ST 273: How to Say No

Storytellers are responsible for ensuring that everyone has an enjoyable time; this does not translate into a responsibility to say ‘yes’ to every request. Contrarily, based on the relationship players have created and the responsibility storytellers have, players give them the trust to know when to say ‘no.’

The Art of ‘No’

Often times ‘no’ does not really encompass exactly what the storyteller wants to say. Often times it isn’t a clear case of the item in question not being appropriate. Sometimes the item in question isn’t appropriate for the character currently, or the item in question is not appropriate at this time. Or, on the contrary, the item could be entirely appropriate, but there is some sort of other problem associated with the learning, teaching, or acquisition of said item.

  • Not only no, but he~e~ellllll no… This stance is reserved only for special occasions: ponies, nexus crawlers, people wanting to play Samuel Haight. Be careful using this method, as even experienced players can take this negatively.

  • No, but… Sometimes the idea is good on the surface, but maybe the particular item in question doesn’t fit. Perhaps the idea’s second cousin or brother is a better fit? Perhaps the idea’s roommate? Though it may not be the exact item originally asked for, there is merit in working through the idea between player and storyteller and finding a middle ground where both sides are satisfied that not only is it appropriate for the character, but appropriate for the game at large.

  • No, and… Again, sometimes it is unworkable. However, the simple task of seeking out the item through role-play and downtime can lead to realizations that affect the character in meaningful ways. Perhaps the player requested a legendary item for the character. How would never finding the item, or finding out the item is something else entirely affect the character and chronicle? This is a way to introduce new themes and elements to the game and make the story surrounding the approval still about the player, and perhaps lead to a much greater impact than the player originally had in mind.

  • Yes, but… Sometimes the item is appropriate, but there are issues. These issues could be due to acquisition, theme, or power level as previously discussed. The “yes, but” approach allows the storyteller to approve and item, but craft the story specifically around the item that may not have originally been intended by the player, but again something that is needed to be dealt with in addition to the requested approval. Remember the old adage: be careful what you wish for…

  • Yes, and… Sometimes the request fits beautifully with the story currently being told. Perhaps too beautifully. Rarely will something unique go unnoticed, and with power comes responsibility. Storytellers should work with players to ensure, that items are well suited for the character, the benefits are not only felt by the player’s character, but the approval benefits the most characters in play as possible with the story that is being told.

Giving Feedback

While telling players no, also give them positive feedback. Just telling someone no, outright, gives the person a negative feeling while reading the message.

When Storytellers approve and deny requests, they should cite the reason and how a player can meet requirements to have it approved. The goal is for the player to have an overall positive experience.  Saying no to a request should not be the last word on the subject but the first step in a conversation. Players should understand what they need to do, and leave with goals to achieve.  Be positive and forward-thinking.  Give the player/character achievable goals to pursue.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, players and storytellers are all here for the same reason. Whether storyteller, narrator or player (local or visiting), everyone wants to have a good time crafting stories and hanging out with friends. Though not every decision and every question boils down to a serious decision of whether or not the storyteller should say yes or no, eventually that time will come.

Everyone will deal with approvals in this club, whether it is something on a local level, or something that the entire storyteller chain — from VST to NST — needs to chime in on.

There are a few things that can be done to ease the process:

  1. Ensure the character can be understood by the storyteller staff in regards to its goals and themes.
  2. Ensure the game being played is the same game everyone on the venue is playing, and what is being requested doesn’t somehow go counter to that.
  3. Trust the storyteller. There are often reasons that the player is unaware of in regards to the story.

At the end of the day, the approval isn’t what’s important, but the enjoyment of the game is. If any approval ends up being something that can make or break a character, that may be a clue that there is more to the character that needs exploring.