Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cheating — in a pen-and-paper RPG? For real?

I ran across an offhanded reference recently to cheating in RPGs that stopped me dead in my tracks.

Cheating? In a pen-and-paper RPG? For realz? This is only, like, the complete antithesis of roleplaying itself.

I’m not talking about GMs fudging a few numbers here and there. That’s part of the social buy-in that we all sign up for at the outset of the game. No, I’m talking about a player changing the damage bonus on his sword, or neglecting to keep track of ammo in games where that matters, or “misremembering” his toughness save during the heat of the battle. Does this stuff happen?


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it does. I've seen it happen more than once, though luckily it's not common.

Also, some folks consider metagame thinking to be cheating. I know I do, but I also know others who disagree so it's not a big deal ;)

jamused said...

I'd guess that it only occurs in games where the challenge of "can we beat X?" is an important component...or at least it would look very different in, say, a story-oriented game. After all, what would count as "cheating" if the players were all concerned with constructing a satisfying recap narrative? Hogging the spotlight, maybe?

I don't think I've ever seen it, myself, in any players older than about ten.

PatrickWR said...

I have anecdotal evidence about a hyper-competitive subgroup of D&D players for whom cheating might be worth considering, if they knew they could get away with it. Note to self: avoid these players like the plague.

Storyteller said...

I've seen it happen before, more often then I'd like to actually. I've called players out on it before, or have seen other players call them out on it. "Oh, I misread the die" is usually a good cop out. It gets pretty sad.

If someone's rolling poorly in a battle, or simply can't keep up with the tank's damage, its common that they're going to start getting worried and frusturated.

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Suffering leads to cheating.

Oz said...

I have seen it.

Another player, who I knew was a bit weird, rolled a number that was anything-but-20 (I think it was a 5) on his dice, and said "Ooh critical threat", picked it up, and went to roll again.

I said "No it wasn't!", and instead of denying it, he non-chalantly said "Oh, ok then" as if I'd caught him for some tiny thing, and said that the attack would have missed.

This guy is an idiot, and I stopped playing with them shortly afterwards (for other reasons) but this sticks in my head.

Brent said...

Yup, it's happened to me.

Best thing is to react appropriately--be astonished at the time. Even say, "Why did you say it was a 20 when it was a 5?" or some such.

Michael said...

There must be a market for this stuff, because because both Chessex and Koplow sell cheater dice in different versions.

Full dice sets with no "1's" and two of the highest number (e.g. d20s number 2-19 w/ 2 20s. Never roll a one again). Weighted 6-siders for character building so you roll more 18s.

Search for cheater dice on'll find some sets.

Oddysey said...

I was in a group for a while with a guy who never had a character with an ability score below 14. Maybe he was just lucky, but the group consensus was, yeah, he was cheating. No one really cared because our games always ended up being more about sneaking around, arguing with NPCs, and doing dumb stuff than pure combat statistics.

And I've had a player admit to me that he fudged an attack roll, after a string of low rolls, but again -- didn't particularly care, because they game wasn't that serious.

Oz said...

(different Oz than above)

Over the years I've seen it to various degrees. While I think anyone can make an honest mistake in the heat of battle, there have been players whose dice get suspiciously lucky if no one else is able to read them.

While I generally trust my players, I still occasionally verify rolls at random just to keep things honest.

Anonymous said...

I've effectively done it without knowing. One night we couldnt find any dice so my brother picked up a set of D6 my dad had kicking about for me. We rolled up our characters and had a great nights gaming. We done so well with those dice that I took them on as my 'lucky dice'.

It wasn't until 2 years later when someone noticed that I almost never rolled a 1 with them that we became suspicious. It turns out they were cheap weighted dice. They were that cheap though that they didn't work every time so it fooled us for longer.

Anonymous said...

It's only cheating if you get caught. No, no... I kid. It's only cheating if someone cares... yeah, that's more like it.

In general it doesn't really matter to me, unless someone is rolling crits every time or something. We're all there to have fun, no money is changing hands over these rolls so... *shrug*.

Now... there was this one guy who claimed he always rolled 2 d20s for luck, and that he knew which was which cause he was colorblind and and tell the difference between the two red dice... the sheer audacity of it always baffled the rest of us. And the guy who was GM at the time pretty much just marginalized the importance of any roll he ever made.

.o. said...

Yes, often. I've seen it mostly in character creation (I always regularly doublecheck my players' character sheets now), but also occasionally with die rolling (quickly scooping it after rolling).