Having trouble with rules lawyer and can't keep player trust


Advice

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--I apologize for the long post, but details are important--

Hello everyone. I don't post here often, but I'm in need of some help.
I'm a new-ish DM, I've been DMing for about 2 years. I've run several campaigns in multiple settings, such as a campaign in a LOTR-esque setting and one in an open world exploration sandbox. Regardless of the setting though, I seem to always run into the same problem. Namely, one of my players doesn't seem to trust me as DM. It started off quite subtly, and I missed the cues that this was occurring. Over time though it's gotten to where this player doesn't even believe me when I tell him a ruling or describe an action.

Here's some detail on the player:

• He is a heavy rules lawyer, he knows at least as many rules as I do as DM and he is more than willing to tell me what I'm doing wrong in the middle of a combat/RP, despite being asked not to.

• He tends to play characters that hog the spotlight. Mainly due to this player's tendency to talk constantly, never giving other players a chance to react or take actions. He does this without cease, every session, to the point where other players are now complaining to me.

• He is a combat lover and rarely RPs.

• He is a nice guy, and is usually willing to compromise in most other situations.

I'll admit that as a DM, I make some mistakes. I'm not perfect. However this player has a behavioral problem where he'll act as though he was the DM; whenever one of the other players asks a question to me he interrupts with his own ruling or answer, even if he's demonstrably wrong afterwards.

This led to an uncomfortable conversation after a particularly tricky move by the campaign's villainess. Here's what happened:

The villainess sent fey henchman into the party's path, resulting in a convoluted but completely rules-legal event where an expensive magic item got stolen from the party (not his character, a monk). The problem player did not once believe me when I told him that everything had followed the rules. He refused to back down, insisting that I was wrong, had made a mistake somewhere, had cheated the characters, etc etc. I also refused to back down, and I told him that what I say, goes. He continued to try to argue with me until we both got tired and he left. It wasn't a shouting match, but it was a bit heated.

This player has constantly tried to argue with me while I DM. It's obvious that he no longer trusts me as DM. He seems to be trying to "backseat DM" me - you know, like a backseat driver.

On top of all the above, he seems to view the game as a DM vs the players thing, not a cooperative effort. This has hindered my ability to communicate my concerns with him.

What do I do? Other players are beginning to complain, but I don't want to lose this player, he really is a kind person but the problems he's causing are sucking the fun out of the game for me.


Talk to the other players. Ask them their opinions on what should be done. Then tell them that you can't in good faith do what they want if they're unwilling to back you up at the table. Tell them they have to make themselves known tell this guy straight up that he's crapping on their fun.

Then, confront him at the table about his behavior and hope the rest of the table backs you up. It's easier to remove/deal with a problem player like this if the rest of the players openly back you up.


Talk to this player, plain and simple. Let him know that if he really wants to oversee the rules of the game, that he's welcome to be the GM of his own game. If he's going to play in your game, you both expect and would appreciate a certain level of decorum at your table. Do not tell him that he's causing problems for other players, just keep it to him.

If he's dead set in viewing the game as a DM versus the players scenario, rather than a cooperative effort, then inform him that as the DM, you're pulling rank on him and expect that he'll either tone it down, or he'll recuse himself from your game. You can still be friends with him, but if he's sucking the fun out of the game for everyone, you have a valid basis for putting your foot down.

Best wishes.


Hey, there. I do not think it's an issue of trust so much...or at least...he just had very little from the get-go, and it likely has nothing at all to do with you. :/ There are friends who don't do well at the table, as they say. Or friends who you enjoy as a friend, but wouldn't enjoy being the coworker of.

That sounds sort of like this. It is not uncommon.

I don't think this situation will end up well, though I'll pass along an idea I'd heard a little while back.

The idea ran like this: Give each player a card that they could hold in front of them. If that player wasn't having fun during the game, he or she could raise the card. Then, you say: Sam, why aren't you having fun?

This could give the other players a chance to say: I'm not having fun because Jake is rules-lawyering and attempting to Backseat DM.

Aside from that, what Tark typed.


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Don't even argue with him, just repeat that whatever happened, happened. Ask him what he wants to do.

While he continues to argue, hold up your hand and start counting down from five. If he doesn't blurt out an action, tell him he took too long, and now it's whoever's turn.

You are the DM. Drink his blood and make him beg for it.


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Vamptastic wrote:
You are the DM. Drink his blood and make him beg for it.

Now you're playing Vampire: The Requiem. :)


Perhaps this fellow would be more happy in the driver's seat? Maybe the problem is that he secretly wants to GM and is, for whatever reason, reluctant to say so. Maybe offer him his own game, see if that scratches his itch and allow him to blow off some of this control-issue steam he seems to have acquired. It may also give him some perspective on what it's like to sit behind the screen for a change. Might make him change his tune, although I would not advocate being the same sort of... pain... that he's being in your game. That sort of tit-for-tat doesn't end well.

Scarab Sages

Show the player this thread, explain that you're at your wits end with him, and that if it continues you're at the point where you'd like him to take a break from the game. If he doesn't mend his ways, then you'll need to remove him from the group.

If it's not a situation where you can do this, then offer the group a choice, either he backs down, or you'd like to stop DM'ing and let another person run the show because you don't feel able to carry on in the current situation.


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Hit him with the golden rule.
As DM you have the right to change the rules as you see fit,you also have the narrative power to declare that things just happen.
You have absolutely no obligation to explain to a certain player how you did anything "mechanically",simply tell him his character has no awareness of such things.
I like to have fun with metagamers...I'll use different creatures stat blocks to attack them with well known monsters.Have them display never before seen abilities.
I.E. "A Bunny rabbit with a breath weapon!" :)
After the player declares it's impossible tell him "Roll reflex save."


Bodhizen wrote:
Vamptastic wrote:
You are the DM. Drink his blood and make him beg for it.
Now you're playing Vampire: The Requiem. :)

Love vamps, hate WoD. Go figure.


