Friday, September 11, 2015

Spyder's Burner: Beliefs

So the other day my Burning Wheel group finally got back together to play. Most of the players did alright by themselves, around two or three fate and persona which isn't half bad. One of the players, however, managed to get four fate and four persona. One of my players looked at the session and commented that the session had been designed around this person. Which, to a certain degree, was true. The player had had a really specific situation handed to him on a platter at the end of last session... but then I looked at it again, and noticed his Beliefs. Every single one of them was organized around one of his Beliefs. It's not an exaggeration that his entire character was wrapped around one central Belief: become the king.

As I contemplated my player's actions my mind drifted to the other Burning Wheel games. Now, I know that the Adventure Burner says not to borrow rules from the other  Burning games, since they were designed with a different emphasis in mind, but that doesn't mean I can't look at the other games to see commonalities. And there are more than a few. However, the greatest philosophical commonality of the Burning Games, aside from the base dice rolling mechanics, is the importance of the session. Goals, when made in the other Burning Wheel games, are to be accomplishable in the session you make them. The rest of the mechanics work around making that a reality. Why wouldn't it be any different in Burning Wheel? The mechanics support that style of play the best from my understanding.

So, here's my thoughts on what that means. Beliefs are very hard things to nail down, but if I had my druthers (and with my players I do :P ) I would recommend trying this out:

  1. Your first Belief is the Vector (goal) Belief. This is something you mean to accomplish this session. Yeah, right now. This absolutely has to happen now. Go do it, now. This is the thing you're doing tests over and bleeding for. I call this the vector Belief: pick a direction and go.
  2. Your second Belief is the anti-Vector. Your character has some doubts on whether what he's doing is the right thing or not. Or maybe what he's trying to do grinds against him somehow. Cullen Bohannon's first arc in Hell on Wheels is the epitome of this. He's actually a very honorable man, but the death of his wife had filled him with so much rage that he couldn't see straight. So his better nature would call out to him, eventually leading to his redemption. I'm not saying everyone has to do exactly what Hell on Wheels did, but there needs to be something to grind against. Character growth is uncomfortable in real life and it's just as uncomfortable for your character. There is something he must do, but is it really the right thing to do? If given the chance will he abandon his post? I suggest very heavily tying this Belief into a Character Trait, it will make play a bit more organic.
  3. The third Belief is your compass. The tried and true thing that has always gotten you through every trial. This is your fall-back. When in doubt consult this Belief. 
  4. Have a Fourth Slot? This functions as per the Trait.
I'm thinking on my next Burning Wheel session I'll be playing with Andy (if that ever happens, thanks to bad work schedules). What should my character Tomar do? Now, at this point there's this dude called the Westlord destroying the kingdom Tomar lives in. Tomar, the bastard son of a local lord, has found out that he and his half brother share the blood of the true king. He also knows that the Westlord is taking over his city. Here's tentative Beliefs for the next session:

  1. The Westlord is destroying everything and, while I approve of his methods, I can't approve of his actions. I will find the general leading his campaign against my city and kill him.
  2. Nothing in the world is as disgusting and dishonorable as sneaking around.
  3. **** the government, I'll do things myself. 
That's a very clear picture I've given Andy to work with as far as challenge Beliefs go. Tomar believes himself to be a monster like the Westlord but wants to stop him. However, he doesn't want to sneak in but fight his way through. By himself. If that's not a series of hooks for Andy to challenge I don't know what is. Assuming I keep these (and why not?) it should be a very entertaining session of Andy trying to get Tomar to not only sneak into the camp but to do it with the government's help. A good session is in the makings right there.

Let's have another example, shall we? Let's say we have another campaign with a duke and I'm playing his brother who hates his guts cause he's a jerk and does all the poor folk my character's grown up with. So I decide I need to write some Beliefs.

  1. I will topple my brother the duke no matter the cost.
  2. Kurim, my contact in the court, is a noble man. I owe him much for all the kindness he's shown me and I will repay the debt.
  3. Assassins are the lowest scum of the earth. They took my mother.
Again, you've set your bait for the GM to chase after. The duke needs to go down, no matter what. He's such an evil bastard he needs takin' out, NOW. However, there's a man in the duke's court that's a good buddy and my character hates assassins because they killed his mother, probably at the purview of my brother. Now that's something the GM can really bate.

Now, one of the things you should do as a good player is to try to get the other players involved somehow. Write them into your goals if you can, get them mixed up in your business, or make Beliefs about they need to stay out of yours. The GM should do his level best to make everyone's business go together. Somehow. That's part of what makes being a GM fun...

Do you have to do it exactly like this? No, not at all, but I really do think the best way to make Beliefs work is to make sure they can all be activated in one session. The best sessions I've had in Burning Wheel so far have followed this pattern. Have different experiences? Please post and comment, cause I'd love to hear it!