Controlling Dialogue

Yarn Spinner is designed to make it easier to write conversations where the player has control over the conversation.

In this section, we’ll look at the ways you can control what your dialogue does, based on player choices, and on the rest of the game.


An option is a line that’s shown to the player when the end of a node is reached. Options are associated with nodes; when you write an option, you also write which node should be run when that option is selected.

When Yarn Spinner encounters an option, it doesn’t show it right away. Instead, it adds it to a list of options that it’s seen, and keeps that list around.

When Yarn Spinner reaches the end of the node, it sends all of the options it’s seen to the game, and waits for the game to send back the player’s selection. It then runs the node that that option was associated with.

For example, consider the following code from Night in the Woods:

Penderson: So you’re back, eh?
Mae: Yes, Mr. Penderson.
Penderson: Didn’t last long, eh?
Mae: No, Mr. Penderson
Penderson: You get a job yet?
[[I’ve only been back for like 24 hours.|BackFor24Hours]]
[[Yes. I’ve been elected mayor.|ElectedMayor]]

If the player selected the option “Yes. I’ve been elected mayor”, Yarn Spinner would run the node ElectedMayor.

Options are usually at the end of the node, but they don’t have to be. For example, the options in the example above could have been placed anywhere in the code. This is because options are only displayed when the end of a node is reached.

Shortcut options

Shortcut options let you present options to the player without having to create additional nodes. They’re useful for when you want to show some options in the middle of a node, and then resume running the rest of the node.

Shortcut options start with a -> (a dash, followed by a greater-than sign), followed by the text of the option.

For example, consider the following code:

Mae: That was pretty great.
Chazokov: We can look again in two days time.
Chazokov: Will you be back?
-> Yeah if I remember!
-> Probably not.
Chazokov: Oh, you will be.
Chazokov: No one can resist the stars forever.
Mae: That’s spooky, Mr. Chazokov.

When this code is run, options will appear after the line “Will you be back?”. Yarn Spinner then sends the options “Yeah if I remember!” and “Probably not” to the game, and waits for a response. After a choice is made, the remaining lines start being run.

Shortcut options and lines

Shortcut options can have their own lines, which are run when the option is selected. To write this, indent the lines that belong to a shortcut option.

In the following code, different lines will run based on which of the two shortcut options are selected.

Mae: What are you doing anyway? 
Chazokov: Hunting dusk stars! 
-> What’s dusk stars? 
    Chazokov: Wandering stars the light of which does not come through at night. 
    Mae: How does that work? 
    Chazokov: It is a trick of the atmosphere and setting sunlight. 
    Chazokov: Only visible for few weeks every year in the spring and fall, so lovely. 
    Mae: Neato. 
-> Dusk Stars is the name of my shoegaze band. 
    Chazokov: Really? 
    Mae: No. 
    Chazokov: It is music of looking at shoes? 
    Mae: With a lot of reverb. 
    Chazokov: Why are we talking about shoes? 
    Mae: I forget. 

Nested shortcut options

In addition to containing lines, shortcut options can also contain other shortcut options.

For example, this code from Night in the Woods shows how shortcut options can be nested:

Mae: Whatcha readin'?
Mom: Book about a guy who grew up secretly living on a fishing ship
Mom: living in a barrel, eating raw fish, crabs,
Mom: octopus, squid, lobster, gulls, albatross,
    ->I get it.
        Mom: sharks, dolphins, sea cucumbers,
        Mom: seaweed, sand, rocks,
        Mom: kelp, but that's the same as seaweed i think,
            ->I get the picture.
            Mom: ropes, sails, one of the boats, the rigging,
            Mom: sailor shoes, sailor hats, sailor pants
            Mom: sailor shirts, sailor underwear (clean),


You can add a conditional to the end of a shortcut option, which controls whether the option will appear or not. To do this, you write an if statement at the end of the line.

For example, consider the following code:

Gregg: so what's up?
-> Just saying hello.
    Gregg: coooool.
-> You up for smashing some lightbulbs? <<if $light_bulb_smash_done is 0>>
-> Diiiid you wanna check out the historical society? <<if $did_gregg_investigation_quest is 0>>
    Gregg: rock on dude

In this example:

Note that unlike a regular if statement, there’s no else or endif used at the end of the line.


A jump is an instruction to immediately start running another node.

For example, consider the following code:

Bea: You know what? Yeah. Let's go.
Mae: Great!
Bea: Yep. Great.
Mae: I promise it'll be great.

When Yarn Spinner reaches the final line, it will immediately start running the node BeaWeSureWereDoingThis.

if statements

An if statement lets you control which parts of your dialogue are run, based on the result of an expression.

For example, consider the following code:

Gregg: i mean you know what Angus would say
<<if $did_angus_investigation_quest is true>>
    Mae: ha ha yeah
    Mae: pattern seeking
    Mae: what?
    Gregg: he goes off about how people see like patterns they want to see
    Gregg: like it’s in our brains. Our brains do that.

If the variable $did_angus_investigation_quest is set to true, the lines “ha ha yeah, pattern seeking” will appear. Otherwise, the other lines would appear.

if statements and Options

If an option is inside an if statement, and that if statement is not run, Yarn Spinner won’t display that option to the player. For example, consider the following code:

Mae: Ok kids we're gonna go with...
[[Actually, I'm not sure yet...|NotSure]]
<<if $robot_head_0_done is 1>>
    [[Frog Head|PickRobotMascot0]]
<<if $robot_head_1_done is 1>>
    [[Pig Head|PickRobotMascot1]]
<<if $robot_head_2_done is 1>>
    [[Rabbit Head|PickRobotMascot2]]

When the end of the node is run, the options that are displayed will depend upon the value of variables used in the if statements: