Every game has rules mechanics that encourage or discourage certain types of gaming behaviors. For example, if the only way to gain experience is to kill creatures, even friendly ones, then don't be surprised if your party tends to migrate towards the "murder-hobos" playstyle.
Every DM has house rules or ways to act as a DM, that also encourage/discourage some playstyles or table behaviors.
Here, your DM is at their wit's end, but isn't willing to actually do something "real" about it.
I suggest the following:
Way before the game, present the Murky Mirror (Google AngryGM Murky Mirror) to all of them (group email), and ask their opinion about it. Personal experience with this is that it simplifies the game a lot and avoid tons of problems like: "My Guy Syndrome", "Metagaming", "Hostile Dark Secrets", and "My PC Can Act Like A Jerk, But I'm Not Him, Honest!" all that kind of stuff. Say you think it's a good idea, and anybody not answering is basically reneging on voting on adding (or not adding) the Murky Mirror to the campaign. Since that article is very long, I suggest you copy-paste it and cut it down to only 1 page or, so cutting down anything not absolutely essential, and add the truncated version it in your email using a different font and add (...) for representing each truncated part, plus finally a link to the complete article.
AngryGM has tons of other very useful and interesting articles, but you don't want to swamp your group, that would just create a "TL;DR" situation.
Try to get the email and phones of everybody (maybe from the DM maybe ask then in game). If somebody refuses, tell them there will be a conversation about, and not giving the group a way to contact them outside the game, means they will fully agree and adapt to anything that could eventually be decided, without their input. "Stop with the paranoia, please? You're a part of this group, not standing outside of it, and we value your opinion, you know?" If they ask what's it about: "I'm not quite sure yet. Depends. Anyway we'll make sure to call you for your advice, probably in a few weeks."
After more than enough time for everybody to answer (like, 2 entire weekends), try to meet or phone call or Skype (no email, no text!) to talk to everybody else, one by one, at a moment they have time to give (i.e. if you're busy right now just call me later this evening or tomorrow." (and call them back if they don't). Basically go get their input on the Murky Mirror thing, but quickly phase to the "artificial separation" of you feeling that having a party that is seemingly split between 2 sub-groups of PCs, which act as more or less separate entities, instead of as A true team, and how you think this overall feels like something that is quite detrimental to your enjoyment of the game.
You call the other players, then the problem players, then the DM, in that order. Say that you find the situation problematic and not very fun, and ask them what they think and what they suggest could improve the overall fun and positivism at the gaming table, for everybody, seen as a group. not a group of 2 plus a group of the others. Anything they think they could do or suggest to try to improve the overall "group morale" and team spirit.
The idea here is you being respectful and trying to avoid a situation when you "prejudge" these 2 guys (reasoning: "since I find them not fun, thus they're wrong, thus I don't feel the need to include their opinions on this despite they being directly concerned by it."). Also, avoiding projecting your opinions on the rest of the group: Maybe they don't care as much or exactly like you do, so again thinking "the rest of the group thinks" can create way too easily false dichotomies here. It's not" the rest of the group", like some kind of "us vs. them" group-think. It's each individual in the group (the 2 problematic guys included) having a different opinion. So go get all of those first.
Don't try to "direct" these conversations. Your goal here is not to convince or harass, but just to say (once) you think that you feel a problem, and that you want their opinion on it. Then listen. If they ask what you think or suggest, tell them you're just polling everybody's opinions and ideas, not trying to force your own or influence their own ideas. You're merely "getting the pulse" of the group's wants and opinions, not doing any kind of "preemptive strike massive surgery", here. Take notes.
Keep it very short. If all goes well (i.e. they all answer when you call, and are not busy with something else at the moment - it's important to check that first as you call because you need them at their best mindful availability), then you should be able to do the full "round" of everybody in a single hour, no more. Cut off any conversation that needlessly prolongs if need be. 5 to 15 minutes each, tops. Give more time for the problem players and the DM to really express themselves, if they wish. Allow also more time for you to express yourself to the DM only, if he wishes.
Maybe just talking will solve the problem. With the DM, you can go into more details (after 10 minutes, ask him if he really want to talk longer about this -- you don't want him to feel swamped with and put in the middle of a huge problem). Maybe give him the link to this answer.
