How to Use “No, but…” & “Yes, but…” in TTRPGs


hey folks today we’re talking about some
alternatives to “yes and” in one of our earlier videos I think it
was me it might have been you go watch the video and find out we talked about
the concept of yes and this is pretty familiar to I think most players and it
comes from the world of improvisational acting but I guess a quick recap the
idea of yes and is that you’re always agreeing to what everyone else at the
table is saying and then you’re contributing to the scene to help move
the story forward so it could be something where I my barbarian grabs the
halfling thief by the back of the neck and picks you up and says are you ready
for this one and gets ready to throw her and I say yes and pull out my knife and
go throw me at the guy yeah now you don’t literally have to say yes and I
mean you can if that’s a way to get used to it but it’s just this idea that
you’re always agreeing to what your friends are saying and then you’re
contributing and forwarding the story it’s a really good building block not
only for you know like acting and improv which is what you’re doing when you’re
sitting around the table playing D&D or Pathfinder or anything like that but
sometimes yes am doesn’t fit I you might want to offer something but then at a
but change it slightly or the answer it just isn’t yes you can still move things
forward with a No however okay so if we’re starting at a place of yes and
what’s an alternative that we could throw out there you can always have the
idea of yes but we’re agreeing but we’re slightly changing the direction or
making a slight alteration this actually happened with me not too long ago in
Deadlands and it was an interaction between me the player and the GM a lot
of what we’re talking about today can either be for a player or a GM but
anyway my situation it was the end of the day and everything was winding down
and a Kevin who is an amazing GM was trying to move the
evening along he didn’t want to spend a half an hour on people going to sleep
and so he just said all right you guys all wind down for the evening you find
your way back to your rooms and I had one small thing that I wanted to say and
so I sort of just kind of raised my hand I was like one last thing on my way to
my room I stopped outside of Miss Alice’s door for a little while and it
almost looked like I’m ready to knock and then I go back to my room I didn’t
take up a bunch of time I didn’t tell my GM oh no you’re wrong that’s not what my
character does you know I just I agreed that I was going to bed but I had one
small thing I wanted to do before I followed the string the string I said
that weird before I follow the string of the story that’s one example of a yes
but and for a GM you’re going to probably use yes but a lot I found when
I jammed I used that idea especially when
somebody just barely succeeded on a check or they were trying to do
something and the way that they did it added a new complication it’s like you
yes you accomplished this you broke into the house but you weren’t stealthy
enough and somebody heard you and has called the city watch so you’re in but
you only have a short amount of time before the authorities arrive and there
are some systems that actually build this in I know that Shadowrun has the
idea of complicated success and complicated failures and things like
that you’re not negating what your players
are doing and you’re not telling your other players you’re not telling your GM
I don’t want to do what you’re doing you’re just saying yeah this is what’s
going on but there’s something else that’s happened mm-hmm now there are
times where you’re not going to agree either your characters not going to do
what the what had been set up or you as a player like I don’t want to go down
this road I still want to keep the story moving forward and those are great times
to use no but I actually got first introduced to it in improv
great way um taking a situation because as a woman in improv especially 15 years
ago yeah often times there would be a little bit of sexism so it was a way of
taking it and kind of turning it on its head and going no I’m not gonna do this
but we’re gonna move the story forward and flip things around and I think this
is also a really great chance to put in a little thing like we normally talk
about the idea of consent in your gaming and not taking things too far and you’re
allowed to say no if some other player at a pickup game or even if it’s someone
you’ve gained with a lot does something you’re not comfortable with someone else
says oh yeah my character throws their gun to the side and grabs you and gives
you a deep and passionate kiss if you’re uncomfortable is something you don’t
know it to anybody at the table to allow yourself to be made uncomfortable
sometimes you get to say no and maybe that then needs to be a conversation
respectful honest maybe even in private between you and the other player or you
and the GM so yeah it’s important to say that but sometimes it’s not that heavy
it’s not that big of a deal you’re just slightly diverting things and so it’s
that idea of a no but you had something similar to this when we were at GenCon a
few years ago it was like oh I throw a lasso around the the young little girl
and I pull her in and you were like no no that doesn’t happen yeah I was like
no I I jump out of the way and allow the lasso to like grab so is the like you’re
still doing that action I am taking the initiative to so it wasn’t a solid no
but but that was the idea behind it I was saying no continuing with like hey
there’s a pole behind you that it grabs on to and that really does fit in the
situation and this was a time where we were gaming with a bunch of people we
didn’t know at a convention for a pickup game and you found a way to set a
limitation on another player by saying but you as the player they still got to
accomplish what they wanted I think it’s a great no but and then that player
didn’t try some oh you’re a poor helpless little girl they didn’t try
that anymore they picked up on that nice little social cue no but the scene
continued yeah so it can be a way as a a player or game master to help kind of
set where your boundaries might be as a player it also can be a lot lighter like
for a game master hmm no but you’re also going to use this a lot if some solute
fails you had a great example even if they’re not failing I mean okay I don’t
care how great of a charisma score you have and you can roll seven natural
twenties in a row at a certain extent the guard the royal guard who this is
their only job is to stop you from coming through these doors I’m sorry but
it doesn’t make sense that they would just be like oh gosh you’re such a
charming bard go right on in that doesn’t make sense and I get it I get
that we’re at the mercy of the dice and then we have these statistics but that
just doesn’t make sense so as a GM you should feel free to be able to say no
but in order to reward the good role play and acknowledge the high scores and
acknowledge the luck of a 20 natural 20 maybe the guard is kind of like you need
to get out of here and as you all Rocco as you all walk away as a GM you can say
you notice somebody that’s kind of been watching you and they wave you over and
they’re like hey I saw that you’re trying to get past that guard he’s a
real pain in the butt sometimes but if you follow me I might be able to help
you out so you know all of a sudden you’re saying no cuz it makes sense and
as a GM you’re establishing some rules in your world which is important but
you’re rewarding the players and you’re allowing them to accomplish what they
had because all of a sudden they meet somebody that shows the
a hidden entrance and maybe now they even have a contact in the thieves
underground who knows you can say no and still move this story forward and I
think it’s a great way to reward really creative thinking or roleplay even if it
just like that doesn’t make sense physics wise or in the social construct
of the world using that to be like well no that’s you you can’t throw yourself
at the ground and suddenly fly in yeh like normal right world however you
might be able to say no you throw yourself at the ground and you land flat
on your face but you find the key that will allow you into the locked door so
it’s rewarding that like granted that’s maybe not the best example of creative
thought but it’s the idea like you can still comfortably say no as a player a
GM and still allow things to move forward and not discourage your players
or the other people at the table from taking chances and being creative mm-hmm
all right so have you had any experience using these improv tools at the game
let’s chat more about it down in the comments below
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7 thoughts on “How to Use “No, but…” & “Yes, but…” in TTRPGs”

  1. Great video as always. And folks can phrase these in the way that works best for them. For instance No, but can be phrases as "Well, you can try…" and then lead in to framing the potential actions.

  2. Great as always. There's so much more here than just an acting /improv skill set. The discussion about using these skills to set limits is sooo important. Brilliant as always.

  3. I feel like this could have been a nuanced discussion and you've pulled extreme examples. I shouldn't have to improv being put into a sexual situation I didn't put my character in at all. No or yes beside the point. I can look at the GM and say wtf. Also I'm well aware of Del close' art of comedy. I dont think yes/and ever even came up here at all, as the negative qualifiers are already built into the lesson and that was glossed over.

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