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  1. #1
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    Everybody Cheats?

    Gary Alan Fine's early survey of role-playing games found that everybody cheated. But the definition of what cheating is when it applies to role-playing games differs from other uses of the term. Does everyone really cheat in RPGs?
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    Yes, Everybody

    Gary Alan Fine's work, Shared Fantasy, came to the following conclusion:

    Perhaps surprisingly, cheating in fantasy role-playing games is extremely common--almost everyone cheats and this dishonesty is implicitly condoned in most situation. The large majority of interviewees admitted to cheating, and in the games I played, I cheated as well.

    Fine makes it a point of clarify that cheating doesn't carry quite the same implications in role-playing as it does in other games:

    Since FRP players are not competing against each other, but are cooperating, cheating does not have the same effect on the game balance. For example, a player who cheats in claiming that he has rolled a high number while his character is fighting a dragon or alien spaceship not only helps himself, but also his party, since any member of the party might be killed. Thus the players have little incentive to prevent this cheating.

    The interesting thing about cheating is that if everyone cheats, parity is maintained among the group. But when cheating is rampant, any player who adheres slavishly to die-roll results has "bad luck" with the dice. Cheating takes place in a variety of ways involving dice (the variable component PCs can't control), such as saying the dice is cocked, illegible, someone bumped the table, it rolled off a book or dice tray, etc.

    Why Cheat?

    One of the challenges with early D&D is that co-creator Gary Gygax's design used rarity to make things difficult. This form of design reasoned that the odds against certain die rolls justified making powerful character builds rare, and it all began with character creation.

    Character creation was originally 3d6 for each attribute, full stop. With the advent of computers, players could automate this rolling process by rapidly randomizing thousands of characters until they got the combination of numbers they wanted. These numbers dictated the PC's class (paladins, for example, required a very strict set of high attributes). Psionics too, in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, required a specific set of attributes that made it possible to spontaneously manifest psionic powers. Later forms of character generation introduced character choice: 4d6 assigned to certain attributes, a point buy system, etc. But in the early incarnations of the game, it was in the player's interest, if she wanted to play a paladin or to play a psionic, to roll a lot -- or just cheat (using the dice pictured above).

    Game masters have a phrase for cheating known as "fudging" a roll; the concept of fudging means the game master may ignore a roll for or against PCs if it doesn't fit the kind of game he's trying to create. PCs can be given extra chances to reroll, or the roll could be interpreted differently. This "fudging" happens in an ebb and flow as the GM determines the difficulty and if the die rolls support the narrative.

    GM screens were used as a reference tool with relevant charts and to prevent players from seeing maps and notes. But they also helped make it easier for GMs to fudge rolls. A poll on RPG.net shows that over 90% of GMs fudged rolls behind the screen.

    Cheating Is the Rule

    One of Fifth Edition's innovations was adopting a common form of cheating -- the reroll -- by creating advantage. PCs now have rules encouraging them to roll the dice twice, something they've been doing for decades with the right excuse.

    When it comes to cheating, it seems like we've all been doing it. But given that we're all working together to have a good time, is it really cheating?

    Mike "Talien" Tresca is a freelance game columnist, author, communicator, and a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to http://amazon.com. You can follow him at Patreon.
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  2. #2
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    In answer to the last question: yes, it's still cheating. When you're the guy following the dice results and you're watching your team mates hogging all the glory with their dice that just 'happen' to always roll well, that does indeed suck.

    As for the question of whether everybody cheats...

    I make no secret of the fact that there is one (and only one) roll on which I'll cheat - hit point rolls. I went almost a decade during which I never rolled higher than a '1' for hit points for any PC I was running, and while playing a character with a weakness can be fun briefly, running a succession of characters all with exactly the same weakness really isn't. So if a DM insists on rolled hit points, I'll cheat.

    I wouldn't be surprised if almost everybody has some scenarios under which they'll cheat, whether it's hit point rolls as above, or if their character is one roll away from death, or whatever. There's probably someone out there who never cheats, but I strongly suspect they're rare enough for us to say everyone cheats.

  3. #3
    I cheat because I care.

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    I never cheat, so this is a bit surprising to me. I never cheated as a player, and I have stopped fudging dice rolls as a DM in the last few years.

    I feel that you rob yourself of fun by cheating. It takes away a lot of the excitement and drama that comes with failure. So I make it a point to always make my rolls out in the open, where everyone can witness my misfortune.
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  5. #5
    I guess it depends on the definition of cheating for some of this stuff.

    If the game you play has rules that say that you may ignore the dice roll in certain circumstances then you are not violating a rule if you ignore a dice roll in the allowed circumstances. Imo it's not cheating to comply with the rules, it's cheating to violate the rules.

    In rpgs dice are much more an assistant than a director as they are in board games

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    One advantage of playing on a VTT is dice cheating becomes extremely rare. You can't really fudge dice when everything is 100% rolled in the open, there are logs saved of all die rolls and all dice are electronically generated. So, no, I'm not sure we can categorically say that everyone cheats. Over the years, it's become extremely rare that I'll change anything that was randomly generated at the table.

    I find that the game works much, much better when this sort of thing gets left by the wayside.
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    Sounds like a but of cheating losers who want to be heroes of the article.

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    I don't cheat, and I found the article's claims to be absurd. Not everyone cheats, and when someone cheats in a cooperative game like D&D it still harms the experience.
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  9. #9
    I have to say, this article seems a bit ridiculous. I don't cheat as a player, and only rarely fudge rolls as a DM. If everyone cheats, then the game becomes completely meaningless.

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    I don't cheat, and I don't fudge, period.
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