Cheating at story games

edited September 2011 in Play Advice
Over in another thread, Hans mentioned a Dungeon World game he, Ben, Harry and I played, in which we invited a stranger to play who proceeded to cheat the entire game. Here are sworn affadavits from three of the four witnesses:
Posted By: Hans c-oThe Cleric player was a random dude hanging at the store, and we were totally happy to welcome him into the game. He contributed pretty well to the game, and picked up the rules even though they were smashing his D&D assumptions. Thing is, though, he was cheating on his fucking rolls, and which spells he had Communed for. I only noticed about 3/4 of the way through (as I was GMing, and my mind is always frazzled when I'm GMing), but at least one of the other players noticed, as well. This made me begin to hate him, and dampened my good vibes for the game for the rest of the way through. I had to start watching his rolls, and if I play with him again, I'm just going to openly call him on cheating. I think that's the only way to deal with this.
Posted By: JoelAnd the cheating was just UGH. I started to notice it early but couldn't quite confirm it. He set himself up a little lair at his end of the table where within the terrain of his Magic the Gathering box set and the folds of his playbook you couldn't really see the dice he rolled. It became obvious that he was being deliberately secretive, and he got a lot of hits and a LOT of 10+s. Some we saw and were legit, some were doubtful, and a couple I spotted and there's no WAY he had the bonuses to reach a 7 with that roll. I think the only 6- he got was before he understood what number he needed to hit. And when I innocently examined his spell list (to consider taking a spell for my own advance) I discovered he'd been casting spells he didn't have checked off. It was super-blatant but I didn't know how to say anything without sounding like I was, I dunno, suspiciously peering over his shoulder. Which I guess I was.
Posted By: Ben HsuThe only real issue I had was Mr. Cheaty-Face. Personally, I never noticed him cheating. What I did notice was that he more or less demanded to be the center of attention and refused to help build the narrative between characters. More or less I got the distinct feeling he treated everything like a puzzle as opposed to a story (unless he was in the lime-light of course). It kind of threw me off my game. At the time I'd attributed the whole thing to the fact that old school habits die hard, but the whole cheating thing has put a more sinister spin on things.
The game was at a game store in public; the guy in question (let's call him A) saw us doing something vaguely D&Dish, and asked if he could join. It being a public meetup, we said yes. And then, Cheat: the Cheatening.

So, WTF, right? Jason Morningstar asked "who does this, and why?" Based on my experience with A, I'd say he was guarded, with no small investment in having the upper hand, maintaining the coolness of his character, and just generally never being vulnerable. the whole thing was very calculated'; he rolled a 5 one time and reported it as such, having no idea what that result meant. But then, upon learning he needed a 7+ to hit, he...rolled a 7+ every time, and a 10+ often.And like I said he set up a landscape on his end of the table that nicely obscured die rolls.

The other big question is of course, how to handle it. I think Hans has the right idea, to calmly call him on it when it ha;ppens. That's easy to say...so why didn't we DO it?

I think there's a certain shock that comes with the audacity of the action. You're like, "is he doing that? Really? Who DOES that?" as Jason says. So because it's so hard to believe that it's happening, it's hard to act on it. And then there's the whole social awkwardness of public confrontation with a stranger in the first place.

I do think it's very important to catch someone in the act--the possibility for denial or evasion is too great, unless it's plain as day, the dice still cooling from his hand. He could deny it anyway, but at least the conditions are favorable right there and then for laying bare his lie.

Another way to help this kind of situation is to play very openly on a clear and uncluttered table. We had papers, books, snacks, playbooks, etc. scattered all over the table, and it was very easy for A to stake out his little dicerolling jungle at the corner of the table. I've seen Ross Cowman run AW-esque games with just a single set of dice in an ornate leaf-shaped bowl, which I liked a lot. It cleared the table of fiddly objects and makes a pleasant and intimate space that draws you into play. It also made handing the bowl around sort of a ritual act that focused attention on whoever was doing a Move.

Making space like this is more preventative than...shall we say, punitive. It won't help us catch A (or whoever) in the act, but it just might help create a vibe where cheating is difficult and happens less often.

Thoughts?

Peace,
-Joel
«1

Comments

  • I played Call of Cthulhu at a con once with a guy who cheated, mainly by hiding dice rolls. I had kind of called him on it during the game ("Hey dude, roll out in the open, eh?") but he ignored it. I wanted to kill his character so bad, so of course I attacked him as soon as my character went insane. He cheated by instantly covering the distance to my character (who was shooting at him) and hitting me with his machete. It was a big game so the GM didn't catch it, though afterwards he said he kind of thought the dude was fudging his die rolls.

    I played Apocalypse World with Russ at Go Play and really liked his set up. Having the dice out in the open is definitely the way to go!
  • Right, dice towers, dice throwing box in the center of the table, or passing notes to tell them to stop cheating (if you think saving face is important.) I'm too old to put up with being nice to cheaters. :-)

    For Skype games, I love the Catch Your Hare dice roller.
    --
    TAZ
  • Posted By: Joel
    The other big question is of course, how to handle it. I think Hans has the right idea, to calmly call him on it when it ha;ppens. That's easy tosay...so why didn't we DO it?

