Handling Cheating

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Heh - funny that a thread entitled "Handling Cheating" is the first one in the General Dating Tips board here on April 1...


#1 1st offense:
"No cheating in this game."

#2 2nd offense:
"You're out."

In serious cases I might go straight to #2.

Edit: I expect all rolls to be witnessed; an unwitnessed roll doesn't count. I guess I have a zero-tolerance policy; I don't want players tempted to cheat. So I don't recall it ever being an issue.
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First Post
One player of mine does it on occasion because she underestimates her own skill. I tend to snark at it. For example pointing out to her that unlike her, I don't need glasses to see at a distance, and I can read the number on top of her dice without leaning over to look at it. So unless they changed the meaning of the number 3 to 19 lately I'm not buying it.

...Or sometimes I'm a bit kinder and point out that despite having failed this attack they're still probably going to succeed at whatever they're doing, and that she really doesn't need to cheat to do it, and should be more confident.


First Post
I have had a number of cheaters in my games over the years. They've cheated for several different reasons.

In an official setting, like a tournament or RPGA, I think booting them immediately is appropriate. That's just a no-no. But for a home game, which should be friends, I think you have to take a slightly slower approach.

Rolling all dice out in the open can solve some problems. Unfortunately, it doesn't always do the trick because I've seen people blatantly lie about a die roll that others have seen. (One of the cheaters was rolling where another player could clearly see and just assumed the other player would never say anything. I know because I talked to the player sitting next to the cheater at the end of the session.)

The first real step is talking to the person you suspect of cheating. You need to decide based on their personality and yours whether this should be in person, on the phone, or in an e-mail. This talk should NOT be in front of the whole gaming group, nor in a few moments pulled away where it's obvious to the social group. That would be just backing the cheater into the corner.

Lay out what's going on. "Bob, you're rolling 20s about one time in three all session long. That's just not statistically possible." "Bob, you've been clearly seen rolling low and then claim it's high." "Bob, you used more healing potions last session than I've given out all campaign." (That last one actually happened to me as a GM.)

Give the person a chance. Some people may not know that cheating isn't allowed. One player I had commonly played video games in god mode and didn't think for a moment that fudging their die rolls was any different; it helped them enjoy the game more, so that was okay. (Though not okay with me.)

If the cheating continues and you want to give the person a chance, then it's time to up the response. (You can try a second conversation if you want. Decide based on your own impressions of the first conversation.) I tend to start responding to high rolls or other signs of cheating with, "Really?" I give them a moment each time to think about it. I've never had anyone back down at that point, but I've seen it make them aware that we're all aware of what's going on.

(You can skip the previous paragraph if the person is not a friend, is otherwise someone you're fine with quickly getting rid of, or if the first conversation went very badly.)

Then if it continues, you boot them from the group.

But why do these people cheat? I admit, in some cases I simply don't know. In a lot of the cases I've seen, it's because the person is either emotionally immature or has another factor going on where they just cannot stand the idea of "losing", so they have to cheat. I've also seen someone get their own self worth so wrapped up in the game (mostly because they had nothing else in their life that was giving them any self worth), that any hint of not doing well was more than they could handle.

I've also seen people cheat because they think other people at the table are cheating. (Which can also be caused simply by someone having a better character or playing it better so that it makes the cheater feel less powerful.) Some people also cheat because they think the GM is out to get them and that's their only defense.

And every once in a while, I've seen someone cheat once because they had a string of really bad die rolls and just couldn't stand to have another one go wrong. It's a moment's frustration and not likely to be a regular thing, and I often just ignore it because I recognize that it's a breaking point thing and keeping the "fun" means just looking the other way this once.

Ultimately, I think cheating at the table is something you have to deal with as a GM, if for no other reason than it's going to suck someone else's fun out of the game, probably yours at least. Ignoring it won't make it go away. It's got to be dealt with head on.

As a side note: I do not roll my GM dice out in the open for most games, though all players at the table roll on the table where visible to others. That's because sometimes the dice get in the way of the story. Plus, some of my dice rolls are supposed to be a surprise, like searching for traps.

On the other hand, years ago I had to implement a magic item card system because people were forgetting what they had and because people were playing very fast and loose with the number of healing potions.


First Post
Personally I don't care. I let my players make their rolls for hit points and even roll their stats without having to be there. It is not just that I trust them it is that I feel if they really want to have an 18 in a stat then go ahead and do it. Doing this I have never seen anyone take so much advantage that they always roll well for their hit points or their stats.

While I am NOT trying to tell you that you're playing wrong, I have to say that I could never let this fly in my own games. The reason is simple: If it's obvious to me, it's obvious to the other players and they can and will react to it. They might enjoy the game less, they might give the cheater grief, they might start cheating themselves. Whatever way it falls, I find it tends to hurt the game in the long run.

Of course, your playgroup and their reactions may vary.


First Post
Kick him out, talk to him, or ignore it.

simple statistics tell me he is either fudging or should consider putting that unbelievable luck to work on the lottery.

There's nothing simple about statistics when it comes to determining whether events are fairly random or not. Unless you've meticulously recorded and studied thousands of his rolls, you don't know anything from the "statistics".


First Post
There's nothing simple about statistics when it comes to determining whether events are fairly random or not. Unless you've meticulously recorded and studied thousands of his rolls, you don't know anything from the "statistics".

1st - Thanks for the tools over the years. I used quartermaster a lot when GMing 4e.

2nd - The use of the phrase "simple statistics" was meant as a bit of alliteration more than implication of actual applied mathematics - which is why observation was listed as a contributing source of suspicion.

I have only a casual recording of the results, but over 50 encounters his initiative result has only been less than 20 once. Over the period in question, his initiative modifier has never been more than +7. Now, it's been years since I had any formal statistics work, but I believe the odds of this feat are well less than .01%

You're right that to achieve statistical certainty, I'm sure I'd need a much more scientific observation and study. If you're particularly sensitive to people misrepresenting statistics, then I apologize. If you were just being pedantic, then I don't apologize, but I still thank you for my first point. :)


First Post
I tell them if they have to cheat to have fun then they are actually losing. We have 1 player in my group that make "amazing" rolls all the time and he does a lot of rolling up for characters as I kill his characters quite often.


You can't cheat in D&D. Cheating implies using illegal methods to gain a competitive advantage, and D&D is a non-competitive game.
Not according to the dictionary:
thefreedictionary said:
1. To deceive by trickery; swindle: cheated customers by overcharging them for purchases.
2. To deprive by trickery; defraud: cheated them of their land.
3. To mislead; fool: illusions that cheat the eye.
4. To elude; escape: cheat death.
1. To act dishonestly; practice fraud.
2. To violate rules deliberately, as in a game.
While some are borderline for some groups (deceive by trickery; mislead; potentially the "cheat death" definition; acting dishonestly), the definition I highlighed most definitely does fit the bill of cheating. By the definition of the word, you most certainly can cheat in D&D. As always, play what you like :)

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