Personally, stealing my treasure is a sure fire way to make me mad.

Maybe there are actual problems he has with how you GM, have you talked with him about why he's acting this way?

Sounds like an ego problem, maybe all it would take is you asking his opinion on a few things if you aren't sure, make him feel important. I'm GMing a game and I ask my players if I'm using a rule correctly every now and then, but I'm not afraid to wing it if no one knows how it works.

Grand Lodge

Ill echo many of the things said here, and add my own experiences with "trouble players".

The best thing ever, is to talk to the group as a whole, with the trouble player there. Bring up the points that have been stated by you (or others, without naming names) and say "This is what we are going to do from here on out." If the trouble player disagrees, then he has the choice to leave the table or agree and stay. This puts the entire responsibility on his shoulders on whether or not he wants to play well with the rest of the group. If he tries to argue something, hold up the single index finger and say "Stop. You agreed to the rules set down, done. If you wish to argue, save it until after the game." If a fit is thrown (I have seen this happen too) then ask them to leave the table and come back when they are ready to talk about it all (this may be a long time too, depending on how strongly they feel to be "in the right").

As for hogging the spotlight, I have taken to a point where when it starts, I point at a person and say "What do you say/do/etc" I then go in turn to each person at the table, and consider their actions over all. I typically give about 15-20 seconds to each, and if they hem-haw the entire time (or disagree with something I made a ruling of) I simply move on to the next person. If they try to talk over them, I give "the Look" and ask them to be quiet, they had a chance. Usually, they fume for a minute or two, but do calm down after they realize they are the only one who isn't being utilized by not only the party, but the game as well.

If you don't like asking them to leave the table, start slapping them with XP penalties or demerits (I love that word :D). Have a chart drawn up on what constitutes an XP pen/Demerit, give it to all the players so they are surprised by it, and move along. Its a bit harsher in my opinion, but you would be surprised how much gamers are willing to change so their character isn't being slapped with some penalty because they back-sassed the GM over a rules call.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

At 'our' table we have a rule - we go with the GM ruling at the time and then take it offline come back next week with the solid or 'house rule'. (IF is can't sorted in a couple of minutes.

But it sounds like you have approached the player but I would also talk to the rest of the table individually (or email) and consider their feedback. - Don't offer your opinion when getting their's.

Sovereign Court

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I've bowed out of a game run by one of my best friends, because I just can't take his GMing style. I like the guy, he's fine as a player in my own game or when we're both playing PCs. But we were arguing so much when he GMed, that I decided we'd both feel better if I stepped out. Maybe it was me, maybe it was him. Doesn't really matter; I just didn't want all the fighting.

There's no guilt here. We just don't work together like that. Maybe it's like that with you and the player; you just don't fit together in the game with him in the passenger seat.


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Larkspire wrote:
I like to have fun with metagamers...I'll use different creatures stat blocks to attack them with well known monsters.Have them display never before seen abilities.

I've got to admit, this is pretty good. The bunny thing was cool :) Might have to start trying this.

Tark wrote:
Then, confront him at the table about his behavior and hope the rest of the table backs you up. It's easier to remove/deal with a problem player like this if the rest of the players openly back you up.

The thing is, I JUST did that with this the last session. My other players backed me up, but the problem player didn't want to change his ways. He was pretty polite about it, but he's a stubborn guy (as am I) so we got nowhere. I almost got him to fix these problems once, I talked to him and the next session it was about half as much rules-lawyering and spotlight hogging. Then it gradually went back up to the normal level.

Kairos wrote:

Personally, stealing my treasure is a sure fire way to make me mad.

Maybe there are actual problems he has with how you GM, have you talked with him about why he's acting this way?

I have talked to him about it. Most of his complaints center around "I don't like how the DM makes rulings on the spot; he should be more prepared and follow the rules more." I've tried to explain that I make mistakes and some of the rules are very complex so I don't use them (the group already knew this), but he seems to be pretty irritated. He obsessively reads the rules as written even during session, I can't even keep up.

However looking back on the way he plays, I think I have found a potential source of his misbehavior.

I think, for whatever reason, he doesn't feel safe as a character in the game world. Every night (in game time), he sets up a ludicrous amount of defenses (~5 spells, bear traps, caltrops, turns into a bat for blindsight) casts a bunch of buffs, and so on. Now that I recall our earlier argument, I think he was also upset that his character had ever been hoodwinked and that the fey had got past his plant growth/spike stones - he was simply in disbelief and was convinced that I had cheated the party by ignorant DMing.

The bizarre part is, there are hardly any ambushes at night - the party only faces 1-2 encounters per session. None of his characters have ever died to my knowledge, either. Maybe he is taking some of his paranoia/insecurity out by hogging/rules lawyering? I just can't figure out where it's from. Next time I will certainly try to be more blunt with these issues and see if I can talk to him in private.

Another interesting note: apparently, some of my other players have actually been emailing the problem player (without my knowledge) asking him to stop being a distraction. I've no idea what was said but it's...eyebrow raising. I hope they weren't too abrasive, it would make things worse.

By the way, thanks all for your responses. Very quick reply time on these forums.

EDIT: By the way, if the problem player is reading this, you know who you are. I apologize if you are offended by this thread but I am only trying to help keep our group together and playing smoothly. We'll talk soon :)


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Yeah, there was a player in our group like this. He was an insane paranoid survivalist, who held that same view of DMs vs players, it was hilarious. Like we'd let him know that the DM could do anything. At any given time, there could be 50 snipers trained on him that are higher level than him, have better feats, and can crush his feeble defenses, but there aren't because we're not trying to scalp characters every game.

Never listened, though. So we sniped and scalped him.

