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I'm current running 13th Age, and there are two players who are quite tactical. The issue is both of them thinks differently and one is pushy, and the other is stubborn. Every now and then the both of them will bicker about their tactics. Sometimes it gets rather heated where both side argued their case (or worse, the plan didn't work out and they resort to "I told you so.") and I'll have to step in and ask them to chill.

However, prevention is better than cure. What steps can I take to explain that I don't wish to see this type of behaviour at the table and what should I do if it happens again? I'm not looking for anything antagonist or personal. I have been GMing for the group for about 6 or 7 sessions but I am not their personal friends, so no ruffled feathers to be worried about - but I can't use our friendship as an Aspect.

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How many players are in the group? How are the others currently responding? –  F. Randall Farmer Aug 13 '13 at 17:10
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Stepping back a bit, is it possible your players have built characters that have roles that overlap too much, or have tactics that inherently conflict? Character construction shouldn't be done in complete isolation from the group you'll be playing with. –  detly Aug 13 '13 at 23:37
    
There are 4 others, and 3 are close friends. They have been gaming for a while and usually when that happens, awkward silence follows. –  Extrakun Aug 14 '13 at 5:23
    
@detly The character classes are quite diverse - the two players that end up fighting alot are a cleric and monk respectively. –  Extrakun Aug 14 '13 at 5:24
    
Hmm. This advice might be a bit tangential to your actual problem, but could be helpful anyway. Maybe try having planning/character building sessions as a group. When my (D&D4e) group started out, we had our own ideas about our characters ("I want to be a wizard!" / "I want to bash things!" / "My background is...") and had our first pass at character construction. But after that, we sat down together and discussed how our powers would work together and did a second pass. We do a similar thing when we level up, or when we do treasure "wish lists." –  detly Aug 15 '13 at 2:02
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5 Answers

There are a few ways you could handle a situation such as this one. The best solution is almost always to simply talk to the players and tell them you don't want them arguing as much. Here are some solutions you could offer them.

  1. Ask them to agree to disagree. Have them to try to keep their tactics to their own player. If they are both including the others in the group in their tactics have them both outline their tactics and the other players can choose who to follow.

  2. Alternate who to follow. If they are both the party leader type alternate who leads each game. In session 1 player a is leader in session 2 player b is leader etc etc. This could be expanded to the whole party if they each want a turn.

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I like number 2. Number 1 is accurate in a technical sense that each player only controls their own character ultimately, but any kind of well thought out tactic is likely going to involve the whole team. –  TimothyAWiseman Aug 13 '13 at 17:07
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Like @bryanjonker I feel it's best to get the players to reconcile their differences out-of-game.

I've had this situation pop up before, and the solution that worked best for me was to declare that all tactics discussions take place in-game. In my experience this approach actually got the offending players to work out their differences. After a couple of combat encounters went sideways because they had no real plan, as the player characters were licking their wounds around the campfire, their players came up with a rudimentary standard operating procedure (SOP) so they wouldn't have to choose between going into battle without any sort of plan, or arguing about a plan while fighting.

SOPs are also good because they mimic how real-world combatants operate. You often don't have time to create a plan, so you fall back on SOP. For example, in a close ambush, their SOP might dictate that everyone rushes the ambushers. In a far ambush, everyone seeks cover and tries to take out the most dangerous ambusher.

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Unless it is really disrupting the game to the point that it is disrupting the fun for the other players, I wouldn't try to handle it. This is a...let's call it a discussion...between the two players and I would let them handle it. Its an area that, at least in my opinion, the GM should stay out of.

Now, if it is disrupting the fun of other people (including yours), then I would start by just pointing that out. Simply bringing something like that to the attention of mature players is probably enough to get them to find a way to resolve it.

If that still doesn't work, then I would bring it to the group. I wouldn't try to solve this yourself at all, I would instead work with the whole group to find a resolution. Possible resolutions include:

  1. They alternate who is in charge. (As Aaron suggested)

  2. They agree on a third player who isn't in this dispute to decide tactics.

  3. Let the group vote on the tactics at the start of a battle. This will slow things down, but it also helps get everyone involved.

  4. Continue to let them work it out between themselves, but introduce a timer for group discussions in combat, and at the end of the time there is no further discussion. This doesn't necessarily resolve the bickering, but it keeps things moving.

The important thing though is that this isn't an issue that you as a GM really should or really can solve. I would really suggest either staying out of it or working with the group to come up with a group solution.

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While I agree that the best option is an out-of-game conversation, here are some additional options you can do as a GM:

  1. Change the scenario where there are more urgent issues -- combat, stressful situations with time limits, etc. At this point, you can say, "you don't have time to discuss this -- each person does what he/she thinks is best."

  2. Change the scenario where there is an NPC leader that listens to both options and chooses one. Or encourage/assign another player to step in as the leader and work as a moderator.

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I don't like the "all discussions take place in game time" rule, because nothing else in most games does, and because you can't perfectly and instantaneously simulate the situation they're in. That said, I think giving them exactly two minutes to hash out tactics is more than generous, so at the two minute mark, turn to player A and say: "You've had discussion time. What are you going to do?"

Give that player ten more seconds (and let them know beforehand what you're doing): if they don't say something in that ten seconds, their character is paralyzed by indecision for the round. Do this in whatever order makes sense for your game (highest initiative, for example) for each player in turn.

That gives them two minutes to argue, and ten seconds to decide, individually, what their character is going to do. (Also, this is only for the first round; on subsequent rounds, skip the discussion but give the individual players a little more time, say, 30 seconds each.)

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Unless they have a choice of when to engage I wouldn't even give them two minutes. When dealing with experienced players I play it that when your turn comes around you can either ask for clarification on the situation or state an action, if you don't promptly do one of the two I simply assign you a delay action. –  Loren Pechtel Aug 13 '13 at 18:54
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