    I think there's a certain shock that comes with the audacity of the action. You're like, "is he doing that? Really? Who DOES that?" as Jason says. So because it's so hard to believe that it's happening, it's hard to act on it. And then there's the whole social awkwardness of public confrontation with a stranger in the first place.
    True. I didn't want to disrupt the game (even though he already was), and it's just awkward and confrontational and I avoid confrontation, as a rule. I made it a point, after the game, to publicly resolve to call him out on it if we see him again and it happens again, though. That'll help keep me honest and let others in on what I'm planning on doing.
  • Maybe I'm just an intolerant git, but I simply wouldn't play with this person again. The thing is, I'm normally an advocate of taking the person aside and quietly explaining whatever it is they have done wrong. But in this case there's no question that the guy didn't know what he was doing wrong; you can't accidentally cheat.

    If I were feeling very charitable I'd take him to one side, tell him i know he's cheating and I won't have him in my game unless it stops. One strike and you're out from that point forward.

    But yeah, rolling in the open would be a good way to ensure that the first strike never happens. But you can't enforce it without implicltly revealing you think there may be cheating afoot. Which is fine, as long as rolling in the open isn't at all inconvenient (e.g because people have to reach over to where the transparent bowl of dice rolliness is located); if it is, you can guarantee people will backslide and start rolling in a more convenient location.

    Somebody needs to invent talking dice. That would solve this problem. "I rolled an eight." "No he didn't! I'm showing four! Cheater!"
  • Posted By: rabaliasBut yeah, rolling in the open would be a good way to ensure that the first strike never happens. But you can't enforce it without implicltly revealing you think there may be cheating afoot.
    Well, you could accuse one of the other players -- one that you already know -- of fudging a roll. Really play it up so there's an element of humor to it. "Whoa, whoa, what? An 11? Let me see. ...All right, fine. But I've got my eye on you, mister. In fact, I want to see everyone rolling in the open from now on! You don't like it, blame that guy!"
  • Posted By: rabaliasMaybe I'm just an intolerant git, but I simply wouldn't play with this person again.
    Oh, for sure. Thing is, we have GoPlay PDX meetups in a public game store, with the stated mission to welcome anyone who wants to play. We can't quite ban someone, and I wouldn't want to do that anyway. If he shows up next week, and is in whatever game I'm in, I'll just keep an eye on his rolls, and if he cheats, I'll call him out on it.
  • edited September 2011
    So, I've been thinking a lot about this, because that's what I do: think about games when I'm supposed to be working, and I think the problem isn't just that he cheats, though that is a huge problem. But it's also the easiest to solve, we've had no less then three workable suggestions on how to force him to stop. Joel whispered me two or three more while I was at work. Forcing an open rolling rule is probably the easiest for us to implement. The issue with all of these ideas is that there's always a new way to cheat. Using spells he hasn't marked, not ticking equipment usage properly, "forgetting" to mark off health, etc. The whole thing can rapidly escalate to the point where any game we're playing with him is going to involve all the other players spending all their time keep track of him. That sucks.

    But at the same time we don't want to just kick him out, as Hans said,

    "Thing is, we have GoPlay PDX meetups in a public game store, with the stated mission to welcome anyone who wants to play. We can't quite ban someone, and I wouldn't want to do that anyway. If he shows up next week, and is in whatever game I'm in, I'll just keep an eye on his rolls, and if he cheats, I'll call him out on it."

    I think Jason Morningstar has the crux of the actual problem, "Who does that and why?" The why is the important part. I'm going to admit, I'm an ex-cheater. I cheated at games constantly until about 3 years ago. In fact, this whole thread got me asking my old gaming group about cheating and it turns out we all cheated (which we all mostly knew about), even the guy who I was sure was the only honest one (given his failure rate) cheated. And we all cheated for the same reason: It sucks to lose. And it sucks WORSE to lose due to a random number generator. Watching all your hard work and hours of set-up and planning disappear because you happen to roll a '1' is awful. There's nothing you can do about, the Random Number Gods have dictated you lose, what are you going to do? You cheat, that's what you do, in fact we'd collectively cheat. "Everyone has poured all their resources and power into this final sword strike against the Demon Lord in this final showdown, that's been years in the making, roll the die!" Yeah, we all knew he was going to succeed, it didn't make any sense in our collective heads for whoever was swinging the sword to fail, so if die disagreed, well, the die was wrong wasn't it? And so we got into the habit of cheating when dramatically appropriate, or if you just don't want your character to die due to Random Number Generators, or if someone, ANYONE needed to finally succeed on an Investigation roll to move the goddamn plot forward. But we never cheated when there was newcomer to the group (we couldn't have him thinking it was okay to cheat all the time, just when dramatically needed), and likewise we never cheated if one of us was moving to a new group.

    Which I guess is the major difference between my old gaming buddies and A. To A, the dramatically appropriate time to cheat is always. In his mind, his character is the best of the bunch and should always be doing the coolest most awesomest things in the game, always. And he apparently has no qualms about cheating in front of total strangers (as opposed to a well established group with unspoken rules). This kind of leads me to believe that he's a lot more selfish than our little open gaming nights can handle. But the fundamental reason for his cheating is the same as mine was three years ago: he wants to win, and losing sucks.