Liberty's Edge

aximiliguru wrote:
I have talked to him about it. Most of his complaints center around "I don't like how the DM makes rulings on the spot; he should be more prepared and follow the rules more." I've tried to explain that I make mistakes and some of the rules are very complex so I don't use them (the group already knew this), but he seems to be pretty irritated. He obsessively reads the rules as written even during session, I can't even keep up.

Let me play devil's advocate a bit.

If you are going to make up rules, you will get some push back at times. Currently, I am GMing most of the time, but I am still a newish GM too. While I am not a rules-lawyer, I do try and take the time to get to know the rules as best as I can. The reason for this is that I want my players and I to be on the same page for how things work so that they can feel confident that when they try to take an action, my understanding and their understanding is the same.

There are times when I do not know an exact rule. If I think it is something minor, I may ask the other players or I may just make a ruling and then tell the players that we will double-check it after the session. I don't like looking things up at the table, but if it is something that is significant (like how underwater combat works or chase rules), we will look it up.

One of the key things you should do as a GM is make yourself familiar with the classes, skills, traits, spells, abilities, etc that the player characters have. It can be a lot of work, but I don't see how you can deliberate a game fairly without at least having some basic familiarity.

...however, on the other side of things, I think your problem player is being very unreasonable. If other players are complaining about his behavior, then he is pushing things too far. I will assume you consider him a friend and would like to to what you can to have everyone get along nicely. If I were you, I would sit down with the player one more time to discuss it. Ask him what he would do if he were in your shoes. Then, if he does not want to change, tell him that you don't want that kind of attitude in the game and he should take a few sessions off to rethink his stance. Before he joins another session, have another talk. If he says he has changed, let him come back, but tell him if he argues with you, he is out; if he is condescending towards anyone, he is out; if he complains, he is out.

From what you have said, I would not want him in my group as he is and I would tell him that. To me, it is inexcusible for one person to think it's ok that they cause other players and the GM to not have a fun time.


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aximiliguru wrote:
Tark wrote:
Then, confront him at the table about his behavior and hope the rest of the table backs you up. It's easier to remove/deal with a problem player like this if the rest of the players openly back you up.
The thing is, I JUST did that with this the last session. My other players backed me up, but the problem player didn't want to change his ways. He was pretty polite about it, but he's a stubborn guy (as am I) so we got nowhere. I almost got him to fix these problems once, I talked to him and the next session it was about half as much rules-lawyering and spotlight hogging. Then it gradually went back up to the normal level.

Frankly, that'd be the point, for me, where he wasn't invited back to the next session.

Nice-guy in the real world and disruptive fun-killer at the table. The world needs more nice guys, the table needs fewer disruptive fun-killers. Send him back to the real world.

In the same way that the DM is the ultimate arbiter of the rules at the table, s/he is also the ultimate arbiter of who sits around it. That's not a call to simply exercise power arbitrarily, but it cuts both ways; You're ultimately responsible for making sure that the players you run a game for all feel welcome and comfortable at the table, and get a chance to stand in the sun. Bending over backwards to accommodate this sort of behavior sends a message to the rest of the group that you won't accept that responsibility for them.

I'm not trying to say you're being a bad DM. (If you were a bad DM you wouldn't be trying to solve the problem.) Just that every player at the table deserves the same degree of consideration as a problem player does, multiplied by however many of them there are. Good of the many, in other words. He's not just your problem, in other words. React accordingly.


I really don't have much empathy for a player who can't gracefully interact with the world, even less a paranoid survivalist character.

Bad things happen to good people all the time - a fantastic world is no different.

Now if the DM is out to get someone, that is just as bad, and any player would be justified in getting irritated. This doesn't sound like what is going on here.

If the player wants to DM, let them, otherwise they need to respect the position, if not the authority, of the DM, and if they can't respect the authority they need to keep it to themselves during a session or bow out. Again, gracefully.

The OP is the DM, the "problem" player is just that - a player. Each DM runs their table differently, and players should know that that comes with the territory. There is no telling the DM that they are flat out wrong - Rule 0 enforces that thinking. Being unclear on the rules is one thing, but so is bowing to pressure from a player with a dominant personality. If the other players are all fine with the playstyle and "looseness" of the rules/experience level of the DM, then this also boils down to the "problem" player being just that - a problem.

I'm seeing a lot of these issues ultimately revolve around maturity and respect, or rather the lack of both. If these things are not present there won't be an enjoyable experience.

[EDIT - and not forgetting the presence of ego. A lot of bruised egos and flailing egos seem to inhabit these "problem" player encounters/scenarios...]

Kinda wish we had a sticky post to remind players and DMs that..... ah never mind.

Liberty's Edge

Tell him: Thank you, but I don't need the agita. Tell him to leave and don't come back.


aximiliguru wrote:


• He is a heavy rules lawyer, he knows at least as many rules as I do as DM and he is more than willing to tell me what I'm doing wrong in the middle of a combat/RP, despite being asked not to.

• He tends to play characters that hog the spotlight. Mainly due to this player's tendency to talk constantly, never giving other players a chance to react or take actions. He does this without cease, every session, to the point where other players are now complaining to me.

You need to step up to your job as referee in two ways. First of all, study up on the rules. Minimize your shortcomings before criticizing others. Second, and this doesn't have to wait until you master the rules, you need to own the job you have. The next time it happens, stop the player and "We're not going to do this right now. We can discuss it when we're finished." Continue as you were. If he does it again, tell him again. Keep doing it until he gets the idea. Personally I find discussing the game - non-specific to the campaign - pretty fun when not playing. If he can't trust you, at the very least he needs to respect the boundaries.

On the second point, yes, a spotlight hog is annoying, but again I have two suggestions. A players who is bothered by the spotlight hogging must learn to be more assertive. Not all players mind the spotlight being off of them though. As for you, from time to time, inform the player that he is not done doing something, and cannot be doing the new thing until he is. Alternately, when he gets involved in something you should ask the other players "What are you doing while he is busy?"

A little more confidence and assertiveness from everyone at the table will help out.

