Seize the GM
Seize the GM
Episode 33: Yes and, Yes but, and No

Main Topic

We will be discussing the ideas of Yes and, Yes but, and No.

This trio of possible responses attempts to describe how a GM answers a player’s actions.  The phrases are seen more frequently in modern narrative focused games and the idea of “Yes, And…” comes from improv training.  


In theatrical and improv terms, the player’s action would be an “offer” and how you respond helps to create the tenor and the shape of the game.  The offer is any action or decision that will move a narrative forward.


“Yes, And….” is an open response to the offer which encourages the continuation of the story and the increased ability of the players.  Not only have you succeeded, but you also have accomplished …..


“Yes, but…” is a setback of impediment where a player is generally successful but is at some sort of a disadvantage afterwards. This creates great drama and tension for success by having these partial measures.


“No.” is a closed response that shuts down the line of conversation or action started by the player. This is blocking or cancelling an offer which is frowned upon in improv but for gaming sometimes, the only answer is a “No.”  It may be outside the scope of the game or it may be a subtle way to nudge players towards a story, clue, or other part of the campaign. It should be used sparingly, however, because utter failure without recourse can sour or discourage players.  <If you find yourself enjoying this tactic frequently, perhaps take a listen to the episode on GM Burnout and Self-Care>

The Yes, and and Yes, but responses are ways to go beyond a simple succeed/fail and enrich the game experience for the players, as well as for the opposition as well.. It is just as important for the opposition party to have Yes, But responses as the party.


How do you describe these to your players?


What games use them well?

The Cubicle 7 Doctor Who RPG expressly sets out a scale of success that uses this metric and allows for very Doctor Who esque options, but the game that I have been most impressed with using this sort of metric is the most recent Star Wars Games by Fantasy Flight.  By separating out the “success” and “advantage” results, there is the chance for you to fail to succeed but in an advantageous way, or to succeed in your goals while digging yourself in deeper. Little Fears works success “ands” and “buts” into the success system as well and leaves the storyteller the ability to manipulate the “Passing” and “Failing Grades” with great examples. World of Darkness and other games driven by narrative or theme rather than just crunch benefit from the structure described here.  


Even crunch heavy games can benefit from flowery descriptions that come along with the Yes, And or Yes, but style of descriptors.  It is as simple as enriching the gameplay by asking the player how the Natural 20 succeeds and going with it.


Stat Blocks



Joules- The Bastille of Bone
Tyrants always want to keep their playthings close.  The more sanguinary of despots will combine their love of bloodshed with their absolute oppression of their subjects.  This will lead to the creation of the Bastille of Bone. Originally a standard jail, built as a place to hold dissidents, over the years it has grown into an entity all its own.  The Tyrants would imprison anyone they saw as a threat into the bastille. To indulge in the Tyrant’s sadistic tastes, the prisoners were used as animals to be hunted, subjects of horrible experiments (both magical, mental, and physical), and sometimes just outright slaughtered.  As the tyrant grips his land tighter and tighter, his enemies grow in number. As such, the jail had to grow to hold more people. As the jail grew, the Bastille of Bone started to awaken. As the bastille grew, stones and mortar of the structure were supplemented with the bones, blood and sinew of the prisoners.  Binding their psychic imprint to the bastille. The psychic echoes continually torture the prisoners, delighting both the tyrant and jailers (who were selected for having the perfect blend of blind loyalty and bloodlust). As the Bastille of Bone grows and evolves, the holding cells start to develop their own unique feel.  From rage, to insanity, to the complete absence of humanity. The jailers delight in moving prisoners between cells, just to see how they react. And the Bastille of Bones grows in power.


But buildings last longer than dynasties.  And long after the tyrant’s name has been forgotten, the Bastille of Bones still stands.  The stories of what happened at the Bastille fade from the collective consciousness. But the evil done there permeates the structure and surrounding lands.  The trees grown gnarled and twisted. The grass isn’t soft, it’s rough and sharp. The sun doesn’t seem to fully shine on the area. The poison of what happened at the Bastille of Bones will forever infect the land.  


And even now, those that gaze upon it feel those psychic echoes;  the twisted, silent screams of the victims. The final legacy of the Bastille of Bones.



Nebuchadnezzer’s Map


At the turn of the 20th Century, the world is yet full of wonders and unexplored parts of the world.  Nebuchadnezzar’s Map promises to show you parts not yet claimed and a legend not yet defined. A map of the Ancient Levant ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar entices many explorers from across the globe.  The mysteries there appeal to everyone.


A Big Game Hunter, fallen scion of a British family, has reached out to you for help.  He claims to have the map and wants you to help him follow it to its treasure. The treasure is not a secret at all once you glance at the map unfurled on a billiards table where you meet this lackluster example of British Royalty.  Clear even to you, without being able to read the ancient script, the map depicts the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to be found. (And still not definitively identified today).


Babylon itself as you know it isn’t the location – perhaps the word itself reveals the place and not the Name of the place as a Gate of the Gods could be found anywhere.  Nebuchadnezzar was described as a warrior and a man of great faith, and do you think he left behind this map without obstacles? Only one who could exemplify the traits of a true leader, and king, could know how to pass these tests and challenges that will beset you on your way, all the while haunted by the shadowy cult that has hounded your patron ever since he won the map in a likely rigged gambling event. Are you ready to follow the clues left behind millennia ago to seek out the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the secrets they hold?




Unman   verb un·man  \ ˌən-ˈman \


Definition of unman

1 :to deprive of manly vigor, fortitude, or spirit
2 :castrate, emasculate


First Known Use of unman

Closing remarks

Zendead-  Trollhunters on Netflix


Joules – Romeo and/or Juliet: a Choosable Path Adventure




The American Way (2007 Miniseries)

By John Ridley and art by George Jeanty


The American Way – Those Above and Those Below (2017 Miniseries)

On shelves now or at


Music is courtesy of The Enigma TNG you can find his music on YouTube or on Bandcamp


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Joules- Email, Twitter, Facebook

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Guard-a-manger- Email, Twitter


And Thanks to Merriam-Webster for our Lexicon segment

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