In any case, unless you have the full support of the GM from A to Z, you're doomed to fail and have the choice being shutting up or risking adding up a lot more overall resentment and fire on the oil slick.
After all that, beginning of the next game session meeting, with everybody, you put the problem in front of the table and ask for a collective brainstorming, because you feel there are some frictions which reduce the overall fun at the gaming table. Ideally, it is the DM that should start it and then, only if he is somebody that is super bad at diplomacy, he should officially say that you will handle the discussions, and that you both already discussed it and you have his full support in this. Do not do this at the end of a game session with everybody tired and wanting to go home, and able to just leave ignoring the topic, but when everybody is all fresh, when you can have all their attention, and their choice to leave means they're not going to play.
If one of them says "I came here to play, not waste my time with such stupid talks!", anything even resembling that, very early and quickly in the talks, don't push your agenda, but politely say: "Ok, you think such talk are stupid and useless. I respect your opinion. However, I personally don't this so, and I hope you can also respect me as a player, which is exactly the point I'm trying to make with this whole discussion, which is about trying to find ways to behave and respect each other. So, let's vote. Left hand up everybody thinking these talks are important, and right hand up those thinking we should forget about it forever and just play like before." Obviously, if you did your homework properly, all but the 2 guys should vote for your side. "Apparently it seems most people at this gaming table think solving this issue is important. So yeah we will solve it and play afterwards, because 2 players aren't more important than an entire group of 6 people." If they decide to leave then, they're assholes, and any group is better off without them.
Put emphasis on the fact that it's important for everybody to have fun at any gaming table. Way more important that "My Guy syndrome". For example, maybe it's quite logical in their head for their characters to not have healed the tank. But it should be obvious even to them that saying that the tank isn't important enough to be healed, that means they are actively insulting him. Which is detrimental to the group harmony and cohesion, both inside and outside the game. However, the personality of their characters is decided by them. It's not a holy book falling from the sky that can be used to stomp on the fun of others. It is their responsibility, as players, to adjust their PCs and even outright modify their PCs, in order to make sure that everybody at the table is having fun, not just them.
If they feel that they have much more mastery and experience, then it should be obvious that they also need to be the leaders in making sure that everybody else feels included. Everybody comes playing to have fun. So if there is a conflict between respecting a PC's personality, and ruining the fun of others, to you it is obvious which one should go to the garbage can. Making mistakes here and there is ok, but if a player's intent is actually to have fun at the expense of the fun of others, of actually excluding others, you don't feel that this is acceptable gaming behavior in an adult. If a player actually dislikes another player, then they should talk about it, try to reach some common ground. Definitely not use their PC's behavior and actions in order to punish of avoid the PC of other player. The PCs do not have to be best friends, but that should be something fully agreed upon between the two players in order to enhance their roleplay. Any hostility (or completely refraining to help when asked) should be approved first as being something fun by the very target of the conflict. Otherwise, it's acting like a jerk around the gaming table, and this has no place at this gaming table. Not anymore.
Ideally, in all this, it should not be a "we (the rest of the group) find you guilty, repent of go away!" aka "us vs them" mentality. That id just asking for things to deteriorate, a lot. Instead, treat it more like a family trying to solve it's problem, help each other find new ways to understand each other.
The DM has to actually implement some new house rules that will encourage the gaming table behavior that he likes, and that will discourages those behaviors that he dislikes. And he has to apply them fairly to everybody.
The DM begins each point by telling why he thinks a house rule is needed.
- (1A) Slowing the game down - Making the DM repeat himself:
I want to encourage actually strongly following what is happening in the game. I'm tired of always repeating myself.
We'll just use the Murky Mirror. A round is only 6 seconds. In the middle of combat, unless you're really paying attention, that's just crazy short.
So, if a player is not following the action, then his PC is also not following it, too, and the PC gets just as lost as his player. The excuse "But my PC is as high level hero" is not good. High level doesn't mean perfect like a godlike computer. That super genius wizard that also gives super-wise advice, he can be somebody that is quite absent minded, and so on. so, if you want your PC to act perfect, then you better be perfect as a player, too. After all, you drive your PC, he's not an independent entity. This means try to cut down on all the side table tangents and just try to follow the main action of the game, ok?