I have been in your player's shoes too. In one combat that was going very poorly for us, the DM announced something that happened to me, and I was worried I was going to be hampered by it. There was no attack role or save or anything. I was scared a TPK was on its way, so I started arguing pretty fervently with him. What I didn't know at the time was that the "effect" wasn't anything that penalized me in any way - he was simply demonstrating that a piece of equipment has a special ability, so I would know that it existed. He "broke" the rules for my benefit.

Shadow Lodge

There is a secret to GMing that lots of people who have not GMed or don't know how to GM don't know. It is a rule that is there, but not written in any books, and it is ever-present in PFS scenarios and a GM's best friend. Its called plot.

Explain to your friend that what happened is part of the game's plot, and needs to happen, and that as far as you know, you followed all of the rules written in the books and succeeded in progressing the plot. Then explain that you still are learning the rules, and may slip up every once in a while, but the magic item needed to be stolen for story purposes regardless of the rules you needed to follow to steal it. Then explain that in the future, you might need to change the rules a bit to progress the plot by giving small bonuses to stuff [like the checks to steal or stabilize]. It is in your right as a GM to rule as you see fit to enhance the challenge of the game, and you aren't doing this purely to turn into a player v. GM game, only to make sure that the story of the game[which is the entire point of the campaign] gets told accurately and completely.


He wants to play the game by the rules by the letter. Tell him to go find a PFS game then. Rarely do DMs have the time or memory to run every rule perfectly.

I think the point where he went noticeably overboard was where he refused to believe you were following the rules (if you even were which doesn't matter) and then walked out. Tell him its not always going to be perfectly by the rules, that's how you DM, take it or leave it. If he says ok then test him by doing something noticeably not by the rules. Not something that screws the party but is definitely not by the book. If he throws a fit tell him strike 3 and kick him (in a polite way)


"He is a heavy rules lawyer, he knows at least as many rules as I do as DM and he is more than willing to tell me what I'm doing wrong in the middle of a combat/RP, despite being asked not to."

Make a rule: Sessions are in demand so any ruling controversy is to be discussed AFTER session only via email. Any breech means an INSTANT 100x level xp reduction per half-minuite (bring a stop watch- dont respond, don't talk) train the dogs..

"He tends to play characters that hog the spotlight."
"He is a combat lover and rarely RPs."

Bit of a hypocrisy probably as you facilitate it. If he has no social skills or a low charisma have NPCs walk of/shut him down/throw up as he starts to talk/wave away his stink, comment and back off (we all know people with low charisma and no social skills - act identical to any tween).
NPCs can walk up to other players and take them aside (if necessary make players leave the room as their NOT in the private room the NPC took the non-lippy PC he WANTS to talk to into.

Non-social/non-rp combat oriented obviously he WILL try to bluff/buly/verbalize to confuse you out of game and even dominate socially - remember his stats and skills INGAME and act accordingly (make your sense motive and will saves).


YOU control the spotlight- point it where it (in game) would be drawn to = charisma + social skills!


He walked out. He can stay gone until he apologizes and promises not to engage in any of the rude behaviors you described in your post.


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aximiliguru wrote:

• He tends to play characters that hog the spotlight. Mainly due to this player's tendency to talk constantly, never giving other players a chance to react or take actions. He does this without cease, every session, to the point where other players are now complaining to me.

• He is a combat lover and rarely RPs.

*Raises hand*

How are these not mutually exclusive?


If this guy is really family or close friend,put in some more time on him.Let him know he can't behave like that and if he does smack him with the hammer of the Gods! -50% hit points on the spot as his character feels heart flutters.Twice is a heart attack,and time to roll up a new character.Have a will of Iron about it and sooner or later he will coem around. Also when he is hogging the spotlight away from other pc's dont pay attention to him,direct all your attention to the other players.

This stuff isn't normal for DM's to do but dang it,family and friends are hard to give the boot to and still have fun at Christmas.

If the guy isn't family or a really good friend,just let it be known to your other players that the guy doesn't get a invite. Don't talk to him about it,don't bring it up next time you see him,simply don't invite him back.Since he is a nice guy you don't want to ruin a outside of the table friendship if you can help it.


An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being GM is a demanding job and you really have to know your game. If there are some confusing aspects that you choose to dispense with, that's all fine and dandy, but make sure that it is abundantly clear to all your players. At the same time, don't just pitch those aspects into the bin completely. Work at them and try to understand them. I can say that I really understand where this guy is coming from and I'd be pretty pissed off if rules elements I'm used to dealing with were suddenly cut off just because the GM doesn't understand them. It's like buying a car and finding out that the radio only picks up AM signal and not FM; it's pretty standard to expect FM on a modern radio so if it falls short of that, it's something you really should be informed of in advance.

Secondly, I also understand his insistence on playing RAW obsessively. After all, it is a system that was designed by professionals and tends to work best when used properly. If you're going to make replacements and substitutions, you've got to think like a designer when doing so and if you're just flippantly making changes "on the fly", it tends to screw up the balance of the system which is understandably aggravating to other players; especially those with a high degree of system mastery.

Third, keep in mind that while, as GM, you have a certain responsibility and job in the game, you are still just another player. It should never be viewed as "GM vs Players". You still need to make judgement calls, but weigh all your options in doing so. If someone in the game has demonstrably better system mastery than you do, that is a tool available for your benefit. If you're right about the system 60% of the time and he's right 90% of the time, don't let that 10% where he's mistaken provide undue weight against his information because you're 4 times as likely to be wrong given the sample numbers here. Unless you're absolutely certain he is mistaken and know that particular rule in detail, defer to the greater system mastery as a default and double-check later. And make sure he understand this as well; that you're willing to defer to his better judgement in case of a disagreement about how rules work but that doesn't mean that he is in charge of the game; he's just acting as Secretary of Rules Mastery and you are the President (also, keeping in mind, the President is still a citizen just like anyone else).

