In my RPG, I have a companion NPC who is overconfident in his abilities and lacks self-control. I wanted to create a few situations where the player needs to reign them in and tell them "no". One such situation basically boiled down to this:
Companion: Hey boss, I want to do this really stupid thing that will almost certainly make things harder for us down the road and possibly jeopardize our goal. Is that okay?
- Yes, go ahead!
- No, don't do that!
My hypothesis was that the vast majority of playtesters would choose "No". To my surprise, the vast majority chose "Yes"! And then when the consequences played out and indeed made things worse, playtesters wanted to reload from an earlier save point and pick the other option (choosing "Yes" wasn't game-ending, but it did mean that a perfect outcome wasn't achievable).
When I asked the playtesters why they chose yes, they made it clear that they understood that saying yes was undesirable and saying no was desirable. They also weren't seeking a challenge or anything. Instead, the most common thing I heard was:
I was afraid that if I said "No", then I'd miss out on a sidequest or XP.
One of them even said that in other RPGs he played, the only way to get a 100% playthrough was to say yes at every opportunity, and so they assumed that was the case for mine.
I don't want players to assume that saying "yes" is always the right answer, and for now, I'd like to keep the situation of having to tell the NPC "no" every once in a while. But I don't know how to overcome these player expectations and their fear of missing out of content, especially without just flat out saying "this isn't like other games, you won't miss out if you say 'no'".
So how do I get players to say "no" when they are afraid of missing out on sidequests or XP?