Need GMing advice for preventing problems with diffcult players.

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

Grand Lodge

I have been playing pathfinder for about three years and have been GMing for most of that. I am only able to play online games (generally via Roll20) due to real life reasons. Problem is online games tend to pull in some rather troublesome players. Over the years numerous campaigns have been sunk because of those said individuals. I have learned how to deal with these players more quickly once they start acting up but I have lately been trying tactics to prevent problems from happening in the first place. I want people's opinions on the tactics I have used so far and suggestions on what else I can do to avoid problems.

First I should state that in my games I put a strong emphasis on group cohesion both in character and out of character. I expect my players to not have fun at the expense of the other players. I have to do this to keep my online games stable since it is far too easy to lose good players. So I make it clear to all players that PvP of all types (including stealing from players, stealing loot before its split, social checks against platers, ect). Sadly clearly stating rules from the get go has proven ineffective.

Here are the key tactics I have tried so far:

1. Through screening process: I interview all my candidates and have a list of standard questions that I have designed to spot problematic behavior. The problem is that while this has managed to get me some great players it still doesn't spot all problem players since some people are very good at answering correctly rather than honestly.

2. Banned the CN alignment: while the evil alignments generally are also banned in my games CN is banned twice as hard since players in my games generally use it as an excuse to do whatever they want in game rather than actually make a compelling character.

3. Banned the rogue class: The rogue is generally a pretty weak class but I have learned to ban it from my games.It became clear to me that 70% of the time the problem player was playing a rogue. Hell even player who are my friends and long time players in my campaigns suddenly started causing problems the second they play this class. I have come to realize that to often players use playing the rogue class as an excuse for committing disruptive behavior. I find this to be a shame since nothing about the rogue class actually mandates this kind of behavior, but sadly so far in my DMing experince too many players seem to think it does. At least the rogue class is easily replaced by the investigator.

So does anyone have any suggestions on how to approve my current approach? Does anyone have any new ideas that can help me?

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1. This is a lot like just playing with friends or people that your friends will vouch for. This is the best way to avoid toxic people.

2. Banning the alignment will not solve the problem. But you are stating that you expect people to not act like a jackass. That statement is the important part.

3. I have had this exact same experience. I have noticed that rogues are most effective when acting against the party. The class is problematic, weak, and generally broken. Players are very likely to vent their frustration out on fellow party members rather than try to combat the all powerful GM and the rules that systematically punish them for playing a class. Honestly this kind of behavior is mainly your fault. You can try to blame the system, but as the GM you are the rules. So if the rules screw over the rogue, then you are screwing over the rogue. If you are going to run the rules like that, then it is in your best interest to ban a class you have no intention of being fair towards.

From what I learned though is that toxic players will be toxic players. If you a playing with random people from the internet, the chances are very high that there is a very good reason they need to play with random people on the internet.

I would actually try playing other online games with prospective players first before inviting them to a session. I never invite people to a session that I do not wish to get to know better.

I recently startet gm'ing for a new group (I only knew 1 of them...) Who had a long PvP history. I told them directly that I didn't Luke PvP, and it was banned in any campaign/scenario I gm'ed...

We started with a test scenario to get to know each other, and 4/5 pc ignored the no PvP rule.

The following campaign therefore started like this:

All party members start at age 20. (yes, this limits race selection), and come from the sane village. 20 years ago a dark and mysterious creature walked into the village, did something magical, and the entire village population slept for 6 months. The party was raised as heroes so they can defend the village if the dark creature comes back. The village can no longer train the party, so they must go into the world to train their abilities.
1 known effect of the magic sleep is that all the babies of the village became closer than most twins...

Mechanical effect: the party members must at all time do what's best fir the party. Any anti party behavior is hit by an epic gease. All the penalties from the normal gease spell, but the bad behavior must be countered... Not "just" stopped... Damage must be healed, theft payed back etc....

Being an epic effect it CANNOT be dispelled...

Sovereign Court

Alignment banning doesn't really matter. Someone can be LN and be as much as an a#++%!+, as someone who is CN. "My code as a LN is to make sure that I'm always the one coming ahead!"

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"Don't be a jackass" covers most of it.

Long lists of rules on character creation just get players who want to be jackasses to try out all the interesting (to them) edge cases of your rule set. The more rules you have, the more edges you have...

Grand Lodge

Marroar Gellantara wrote:

1. This is a lot like just playing with friends or people that your friends will vouch for. This is the best way to avoid toxic people.

I do that when can, I have a fair amount of online friends that are good players, but sometimes you lose people to real life issues and need to bring in a random.

In regards to banning alignments I did that more so I would never have to hear the excuse "but I'm just playing my alignment" again. I have heard that far to many times. The worst example was the guy who tried to secretly TPK the party buy collapsing the only entrance to a tunnel the party was in. He was told no directly but still argued that he was just being CN... All in the first session... Sigh


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I am in favor of not banning CN alignment also. If you leave it, it will ping on their paper sheets what kind of character they plan to play and might prepare you for possible trouble. As Eltacolibre said, it won't really matter what alignment they play. Toxic player remains toxic.

Alignment on side, be kind and merciful 90% of time, but be tyrannt 10% of time also. If someone is refusing to play co-op game, warn him once or twice. If he persists, remove him from the game. The tone of your voice can also help you out. Be honest and don't hide anything and players cannot complain on it.


Posting rules beforehand helps and doesn't. That is, players' eyes tend to glaze.