Regarding his behavior aside from dealing with rules, it's probably a good idea to institute some kind of Parliamentary system by which people have fair turns to declare their actions. Essentially, you want to systematize and codify how people declare and resolve their actions so that everyone has a fair chance for input without needing to just talk over everyone. Here's an example:

GM: Ok, the guard stops you and asks to see your travel permit. Would anyone like to declare an action?
Player 1: I'd like to intimidate him into letting us pass without seeing the permit.
Player 2: I'd like to distract him while the rest of the party sneaks past behind his back.
Player 3: I'd like to ask the guard if there's a way to enter the city without a travel permit.
GM: Alright, any more? (beat) No? Ok, would anyone like to defer their action to another party member?
Player 1: I'll hold my action until Player 3 talks to the guard.
Player 2: I'll also hold my action, but I'd really like to make my attempt before Player 1 tries his.
GM: Ok, Player 3 has asked the guard his question. The guard says, "Well, if you're looking for work, you can apply for a visa over in the guard hit. It will involve dangerous work, but you lot look capable. Head on over and see if they have any jobs available." With this new information, would anyone like to re-declare their action?
Player 1: I withdraw my declaration. I'll discuss this with the party first.
Player 2: Same.
GM: Alright, any objections? (beat) No? Alright, discuss away.

Same goes for things like combat. Ask for a declaration of action first, then ask if anyone has a response action that can respond to such a declaration. Then determine the result of the initial action and check again if anyone has a response to the determination phase. Lastly, resolve the action and apply any results thereof, again asking for response actions. Basically, if someone wants to speak, they need to be "recognized by the chair." and are given a limited opportunity to speak. If anyone wants to interrupt, they can give some kind of signal (ie. raise their hand) and the "chair" (you) will decide where it's appropriate to interrupt the speaking character for the new speaker to talk.


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ReddogMT wrote:
One of the key things you should do as a GM is make yourself familiar with the classes, skills, traits, spells, abilities, etc that the player characters have. It can be a lot of work, but I don't see how you can deliberate a game fairly without at least having some basic familiarity.

Well, the thing is I am actually very familiar with this kind of stuff. Classes, abilities, spells, monsters, combat rules. The parts where I struggle seem to be the ones he finds in the parts of the book I never really read (Foliage rules, forest fires, weird applications of skills, polymorphing). Come to think of it, maybe I need to reread the Druid >_> However, your point is well taken. I've consigned myself to learning the rules better to perhaps reduce the anxiety this player is feeling towards the game. Besides, I could always use more knowledge when I'm running a game.

Vamptastic wrote:
Yeah, there was a player in our group like this. He was an insane paranoid survivalist, who held that same view of DMs vs players, it was hilarious.

Odd isn't it? I'm not actively facilitating this sort of behavior, I wonder if it's some sort of player stereotype that I was never aware of? I tell him all the time I'm not actually against (or targeting) him.

Marthkus wrote:

• He tends to play characters that hog the spotlight. Mainly due to this player's tendency to talk constantly, never giving other players a chance to react or take actions. He does this without cease, every session, to the point where other players are now complaining to me.

• He is a combat lover and rarely RPs.

*Raises hand*

How are these not mutually exclusive?

They really aren't if you think about it. You don't have to RP to spotlight hog. He basically continually takes actions, references rules/numbers out loud while doing so and simply won't stop. He doesn't speak in character most of the time - he rarely interacts with NPCs other than to kill them. Example:

PP: I cast plant growth.
Me: Okay. Jim, what do yo---
PP: Oh, and I cast spike stones. (begins reading its effect).
Me: Neato, but I'm helping (Jim).
PP: Cool. I cast Beast shape, and turn into a bat. (Begins reading stat changes out loud). DM, I've got blindsight!
Me: Nice. But (Jim) hasn't had a turn yet.
Jim: I'm going to put some food on the campfire.
Me: Make a roll for Profession: Cooking for the quality of the stew.
Jim: (Begins to roll, is interrupted as he calls out the result)
PP: Hey DM, I'm crafting a pearl of power. DM, you know what that does?

etc. He's basically just not waiting for his turn and tends to always interrupt.

Kazaan wrote:
Regarding his behavior aside from dealing with rules, it's probably a good idea to institute some kind of Parliamentary system by which people have fair turns to declare their actions.

Yeah, I like this idea. It may help in the long run if I make non- combat actions more of a "standard" progression of turns rather than freeform it.

ArmoredMonk13 wrote:

here is a secret to GMing that lots of people who have not GMed or don't know how to GM don't know. It is a rule that is there, but not written in any books, and it is ever-present in PFS scenarios and a GM's best friend. Its called plot.

Explain to your friend that what happened is part of the game's plot, and needs to happen, and that as far as you know, you followed all of the rules written in the books and succeeded in progressing the plot. Then explain that you still are learning the rules, and may slip up every once in a while, but the magic item needed to be stolen for story purposes regardless of the rules you needed to follow to steal it.

I smiled when I read this. This is, almost word for word, exactly what I told him in the last argument. He didn't like it. I think the fact that some things in a campaign can happen without his total control over them makes him uncomfortable - and it's understandable, but doesn't really mesh with the other players or myself.

Typing these things out really helps me crystallize the problem in my own thoughts. I believe that the combination of my lack of detailed rules knowledge and the fact that I occasionally do things because of plot may be making him feel insecure, so he's acting up, trying to enforce the rules more strictly by constantly arguing about them, and so on.

My goals before the next session (in two weeks):
-Learn the rules better, particularly those that I'm expecting to come up next session
-Use a more standardized form of turn order outside of combat
-Be more forceful about not interrupting other players

Big thanks to everyone who replied in this thread. Hopefully this straightens things out.


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You may just want to show him that you are the GM and rules are what you say they are.

You're rules lawyer needs to understand that the most he can ever do is reference the rules, because the first most important rule is right there in the CRB, "the GM may change these rules as they see fit"

All rules lawyer arguments die at the utterance of rule 0.