Even when it's not your turn! Especially when it's not your turn! This game is a social game based on acting as a team, and if you do something that isn't fun for others, then you're not a team player. Anybody not able to actively and seriously follow and silently listen attentively to what is occurring with other PCs, without interrupting for at least 10 minutes, is basically saying to the rest of the gaming table: I think only my PC is important, and I don't care at all about any of you!" which is being very rude and, frankly, socially speaking, that's being a jerk, so I expect nobody is going to do that.
From now on, if a player asks "What is going on", and I already did share that info, then his action for his current turn (or his next turn, if he does that in a turn that is not his turn), will automatically be an active Wisdom (Perception) check. No movement, no interact with an object, nothing. He keeps only his Reaction, but can't Ready an Action.
If he succeeds that Perception check, then yes I repeat myself, and he will get that information on his surroundings, plus he can ask one question on the surroundings he can perceive (depending no his roll), but only if he's quick about it. If he fails the check, he gets only the most basic information that affects his character the most, or nothing at all, and can't ask a question.
Oh, and if he delays or refuses making the check, then he auto-fails and gets zero info, he just loses his turn. Next!
I can also opt to just retell the info again without asking for a active Perception check. Consider yourself lucky, then.
Note that if at that very instant, the character is dangling on a rope over a pit of lava and needed to "grab the rope" to avoid falling, well, his Perception will let him see very clearly that he should have been paying attention, right?
Similarly, if a pit trap opens under the entire group, and instead of rolling his Dex Save like everybody is asked to do, the player just says "Huh? What's going on?" Gee whiz, that Save becomes an automatic failure. You play your character, what he sees and hears leads to what he does, and all of it is you the player; he's not a remote-controlled puppet.
Basically, if your PC dies because you weren't paying attention, that's no bad blood on my part! It was all just your own fault, really. Just pay better attention to the game, ok? Because if you aren't even interested in following the game, then why are you even here, at all?
Out of combat, the duration will be longer that a single round. Instead of allowing a chance to repeat, I'll just impose silence on the player for 5 minutes instead. This should be enough to let him catch again the flow of the action. And silence means no talking to the player next to you, too.
- (1B) Slowing the game down - Arguing with the DM:
I am the DM, not the players. My job is to deal with the rules and the flow of the game, and I use the rules to make a good game, but I am in no way obligated to follow them. They're more like guidelines, really. Your jobs as players is much simpler: roleplay your character in a way that makes it fun for the entire gaming table, not just for you.
Basically, I don't want to DM a game full of rules arguments. That's no fun. So if a player gets annoyed or contradictory with me, hes trying to do the DM's job instead of a player's job. That'd be crazy, right? So, from now, Murky Mirror: if that happens, his PC gets Stunned for 1 full round. He's babbling about how reality should work this or that way, instead of focusing on what really happened. Two type of Stun: until the beginning of his next turn, or until the end of his next turn. Basically he will always lose a full round's worth of actions: Actions + Movements + Bonus + Object Interaction + Reaction.
A player is allowed to very politely ask about a rule, in a "trying to help the DM which seems a little bit lost on a rule here". Once. But anything more than and that's arguing and I'll use the stun hammer.
Outside of combat (or other high speed adrenaline filled events), that "insanity" will last longer. Again, typically 5 minutes of silence.
The player can, before I say "6 seconds", ask to make an Active Perception check so I will resolve the exact same way as before.
- (1C) Slowing the game down - Taking too long to decide on your action:
I think a slow pace reduces the overall fun and amount of actions done in the game session. So I'll discourage tasking too much time to decide your actions.
From now on, you really have to realize that a round is only 6 seconds long. I'll adopt the Murky Mirror, so if the player hesitates too much, so does his character. If you want your PC to know all of his powers by heart, then you the player also need to learn them by heart, too.
When I think a player is taking too long to decide what to do, I will say "6 seconds!" (we can choose another quick keyword as long as it's something short clear and always the same). The player must them immediately describe his action, or will lose his round's worth of actions (but not his Reaction, but can't Ready an Action).
If even with the earning he still takes too much time, I just do a very quick recap of the general situation, replacing his entire turn with giving him an active Wisdom (Perception) check, as described above.
- (2) Losing a sense of cohesion - Group Morale & Team Spirit:
If I start a campaign that said "You are all a group of dwarves from the same fortress! There is this huge war with the elves going on, too." and then a player joins, either at the start or later, but insists on playing an elf and ignoring said war, well, such a is really not respecting the campaign table much, ain't he?
