A Circles Epiphany – Burning Wheel

While I was working on the next session Bloodstone campaign, I was reviewing the character beliefs. Some of the beliefs have changed since last I’ve posted. However, many remain the same.

I started thinking about Holden’s belief:

I don’t know who else survived from the College, if they are alive I must help them.

I haven’t done much regarding this belief. I’ve had a few points where I was going to drop in hints, but ultimately, at run-time I haven’t incorporated those elements. It felt wrong.

Then it dawned on me. Holden’s player has all of the tools at his disposal to pursue this belief…Circles. And this means as a GM, I can ignore this belief until Holden’s player brings it into play.

Off-Loading Work onto the Players

As a GM, I’ve got plenty of things to balance — everything except the player characters. I do my best to challenge the character’s beliefs and instincts, but with a table of 5 players, this can be a bit more challenging.

So, if a player has a means of challenging their own character’s BITs, I’m all for it. In fact, it becomes a veritable Artha mine for them. And in doing so, the player is bringing elements into the narrative.

By initiating a Circles test the player is saying “Hey GM listen, because this belief is important to me.”

Bringing it Back to the Game Master

Regardless of success or failure, a Circles test is something that will likely bring another character into the existing narrative.

In the above case, a successful test might be finding a survivor who needs only the slightest of help; Or may be able and willing to help Holden.

A failed test would most assuredly invoke the enmity clause; Holden finds a survivor but he blames Holden for the collapse of the college, or maybe for the death of a student.

Now I, as the Game Master, have an NPC who is tied to a PC and I can continue to leverage that NPC for other situations.  In this way the player has brought their belief to the table and the story is better off for it.

2 thoughts on “A Circles Epiphany – Burning Wheel

    • Bringing the Shiv into play was a perfect use of Circles. The story went in an unexpected way.

      For me, there is an ever growing process in Burning Wheel of allowing both player and GM to say “I don’t know what to do next.” and then immediately engage the system. Look to your beliefs, look to your skills. Players have tremendous agency in Burning Wheel.

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