Temper this with understanding what he is doing. If he beast changes into a bat, you should know that that gives him blindsight. If he cast defenses at night you should know what they do without him telling you. Occasionally you may want to throw him a bone and ask how he remembers certain rules work.

Emphasize that the speed and ease of play is VASTLY more important than following the rules 100% of the time.

Also NEVER express how you are still learning the rules. THAT invites players to challenge your rulings. You are the GM, you are the rules.

*I say this as rules-lawyer player myself. It's a bad habit I find myself falling into."


aximiliguru wrote:
-Use a more standardized form of turn order outside of combat

Don't do this. This slows thing down.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
Marthkus wrote:
You may just want to show him that you are the GM and rules are what you say they are.

Be careful with that. Be consistent.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Well stop making mistakes you idiot! Learn the rules better. You should consider yourself lucky for having such a knowledgeable player at the table. After all, if no one is on the same page about the rules, you might as well be playing cowboys and Indians!

If you'd rather play CaI, why have you and your players wasted so much money on books and dice?

...just kidding. Sounds like you got a real problem there. Is he hard of hearing per chance? I used to act very similarly to what you describe simply because I AM knowledgeable about the rules and because of my hearing disability, I often didn't even realize that others were talking (or hadn't finished talking). Once my friends pointed it out to me, I worked hard and we got past most of the bumps in the road (though it took a couple of games). Everyone else has given great advice (for the most part) already, so the only thing I feel I can add is this: Be patient with him while you work things out.


How is he crafting a pearl of power while in the shape of a bat?

Shadow Lodge

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Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
How is he crafting a pearl of power while in the shape of a bat?

Magic.

Scarab Sages

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aximiliguru wrote:
On top of all the above, he seems to view the game as a DM vs the players thing, not a cooperative effort.

Now that is the root of your problem. Such games exist and they can be fun provided it's an accepted hostility where everyone knows it's nothing personal and endeavours to remain friends. Unfortunately a problem crops up when you have one player stuck in such a mindset trying to get along in a more open friendly cooperative game. You know, the kind that most of us enjoy. Such a player is likely to make an argument out of everything because the game isn't going their way.

I honestly don't know what advice I can give you as I haven't run into too many of that kind of player in recent years. They often have problems separating in character hostility from out of character hostility too. Not always but it's a recognisable trend.

Quote:
He is a nice guy, and is usually willing to compromise in most other situations.

I think I know the kind. Nice company but I wouldn't want to play with them. They suddenly get far too competitive for their own good and antagonise everyone at the table. I'm not sure if there's a way to get them out of "game face mode" and into "normal mode" during play. Some people are just like that. So then you have to balance how much fun you get from their company outside the game against how much they're likely to spoil your fun when you play.


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Maybe direct your rules-loving player to page 402 of the Core Rulebook, where GM fiat is described. In short, it's a rule that says "The GM's word is law" and declares that long drawn-out rules arguments during play time are bad. Effectively your player is breaking RAW by arguing too heavily in favour of RAW.

At the end of the day, the rules literally declare that you, as GM, can be right about whatever you want to be right about, simply by declaring yourself to be right, and your player is inherently wrong for arguing that you might ever be wrong. This may seem harsh to the player, but they need to remember that ultimately a good game isn't about who's right or wrong, it's about whether everyone can have fun.

So ask the player not "How might I follow the rules?". Instead ask them "What would be fun for you?". A player willing to compromise will be able to come up with an answer here, but if their answer is "By following the rules exactly" then really, they've said absolutely nothing, because one of those rules to follow is a rule that says the GM can break whatever rules they want, and so any failure to follow the rules by the GM is actually no failure at all, and still entirely within the rules.


First off, you can have a laptop open (or tablet) at the table and either reference the SRD or you can have something like Combat Manager up (which has a lot of the rules handy for reference in the Rules tab). That way, you can reference any rule that you need without having to go digging in a book.

Secondly, if your player is not willing to wait his turn, then you can do one of a few things... You can use a token that people have to physically pass around, and unless you have the token, you don't get to call out an action. Similarly, you can pass out a set amount of action cards, and every time that you want to take an action in down-time like that, you have to turn one in. When he runs out of cards, his actions simply don't take place. Too bad he burned all of his action cards on the first night's rest. Of course, this is all micromanaging, and that's not likely to speed up your games or to smooth things out. They'll just likely annoy him.

Honestly, you need to tell this player, "Enough is enough. You can either cut it out, or you're going to have to leave." Be kind, but be firm. Leave no wiggle room, and if you're going to make such a statement, stick to it. "I'm sorry, Josh*. You're a fun guy, and I really want to play with you, but you're sucking the fun out of the game for the other players, and you're sucking the fun out of the game for me. If you continue to play like this, you're going to have to find yourself another game. If you want to play in this game, you're stopping right now. No more arguing during game. No more hogging the spotlight. You want to declare six actions to everyone else's one, you're going to have one action happen, plain and simple. You can cast plant growth, but you didn't cast spike stones, you didn't turn into a bat, and you didn't create a pearl of power. There simply wasn't time, and you're not going to continue to interrupt other players to force more actions for your character."

Of course, you can go another route... "Your companions stand there glass-eyed and statuelike as you cast plant growth and spike stones, turn into a bat and then, while in bat form, try crafting a pearl of power - which fails spectacularly, by the way, since bats can't craft. Too bad you wasted the materials you needed to craft it. While your companions were locked in the time-freeze required for you to do all of this while they did absolutely nothing, and since you were so busy, you didn't notice the band of trolls that snuck up behind you. Since your companions never moved, the trolls didn't notice them (or didn't consider them a threat), and they've all zeroed in on you. Roll for initiative." You can justify that the other party members are frozen and therefore, out of combat and unable to help him, but they won't be attacked since they're clearly not a threat. He wants the spotlight so bad, now he's got it... And everything that goes with it.

