Wednesday, April 27, 2011

From Under A Rock - Cheating Fairly

We've all been there. You really want your hero to hit that taunting orc but you just keep having bad dice today. What do you do about it?

Well you could roll the die and cheat or you could roll the die, look the DM straight in the eyes and say (without looking at the die result) that you hit the orc. 

It is an impassioned plea to the DM to allow you to hit the orc. As a DM, I would much rather my players do the later than the former. One is cheating but what is the other? 

Is it fair? Is it cheating? Is there a way to cheat fairly?

The DM sometimes fudges rolls, usually in the favor of the player. Sorry guys but we do this a lot. So what happens when  you do it?

Well a few things actually.

If you cheat on your rolls the DM uses the inflated results as a baseline for creating encounters. So while you may be rolling a 28 every time even with your 8 roll on your die at +2 to your skill you really are only hurting yourself and your party because the DM will want to balance out the encounters for your ability. 

When this happens the party faces a big problem because they are not equipped to handle such an encounter. So yeah you're there and your dice fudging might save the day but what happens when you aren't there? Total Party Kill? It's possible. 

Secondly, the DM will eventually catch you cheating. Sure you use those micro dice but you have your buddies sitting next to you and they see what you roll. Also, many DMs I've gamed with have a good memory for numbers and can do some basic calculations in their head to figure out your chances. If you hit every time and you have a +2 to your weapon then they will catch on. Even if they don't catch on, however, you still endanger your party.

So what if I really want to hit? Well you could roll the die and look the DM in the eye and say "I hit!" and hopefully if it isn't a boss fight and you really just need a success then they will let it happen. After all, the game is about heroes and heroes sometimes need the luck to overcome odds. Just remember that when you cheat you not only cheat yourself but you cheat your friends as well. 


  1. When I used to DM way back in the day, it got to the point that the dice became pretty irrelevant to me. I did whatever needed to be done to keep the flow of the game going and everyone moving along happily and within reason.

  2. I am all about the story myself Andrew but I do enjoy the chance of the die. See DMs really do fudge dice. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I dislike the idea there's cheating on the part of players. I can understand the pressure as a result of the emotional investment, but as a player I'd still rather stay true to the trust and intentions and take what comes.

    Fudging as a GM is a slightly different kettle of fish, in that the GM makes likely makes all kinds of arbitrary decisions before and during a game, even without knowing it perhaps, and many for the sake of narrative, for a good game meeting the expectations of the players. Is there any real difference between that and a fudged roll? I'm not advocating fudging, but a GM bumping up or knocking down a number could contribute to the fun when kept to an absolute minimum. That said, it could also clearly become a corrupting influence, with the GM being unwilling to make tough decisions and everyone's appreciation of the drama suffering.

    Also, if we do accept the idea the GM is able to fiddle for the sake of narrative, a Pandora's box opens - why not allow the players to do it too, as a minimum through a little negotiation on certain rolls where this is likely to result in more fun? Games exist with greater or lesser involvement on the part of the players in creating the story, and with more or less randomness. This shared creation could be what the group wants.

    And I'd say that's the key, the awareness of all members of what's going on. If the GM is open about fudging and discusses the potential - without necessarily naming the instances in-game or ever - the players can give their thoughts and express their expectations. I'd say this kind of discussion brings more satisfaction too, to all sides, with everything out in the open and all views heard.

    On the whole, honesty is probably the best policy, as in so many other areas of life.

  4. @ Porky - "Also, if we do accept the idea the GM is able to fiddle for the sake of narrative, a Pandora's box opens - why not allow the players to do it too, as a minimum through a little negotiation on certain rolls where this is likely to result in more fun? "

    It's interesting that you bring that up. There are some games that actually allow for a fudge system. I tend to like to roll my dice in front of the players at all times except when they really need to be kept in the dark about the 'exact' nature of a trap or other nasty thing. IE: "You feel OK about the trap" if you rolled really badly you might not think you feel so OK but well you rolled badly and it's my job to make sure that you do not get the ability use the fact that your player knows what the character doesn't.

    Games such as Pathfinder use Action Points (Hero Points) and such to allow fudging of dice or reroll of dice. I find these methods work the best. Would you guys agree that cheating really does mess up a game for everyone involved and especially so when a player does it or a power-hungry DM (not going to be a DM for long) does it?

  5. I have a player who fudges on occasion. It really bugs me. My attack dice are rolled out in the open and are there for all to see. Fair and square. he tends to roll dice into a pile of other dice and tends to roll very, very well.

    I've taken to reducing his number successes by as much as half. I could confront him, but I really don't see the point. He pads his rolls so I bad the bad guys and all is even.

    Still, it is frustrating.

  6. I like the idea of having 'luck points' or some such, that a player can use to add to a roll, or to just make something happen, as long as it isn't something like "I shoot my crossbow over my shoulder as i run around the corner, aiming for the guy's wine glass: I want it to drop and spill before the bolt ricochets up to the chandelier, severing the chain so it will drop and bind the guy in place". But simple action: sure.

    But it should be understood that there is a trade off: you use it, and the universe will balance that out: something against the character, sometime. ;)

    And just allowing for logic. Long ago I was in a campaign and our characters were running from a mobster type, who sent 10 henchmen with crossbows after us. They may have been zero-level, and our AC might have been high, but there was no doubt that 10 of them with the drop on us, crossbows leveled were going to murder us, no rolls needed if we simply tried to run.

    That's the kind of situation where you have to play the game, not the game mechanics. The cheating or pleading falls under that I think: much preferable to plead your case and see if it fits the GMs understanding of what would happen.