    I stopped cheating because I started playing games where losing didn't matter anymore. It is just as fun to flub your roll in an AW game as it is to succeed. Hell if your MC is on a roll that session it's actually MORE fun to flub your rolls (I'm looking at you Hans). When the drama and tension and your character aren't at risk of being lost due to a bad roll, you just stop worrying about it. It's actually quite liberating.

    Yeah, I know everyone is starting to look for a point in this post. So here is my suggestion for dealing with cheaters in our...possibly? unique situation. We, at least for awhile, move away from the D&Dish style of games, even games that are vaguely similar. Switch to games where not only is cheating counter productive, but also impossible. Fiasco for example: How do you cheat in Fiasco? I suppose you can lie about your ending die roll, but that's after the meat of the story has happened, and the round robin narrative style prevents any one character from being a scene hog. Or Microscope, you literally can't cheat in Microscope, or I suppose you CAN, but there is absolutely no point in it.

    At that point A, and anyone else like him, will have two options. Adjust to our particular mindset, as I did, and then he won't really be a problem. Or just stop playing with us because we're not going to play games he likes, and he still won't be a problem.

    Er...just my two cents though...
  • Interesting social problem. Considering the public venue, my own strategy would not necessarily be to confront individual strangers sampling the game. Rather, I'd probably structure the play practice in a manner that makes cheating untenable - clean tables, close enough seating for everybody to see the rolls, commitment from everybody to processing play. This is a lot like the way I play anyway, with no trust issues at all, so it wouldn't be a big deal and it'd pretty much automatically fix this sort of behavior. Of course a guy doing something like this has more deep-rooted issues, but if setting up your play-space to prevent cheating without having to even talk about it works to drive away such problem players, well, that's surely more pleasant for everybody involved.

    Of course the above only has a point if you have an obligation towards openness and think that the player might be redeemable. If he were otherwise incompatible with the game as well, I'd surely drop him by telling him that our play-styles do not match, citing whatever issues I had, cheating included.

    Going the other way, if I had a guy I liked playing with socially but who insisted on cheating... that seems strange, but it's not really that far-fetched when we remember that cheating usually happens because the guy can't handle defeat. If the social chemistry were working otherwise and it was just losing that the guy couldn't handle, I would probably just take it up with the group and arrange for this one guy to get a pass on the rules-system altogether: his character would be handled like a color NPC, with creative input but no game-elements to his participation. This is pretty much what I do when I need to include a pre-teen child on a session, for example: it's really not that difficult to just say yes, allow the child to have his dwarf riding an unicorn, and proceed with play, all with full understanding among the group that anything the dwarf on the unicorn might do in the game would be mostly color and not a way for the other players to short-circuit the pressures set up by the system in play.
  • edited September 2011
    I read this thread, and I keep feeling like I'm reading a thread in another forum, about a wholly different type of games. Eero and Ben said some things which go along my way of thinking, but stop far short of where I'm at (And I am also a big proponent of competitive story games, with zero sum winners too!):

    Unless this game is somehow played in a truly adversarial manner (ala Knights of the Dinner Table), then this guy didn't cheat. This guy couldn't have cheated, and thus didn't.

    Wow, right?

    Of course, he cheated the die rolls, he cheated in the markings, he most importantly cheated in the Social Contract (though this is contingental, and could've just as easily not have occured), but this guy didn't cheat in the other place it mattered - in the game.

    I think along lines similar to Eero (and Ben), it's the "Why". Cheating here, to me, is akin to saying, "I want my character to succeed! I want to succeed!". Cheating can be seen as a condensed and much stronger form of "Lines and Veils" and "Keys". Yes, your character succeeding is what you play the game for, it's what you want to see. The more you cheat, the more you can't tolerate the idea of them not succeeding - and if what you play the game for is to have fun, and this is how you're having fun, then why not just succeed? Why not just let the character succeed?

    Of course, that is why many people who cheat where they don't have to might be doing so: Imagine the player told you guys "I have to succeed in all rolls", he'd be told to "mettle up" and that "losing can be interesting, even more interesting than succeeding." But what if they don't want to fail? And note, it's all still worded in individualistic terms of success and failure, rather than story/group - and as a stranger you also have a more tenuous relation to the rest of the players.

    As Ben intimated above, in story games we have drama points. We can assure victory or get a second chance in many story-games, because it's appropriate, so we can choose when it's appropriate. The difference between using a resource that limits how often you can do it or just fudging and doing it all the time in qualitative on the general level (of making decisions), but on the specific decision level it's not the qualitative difference between cheating and not, but quantative, of having the "Drama Point" or not.

    People keep saying "Who does that? And why?" but let me ask back, "Who are you cheating? How are you cheating them (by doing these things)?"

    And as people said above - if you have to put all this energy to make sure people don't cheat, and cheating matters that much, then perhaps you shouldn't be playing with these people to begin with.
  • "Thing is, we have GoPlay PDX meetups in a public game store, with the stated mission to welcome anyone who wants to play. We can't quite ban someone, and I wouldn't want to do that anyway."

    Oh come on. This is silly and crazy. You really shouldn't worry about being an ostracizer - if you welcome someone (as you did this guy) and then he behaves badly, it's your responsibility as host of the event to eject him and withdraw your welcome to preserve the integrity of your event and make it a good event for everyone else.

    "Welcome everyone" shouldn't also mean "tolerate people after they've worn their welcome out."