* = Random name. I just picked Josh for no particular reason.

Silver Crusade

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I will tell you the tale of the rise and fall of Cops & Robbers. In days of yore we used our imaginations and the rules were simple. I say I shot you and you fall down. I tag you and I take you to jail. Everyone is having fun, everyone is playing in the spirit of the game.

Then one day someone declared "nuh uh" when shot because for that person, the spirit of the game meant less than that person "winning" the game. They didn't want to be shot. The game stops for everyone. People take sides. The spirit of the game is forgotten. Now everyone is not having fun. Someone declared "let there be a rule! Let the person be within 10' and declare the words "bang bang, else there be not a shot." Everyone was appeased, and the spirit of the game resumed, enhanced by a simple rule.

Then another rule was made, and another. Soon, the players stopped running around and having fun. They spent more time arguing the rules than actually playing the game. Discussions about "line of sight" and "flanking" and "terrain bonuses" became more important than the fun that was once had.

Soon, players were more focused on how to beat the game using the rules than they were with the spirit of the game: that one person was a cop and another the robber and you had fun simply from that.

The moment rules cease to enhance the enjoyment of everyone at the table and detract from the game is a sad one.


He needs a good video game.


@Touc: What if I told you... some people have more fun playing games with complex, involved rules and find simple, rule-less games to be boring and useless.


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aximiliguru wrote:

They really aren't if you think about it. You don't have to RP to spotlight hog. He basically continually takes actions, references rules/numbers out loud while doing so and simply won't stop. He doesn't speak in character most of the time - he rarely interacts with NPCs other than to kill them. Example:

PP: I cast plant growth.
Me: Okay. Jim, what do yo---
PP: Oh, and I cast spike stones. (begins reading its effect).
Me: Neato, but I'm helping (Jim).
PP: Cool. I cast Beast shape, and turn into a bat. (Begins reading stat changes out loud). DM, I've got blindsight!
Me: Nice. But (Jim) hasn't had a turn yet.
Jim: I'm going to put some food on the campfire.
Me: Make a roll for Profession: Cooking for the quality of the stew.
Jim: (Begins to roll, is interrupted as he calls out the result)
PP: Hey DM, I'm crafting a pearl of power. DM, you know what that does?

etc. He's basically just not waiting for his turn and tends to always interrupt.

I've dealt with players like this, typically younger players or players who suffer from some social-behavioral disorders. The last time I had a player who was really, really bad, I got very strict about focus. So the interaction would be more like:

PP: I cast plant growth.
Me: Okay. Jim, what do yo---
PP: Oh, and--
Me: It's not your turn. It's Jim's turn. Jim?
PP: I cast Beast shape--
Me: PP! Wait your turn. Jim?
Jim: I'm going to put some food on the campfire.
Me: Make a roll for Profession: Cooking for the quality of the stew.
Jim: (Begins to roll, is interrupted as he calls out the result)
PP: Hey DM--
Me: (Hold up hand in a "stop" signal) Jim, you were saying?
(After Jim and others go)
Me: (Deliberately, clearly turn my attention to PP) Now, PP: it's your turn. What were you saying?

By the end of the session, I had the PP "trained" so that when he started talking out of turn, I just had to hold up my hand once, and he backed off and waited. I also had him raise his hand if he wanted my attention next.

The only way this works, though is to be consistent, clear, and fair. ANY player who interrupts ALWAYS gets the exact same treatment. Focus on one specific action or behavior at a time, and make it obvious what is and is not acceptable. This helps the PP focus his attention on "I need to not interrupt" rather than something vague like "I need to stop being a jerk". When it's the PP's turn, make it his turn, and put all the focus on him. And always make sure to come back to him and give him his turn, so that he learns to trust you and gets rewarded for waiting. (If that sounds like I'm training a dog or a young child, well, that's the basic technique.)

As far as the rules lawyering goes, you can try to make him a resource rather than a distraction. If something comes up that you don't know, delegate him to look it up while you continue running the game. If a question about a rule will doesn't immediately effect the game, say "Well, I'll rule it this way right now, but PP could you check that and let me know, so we'll know for next round?" If you're wrong, change the ruling from that point on in the game. Maybe that will help keep him distracted while other people play...

If the question is something that has a big effect, say, someone's character might die depending on the ruling, then stop and resolve the issue right then. Ask PP for his opinion, or get him to check one book while you check another. Once it becomes clear that you won't let characters die on a whim, he might back off.

Good luck!

Scarab Sages

Kazaan wrote:
@Touc: What if I told you... some people have more fun playing games with complex, involved rules and find simple, rule-less games to be boring and useless.

His point wasn't about simplicity against complexity. It was that when an insistance on complexity obscures fun then it hardly feels like a game anymore (in fact, you could almost call it work). Arguments about rules are not fun. I'm sure a few people enjoy arguing about rules. In fact I know a problem player who'll argue about rules he doesn't know well not because he thinks he's right but because he thinks he can browbeat the opposition into letting get away with whatever it is he's trying to do at the time. He's rapidly running out of people to play with.

Sovereign Court

Shot in the dark here -- I don't know the guy.

The player sounds like an Aspie.

As in, Asperger's or high functioning autism. Insistence on rigid rules and routines are very common for people with this condition. People with this condition also take things personally when they aren't meant that way (hence the GM vs. player idea - it is incredibly hard to trust for people with this condition). Any type of potentially competitive situation (even when others don't see it that way) is difficult to deal with and his reaction fits the profile.

If this is his focused interest, it would also explain the extreme rules knowledge and excellent memory.

In other words, he may very well be insistent on rules because he can't see the game any other way. This type of approach is a means of control over their environment and autism is (just a guess on my part) seemingly more common among gamers.

As I said, just a shot in the dark here. But if he is, and you read up on autism and specifically how to deal with people/players with autism, you'll get some insight.

