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.