In my lifetime I’ve seen gaming go from a secretive hobby to a massive industry with extensive public acceptance. I’ve also see gaming go from a strict set of tables and rules to something else: collaborative story telling.
Often a GM will invest much time and effort in writing a game, even going so far as to build entire worlds, continents, kingdoms and personalities dwelling within. So much effort goes into a game that sometimes a GM will referee to the game as “their game”. That’s only part of the story.
GMs don’t have a monopoly on creativity. Players are often a hand’s-breadth from certain death, and will on the fly come up with some really wild and creative ideas. Players also see the game world from a unique perspective; their own. So why not embrace that resource?
“Yes and” Is a collaborative approach to gaming. In its simplest form it’s when a player tries to do something and the GM replies with agreement and then adds to the player’s action. It’s not only a great way to tell a collaborative story, it’s also a great way to let players succeed or fail spectacularly. “Yes and” can be so much more than that. I often run games at conventions. When I do, I run 4 hour games in a persistent game world. It is the same characters, but with different players. This has given me a chance to see some creative players at work surviving and exploring an environment I’m familiar with. After I run a game for a couple of conventions, no more than three, the story progresses, and I incorporate the changes the players made based on the actions they took. In this way I have seen some wild results from Yes and.
What kind of results exactly? A fish market in a city, a secret ledge concealed from casual observation where the players could hole up for a few hours. A dry-dock chop shop that dismantled stolen small water craft, a techno night club that ended up being the site of an epic battle that spurred on the resistance to a terrible dictator, the list goes on.
The trick to using “Yes and” is to look at three things: character, setting and will it add to the game/story. When a player tries something in -game, like throwing a grenade to bounce off a sign post to land in a get-away vehicle, that’s one thing, but if a player tries to role-play some new element to the game, and this element will become a fixture, just answer the three questions. If it makes sense for the character to know this, and it fits the setting, and it adds to the game or moves the story in a positive direction for everyone involved, why not?
If the player is in a city they are familiar with, would it make sense that they know where the fish market is even if you didn’t “write” a fish market into the city? Of course! The GM doesn’t need to write/create every element of every location. Does a character with a background in less than law abiding activities? Sure they know a guy who can sell something pilfered.
This isn’t to say you should let your players run wild. On the other end of Yes and is another term often lampooned “Are you sure?” I have replaced “Are you sure?” with “Yes and” to hilarious and sometimes disastrous results.
So next time the players are stuck and one of them comes up with an interesting idea, even if at first you think it’s not in their best interest, try replacing no with yes and. You’ll be amazed at where your story can go.