  • Are there any ways game design could leveraged to prevent cheating? For example, I can't imagine anyone cheating in a game of Dread - the tower is too much the source of attention. If a game can get people up and hanging on a die roll where everyone is focused on the outcome then cheating (the dice rolls anyway) would be impossible. Fiasco is a good example, all the dice rolled in the middle of the table, everyone interested, and then they remain important while you play. Maybe you only roll each die once and add it to chain of results which remains important through play. Maybe you read the dice like tea leaves, rolling three dice and interpreting which two are closer and which one is farther away. Maybe, like in some games, one player rolls for the whole group so everyone is up and focused on the outcome. Anyway, the results demand interpretation, validation, or examination from the whole group and take away opportunities to cheat.
  • Generally when I'm running a game and I suspect one of the players of cheating on the die roll, then in a friendly manner I'll usually say to everyone at the table something like, "Oh, by the way. I'm sorry if I forgot to mention this before or if some of the players were out of earshot when I think I might have said it earlier, but I'd like to have all the dice rolls out where I can see them, please. Not making any accusations or anything, but it's just one of the rules I have. So, if I can't see the number on the die, it didn't happen and you'll need to reroll. Okay? Thanks, guys." I also elaborate as needed, typically indicating that this also includes edge cases such as the player snatching up the dice a split second after rolling them, etc.
  • Just a tangent that was rolling around in my head last night, in my game chef entry, The Trouble With Rose, you can't cheat because because you have to show your domino to the other players. The same with cards to some extent in games like Fortune's Fool. The GM holds on to the deck and the players can only work with the cards that they have been dealt.

    Back to dice for a second, there's always the table rule of "If I didn't see it, it didn't happen."
    --
    TAZ
  • edited September 2011
    Hey Ben, thanks for that story about you and your group. I especially appreciate you dissecting your experiences cheating in the past.
    Posted By: shreyas"Thing is, we have GoPlay PDX meetups in a public game store, with the stated mission to welcome anyone who wants to play. We can't quite ban someone, and I wouldn't want to do that anyway."

    Oh come on. This is silly and crazy. You really shouldn't worry about being an ostracizer - if you welcome someone (as you did this guy) and then hebehaves badly,it's your responsibility as host of the event to eject him and withdraw your welcome to preserve the integrity of your event and make it a good event for everyone else.

    "Welcome everyone" shouldn't also mean "tolerate people after they've worn their welcome out."

    Right. I suppose if I catch A cheating again, I've been imagining myself talking to him, and if he won't admit it or doesn't seem inclined to change or care, then I'd unwelcome him.
    Posted By: Thunder_God
    Of course, that is why many people who cheat where they don't have to might be doing so: Imagine the player told you guys "I have to succeed in all rolls", he'd be told to "mettle up" and that "losing can be interesting, even more interesting than succeeding." But what if they don't want to fail? And note, it's all still worded in individualistic terms of success and failure, rather than story/group - and as a stranger you also have a more tenuous relation to the rest of the players.
    ...
    People keep saying "Who does that? And why?" but let me ask back, "Who are you cheating? How are you cheatingthem(by doing these things)?"
    I don't know, man. If he told me, "I don't want to fail," I'd just say, "well then, Dungeon World probably isn't the game for you." We're not cheating him by making him play by the rules when he doesn't want to. That insinuation seems really weird to me.

    Posted By: Thunder_God
    Unless this game is somehow played in a truly adversarial manner (ala Knights of the Dinner Table), then this guy didn't cheat. This guy couldn't have cheated, and thus didn't.

    Wow, right?

    Of course, he cheated the die rolls, he cheated in the markings, he most importantly cheated in the Social Contract (though this is contingental, and could've just as easily not have occured), but this guy didn't cheat in the other place it mattered -in the game.
    Yeah, I think you're wrong. He totally cheated in the game (though as you said, more importantly--he broke the social contract). It doesn't matter or not what happened in the game as a result of his cheating, whether it still ended up being dramatic and cool or not. He was circumventing the rules and breaking them. Cheating.
    Posted By: Thunder_GodAs Ben intimated above, in story games we have drama points. We can assure victory or get a second chance in many story-games, because it's appropriate, so we can choose when it's appropriate. The difference between using a resource that limits how often you can do it or just fudging and doing it all the time in qualitative on the general level (of making decisions), but on the specific decision level it's not the qualitative difference between cheating and not, but quantative, of having the "Drama Point" or not.
    I'm confused. Dungeon World doesn't have "drama points", so I don't see how this is relevant to our session.
  • I assume he means there are points in the fiction that could or could not be dramatically important and we often have control over them, though the mechanics help enforce the number and timing of these key moments.
  • Marshall is right, I'm talking in more general terms about "cheating in Story-Games". Story Games often have "Dramatic moment assurances" mechanics, of various sorts, such as drama points, so this whole "I don't want to lose, so I don't" being "problematic" is a bit weird to me.

    And erm, I don't know how you read me as insinuating you guys cheated him...
    The statement was about me reframing the question, from "Why do you cheat in story games? Who does that?" to "What are you cheating others out of if you "cheat"?" - I think he's not really cheating the other players out of anything, the story is the story, and it doesn't really matter if they cheated or not to get what they did - they told the story they wanted, and so did you, so no one has been cheated out of anything, so I question there really being any cheating.

