Master Mines

We’re digging RPGs

The House of Yes-But

Picture one of those floating platforms from Super Mario Brothers, the kind where you jump onto it and it immediately begins to fall away; it only exists to get you a little closer to your goal, but if you stay with it, you’re going down. In this case, the platform was my attempt at an entry into Jason Morningstar’s Sight & Sound Challenge, and the leaping adventurer who sank it and moved on to better things was a game mechanic: the Yes-But cards.

Some of you will remember Yes-But cards from Outside Men. They were thrown clear of that accident, and I’ve kind of been hunting around for a way to apply them ever since. For those who don’t remember them, here is an early version. Play with that, then read the thread that inspired them.

Anyway! I am thinking about Yes-But cards lately, and the various forms they could take. I am also sensitive of working on multiple projects here at MM, but it’s okay, because this is a mechanic, not a game. Heck, it might even find its way into You Gotta Do… if I’m not careful.

This post is audience-participation. First, imagine five little decks of cards in front of you:











The five “directions” the decks are named for are meant to reflect ways a character or entity might “move” its energy in an attempt to affect something. Assume you only draw cards when a character is trying to affect something outside him/her/itself.

Cards say how the situation changes, with a statement that begins with “yes, but”. They will need some interpretation; assume that there are some other rules about who guides the interpretation and how (in short, don’t worry about it for now).

Question 1: can you imagine a fictional situation in an RPG wherein it’d be difficult or impossible to decide in which of the above ways a character was trying to change the situation?

Question 2: draw a card from one of the decks. What can you imagine it telling you? (Please say which deck, and feel free to give multiple answers or answers for multiple decks.)



October 11, 2007 - Posted by | Games in Development, You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do


  1. Hi Mike,

    1: Not at the moment, but they are presently so loosely defined that you could likely argue semantics over the meaning of the words to apply them to what you want to do.

    I also think that expand and contract my not be needed. As it seems you could substitute advance and retreat for both those words, or vice versa, with the definitions as loose as they are now.

    I can’t answer two right now as I’m not familiar enough with your game.

    Comment by iamclyde | October 12, 2007 | Reply

  2. Don’t worry about that; there is no game at this point.

    Expand and Contract are there because not everything is motion. I originally had four decks, Advance, Flank, Retreat, and Transcend, if that gives any hint as to how Expand and Contract might be meaningful. (A friend suggested that when Sherlock Holmes seals himself up in a room to think about something, that’s a Contract move in spades. Samurai who have long, pregnant pauses before the climax of a swordfight – drawing focus! – might be using Expand.)

    Comment by misuba | October 12, 2007 | Reply

  3. Hey Mike,

    It sounds interesting. I’m intrigued. I think at this point without more definition, or examples, it’s hard to be helpful. It sounds like you already have some definitional thoughts, I’d say push forward.

    Comment by iamclyde | October 12, 2007 | Reply

  4. […] well, just about all my designs in progress right now, but the one where it concerns me most is the latest Yes-But Engine developments. It concerns me because I have a kind of pre-play instance of undirected play: I cannot write these […]

    Pingback by Baby’s going underground « Master Mines | November 19, 2007 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: