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The situation takes place in an online Pathfinder 2 community. Here everybody has PCs and can play on any session with a level that more or less matches the level of one of his PCs. A handful of those persons are also GMs and organize the sessions (by vocal+a VTT). There are guidelines about many aspects of the games (like the amount of xp per session so that each encounter is worth a certain amount of xp depending on its difficulty).

The problem I encounter is that when I have the most ancient members of the community as players on my games, they tend to behave like they were the gamemaster, and have expectations that the game is run as they would run it, which can be more or less troublesome. For example:

  • They ask other player for checks

  • They correct me by quoting the rules of the book when I want to enforce rule of cool

  • They look at the monster's stats to correct me on how they work in the middle of a fight

  • They are bad sports when I correct them about a rule they got wrong

  • They grumble about the amount of xp I give to them because they think the combat encounters are worth more

Outside of those games, they are nice people, but the more I play with them as players, the worse it gets. What can I do? I don't have any issue with the other players on this community.

There are similarities with this question but as here I am in the GM position, and it is an online roleplaying community, I think it is worth a different question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems odd to me that these players can quote the rulebook well when it benefits them, yet simultaneously fail to accurately calculate XP totals and sometimes get rules "wrong." If they have been playing the game system for many more years than you have, I suspect that they are "mansplaining" their methods to you instead of trusting your abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – eyecosahedron Sep 18 '20 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @eyecosahedron they actually not quote the rulebook only when it benefits them, and our dissension about the amount of xp is more complex than "I am right and they don't know how to count". It seems that they indeed don't trust my abilities to balance a combat encounter. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Sep 20 '20 at 20:52
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Communicate.

The only way to solve this kind of problem is to communicate with the people who are giving you trouble. You should do this one-on-one, not during a session. Give them respect and demand it for yourself. A few pointers.

Assume they mean well... mostly.

A fair amount of these trespasses could be well-intentioned. These players are veterans of the site and veteran GMs. They probably see you as someone who would benefit from their "help." So when they prompt other players for checks or quote the rules to you or check monster stats, they probably think they're being helpful. This sense they have that they know better than you then feeds into the less well-meaning trespasses, like grumbling about XP, but the mindset you want when talking to them is that they mean well. Assuming positive intent on their part will temper your own manner and make it less likely that they get defensive.

Make it clear why it is a problem.

Their behavior has several effects on you and your game, and you should tell them in no uncertain terms what those effects are. First, it slows things down. Second, it interferes with your development and improvement as a GM. Third, it confuses other players as to who exactly is running the game. Fourth, it interrupts you and forces you to concentrate on something other than telling a good story and moving the game forward. It takes you out of the moment and puts you in the wrong mindset to run the game. They might not realize this, so explain it to them clearly. This is a good point to ask them to think about how they would react if players acted this way in one of their games.

Firmly assert your right to run your sessions the way you see fit.

The Pathfinder rulebook is clear--the GM is the final arbiter of all the rules and if a rule isn't what's best for the game, then the rule can be ignored, or fudged, or altered. On the fly. Whenever you, the GM, wants. Raising a rules question is fine. Arguing about it with the GM is not and it won't be accepted.

Make this clear: monster stats are not set in stone. This has been true since the first Monster Manual in the 1970s.

As for monster stats, modifying monsters to throw players a curve is as old as the role-playing game hobby. Gary Gygax himself modified monsters from their Monster Manual stats in official modules. Two examples: Tomb of Horrors (a 4-armed gargoyle) and Against the Giants (a white black pudding that could blend with snow). Tell them that your monsters will not always conform to the exact Bestiary stats and there is nothing in the rules that says they have to. They should not get hung up on what the monster's stats are "supposed" to be. That's meta-gaming anyway.

Recognize that they have something to offer.

Assuming you'd like to play with these guys again, you should acknowledge their experience and the fact that you value it. But they should know that you need to develop as a GM yourself and you cannot do that if they're chiming in all the time. Recognize that they can help but then ask them to please refrain unless you ask for their help. Once in a while during play, throw them a bone: "Hey, Mike, you know the rules backward and forward, what's the roll for identifying this item again?"

