Understanding, "Yes, and..." as well as how to say it to your players

12 posts / 0 new
Last post
It is, apparently, something I still do not grasp as a DM.

I've had it pointed out to me that I more often say (my words, not their quote directly), "Yes, but," or, "No, try this instead," which is not the way to do it, is the message that has come across to me.
58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?
It is, apparently, something I still do not grasp as a DM.

I've had it pointed out to me that I more often say (my words, not their quote directly), "Yes, but," or, "No, try this instead," which is not the way to do it, is the message that has come across to me.

I'm happy to answer questions about this. I'd rather not go into this assuming what you do and don't know, or what you have and haven't tried, so what specifically did you want to know?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

"Yes, and..." follows a player's declaration, provided the declaration does not contradict established fiction (stuff another player has said), does not break any pre-existing agreements (stuff like the rules we're using), and does not cross any lines (stuff someone finds offensive like racism or sexism).

"Yes, but..." follows a middling roll when trying to determine success or failure. It never follows a declaration. "Yes, you succeed at what you were trying to do, but you take 5 damage in the process."

"No, try this instead..." doesn't work. It's blocking, unless you're trying to point out to a player that he or she is already blocking.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Just the concept in general. I see it thrown about as much as "buy-in," but with less explanation.

What does it mean to say, "Yes, and...?"

If it helps, I can offer that my philosophy runs along the lines of leave the group beaten, bruised, bloody, but ultimately victorious ("Die Hard" style), which seems to not always mesh with 4e mechanics.  Or, if you will, adversarial without the negative connotations. Players are Big Damn Heroes who should be able to survive being put through the Big Damn Meatgrinder, because that's how a hero's story is forged.

I've also been accused of having player-phobia. I'm trying to break myself of the habit, but I was left with some very nasty scars by my 3x gaming group. Each new book, option, or feature was brought to the table and designed in some way to exploit the rules, or break the balance of the game. (They spent a lot of time mis-understanding the point of the CharOp board's theory exercises, before I even realized there was a CharOp board they were visiting.) So, I will confess to being gun shy about "kitchen sink" style games, where players are allowed carte blanche to anything that's seen print - a 4e design staple.

It's probably at the core of my, "Yes, but..." syndrome, and why I try to negotiate players away from, or have sometimes denied certain options outright because of my lack of comfort (or understanding... which creates its own death spiral between the two) with certain rules or systems in the game.

So, it all comes around again to, "What is, 'Yes, and...' and how do I learn to say it?"
58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?
It is, apparently, something I still do not grasp as a DM.

I've had it pointed out to me that I more often say (my words, not their quote directly), "Yes, but," or, "No, try this instead," which is not the way to do it, is the message that has come across to me.

Maybe just try "Yes." (period) (or "Ok." or "Sure.")

The point being  that you are not restricting your players; you accept their action (period).

I was left with some very nasty scars by my 3x gaming group. Each new book, option, or feature was brought to the table and designed in some way to exploit the rules, or break the balance of the game.

3e supplements were outta control. Luckily 4e is focused on balance, and this doesn't seem to be an issue. Also, 4e is designed so the PC's always (but not quickly) win. Easier to just let go and see what happens.

Just the concept in general. I see it thrown about as much as "buy-in," but with less explanation.

What does it mean to say, "Yes, and...?"

First, understand the origin of the term.

It comes from improvisational theater, and its purpose is to enable actors to create characters and scenes in real time, without discussion, correction or argument. When one actor states something, that thing becomes not just true, but important to the scene. When combined with other principles of improv and lots of practice, this creates the illusion of the actors performing a well-rehearsed scene, even though the idea for it came from an audience member only a moment before. This takes copious amounts of trust, but seeing one's ideas accepted and added on to, treated like precious gifts, quickly breeds that trust.

This carries some obvious implications, the main one being that if the first actor establishes something different from what the other actors were thinking, that their ideas are now off the table, unless they can be part of the "and..." If one actor says that two other actors are brother and sister, then they are, and the unspoken idea that they were husband and wife is now not something that can easily be brought in. Better to drop it, and move on with the established scene.

In roleplaying, it works similarly, and serves much the same purpose. A player (which term can and should include the DM) states something as true (or more usually asks if something can be true), and the response is "Yes, and..." which affirms that what the player was establishing or asking about is true, and builds off of it. There's no argument or correction, and only enough discussion as might be needed to clarify the player's idea.

