When someone else resolves your belief for you

The two main characters of the game I currently run were once working together as smuggling freebooters. At the start of the campaign the characters were reunited one as the military chief of a new colony and the other as a slave.

The slave character had the belief that he’d get himself and his family out of bondage. After becoming part of the leader character’s militia whist attacking some indiginous locals the leader character granted freedom for him and his family.

I didn’t realise the leader character could do that but then I couldn’t think of any reason why that character shouldn’t be able to do it. But I wasn’t done with that belief yet and I don’t think the slave character’s player was either.

I messed up running this session in other ways too, it was kind of a flop, but this one has me thinking about it the most.

Anyone ever see this at their table?

Oooh, I’d never thought of something like that. Personally, this one seems grey enough that I’d give it. Why? Because the slave earned it by fighting for the militia. If the other character arbitrarily granted it, I’d have the expectation that the slave reject that freedom until he could earn it himself. A sort of “you can’t just give that to me; I’m going to earn it MYSELF!” (With Moldbreaker potential.)

This definitely seems like something to be aware of, though, when you write Beliefs. The accumulation of experience.

It is not unheard of in some cultures that slaves could earn their freedom for service in the military, granted they tended to be cannon fodder and if you lived then you were awarded this. With this in mind I would make the assumption that the culture that he was enslaved by would offer that as a way out of slavery and allow the players to work with addition. It would only help you in the long run giving the world a little more depth.

That was a long winded way of saying: I would give it to him.

Was this, like, his immediate goal, or his main driving big-picture belief?

Like, did the slave soldier’s player intend to have a big ol’ arc of “I want to be free. So I’ll get in the military because that’s my best chance to prove myself.” and then “I want to be free. So I’ll demonstrate my worth as a citizen by becoming a leader of men.” and then “I want to be free. Time to start demanding the respect I deserve!” and all of that got short-circuited, or was it just a goal for the next 2-3 sessions?


If he feels the big-picture thing has been pulled out from under him, I think the best way forward is to ask questions of each other that focus on the underlying ideas behind the belief. He and his family are free now, yes, but what does it really mean for them? What did he aspire to do with his freedom? He can write awesome beliefs about that.

having a belief accomplished by another character happens all the time in my BW gaming experience and a player should be able to earn on it, for sure. as long as the player was at the table during the session it happened, they were striving for that goal in one way or another because it was written on their character sheet. the way i think of this is that in the end, we have to remember that the players wrote the beliefs, not the characters. the player is striving for the goal, even if his/her character didn’t strike the final blow to seal his/her fate.

don’t worry that the belief wasn’t finished the way you or the player thought it might be – surprises like that are what Burning games are all about. i think the interesting part is ‘what happens next’ - which is as it should be in BW.

I’m with Jonathan. But at the same time, I feel that part of the social contract of these games is that it is incumbent on the other players to support each other in addressing beliefs/instincts. That doesn’t necessarily mean resolving it for them! For instance, in a game both Jonathan and I are playing in now, one of the other players has an instinct about not going into debt with this rival gang. Whenever the situation allows, I’ve been deliberately putting my character into the reach of this gang with the idea of creating an opportunity for that player to use his instinct to drive the story or to earn Moldbreaker on it. I’m not trying to play it for him, just set it up for him to spike.

In what ways could the character have resolved this belief? To get free of slavery, typically the slave’s owner has to free the slave or a person in some position of authority has to issue some grant of freedom. In some cultures, saves were paid for their work, and eventually were able to pay their owners for their freedom, but only if the owner consented to the transaction. Slaves might be granted freedom for extraordinary service to their owners or community/nation, such as military service. But again, this requires that someone else act for the slave’s legal status to change. Unless the slave were willing to risk trying to escape and living as a fugitive, he/she was ultimately dependent on some other person to exercise a legal power.

If fulfillment of a belief requires the intercession of a third party, I don’t see that you can hold that against the player, as long as the player actively worked toward fulfilling the belief and the belief would not have been fulfilled but for his/her actions. In this case, the character would not have been freed without serving in the military, so he was actively working toward fulfilling his belief.

If a character’s belief gets fulfilled by someone’s else actions such that the character’s own actions had very little to no bearing on the fulfillment on the belief, then I think you might consider not giving the character credit for fulfilling the belief. But why, as a GM, would you construct that scenario? BW is such a character-driven game, it’s hard to imagine much that happens that isn’t dependent on characters actions (or beliefs, instincts, or traits), and I, as a GM, would just avoid this.