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I'm a GM for this group of players playing Pathfinder 2e, and we're playing an adventure where they are supposed to be city guards. Now, one of the players is taking it to an extreme level of seriousness which, while in theme with the adventure, is in contrast with the others, who are a bit more light-hearted (some much more light-hearted).

A couple examples to understand the opposites: one of the most light-hearted players is playing a character that, while being a guard, doesn't really have any business being a guard. No attitude, no mindset, no competence, and the serious player kinda has an issue with that (I suspect both in and out-of-game, but IDK).

On the other hand the serious player, while trying to get an idea about how to infiltrate a possible crime scene, thinks of any possibility (even becoming stuck on speculations or random details) and can take an entire session just thinking about how to do a thing (possibly without even doing it because of the repercussions that may happen)

Now we're having an asynchronous conversation to try and see each other's point, and while I'm trying to suggest each player to act in moderation, I don't know if that will work. In that case, what could I do about it?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What system are you playing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 10 at 10:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ You tagged your question "social contract" - do you have one? What kind of discussions did you have before you started play? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 10 at 10:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu We agreed to try and not make this a comic campaign, being a bit light-hearted is okay tho, and even the most light-hearted players are not making it THAT difficult to play IMO. Sure, sometimes you could look at them from the outside and think "Really? These are city guards?" but in the end they do their job in a sufficient manner. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Sep 10 at 11:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Snakehelm many systems have inbuilt solutions to problems. And suggesting something that would work at a d&d table often doesn't work at a freeform table. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Sep 10 at 11:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu This isn't a system-related problem though. I want to focus on player's relationships with one another, not solve the in-game puzzle. Maybe there's something I'm not seeing, and in that case some examples would help. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Sep 10 at 12:38
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The first thing to do is talk to the players. They should both be made to agree that minor compromises for the sake of everyone having fun. If everyone fights everything that you do, it won't be as fun.

Serious vs light guards is common

One book series I find very inspirational when talking about guards is Colon and Nobbs from Terry Pratchett.

Sergeant Fred Colon and Corporal Nobby Nobbs of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch. Colon is depicted as a large, fat man walking with his hands behind his back, while Nobby is a small, ugly, figure walking with his hands clasped together as if scheming.

They steal from their office, they aren't good fighters, they make rude and silly jokes, they take food bribes from lots of people for their service. They are high on the silly end of silly.

But, they also have their ears to the ground. People appreciate their silly nature and don't find them scary as guards. They tell them everything. Several times they save the day with their unassuming natures.

Likewise, Hot Fuzz is a famous and similar example.

Work with your light player to find a backstory for them that works to help immersion. A lot of guards are incompetent and have bad attitudes, but still manage to get the job done when it counts. Work out why the silly one is more valuable than other guards. That way, they'll look a bit more serious without them compromising their personality.

Have reasonable timelimits on ooc actions, and reward bold and decisive action

People spending forever planning is a serious character flaw. If the serious player is doing that, then have it be a thing in story. If they can't make a decision in a reasonable period of time, then ask the lighter player what they are doing, and roll with their plan. Let the serious player spend ages planning, while the other players get stuff done.

Make sure your world isn't so unforgiving that a quickly made up plan will fail, and roll with it. The casual attitude of the lighter player can help solve the problems, and make them useful.

This will encourage them to delay less, as the other players are getting fun scenes while they think.

Talk to the player about spotlight time

As you said, they like thinking a lot and spending a long time planning. Which is fine. But do remind them, there are other players who like to do things, and spending the entire session focusing on solely their concerns isn't fun for the other players. So talk to them.

Say something like "I know you are having fun, but what you are doing is making it less fun for the rest of us. Could you this session hang back more so that others can get a chance to play their characters. It's not that we don't like your character, but we want a chance to play our characters and NPCs as well." And if they chose to keep spending entire sessions focusing the spotlight on their character, you know they're not willing to compromise.

If they want to spend five minutes plotting, that's fine, but that's five minutes of their time in the spotlight. Other players should get a chance to play out their characters after and you should get to use your NPCs, who don't care about planning as much.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I knew something about the game would have popped out. But it's not related to Pathfinder in particular, it's not about critical failures and whatnot, it's more about hypothetical consequences. Like: "what if we infiltrate the wrong way? What if we get caught? What if we get attacked on the crime scene?" and so on. But IMHO you can't act thinking like this. Let me get it straight: it's good to be prepared, but if you think the opponent is a deity every single time, you won't get anywhere. And even if the game WAS the main problem, I already told the players I'm not out for blood. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Sep 10 at 19:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those questions are about systems expectations. How hard is the skill check? Does doing extensive background prep change the skill check? How much time will it take to handle being caught? Do they have to worry about exactly how they hide equipment? There's lots of system specific details they need to consider. It helps a lot if you can reassure the players. "You're competent heroes, they're random NPCs. It's a pretty easy skill check to do this, and the skill check won't change if you think for a session." \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 11 at 8:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree, you could ask these questions with every system. Damn, you could ask them in real life, and they'd make sense. I don't know how to convey the message, maybe I'm not able to, but the system IS NOT the problem, skill checks and whatnot were not even required. Just trust me on this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Sep 11 at 11:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not saying you're making the system a problem for them, but that doesn't mean it's not a problem in their head. As you said, they're treating every enemy like a deity. Have you talked to the player in question and checked if they are paranoid about the game difficulty, or system specific details? \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 13 at 23:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I added a clarification on how to talk to them about spotlight time. As DM, you should be enforcing that all characters get a chance to do things, and the other players presumably don't find it fun spending an entire session on what one player enjoys, planning. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    Sep 15 at 9:54

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