Compare this to the nearly universal situation of a DM saying no to a player's idea and the player arguing with the DM, or even just having to slow down the game to make their case for the idea. If that's all "Yes, and..." avoided it would be highly advisable, but there are other benefits.

Of course, there's also that same implication that if the DM or some other player had been assuming (but hadn't declared) something about the setting or the game or something like that, then if someone else declares something that contradicts that, the undeclared idea may need to be dropped. The effect this might have on a DM's game world is clear, and the "Yes, and..." approach is most easily appreciated when a DM is willing to be flexible with the setting and incorporate player ideas and assumptions.

I find that it's also advisable to be flexible about the rules. Yes, you've all agreed to the rules, but the rules really don't take every cool possibility into account, and can and should often be relaxed. This saves an immense amount of time that would otherwise be spent re-explaining the rules.

There's more but I'll let you digest that first.

If it helps, I can offer that my philosophy runs along the lines of leave the group beaten, bruised, bloody, but ultimately victorious ("Die Hard" style), which seems to not always mesh with 4e mechanics.  Or, if you will, adversarial without the negative connotations. Players are Big Damn Heroes who should be able to survive being put through the Big Damn Meatgrinder, because that's how a hero's story is forged.

It helps to know that you have a philosophy, which amounts to a preferred way of seeing things play out.

One's preferences, as I mentioned above, sometimes need to be dropped in favor of others' preferences, when using "Yes, and...." This can be minimized if everyone is on the same page. If the players also want to see their players bruised and bloodied, then they will probably help to bring that about. But if the players have a different "philosophy," such as "don't let the DM's tricks work," then the DM is immediately put in the position of not wanting to accept player ideas, let alone add on to them.

I've also been accused of having player-phobia. I'm trying to break myself of the habit, but I was left with some very nasty scars by my 3x gaming group. Each new book, option, or feature was brought to the table and designed in some way to exploit the rules, or break the balance of the game. (They spent a lot of time mis-understanding the point of the CharOp board's theory exercises, before I even realized there was a CharOp board they were visiting.) So, I will confess to being gun shy about "kitchen sink" style games, where players are allowed carte blanche to anything that's seen print - a 4e design staple.

It's probably at the core of my, "Yes, but..." syndrome, and why I try to negotiate players away from, or have sometimes denied certain options outright because of my lack of comfort (or understanding... which creates its own death spiral between the two) with certain rules or systems in the game.

Understandable. Give the players and inch and they'll take a yard. It comes down to why they want to do that. Often it's due to a clash of philosophy. If the DM's goal is to bruise and bloody the characters, and the players' goal is not merely to survive, but to survive unscathed, then the DM will see the players as trying to "break the balance" of the game. It's much, much more complicated than that, but adopting a "Yes, and..." stance, I've found, greatly reduces the incentive for overoptimizing characters, because players don't have to use the rules against the DM in order to bring about the results they want to see.

So, it all comes around again to, "What is, 'Yes, and...' and how do I learn to say it?"

Learn by doing. Dedicate one short session to saying "Yes, and..." to everything the players want to do. At first, this will probably be a little chaotic, so focus on the fact that you're not having to argue with the players. Use the "and..." to move the game forward based on their ideas, rather than to mitigate the damage their ideas cause your unrevealed plans.

An interesting "and..." can be tricky to come up with, which is why it can easily turn into a bland "Yes," or a "Yes, but...." It takes practice, like anything else. When you start out, it might just be description.

Player: Can I can't blade barrier to form a bubble around the NPC?
DM: Yes, and... each of the blades is a tiny spinning symbol of your deity!

Basically, focus your efforts on making player ideas work, rather than on blocking those ideas, either passively (such as with difficult rolls) or actively (such as by saying no).

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Just the concept in general. I see it thrown about as much as "buy-in," but with less explanation.



It's in the 4e DMG. Page 28. It's not a ton of information, but it's a start. It should be noted that if you're using the "Yes, and..." approach, it's not all on the DM - the players must also abide by it or it doesn't work. Get their buy-in accordingly before attempting to use this technique or frustration will ensue as you accept their ideas and they block yours.

There's a good link in my signature on "Yes, and..." as well, specifically as it relates to RPGs.

What does it mean to say, "Yes, and...?"



It means you validate the idea of the person offering one and then you add your own ideas. (I'd offer you some concrete examples of how this works, but then one of the usual suspects will no doubt show up to make a farce of it.)

