What's the Origin of Yes/No/But/And?

I’ve made a thing incorporating the Yes/No/But/And idea and want to give proper credit. But I can’t remember where I first saw it.

What is Yes/No/And/But?

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I’d say it comes from the improv culture of “yes and”, meaning “pass, don’t block”. The “no” is a second hand addition is my hypothesis : an interpretation that suited wargamers for their resolution tables. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I’m not sure it’s related, but something happened around 2009, because Penny for my thoughts is explicitly P. Tevis inviting Improv into RPGs. Maybe some people were there when it happened ? Once again, maybe it’s unrelated but I read something happened in San Francisco around that time with the LARP scene, and from there TRPG, being impacted by Improv. Maybe it’s linked to the Seattle / Vancouver Story games scene, of which I don’t know much either.
TL;DR : I don’t know but I’d be glad to learn more about it.


I first remember seeing it in Archipelago 2nd edition by Matthijs Holter, which is 2009 or so. It also showed up in Itras By, which was around the same time (2008 in Finnish, first in English in 2012). https://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/a-history-of-archipelago/


It’s a super simple RPG mechanic of sorts. Something like, “did I get what I want?”: Yes, Yes But…

The Yes But might mean you picked the lock, but set off an alarm. Whereas Yes would mean just that you picked the lock. No, But might mean you failed to open the lock, but you realize you can remove the box from the wall to try to open it elsewhere.


Its definitely from improvisation where the push is never to say No and cut the flow dead. Indeed, Yes all on its own is almost as bad as No.

And and But are key, because they accept the previous statement and then move it on to whatever might come next.


I don’t think you can give credit because it’s been around for so, so long - I’m pretty sure it was being used in the 20th Century, I know that it had always been part of my RPG which I was developing between 2003 and 2016.

Credit to you for wanting to give credit, but it is in mists of time and legend now, and is part of an established way of running a game.


Until we hear from an example before 2003 you’re the first then. What year did you show the game to public ?

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Thanks folks!

Looks like I can move forward with my project with some mention of the Improv history.

It’s important to give credit where it’s due.

The big book which influenced and codified a lot of this is Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone (1987) iirc. Graham Walmsley cites this quite a bit in Play Unsafe: How Improvisation Can Change The Way You Roleplay (2009)



Impro by Keith Johnstone came out around 1980, and when I talked to Chris Klug, he told me that he drew a lot of inspiration from Impro when creating the James Bond RPG (1983).


Ah, earlier than I had taken it as.

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