I as a DM presented this campaign as being one in which the group follows, and is loyal to, this order. You guys really have to roleplay this, at least a little bit. This is a campaign prerequisite. I'm willing to ignore past actions, but from now on, try to act the part at least a little bit.
I'll make it clearer: I will give a 7th score to each of you: Karma.
Everybody starts at 12: the minimum expected value of putting forth the precepts of your order and teammates happiness.
Following and being loyal to your order's precepts, and favoring actions good for team morale and feelings, translate into higher Karma. The opposite translates into lower Karma. The GM might adjust the Karma of any PC at any time, usually by increasing or lowering by 1 (or 2 points for the really big ones), "towards" the value that he thinks (in his head) the player and/or his character are displaying.
Example: refusing to heal the tank while also saying it's for "keeping it for somebody more important" is basically saying to the other player: "You're not important!" That kind of rudeness definitely deserves a -drop in 2 Karma (unless he was already quite low, then -1 is sufficient).
Remember: Murky Mirror! Whatever the player does, the PC does the equivalent. And whatever the player makes their PC say or do, applies to the player, too. If you make your PC act like a jerk to the other PCs, then the player is acting like a jerk to the other players.
It is important to note that gaining/losing karma is not based only on the "karmatic" actions themselves, but also on the already existing score. Doing something good for karma when you already have a 16 in Karma score, is just that much harder to accomplish. doing something bad to worsen your karma when it's already at 6, is similarly quite hard to do. A Karma of 20 means basically a PC that always puts the precepts of his order and of well-being and happiness of his teammates first, 100% to the detriment of his own interests and happiness, 100% of the time. Think giving everything you have to your church and friends, That is just impossible. Same for selfish behaviors. Most players should end up with a Karma between 8 and 16, with maybe one or two our slightly out of that range.
Karma needs to be "constantly supported". Every level-up, Karma will move by 1 points towards a score value of 10 (i.e. a neutral stance, putting as much importance on the order and teammates, as on one self) (clearly your 2 guys act more like something like 8 Karma).
At the beginning of each game session, one after another, everybody rolls a karma check DC 10, clearly stating their Karma modifier before rolling (otherwise it's an instant failure). Success means the character start that game session with Inspiration (or whatever "heroic" mechanic exists in the campaign), failure means he starts without it.
Sometimes the DM will also ask for a Karma Check with some DC, optionally stating why he asks that roll. Just add the Ability modifier from your Karma. Success means getting the relevant benefit or successfully avoiding the relevant penalty.
Basically, the players can play however they want. But the DM is perfectly entitled to encourage what he finds "fun" behaviors that support the campaign style he's trying to run, and disfavor opposite behaviors.
The DM really has to put his pants on here.
whenever the DM says out loud "Focus!", it means: stop with your bickering/arguing/wasting time, Right now. Focus on making progress on the main story events. It's a dire warning to stop diddling around.
Players that ignore the warning, or follow it only for a short while and start again and again and again, i.e. repeated offenses can stack up, then the offending players get some penalty. It could again be the stay silent for X minutes. I had a group of 6 players and I used "you 2, you're too disruptive and don't follow the game, so you go into the living room until I call you back (we played in the kitchen). Your PCs are in "do absolutely nothing mode, not even defend themselves effectively". Well, they'll just roleplay with each other, since you seemed to want to do that so much instead of following the main action, so you 2 go do that until it's out of your system. And if a fight breaks out, I called them back only after they took some damage.
When its only 1 player, force silence even for 5 minutes, for an outspoken player this can seem like extreme punishment. For 2+ players getting too disruptive because sidetracked, it's obvious their little RP session is more important to them than the game, so let them go and do that. If you count XP, give them a tiny bit less, and if they ask why: "Why do you ask? I had to make you go into timeout mode because you were being disruptive, do you sincerely think I should reward that kind of behavior?"
Other players may also say Focus!, as a friendly reminder (i.e. without real consequences) to do the same thing. Here it's more like saying: "I feel we are getting sidetracked, let's focus on the main story events please!"