    Now, I'm really not as cavalier about the Social Contract as I sound here, but the reason I'm putting the Social Contract aside here, is that I'm arguing for reasons it can be changed - Social Contracts are malleable after all.

    A point I thought of before posting originally was, how old-school, even "Muy Macho!" is "The dice stand", as in, the dice rule over everyone and everything. And it's another reason I brought up the "Drama points". In general.

    I was waiting for the sort of reply you posted Hans, regarding what you'd have told him, "If you always want to succeed, then perhaps [Game X] is not the game for you."
    Why is it? It's not the same as in WGP.. where losing is more or less hard-coded into the game's early stages, for the triumph later on. It's more about how we perceive the game, and the "Soft Adversarial Role" where the GM tries to challenge the players, to help them grow.

    But if someone doesn't want to be challenged, and this is not real life school or the military, where you may be obligated to help them grow, why try to force it on them? And this gets to what I'm thinking, people who think they have an obligation to help others "grow", or that the "Game says so". It's not really about the other players, it's about them. Social Contract, but what did A cheat anyone out of? Why are A's choices not valid choices for the kind of story he wanted to tell?
  • edited September 2011
    Hey Guy, it seems I misunderstood some of what you were saying. Sorry!
    Posted By: Thunder_God
    But if someone doesn't want to be challenged, and this is not real life school or the military, where you may be obligated to help them grow, why try to force it on them?
    I definitely wouldn't! I just want him to play by the rules of the social contract, which in turn want him to play by the rules of the game. If he doesn't want to play by the rules, then whatevs, that's fine. But I don't want to play with him.
    Posted By: Thunder_God
    I was waiting for the sort of reply you posted Hans, regarding what you'd have told him, "If you always want to succeed, then perhaps [Game X] is not the game for you."
    Why is it?
    Simply because in [Game X], Dungeon World in this case, if you play by the rules, you won't always succeed. If you can't bear to play a game where you don't always succeed, then that's not a good game for you.
  • Of course that sort of thing is cheating, even in a game that is not about winning and losing like Apocalypse World. The other people are there to see the stakes put up and put down by dice, so having a player circumvent all that is at least a waste of their time if nothing else. This is, of course, merely an issue of social contract: if you know that one or more players can't handle this sort of thing due to excess player-character identification or whatever, it's always possible to play something else or have the players in question participate in some different way that doesn't hit them as hard. But meanwhile taking those decisions about the nature of the activity to your own hands without consulting the rest of the group is pretty straightforward cheating insofar as I understand the term. It would be that if the GM were doing it, and it would be that in any activity that depends on participants enacting procedures cooperatively. Might be that the cheater is not aware of such issues, of course, if all of their rpg experience has been in games where cheating is accepted and/or functional.

    Concerning the specific game of Apocalypse World, it's not even near to the sort of freeform storytelling game where one might argue that a single player's desire to avoid losing is a good enough reason to rework the entire game. The game is what it is, and putting the players into choice situations with absolute, rules-mandated risks and consequences is very much part of it. A player who takes up spotlight time but avoids these dramatic crunches, or even obviates the need for other characters to face such challenges, is pretty clearly undermining the agenda of the game. I'm all for above-board choices like relieving an under-age player from putting their character on the line, but then they're not playing the same game anymore, it's something else, being played for some other purpose. It would totally depend on the social context whether I'd get rid of a player who couldn't handle AW if that was what the rest of the group were playing, or whether we'd decide to allow them to hang around while we played - or we might even decide to all move into playing something less stressful, whatever. But in no case would this be some trivial change to arbitrary rules procedures, it'd be a clear abandoning of the game that is Apocalypse World.

    Actually, I would be tempted to discuss things in these terms with the cheater if I ever were in that situation: why do they feel the need to cheat, and is there something we could do to make losing more palatable? Would they rather play something with consensual mechanics? Do they understand how the cheating slows down and confuses the very purposeful play process the other players are trying to enjoy? Who knows, the cheating might not even be habitual, perhaps they're just misunderstanding the game's purpose somehow - like Guy says, the cheater might just feel that the purpose of play is to tell the story he wants to tell and the rules are interfering in that. Could be that this would be felt immensely presumptous by the cheater, though, so maybe it'd be better to just curtly tell them that the game's clearly not working out.
  • edited September 2011
    My friend has a player who is a priest in real life that constantly cheats.

    They make him roll giant sized dice.

    When I participated in Iron GM at Gen Con this year, one of my players used a loaded d20. Every time you roll a natural 20, the table yells banzai and the hosts award the lucky player a d20 necklace. After rolling 20... 17 times... out of 25 or so rolls... everyone knew what was up. It was so obvious that the player became embarrassed. He asked us to stop announcing every time he rolled a 20.
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: Eero TuovinenDo they understand how the cheating slows down and confuses the very purposeful play process the other players are trying to enjoy? Who knows, the cheating might not even be habitual, perhaps they're just misunderstanding the game's purpose somehow - like Guy says, the cheater might just feel that the purpose of play is to tell the story he wants to tell and the rules are interfering in that.
    I read a really interesting answer to the question "Why do some players cheat?" way back when, where an admitted cheater said he fudged his rolls almost entirely when other players were depending on his character. If he was the party's main fighter, any round where he whiffed his to-hit roll was basically a round where he was letting everyone else down; the fight would go on longer, making it more likely that someone else's character was going to bite it. If his character was the best investigator in the group and he was searching the area for clues, he didn't want his character to suck at that because of a lousy roll and leave everyone else with no interesting information to follow up on. If it was just his own personal stakes on the line or he was going head-to-head against another player, he said that he felt like he was cheating if he didn't let the roll stand as-is...but the moment that someone else at the table was relying on his roll, he felt pressured to succeed and would start fudging his rolls to make that happen.