If not, then maybe he is just someone who was never told "no" as a child. ;)


A couple of tips that have worked for us (and I am definitely guilty of being a rules lawyer at times, but also want to make fair and correct rulings when I am GM):

1. Create initiative even when out of combat when things are getting too dominated by one or two players. Stick with the initiative until everyone has had their say.

2. When GM'ing, being too much of a dictator makes players feel helpless, but you need to exercise some discretion in cutting off discussions when a rule is not clear or there is disagreement, and it is slowing things down. Sometimes, when GM'ing a question that can be "deferred" pending other players' turns (i.e.: it won't materially affect what subsequent players do on subsequent turns), I will tell the player at issue to look it up while we move on and to let me know if my ruling is/was correct if the player finds an answer.

3. Get an iPad or other tablet and use it. This makes rules questions so much easier to resolve. I have found rules are much easier to look up in a tablet than to check the printed books (even though our group has just about all of the books).

4. As others have recommended, try to anticipate rules issues that may come up by reviewing your adventure ahead and proactively looking up the relevant questions. Certainly, it is simply impossible to anticipate every move of players (especially experienced players), but at least try to be ready on obvious issues that will arise.

5. Don't run over legitimate player concerns for the sake of expediency. For instance, some of the people who GM our games essentially avoid ever having surprise rounds, even when appropriate. If you are going to do something like that, tell your players ahead that you don't like surprise rounds because of mechanics etc. But don't hit the Rogue with that and essentially arbitrarily take away one of his best abilities (sneak attack), because you wish to keep things moving.

6. Try to avoid falling back too quickly on "I am in charge, and this is my ruling". Again, this makes players feel as though they aren't being heard, but remember to cut off discussions when things are slowing down the game far too much.

7. Specifically with respect to this player in this game, you may be close to giving him an ultimatum based on some of the OP's subsequent posts. It seems this would be justified. Just be sure to be consistent and give him a full opportunity to "hang himself" if he keeps refusing to comply with simple demands. Do let him know how frustrated you are and how close you are to quitting the game/booting him out/etc.

8. When I learn that I have made a mistake as GM in-game after our gaming sessions, I will email our group and tell them where I was mistaken or clarify the rule for future reference. This way, you are not viewed as a dictator, but you can say for in-game purposes that you are moving on with respect to disputed rulings and ask that the players at issue respect that. If they refuse, make it clear that the discussion is over. Do not be passive-aggressive: MAKE IT CLEAR.

9. Again, do not ignore legitimate rules questions with real consequences for the players and use your discretion in deciding if a certain issue is worth the time or not. If it means a TPK, it is probably important. If it is not game changing, then move on.

Liberty's Edge

Sheriff Bart wrote:

Shot in the dark here -- I don't know the guy.

The player sounds like an Aspie.

Well, speaking as someone with Aspergers, I'm really not sure that's relevant. I mean, it's quite possibly true, but I'm not sure it actually has any meaningful relationship with what to do about the situation. Talking with him clearly is likely the best way to deal with the situation if this is the case...but isn't that usually a good way to deal with OOC problems?

I mean, what Aspergers specific solutions would you suggest?

Grand Lodge

Sheriff Bart wrote:

Shot in the dark here -- I don't know the guy.

The player sounds like an Aspie.

As in, Asperger's or high functioning autism. Insistence on rigid rules and routines are very common for people with this condition. People with this condition also take things personally when they aren't meant that way (hence the GM vs. player idea - it is incredibly hard to trust for people with this condition). Any type of potentially competitive situation (even when others don't see it that way) is difficult to deal with and his reaction fits the profile.

If this is his focused interest, it would also explain the extreme rules knowledge and excellent memory.

In other words, he may very well be insistent on rules because he can't see the game any other way. This type of approach is a means of control over their environment and autism is (just a guess on my part) seemingly more common among gamers.

As I said, just a shot in the dark here. But if he is, and you read up on autism and specifically how to deal with people/players with autism, you'll get some insight.

If not, then maybe he is just someone who was never told "no" as a child. ;)

This is good stuff


Deadmanwalking wrote:
Sheriff Bart wrote:

The player sounds like an Aspie.

Well, speaking as someone with Aspergers, I'm really not sure that's relevant. I mean, it's quite possibly true, but I'm not sure it actually has any meaningful relationship with what to do about the situation. Talking with him clearly is likely the best way to deal with the situation if this is the case...but isn't that usually a good way to deal with OOC problems?

As a fellow aspie, I agree with Deadman. On the other hand, I don't act much like the player described. We're all different though...the general similarities among those with the condition will manifest themselves in different ways, and in different contexts. At the table, my (occasionally obsessive) attention to detail comes out in my players actions, rather than my own...I know how and when to close my mouth and let rest of the group play with the ball too, even though my brain is busy telling me the ball is fun to hold and I should touch it.


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Gwen Smith wrote:

I've dealt with players like this, typically younger players or players who suffer from some social-behavioral disorders. The last time I had a player who was really, really bad, I got very strict about focus. So the interaction would be more like:

PP: I cast plant growth.
Me: Okay. Jim, what do yo---
PP: Oh, and--
Me: It's not your turn. It's Jim's turn. Jim?
PP: I cast Beast shape--
Me: PP! Wait your turn. Jim?
Jim: I'm going to put some food on the campfire.
Me: Make a roll for Profession: Cooking for the quality of the stew.
Jim: (Begins to roll, is interrupted as he calls out the result)
PP: Hey DM--
Me: (Hold up hand in a "stop" signal) Jim, you were saying?
(After Jim and others go)
Me: (Deliberately, clearly turn my attention to PP) Now, PP: it's your turn. What were you saying?

By the end of the session, I had the PP "trained" so that when he started talking out of turn, I just had to hold up my hand once, and he backed off and waited. I also had him raise his hand if he wanted...

This. Behavioral modification works.

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