"Tell me what you know" DoW

Had an interesting situation come up that I wasn’t sure how to handle.

We have a young player at our table who is still struggling with writing beliefs. Normally, I spend a little extra time with him to make sure I know what his goals are for the session, but I was a tad behind schedule so I decided to go with what he had written.

The belief he wrote down this time was: “The hermit knows something about the fates; I must speak with him.” (the fates had previously taken his memories and made him into a skilled monster hunter, and now he’s wanting to get his old life back).

So, I gave the hermit the trait ‘Brook no Fools’ and the belief 'I must never speak of The Fates. They are too dangerous to contend with."

The hermit and the monster hunter get into a DoW, the player writing the statement “the hermit must tell me what he knows.” and the hermit something like “stop seeking the fates.” we agreed to the terms and started scripting.

The hunter rolled incredibly well, and the hermit incredibly poorly. Duel ends up without any need for compromise.

So, the Hermit must tell him what he knows… Which now I realize that I, as the GM, have not figured out yet.

I told him that I would finish the scene at a later date, because I wanted some advice in this regard. It seems like I’m in a position where I could screw this up. This Hermit npc was the result of another player’s circles test in the prior session, was dealt with and then scuttled back into seclusion. I hadn’t actually thought about what he knows, how he came about knowing it, etc. I feel like I have to give the Hunter player something here, but I am not sure what will satisfy this success while also keeping the story grounded.

My idea was to give him the list of material components needed to magically bind The Fates, meaning he could compel them to do what he wants without having to compromise with them. But I’m then pointing him to do a fetch quest, where normally success would shift the narrative in the direction the player wants…

Basically, I’m realizing that ‘tell me what you know’ is a tricky goal. It feels like this belief just becomes 'Gm, tell me what to do from here," and it seems very not Burning Wheel to me.

I’m curious about your thoughts on this.

I might be a horrible person when I answer “Let the player tell you what they were told”.

I also think that the GM can and should just give a bunch of random plot cookies sometimes. If you aren’t all invested in the Hermit, and instead invested in the Fates, I think it’s fine?


I would answer for myself why the hermit believes this – what personal tragedy the hermit has suffered that led him to the Belief – and then have the hermit share that anecdote. If I wanted the hermit to have actionable information about the Fates, I would put that into his anecdote.

Do you know what the fuck is going on with the Fates, or…?


Yes. Most people don’t believe they actually exist. The most desperate tend to find them, though. And they will change your fate for a cost, a cost you won’t remember the details of, and that they won’t collect until you come back to them a second time. Problem is that they give really shitty deals, where the longer you try to live out your new fate, the worse off you become. So it’s inevitable that you will fall, and they love to watch unfortunate souls fall.

That’s the gist. It’s not my idea, actually. The setting and the depiction of the Fates I’m using in this scenario I got from a friend of mine who is a talented writer, and who knows a LOT more about mythology than I do.

This was also my first thought.

So the player could learn this, and they could also learn of something the fates want (your fetch quest), and would accept as payment. Or even something the player could agree to do in exchange for their old life back, one last job.

I think because you’ve done a DoW, and because there was no compromise, the outcome should feel big. This might be an opportunity to think about how quickly you can reasonably escalate the story. I think as a DM this is something I struggle with, slowing things down to try and pace things out, when sometimes I should be cranking up.


Thank you for the reply. The part I’m trying to focus on is that this whole thing feels weird. player success usually pushes things their way, and failure is when I get to interject nuance and complexity. But here, I had to push the belief, but the result was that I get to tell him what to pursue next? I just think that’s strange.

I think that the outcome of success is they get the whole answer! The Fates are shitty. They promise you everything and rob you of that which you wanted. Here’s how they do it…

If you want my help, I can tell you how to summon them and make a deal. But if you want my advice, as someone who walked the path you are walking, turn around and walk away.

That way they get what they want, they have a path forward, and you’ve signposted the very real danger they might be putting their character into.


More open ended beliefs can feel a bit strange sometimes, ‘find out what my enemy is plotting’, the DM is still on the hook for coming up with a plot, ‘prove that my enemy is plotting x’, the player has really laid out what they want with a success. I think either approach is fine, I think you can say the player has completed the belief, and tell him everything the hermit knows about the fates.

Countercheck is right, a belief can open things up in the story. If you really want to throw the choice back to the player you can either ask them what they’d like the information to be (as in they get to steer the story directly), or you could hit them with a choice. Maybe some new information comes up which ties into the character’s other BITs, maybe there’s an easy way to deal with the fates but it would mean giving up something the character values, while there is still the option of the more difficult fetch quest.

have the hermit know about the fates. However this is the wrong hermit. lol

Why would I make them the wrong hermit? I’m confused. They succeeded in tracking him down and in their duel… Like, I feel like that would be a kind of ‘gotcha’ if I pulled that.

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