    At the time, I thought it was just an interesting take on the social contract ("not letting the party down" as a tacit requirement of a Good Player), but I think there are probably other underlying elements to it. Pacing, for example: the fight that drags on too long, the failed search check that means there are no useful clues to act upon, those are terrible things that can happen in a game and no one really enjoys experiencing them. When the difference between "terrible" and "fun" gets abstracted down to a single die roll, cheating the roll becomes a real temptation, and becomes a way for players to exercise some additional control over the game experience.


    That said, I think there are better ways of dealing with the actual problem; if one shitty roll can ruin a scene or a game, then the preferred answer shouldn't be "...so be sure and fudge that die roll every time." I'd rather stick with systems where scene- or game-ruining failures aren't even an option (a search check, no matter how lousy, always provides a useful clue; losing a fight doesn't leave someone with nothing to do until their new character can be created and introduced into the game), or where players have additional resources to guarantee successes when they feel it's vitally important. I have a particular love for games where failures are genuinely interesting and fun, giving characters as much to do as a success would, or sometimes even MORE to do (although I'm not sure that can be easily built into a system; I've really only seen it happen when the people deciding the results of a failure are very creative and very aware of what will appeal most to the player of the character who just failed).
  • edited September 2011
    I've had cheaters in con games for as long as I've gone to cons. Hell, I had someone cheat in a Pokethulu game at RinCon last year. Pretty blatant too. I never, ever call them on it, I just give them what they want and move on to the rest of the group. What problem does it cause, after all? In most games, it doesn't actually cause a problem, and in a con/one-shot setting, the benefit to confrontation is negligible.

    In some games, that are more PvP ish, it might cause a problem, though. I should note I know nothing of Dungeon World.
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: jenskotMy friend has a player who is apriest in real lifethat constantly cheats.

    They make him roll giant sized dice.

    When I participated in Iron GM at Gen Con this year, one of my players used a loaded d20. Every time you roll a natural 20, the table yells banzai and the hosts award the lucky player a d20 necklace. After rolling 20... 17 times... out of 25 or so rolls... everyone knew what was up. It was so obvious that the player became embarrassed. He asked us to stop announcing every time he rolled a 20.
    I hereby nominate this post for the "best answer ever" prize.

    Ahem. Anyway. In response to the discussion about "is it really cheating though", I think this raises an interesting game philosophical point, and I'd tend to agree that in the abstract it isn't necessarily harmful if it isn't disrupting the key processes of the game, e.g. it isn't a competitive game.

    However. The fact is that (a) the group isn't comfortable with it, (b) the guy in question is unlikely to believe it's ok to cheat even though he is doing it, (c) not addressing it fails to address an instance of social contract-breaking (at the very least if you decide it's ok, you need to have some kind of conversation to acknowledge that fact), (d) it's an open game, so every time someone new joins in there's fresh potential for them to be peeved at the cheating... I feel I could go on, but I won't. I firmly believe that you can't allow consistent and blatant covert cheating to go on. If you want to say "since it doesn't really matter, go ahead and fudge die rolls" then fine, but it has to be out in the open.
  • Well, sure, if the guy keeps coming back and coming back and coming back, that might cause more of a problem than just a dude sitting down to play something on a whim at a public thing.

    I mean, is this a game/group where you expect the same group to be playing the same thing over and over again? I didn't get that impression.
  • edited September 2011
    AAH! like, 8 more posts have flown by while I typed this! EDIT: OK, more like 5, and they look more or less on track. Whew!

    OK, OK, before we go any further, some ground rules for the thread:

    1) Tell Your Own Story. We share our own experiences, including telling about a time when cheating happened, sharing techniques we've used for preventing cheating or upholding social contract, and so forth. Feel free to say what you FEEL about others' statements, but not what those statements ARE. ("I feel threatened" vs. "that's an attack.")

    Do not: Tell others' story for them, including telling them what they SHOULD do (try "this has worked for me" instead!), telling them how to interpret their own ideas and experience. "Silly," "crazy" and "wrong," for instance, are off the table.

    2) Ask a Question. Please ask questions if you're not sure what someone means or think they might be saying something you object to. Ask respectfully, with the aim of understanding them better.

    Do not: Interrogate or demand "proof." This is about moving toward clarity, not putting people on trial.

    3) Interpret Generously. Assume the best possible intent from others' statements.

    Do not: Assume you know motives, exploit others' generosity, hide behind a shield of plausible deniability.

    From here on out, please post accordingly. I'll issue gentle reminders if anyone gets off track from the guidelines. I'll only ask you to leave the thread if you persist or insist in flouting them. Thanks!