End on a note that is positive but firm.

You want to leave things on a positive note. You're part of an online community and you don't want enemies in it. Emphasize how much you enjoy playing with them, both as player and GM. Tell them that you value their experience and their time on the site. Tell them that you hope they can live with how things need to be during the sessions that you run because you would hate to lose them.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @ITAlex I wasn't responding to anything regarding intent. I too provide input to my DM in the game I play in from the perspective of a fellow DM. I was merely responding to the "in their game it would be inappropriate, because they don't get many thing wrong" comment. I don't think the assumption that a more experience DM makes questioning the rules inappropriate it a good one. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 14 '20 at 13:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ITAlex Also, regarding my expertise comment. I meant that in comparison to systems like Pathfinder 1e, D&D 3.5 or other more established game systems. Where the extent of the rules and the level of general game mastery is obviously higher due to exposure. But we have left the point I was trying to make anyway. I will be cleaning up these comments. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 14 '20 at 13:32
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I’m DMing a game with a couple of players who also DM and are more experienced than me (one DMs for another game with 3 of the other players in my group). I’m fairly new to DMing, and to 5e (which is what we’re playing). We’re playing online due to Covid.

They‘ve been great at not overstepping their role, so I’ve not had much problems with the group, but I did set some ground rules with them at the start, which they were very amenable to.

  • I made it clear I appreciated their input, but...
  • I asked them to give me feedback outside the sessions, rather than during, unless I’m just forgetting something (shouldn’t the orc have taken their turn... doh.) or completely breaking things.
  • I did said they were free to remind us if we forgot someone should have advantage etc - actually I’m very happy for any player to do that.
  • I said that I may change some monster stats a bit, so not to rely on them being as they might expect. (I usually roll HP for a group of monsters so some go down easy or hard; I sometimes mess around with their equipment or AC a bit to make specialist or captain ones)
  • I take a fairly laid back approach - if someone recommends that a roll is needed, or suggests a different skill, I’m happy with suggestions, though I’ll make the decision.

One mistake I made was that I encouraged them to help describe class options for other new players who were struggling to work it all out in session 0. Because they had experience and could talk from memory, it was much better than me reading from the books. However, one player was uncomfortable and felt they had too much input in that session, so I probably wouldn’t take that approach again.

One other issue I have got is that they’ve done a much better job with backstory than the other players, which means they’ve got more hooks in their characters. I suspect their experience as DMs has influenced that. It’s not a bad thing, but as it’s made it easier for me to work with their characters, I have to remember to put more effort in to get the other characters as involved and as much screen time in the plot.

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Just Talk to Them

I have never played Pathfinder 2, but I will assume that the question could be universal to all TTRPGs. What I would do would be to pull the players in question aside one-on-one and express your concerns. Chances are they don't realize that they are doing this, and it is just a reflex from years of playing as a GM. You say they are nice people outside of the session, so I'm sure it's not malevolent in any way.

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Communicate your expectations better

If they quote the rulebook and you don’t want the rules from the rulebook to apply you need to make clear what rules do apply. A lot of people expect something along the lines of ‘if I do X then Y will happen’, and game rules are where people get these expectations from when playing a game. When you intentionally deviate from that, make clear that you are doing that otherwise people familiar with the rules may easily assume you’re mistaken. A DM can be mistaken. The DM is the master of the rules and can change them if it suits the needs of the game, but a DM is not infallible. If players expect something and something else happens this can be very frustrating, so if people have questions or complaints that indicate that this is the case you need to sit down and talk about how you run the game and how you expect them to play it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I am fairly confident that this doesn't apply here. The specific case I refer to is that at some point one of the players wanted to charge a monster that was running away. The PC was on the top of a small cliff and the monster was at the bottom of it, further away. I asked for an Acrobatics check for the character to be able to jump down the cliff without slowing down his chase, and at that point the player quoted me the book said if a check was made then it would take him one more action and the whole thing was impossible. \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Oct 3 '20 at 22:59

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