Sometimes it's easier to understand "Yes, and..." by understanding it's opposite - blocking. Blocking (also called denial) is about control. It stops or destroys the addition of new information to the scene or contradicts what has already been established. It's a way for a DM or player to avoid vulnerability, such as when a player might try to avoid certain challenges he thinks the DM is trying to "get him" with or when the DM doesn't want a player to "wreck" his plot. It makes for some pretty godawful games and it's so, so common in D&D. In its simplest form, it's just saying, "No," or "Yes, but..." (before a die roll). This can easily keep the action of the game from moving forward or the characters from developing.

If it helps, I can offer that my philosophy runs along the lines of leave the group beaten, bruised, bloody, but ultimately victorious ("Die Hard" style), which seems to not always mesh with 4e mechanics.



How do you mean? I frequently leave the group beaten, bruised, bloody and I play 4e. (Victory is on the players though.)

I've also been accused of having player-phobia. I'm trying to break myself of the habit, but I was left with some very nasty scars by my 3x gaming group. Each new book, option, or feature was brought to the table and designed in some way to exploit the rules, or break the balance of the game. (They spent a lot of time mis-understanding the point of the CharOp board's theory exercises, before I even realized there was a CharOp board they were visiting.) So, I will confess to being gun shy about "kitchen sink" style games, where players are allowed carte blanche to anything that's seen print - a 4e design staple.



That was a "feature" of that edition. You don't have to worry about it in 4e. I've yet to see even the most optimized character "break" the games we play. Optimization only addresses a very narrow set of problems/challenges and most of those are "I need to kill this guy and survive while I do it." That's only one tiny part of a game experience in my view. If your game exclusively focuses on that tiny part of the game, then optimization will have a much larger impact on the outcomes.

It's probably at the core of my, "Yes, but..." syndrome, and why I try to negotiate players away from, or have sometimes denied certain options outright because of my lack of comfort (or understanding... which creates its own death spiral between the two) with certain rules or systems in the game.



It's about trust. Don't play with people who can't be trusted. "Yes, and..." can help you build that trust, but only if the people you're playing with are worthy of it and aren't out to exploit it in some weird attempt at winning a non-competitive game.

So, it all comes around again to, "What is, 'Yes, and...' and how do I learn to say it?"



Try examining the things that make you hesitant. In my experience, it's about fearing loss of control over aspects of the game you feel you need to control firmly (but really don't) - the rules, the plot, etc. If you can relax on those things, then "Yes, and..." comes easily.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Some really great answers here already, so I'll keep mine short.

Try starting with just "yes" or "sure". The idea is the D&D world is an open world. Players can do anything so long as it doesn't leave that world, its lore, or its physics.
"I pull out my smartphone and check Google Maps" is probably not going to fly in the middle of Faerun. That's the point where I'd say "Look, you're being ridiculous."
But, "Guys, shouldn't we set a trap for those mercenaries on our tail?" is a "yes, and..." moment. "Yes, and how do you set up your trap? What will it do? What will trigger it?"

The "and..." part is you, the DM, prompting the player to continue to describe what they're doing. It's not all on you to do the descriptions. It's allowing the players to be creative, and join in the storytelling on something that was their idea to include.
Some really great answers here already, so I'll keep mine short.

Try starting with just "yes" or "sure". The idea is the D&D world is an open world. Players can do anything so long as it doesn't leave that world, its lore, or its physics.
"I pull out my smartphone and check Google Maps" is probably not going to fly in the middle of Faerun. That's the point where I'd say "Look, you're being ridiculous."
But, "Guys, shouldn't we set a trap for those mercenaries on our tail?" is a "yes, and..." moment. "Yes, and how do you set up your trap? What will it do? What will trigger it?"



Thanks for the examples. I wanted to highlight the part that is blocking above to be illustrative of a previous point. The smartphone offer is an example of blocking - a player not accepting "the world" as it has been established and contradicting existing fiction. It's Faerun- there are no smartphones here. When the DM calls him out on it, the DM is not blocking. I point that out because some posters muddle the meaning of this word.

The "and..." part is you, the DM, prompting the player to continue to describe what they're doing. It's not all on you to do the descriptions. It's allowing the players to be creative, and join in the storytelling on something that was their idea to include.



Yes, though I would note that the "and" part is also about the DM establishing new details and offering ideas as well. This seems to be lost on those who believe the DM just sits there and never comes up with any ideas under this approach. This is not true. It's collaboration, not abdication. The DM gets to add fiction just like the other players do and it must be accepted as well.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Some really great answers here already, so I'll keep mine short.

