One of the issues any GM must deal with at some time or another is cheating. While fudging is a time-honored practice amongst some GMs, the same rarely holds true for the other side of the screen. There are many ways in which a player can outright cheat, even beyond pretending that the 5 they rolled on a d20 was really a 15.
Cheating can certainly have a negative impact on a campaign. I’ve seen what would’ve been challenging encounters easily overcome through cheating, other players getting frustrated by a cheating player (at times to the point of leaving), and additional stress on GMs trying to minimize cheating. To take one example, I had a player that loved to “glance” at my notes. If my headings were too descriptive she’d gain an advantage. For a time, I had to put my notes in code and ensure that they were sufficiently hidden. It was definitely a PITA.
Some of the cheating I’ve encountered over the years include peeking at the GM’s notes, “forgetting” to add or subtract dice roll modifiers, reading a copy of the adventure being run, adding abilities to a PC beyond what they should have (hey, where did that extra skill/feat/advantage/power come from?), and using metagame knowledge that their PC doesn’t know.
Some forms of cheating are more acceptable than others. I’m more likely to forgive the occasional modifier “miscalculation” than someone peeking at my adventure when I leave the table. I’m also lucky that my regular group is made up of mature players (read “old enough to remember seeing Star Wars in the theater the first time around”) and that they rarely cheat. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that I felt the need to cut down on cheating.
Over the years I’ve seen many ways to deal with cheating. They run the gamut from “not giving a crap” to “screw you cheaters, I’m going home!” Here are a few “in between” solutions I’ve seen or implemented:
1. Dice roll verification: One player rolls the dice while another reads the result.
2. Say your modifiers before the roll or they don’t count.
3. Make everyone use giant dice (I bought one from Chessex at the last Gen Con as a joke; one of my players and GM for another group immediately wanted to purchase a bunch for his game).
4. Copies of PCs are given to the GM. If it’s not on the GM’s copy, it doesn’t exist.
5. Checking the math on a newly created PC.
6. Taking your materials with you when using the bathroom or going to the kitchen (or turning on the laptop password).
These are just a few examples; I’m sure this list would be three times the size if I thought about it a bit more. Note that these methods take a passive approach; rather than calling out the cheater specifically, a rule is imposed on everyone at the table.
Today’s Hot Button is this: How do you handle cheating in your games? Are certain kinds of cheating more tolerable than others? Do you tend to take the “passive” approach or do you deal with cheaters directly? Have you ever walked away from a game due to cheating?