    Peace,
    -Joel

    PS These are really my rules for all discussions that I start on the internet ever; maybe I should start posting them to my Story Games threads up front.
  • Posted By: JDCorley
    I mean, is this a game/group where you expect the same group to be playing the same thing over and over again? I didn't get that impression.
    Nope. It's a regular meet up at a game store, organized by Joel. A regularish crew commits to bringing and running games, with the intention to have fun playing games together and maybe introduce new people to new things. It's open to the public.

    I ran Dungeon World this week, but I won't be running it next week, if I'm there at all. Or if I did run Dungeon World next week, it would be another one-shot with whomever wanted to join in.
  • So! On the subject of:

    Who is he cheating, really?

    Well, he's cheating all of us. Not by "winning" or "beating us" or anything, but by throwing off the dynamic of the game. Entering into Apocalypse World OR Dungeon World means taking on the assumption that we're all going to say incredibly cool and badass things all the time, and that occasionally those badass things will succeed spectacularly and occasionally they'll flounder disastrously. It's not so much about fairness for me, but about a feel of play. And that feel was terribly off with this guy just strolling around doing whatever (another part of the dynamic is having limited options that are sometimes painful to choose from) and having it always work.

    And yes, I did get to tell my story...but it was a story about vying for dominance and it was muddied up by this guy getting his way all the time. It did get pretty PVP by the end, and while I could accept that my guy was probably going to die, having mister 10+ on hand meant I couldn't even get a decent shot at my goal. It was blegh.

    Welcoming the guy:

    I, as the main facilitator of the game night, have no intention of welcoming this guy (or anyone) again and again despite his unacceptable behavior. The general policy I've evolved is, we welcome anybody ONCE. If there's problem behavior, we'll address it to their face, and if they don't adjust, we'll ask them to leave. So far we haven't had to ask anyone to leave. There was one player who we would have almost surely had to ask if they''d kept coming, but they just disappeared.

    We've had one player with behavior issues which I addressed to their face. I had it in mind to ask them to leave if it happened again, but despite not receiving my complaint well in the moment, the behavior actually improved? The person has continued to be a more and more pleasant person to play with.

    Ideally, Hans or I would have addressed this new guy's behavior right away. I think several things prevented us: first, as I said, the shock and disbelief. It was hard to believe it was happening, even as we watched it. Second, a confusion of responsibility--is it my job to speak up as the organizer, or Hans' as the GM's? Looking back over this and past instances, it seems to me that I generally need a bit of reflection before I am confident in approaching a problem player. This means having to wait until a second incident and bring it up then, which can cause an issue to drag on.

    Incidentally, we DO have the expectation that he'll be around again; after the game he picked up on the fact that we meet weekly and not only indicated that he'd be back next time, but started talking as if he was "one of us" in a way that I found sort of uncomfortable and intrusive--up to and including assuming a say in planning and organizing the meetup.

    Making Space:

    My experience with Ross making space at his AW table enlightened me; it's about more than preventing cheating--that's a wonderful probable side effect. It's about creating a play environment.that has the kind of energy and focus you want. I found that a clear, clean table with a single set of dice passing around relaxes us and gets us all in the story-weaving mood, and puts intense focus on each player in turn, 'cuz when they roll for a Move, man, you KNOW it. As Eero said, you can do this without signalling that you have deep trust issues or anything, and I plan to go forward joyfully with this technique!

    Also, as Ben brought up, choice of game can have a lot to do with making the space we want. Having a game that was a tribute to the game this guy had invested a lot of knowledge in (including knowledge of how to exploit it) clearly helped facilitate his coming into the game with all kinds of dysfunctional baggage and techniques. Not that D&D and similar games ARE dysfunctional, but if you've learned to be a dick within that framework, then playing in a similar framework gives you home court advantage, as it were.

    Playing games that operate on much different principles may serve to A) shape the social contract of the table toward the play most of our players enjoy, and B) expose any fundamental disconnects between how this guy plays games and how we play at the meetup. It'll be interesting to find out!

    Coming up next:

    My OWN urges to cheat! Stay tuned!

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited September 2011
    Right, Hans, then the correct answer is "let him cheat, shrug shoulders, move on to next thing next time".
  • Posted By: JoelWell, he's cheating all of us. Not by "winning" or "beating us" or anything, but by throwing off the dynamic of the game. Entering into Apocalypse World OR Dungeon World means taking on the assumption that we're all going to say incredibly cool and badass things all the time, and that occasionally those badass things will succeed spectacularly and occasionally they'll flounder disastrously. It's not so much about fairness for me, but about a feel of play.
    What?! You have feelings?! This is not something I was informed of before.

    Just kidding, but in all seriousness, I assume that he was cheating because that created the feel for the game he wanted, so this is still a wash.
    Posted By: JoelIt did get pretty PVP by the end, and while I could accept that my guy was probably going to die, having mister 10+ on hand meant I couldn't even get a decent shot at my goal. It was blegh.
    This is way different than just a "feel". This is not a feeling, this is a goal that you can't get because of the cheating. Just like the other guy sneaking another rook on the board in chess, you can't beat him if he's cheating and if you need to beat him to get what you want from the game, then cheating is hugely problematic immediately.

