Why People Cheat
Cheating is prevalent in all aspects of life. School, sports, investing etc. DnD is no different.
Psychological studies show that people will cheat in permissive environments where there is a reward. One study involved people taking a test, self grading, and collecting money based on their correct answers. People were more likely to cheat if the person next to them cheated, or if they were able to shred their tests and then report their results. Ultimately, people are constantly making risk-reward calculations on cheating based on the benefits of cheating, and the risk that they will get caught. Stopping "crimes of opportunity" by removing the opportunity is often the easiest way to deter cheating.
But DnD has no real rewards?
Although there are no monetary rewards for cheating in DnD, there are many personal reasons why someone might cheat.
- Cognitive Dissonance
Players are heavily invested in their character and the perception of them. Perhaps a player is a cunning rogue, and they roll low on a lock pick check. The player might experience a cognitive dissonance where they rationalize their cheating by increasing their dice roll because their Rogue is "supposed to be good at lock picking". Players might also cheat to get attention from the other players. One example of attention seeking comes from Critical roll, where a certain player would get incredibly high rolls at the end of the combat so they would get the killing blow on the BBEG.
Types of Cheating
- Convenient "forgetfulness"
A player may routinely forget rules that are inconvenient to him/her. This type of cheating has plausible deniability because everyone forgets things from time to time. Some examples of this are forgetting negative status effects like "blinded" or how many spell slots they've used. I find the easiest way to fix this type of stuff is create a Damage and Effects chart for combat encounters. Not only does it help keep track of damage and initiative, it has a third column for tracking effects, spells or anything else the DM sees fit. Taking away the deniability of convenient forgetfulness will drastically reduce this type of cheating.
- Fudging Dice Rolls
- Fudging Dice: This is probably the most talked about form of cheating. There are numerous ways someone can fudge a dice roll. They can hide dice rolls, change rolls that no-one sees, or roll pre-emptively then state what their intended action is. The easiest way to fix this dice fudging issue is to have everyone roll publicly using a dice parser on discord. Also, the DM should only accept dice rolls that he/she has asked for beforehand.
- Dubious Stats: I've had someone come to me with two characters and their lowest dice roll was a 16. Maybe it was real, but that is incredibly unlikely. Have players roll stats in front of you, or use a system like standard array or point-buy to prevent character creation cheating.
- Side Note: I believe DMs should be held to the same standards as their players when it comes to rolls. The DM should roll publicly and state the reason for the rolls as well. Players try to 'railroad' the adventure by 'fixing' their bad rolls, and it's just as bad if a DM tries to do it too. Players can easily tell when monsters suddenly miss every attack after the combat was clearly too hard. There are other ways to fix these solutions, and fudging dice rolls should not be in the DM's repertoire.
- Loose interpretation of Rules
- Incorrect description of spells: Players will sometimes leave out the negative effects of their spell, or fail to mention key parts of how a spell works. It is totally okay to say "hey, Dave, can you read that spell out loud for me?" The DM should not be responsible for knowing all the rules in the game. It can slow the game a little, but DnD beyond has a search function to easily find spells. You can even ask another player you trust to help out the "issue player" by checking their spells and special abilities.
- Reading Ahead: In Curse of Strahd, the adventurers get a Tarot card reading that influences major plot elements of the story. If a player reads the "DM Only" pieces of information and then uses that information, they are blatantly cheating. Confronting them and changing key parts of the story that the issue player spoils is the quick fix.
- Outside Knowledge of Creatures: People use Trolls and their weakness to fire/acid often when talking about metagaming, but I find that to be a pretty weak example. There are many myths and stories that adventurers have heard, so I tend to air on the side of generosity when a player thinks they would know certain characteristics of a creature. However, if they saw a gibbering mouther and stated "It has AC 9 and only moves 10ft, so we should just kite it" I'll consider it cheating. I can guarantee you that Gibbering Mouther will move 30ft the next turn.
- It's one thing to HAVE metagaming information, the real issue is USING it and allowing it to detract from the play experience of everyone at the table.
How to Confront the Player
**Treat your Player like they are a normal person**
- Confront the player alone: Give them the benefit of the doubt, and don't assign blame. Let them know that you want to play an authentic game of DnD and that you want them to have fun moments while also playing by the rules.
- Call them out publicly and honestly: before the game starts, give the player a reminder to let other players take the lead if they know an answer to a puzzle. If they continue to cause problems, state something along the lines of "Dave, when you do X, it makes me feel Y, and I need you to Z" example- "Dave, when you spoil the story, it makes me feel like my story won't be as climatic for everyone else. I need you to let others take the lead if you've read this campaign before.
- Remove from the Game: Many of us DMs don't have an infinite number of players who we can hangout with. Other times, the problem player is a friend or a friend of a friend. Ultimately a cheater is trying to play a certain type of game. As the DM, you set the style of game. Approach the player and explain how your DM style and their adventure style don't match and it's best that you each play with groups that fit your respective styles.
- How to deal with fudging rolls in discord?
- How to deal with someone who is not only cheating, but has fake stats
- Tavern Games
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Why People Cheat in DnD And How to Stop it" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- The Death of a Hero.
- Consulting other DMs
- Crafting an NPC that is a Vampire By Choice, for the Greater Good
- Breaking Anti-Magic Laws: Are my Consequences too Severe? Tips appreciated!
- “I told you to take the wizard’s staff!”. Passive Insight, cooperation, and spellcasting during negotiations and high-stakes social encounters in D&D
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