The Book of Blasphemy
Beliefs are a character’s priorities. These are not general beliefs, like “God” or “country,” but are explicitly stated drives and motivations.
I guard the prince’s life with my own. I will avenge my family. I must collect magical artifacts to increase my power. I’ll do any job, for the right price. Belief Discussion
By setting down their characters’ priorities, players are helping the DM and other players get the most out of the game. Now everyone knows what they’re after, and can help each other get it.
Beliefs are meant to be tied in to the game’s situation. “All orcs are evil and should be killed on sight” is a valid belief, but if you’re playing in a campaign where you’re never going to see an orc, this isn’t a very interesting belief to have. What’s more, there are mechanical benefits and rewards you can collect in the form of “Artha” when your beliefs manifest in interesting and entertaining ways, so the more relevant they are, the more opportunities you’ll have to gain artha.
Beliefs are meant to be conflicted, betrayed, challenged, and broken. That’s called drama, and it’s what makes role playing interesting.
Like beliefs, instincts give a sense of your character’s personality. But instead of saying who a character is, they say what a character does. They’re best described as conditional statements: “Always do X,” “Never do Y,” “If W happens, do Z.” Unless you specifically announce otherwise, it’s assumed that your character follows their instincts. Think of it like insurance against the DM: your character has the instinct “Always hide in shadows in a dungeon,” so he’s automatically assumed to be making stealth checks as he scouts ahead.
When on patrol, always have my crossbow loaded.
Attempt to identify any arcane runes.
Never trust a Teshi.
Instincts are not as important in Dungeons and Dragons as they are in Burning Wheel, the game where artha originates. BW tends to have quicker, more violent combat, and harsher penalties for a social faux pas. But like beliefs, instincts can also confer Artha when they serve to make gameplay more interesting (by which I mean make life complicated for the PCs), as described in the next section. When considering an instinct, think about how likely that instinct is to get you into trouble. Paradoxically, the more likely it is, the more “fun” it will be.
If it simplifies things, we can simply say this: An instinct is a belief which starts with “I will always…” or “I will never…”
When you do something I like, you get awarded a point of Artha. There a two types of Artha: Fate points and Persona points (Burning Wheel also has very rare Deeds points, which we’re ignoring for now). You’re all familiar with Action points, and Artha works in a similar way.
Beliefs: Manifesting your character’s beliefs in an interesting or entertaining way earns you a Fate point. Entertaining doesn’t only mean funny- a good dramatic performance will do it too. This reward is given when playing a belief serves a purpose and drives the story forward.
Instincts: Fate points are earned when playing an instinct gets the character in trouble or creates a difficult situation. For example: Let’s say Leucimor has the instinct “Always use the environment to get an advantage.” He knows that if he leaps off that stack of crates to make his attack, he’s more likely to land on Aelius than the masked assassin. But he does it anyway, and his antics earn him a Fate point. Notice that instincts used this way are closer to beliefs than DM insurance.
Embodiment: When a player captures the mood of the table perfectly and drives the story onward in a dramatic way, they can earn a Persona point. Moments of great speeches, gruesome revenge, or valiant sacrifices can earn this reward.
Moldbreaker: If a player comes to a point in the story where his beliefs or instincts come into conflict with an action he must take, and he plays out the inner turmoil in a believable and engaging manner, a Persona point can be awarded.
Personal Goals: Characters who accomplish personal goals: revenge, victory, and so on, can earn a Persona point if the achievement is tied in to their beliefs, or is a specifically stated goal of the group.
Workhorse/MVP: Should be self-explanatory. This goes to the character who gets things done and saves the day.
Fate Points- Luck: A Fate point can be turned in after any D20 roll to add 1d4 to the result.
Persona Points- Focus: A Persona point can be turned in to recharge a used encounter power. Grit Your Teeth: A character can also turn in a Persona point to spend their second wind as a minor action instead of a standard action.