And if they whine about finding the game boring, just tell them:
It's the first time you say the game is boring. It's noted. Don't think the game is boring because things didn't didn't go your way. Are your characters actually whining like this every time things don't go like they wanted? You decided what to do, going contrary to what the rest of the group wanted, so you have only yourself to blame. If you find that boring, then it's you who are boring. You're certainly not adding any fun to the gaming table right now.
It's the second time you say the game is boring. I'm starting to think you're not really into this campaign, guys. you job is to roleplay your character in a way that adds fun for the entire gaming table and right now you're definitely not doing that. Tell you what, instead of focusing on your boring resentment, try to add to the fun, focus also on what the others are doing, and next time there is a plan, don't always try to control the decisions, sometimes let them decide how to do it.
It's the third time you say the game is boring. That's it, third strike, I've had enough. You have no fun being here, and I have no fun with all that whining. Pick up your stuff and go home, and think seriously about what kind of positive contribution you'll be willing to add to the gaming environment next game. I'd be sad to lose you guys, but I can't accept that kind of poisonous gaming table behavior anymore. They say we're sorry, we're sorry. Don't say you're sorry to me, say it to them (points the other players). Ok, but that was your last chance.
It's the fourth time you say the game is boring. Enough is enough. Sorry doesn't cut it anymore. Not for tonight, I'm just too tired. So, for tonight, just go home. (they whine some more) I just told you I'm too tired for this kind of sit anymore. Now, either you are sorry and leave silently for tonight without making any more trouble, or it's a permanent ban from the entire campaign that you will get.
Then: Good evening, I really wish you'd try to think about how you could improve, and good night. I'm sure you can do it.
Personally I really prefer big groups, like, 5 or even 6 players.
But I'd rather play with 3 good players, than with 6 players but with 2 of them acting like self-entitled asocial misfits.
If a DM doesn't take responsibility to really direct and enforce good behaviors, then he is basically the same as a kindergarten teacher that lets them do what they wish without consequences. In real life, this very soon leads to daily chaos and bad stuff. why would a gaming table be different? Maturity and respect aren't ingrained, they must be learned, and without any clear incentive to, players lacking these basic social skills will never learn.
Basically, you see that whenever somebody acts like a jerk or does something I don't want to see in this campaign, wham, you lose. Note that is is always both the player ad his PC that get punished at the same time. in a campaign, one doesn't exist without the other, and they share the same fate.
Without actual in-game house-rules to encourage/discourage specific behaviors with clear results, this is like a cop running after a bandit, equipped only with a whistle, and only allowed to say, "Stop or I will shout 'Stop' again!"
You want to tame them? Then make it super clear that bad actions have bad consequences.
Otherwise, without actual consequences, it's all good and nice to try to add some focus and discipline, but you're ending up just shooting with blanks.
Now, they will probably object to all of the above. tell them: Ok, I'm willing to admit that you're more than mature enough to realize that you need to improve, and from now on will provide a better experience for the other players at the gaming table. But if I don't see a dramatic improvement, not just for a few games but for every game, then it means that you really need help with these things, so if that occurs, I'm going to use the house rules. Not to punish you but to help you. I'm not adding rocket science stuff here, I'm merely doing this one this: gaming table behavior is social behavior. These are very basic behaviors that you as a person should already master. So, I'll let you prove it, otherwise I'll be forced to use this "bad things results in bad consequences". You two aren't the only players around the gaming table and it's time you realize that.
Basically, silk smooth glove (politeness, respect, take their inputs), over an iron fist (do not budge on the importance to change).
Heck, I've seen a DM saying:
"Bob, you constantly argue with the rules, constantly fire up conflicting roleplaying situations with the other PCs without their player's approval, which evidently you seem to be the only one finding interesting and fun. Basically, frankly, sometimes you tend to act a bit like a jerk. Well, I'm not having fun with this constant bickering. So, say you're sorry, and stop doing that. Not just for 1 hour, but for every game session." Then later a "final warning". Then "Ok, Bob, enough is enough. This game session is over for you, as of right now. Go home. Think about your behavior at the gaming table. Next game, decide if you want to come back and say you're sorry. If you try to plead with me right now, this will turn into a permanent ban instead. Just go home and think deeply about what kind of gaming environment you really want to promote. Sorry to cut your gaming session short, but I won't tolerate any more of it here."
It's the DM's game. He has to put some firm limits, or else it's normal that some players will trample all over them.