A reaction to Learn to Say No to You Players over on Gnome Stew.
The instances when he says specifically to say, “No,” are not times to negate the player. His examples below are also not times to just say, “Yes.” They are all examples of miscommunication at the table and each one should be a prompt for a conversation to occur.
It’s the right time for “No” when:
A player asks for is more work than you can currently handle – Biting off more than you can chew, even at a player’s request is a good way to become bitter, overworked, and burned out. Being realistic about your limitations and workload can keep your games and friendships running smoothly. Not doing so is a good way to bring your hobby crashing down on your head like a house of cards.
This might be a solid sign that this article was not written for me because I can’t figure out what this means. I am going to guess that the player wants something new made for them, a new class, lifepath, etc. Rather than no, something like, “We decided on a concept for this game knowing that these options would fit in best. Could you come up with a new character idea or re-tool the concept to fit the game better? We’re all here to help.”
The request requires more work than the potential payoff – If your player asks you for an entire rewrite of a base system when an existing option would be close enough, or wants you to insert their custom backstory or setting which would be an awkward fit at best it’s a good time to say “No” In some cases, the right answer is “Next time” but that’s just a “No” in disguise.
Huh, again fear of extra unnecessary work. Again a sign that maybe the player doesn’t want to play this game. Let’s not forget to use this one once in a while: “Not wanting to play this game is okay. We’ll still be your friend if you sit this one out.”
“I’d like to give the game a go as written; its what we have agreed to play and honestly, don’t want to spend the time and effort to re-write the rules. Are you interested in giving this a try?”
It would ruin the mood and concept of your game – Of course, this assumes that you and your players are enjoying the current mood and concept of your game. If it’s time for a change, or you trust the player in question can handle the difficult element gracefully, like a well-timed comic relief character in a serious campaign, then by all means say “Yes”, but otherwise your answer should be “No” (or again, “Next time”).
Again, I feel like this is a sign that the concept of the game has not been properly communicated. If a player is making up a character who is comic relief…y’know, this is another sign of disconnect between me and the author of the article. Comic relief characters are alien to me unless I am playing a goofy game.
Funny, laugh out loud moments happen at the gaming table, even funny things in game but not characters who are jokes.
Also, don’t say, “Next time,” when you mean, “No.” C’mon now. Be upfront and honest with the other people you game with.
It violates your setting – Save this “No” for gross violations, but if something a player is asking for literally sticks out like a sore thumb and requires a block and tackle to suspend disbelief, it’s OK to say “No” (or, surprise! “Next time.”)
See above, another sign that the player either doesn’t understand the genre at the table or isn’t the least bit interested in it.
It’s disruptive – Nothing about the “say ‘Yes’” culture makes or should make you a doormat. If a player is asking for something disruptive or obviously is just pushing something to be a jerk because they know you feel obligated to say “Yes”, it’s the perfect time for “No”, or ever “Shove it!” if you’re feeling bold.
Disruptive…huh. When something disruptive is going on at the table, it is time to take your GM hat OFF, time to put the character sheets away and talk like grown-ups in the real world, sitting at a real table, playing a real game about fake shit. It is time to talk about what is going on and not about fictional shit.
the fun is at the expense of other players’ fun – Unless there are extenuating circumstances, a GM has to balance everyone’s table experience, which means that you can’t allow a request by a single player to outweigh the enjoyment of everyone else at the table.
This is time for, “Dude, you just shit in Aaron’s bed, man. What is up with that? I am uncomfortable with that move.” Time to stop being a GM and start being an adult talking to another adult about how the collective good time is being effed with.
You’d have to stray too far from your comfort zone – By all means, push your comfort zone, but don’t be afraid to say “No” when it’s pushed too far in a single go or when it’s too short notice.
I think we agree on this one but should be followed up, hopefully, by a conversation or a break from the game.
P.S. None of this has anything to do with Say, “Yes,” or roll the dice, nothing the least.
P.P.S. Sons of Kryos Motto: Talk to yer players.