Try starting with just "yes" or "sure". The idea is the D&D world is an open world. Players can do anything so long as it doesn't leave that world, its lore, or its physics.
"I pull out my smartphone and check Google Maps" is probably not going to fly in the middle of Faerun. That's the point where I'd say "Look, you're being ridiculous."
But, "Guys, shouldn't we set a trap for those mercenaries on our tail?" is a "yes, and..." moment. "Yes, and how do you set up your trap? What will it do? What will trigger it?"

Thanks for the examples. I wanted to highlight the part that is blocking above to be illustrative of a previous point. The smartphone offer is an example of blocking - a player not accepting "the world" as it has been established and contradicting existing fiction. It's Faerun- there are no smartphones here. When the DM calls him out on it, the DM is not blocking. I point that out because some posters muddle the meaning of this word.

When someone pulls out a cellphone, or the like, I don't say no, I don't accuse them of blocking, but I pause the game, and ask what they're really after. Do they want easy directions to their destination, but aren't sure how to ask for it within the setting? Cool, no problem: yes, and let's make that work, just in D&D terms. Were they just making a joke? Often that's easy to tell and you have a laugh and move on. Do they really not get why that's an unreasonable thing to declare? Then that's a bigger issue.

Just saying no in that situation might seem like it would allow the game to move along better without having a boring conversation about it, and that's appealing. But that sort of suggestion indicates an unwillingness to play along, which is key to enjoyable play. The reason the person isn't playing along needs to be figured out fast. Ideally, that's sorted out before play even begins.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Some really great answers here already, so I'll keep mine short.

Try starting with just "yes" or "sure". The idea is the D&D world is an open world. Players can do anything so long as it doesn't leave that world, its lore, or its physics.
"I pull out my smartphone and check Google Maps" is probably not going to fly in the middle of Faerun. That's the point where I'd say "Look, you're being ridiculous."
But, "Guys, shouldn't we set a trap for those mercenaries on our tail?" is a "yes, and..." moment. "Yes, and how do you set up your trap? What will it do? What will trigger it?"

Thanks for the examples. I wanted to highlight the part that is blocking above to be illustrative of a previous point. The smartphone offer is an example of blocking - a player not accepting "the world" as it has been established and contradicting existing fiction. It's Faerun- there are no smartphones here. When the DM calls him out on it, the DM is not blocking. I point that out because some posters muddle the meaning of this word.

When someone pulls out a cellphone, or the like, I don't say no, I don't accuse them of blocking, but I pause the game, and ask what they're really after. Do they want easy directions to their destination, but aren't sure how to ask for it within the setting? Cool, no problem: yes, and let's make that work, just in D&D terms. Were they just making a joke? Often that's easy to tell and you have a laugh and move on. Do they really not get why that's an unreasonable thing to declare? Then that's a bigger issue.

Just saying no in that situation might seem like it would allow the game to move along better without having a boring conversation about it, and that's appealing. But that sort of suggestion indicates an unwillingness to play along, which is key to enjoyable play. The reason the person isn't playing along needs to be figured out fast. Ideally, that's sorted out before play even begins.




Pretty sure the point was that the character is essentially pulling out a GPS to find the destination.
The Dm is saying that he can't because the character doesn't currently have access to such a device. 
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
When someone pulls out a cellphone, or the like, I don't say no, I don't accuse them of blocking, but I pause the game, and ask what they're really after. Do they want easy directions to their destination, but aren't sure how to ask for it within the setting? Cool, no problem: yes, and let's make that work, just in D&D terms. Were they just making a joke? Often that's easy to tell and you have a laugh and move on. Do they really not get why that's an unreasonable thing to declare? Then that's a bigger issue.

Just saying no in that situation might seem like it would allow the game to move along better without having a boring conversation about it, and that's appealing. But that sort of suggestion indicates an unwillingness to play along, which is key to enjoyable play. The reason the person isn't playing along needs to be figured out fast. Ideally, that's sorted out before play even begins.



Right. "Calling them out on it" doesn't mean being a raging d*ck or just saying "no." It means maintaining consistency on the premise that everyone has agreed to. Approach it diplomatically, assess the ultimate goal ("What is Ragnar hoping to achieve?"), counter and reframe ("You should be able to find your way to the ruins using some clues from Nature. What does Ragnar know about that sort of thing?"), continue. If intent is still unclear, an out-of-game conversation follows.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | The Art of Pacing (Series) | Improvisation Guide | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character
Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!
Check Out My D&D Next Playtest Campaign: The Next World

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith