Spiderman Belief - it’s where you put your character’s insecurities and fear on display and ask the GM to punch the target, hard.

Also, don’t forget Instincts. Players like to fall back on stuff like, “Keep a knife on me at all times” and other such practicalities, but remind them that Instincts are a great complement to Beliefs, and a way to get Artha:

  • “Who do you always/never trust?”
  • “When someone insults or threatens you, what do you always/never do?”
  • “When a friend needs help, what do you always/never do?”
  • “Who do you always/never show mercy to?”
  • “What will always provoke you to violence?”
  • “What’s the thing you always do that gets you into trouble?”
  • “What’s the line you never cross?”

Remind players that Instincts that run counter to Beliefs sets up good situations, too.