I would advise hitting the hilights, then provide a link to your short campaign behaviour policy. To be polite and clear, the first time a policy issue comes up, I'd cover it briefly and respectfully, then move on.

Much of what may help you is how you phrase and manage your intent--actively forming the game you want by how you manage it.

To mention beforehand:
- That you will be emphasizing the "spirit of the game," which you define as cooperative in spirit, treating others fairly, sharing the spotlight, and above all, not being a jerk to other players or the DM.

- To maintain group cohesion/tone, you restrict evil alignments in a heroic campaign, but would encourage them in an evil-focused campaign. This can help keep everyone within a similar set of goals, and I think may provide you a means around the CN issue.

If they insist they know how to play evil well, suggest it doesn't really fit the tone of the current campaign, and explain that evil is often played badly and causes more issues than it's worth: you don't dislike it, but it isn't worth the drama. This usually results in people explaining how they know how to play evil; it's just that everyone else screws up. Explain that tackling it well is harder in an online medium and that you just don't want to deal with it. If it's an evil campaign, however, all bets are off.

- PVP is disallowed; you don't want the drama.

- If a player wishes to play CN, ask their interpretation. If they suggest that it's "do what they want," then I would talk with them about the spirit of the game, and see how they respond.

You should be able to tell if this is a person you want in your group or not.

Things to mention during the first and then next few times they occur: (going with the idea that many people can go @.@ at a lengthy list of guidelines and it's more effective to "live teach" as they're more likely to remember, and it gives you the opportunity to talk the issue through, briefly, while they're paying attention and will remember)

- If a rule is confusing, you'll do what you can to keep things moving, and resolve important rulings after the game: "The important thing to me is to keep the fun moving. If something comes up like this, that we're unsure of, I'll briefly accept input, and then make a ruling on what seems to be the most fair interpretation. That ruling will be in effect the rest of the game; we'll resolve the details later if they're important."

Then, explain that afterwards, interpretation will be handled briefly, respectfully, may involve PRD quotes, developer comments, and FAQs where applicable (these items only, so we don't get bogged down in charts and things and long emails). If nothing comes up, you'll make your best RAI determination. Your RAI is also going to be based on the spirit of the game, which involves fairness and nonjerkiness.

Above all:
- You're not kidding about 'don't be a jerk.' The more a player presses or is unpleasant, etc, speak with them. Don't be afraid to uninvite someone who lawyers to the point of insult and derailing the game, after a warning not to.
- You might provide a link to your guidelines, listed on a website somewhere. Just reference the link at the beginning, then cover in brief, the most important parts. There's no need to begin a session with a long list: hit the big hilights ("don't be a jerk") and just explain others as they come up, respectfully. They're capable of reading.
- Try to avoid calling players out. Instead, take them aside and address the issue.
- If it works for you, encourage ooc discussion of shared geek interests. It can be harder to "gank" another character if the players end up getting along at least somewhat. This may not work for everyone.
- Keep the lines open. Be someone that your players may approach and speak with you about game concerns. This could be anything from, "so and so was a jerk," or "I had issues with such and such when it came up," to "I'd really like the opportunity to do y," and so on.

They should have the expectation that you can manage things in confidence, and you do so, and that it is important to you to understand concerns. Keep the lines open.

Relevant experience: Running online games for nearly 20 years, using a variety of gaming systems.

sacklunch wrote:

So does anyone have any suggestions on how to approve my current approach? Does anyone have any new ideas that can help me?

At one time I was planning on running Way of the Wicked however sometimes players just abandon ship with no warning, some might have real life interfere, and others might cause trouble in the game.

So what I did was recruit some players for an adventure going from 1 to about level 7. This would give me time to see who I liked for for WotW. It is kind of like the __ day evaluation process some jobs have before you are made into a permanent employee.

I've had a lot of success with murder. Korne cares not from where the blood flows, as long as it flows.

In all seriousness, I have had an online game destroyed by a problem player before now. I suspect I could have avoided the problem entirely by looking through some previous games the player had been involved in and seeing how they ended...

Grand Lodge

The main problem with looking at past games is that I am entirely reliant on the players in question to honestly tell me about past game. I try to midigate this issue in my interviews by not saying the criteria I am rating them on and then asking them to tell me about their the fun best character they ever made.

You would be surprised about what people will admit some times. I had one guy brag about a rogue character that constantly went on solo missions. I knew from that that the guy was the type to enjoy splitting the party often and from the general sound of the other details he gave he liked spot light hogging. Just to be clear this guy was not scouting but going off to do lots of things on his own.

sacklunch wrote:

You would be surprised about what people will admit some times. I had one guy brag about a rogue character that constantly went on solo missions. I knew from that that the guy was the type to enjoy splitting the party often and from the general sound of the other details he gave he liked spot light hogging. Just to be clear this guy was not scouting but going off to do lots of things on his own.

The thing to do there is to give him the same encounters the group would get. You got killed running around by yourself in an environment dangerous to 5 people of similar power. You are a total moron, and a dead one at that.

I know I am not really answering your question, but there is a reason people generally are a lot more obnoxious over the internet than they are in person.
That is they are not really interacting with a person they can see and is obviously... well a real person. And its a lot easier to be obnoxious to a person who isn't an individual to you.
So a large part of the problems you are having is because you are playing online.
I am not sure that saying this will make me popular here, but I find when playing D and D or Pathfinder, players are more likely to start acting like they did when they were 12 and first started playing D and D. Stealing from other PCs, lecturing them about how they could kill them and generally being stupid.

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