    It's not your feelings that are at issue, or his! He had good feelings from cheating, good, positive feelings, warm happy feelings of getting what he wanted from the situation. Even vicious unfeeling monsters like me don't take those feelings away without getting something concrete in return.
  • Posted By: JDCorleyThis is way different than just a "feel". This is not a feeling, this is agoalthat you can't get because of the cheating. Just like the other guy sneaking another rook on the board in chess, you can't beat him if he's cheating and if you need to beat him to get what you want from the game, then cheating is hugely problematic immediately.

    It's not your feelings that are at issue, or his!
    Thread rules, man. Don't tell me what my experiences is or what it means. Ask me questions about my experience, or share your own experience.

    I'll go ahead and volunteer some info, anyhow: once the opposing goals came out, things did indeed change. The cheating mattered on a whole new level, now. But it mattered before that too. My talk about the feel of play is based on that--from the first moment I thought I maybe saw a different number on the dice than the one he reported, I had this feeling unease and disappointment, that had NOTHING to do with whether I could best him in PVP. it had everything to do with A) the assumed social dynamic at the table (i.e. we don't flat-out lie to each other merely because it's convenient), and B) the feel of play.
    Posted By: JDCorleyJust kidding, but in all seriousness, I assume that he was cheating because that created the feel for the game he wanted, so this is still a wash.
    Posted By: JDCorleyHe had good feelings from cheating, good, positive feelings, warm happy feelings of getting what he wanted from the situation. Even vicious unfeeling monsters like me don't take those feelings away without getting something concrete in return.
    I'm curious what you mean by these two statements. How is it a wash? Do you mean like, "you're going a feel, and he's going for a feel, so it's a stalemate?" Or what?

    What are you implying about "getting something concrete in return?" Working out the math of your sentence, it looks like "He's got to get something concrete in return for giving up the good feelings from cheating." Is that what you're saying?

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: JoelHow is it a wash? Do you mean like, "you're going a feel, and he's going for a feel, so it's a stalemate?" Or what?
    Right, you're going in thinking "it'll be so badass if THIS happens" and he's going in thinking "it'll be so badass if THAT happens", and that's just a matter of taste, nobody can resolve that.

    Does Dungeon World work if everyone rolls 10+ all the time, or if one person gets unaccountably lucky and rolls 10+ all the time? (I don't know anything about it.)

    Like, what's different about the experience you had from an experience of sitting next to someone who is just super-lucky?

    Does DW just fall apart for you if you're next to a lucky person?

    Before you noticed he was cheating, did you think the game was going well? Did it have the right feel for you? Do you think he thought the game had the wrong feel when he was cheating? Sounds to me like he liked it!

    (It's why I don't play poker, I'm okay at poker but I can't draw the cards. "If Jason is betting," my friends say sagely, "he is bluffing." And they are always right.

    It doesn't make poker a bad game, it just means that the role of luck in it is not right for my taste.)
    Posted By: JoelWhat are you implying about "getting something concrete in return?"
    Once cheating starts to have a negative effect (i.e. the PVP element becomes impossible/unfair/stacked), then you have something to balance the pleasure it produces against. But most of the time, over one session, in a public forum where anyone can walk up and play, the cheating has no negative effect, or no net negative effect, as with your feelings and his.

    If many players feel the game produces the wrong feeling over several sessions, that is a problem whether it's cheating that produces it, or just someone talking or not talking in a funny voice when it's their turn. Andf if it's a private forum, or a game where people were invited in order to achieve some particular goal, then that's a different thing.
  • Posted By: JDCorley
    Right, you're going in thinking "it'll be so badass if THIS happens" and he's going in thinking "it'll be so badass if THAT happens", and that's just a matter of taste, nobody can resolve that.

    Does Dungeon World work if everyone rolls 10+ all the time, or if one person gets unaccountably lucky and rolls 10+ all the time? (I don't know anything about it.)

    Like, what's different about the experience you had from an experience of sitting next to someone who is just super-lucky?

    Does DW just fall apart for you if you're next to a lucky person?

    I can't speak for Joel, but for me, no, DW doesn't fall apart if someone rolls a lot of 10+'s. Like I said above, this isn't about what happened in the fiction. The guy could've gotten those lucky rolls, and the same stuff happened in the fiction, and that's fine. It's about the guy breaking the implied social contract (which he was totally aware of; if he wasn't, he wouldn't have been hiding the fact that he was cheating). Like Joel said, we don't lie to each other because it's convenient or to get what we want out of the game. That's fucked.
  • edited September 2011
    If he shows up again, and I were Joel, I would confront him about his behavior before you start playing. Gentle confrontation; I mean to say that you should explain why his behavior was a problem for you personally and leave judgements out of the picture.

    I don't personally care if people cheat, but if I'm setting aside my time to play a game with people who are also setting aside some of their precious free time, then I figure everyone should be on the same page. It seems like cheating is not on your page, so just let him know.

    I used to cheat a bit too, for the reasons Accounting For Taste mentioned above: I didn't want to let my party down, or I didn't want something to drag on, or my failing would have put everyone at a dead end. I never cheated to gain an advantage over someone else, but I definitely cheated to get the outcome my party wanted/needed.

    Then I played Burning Wheel and Apocalypse World and games like that, and learned that failing at rolls is way more fun than succeeding (though I do like everything in moderation). I like complications, I like it when things go pear-shaped, and I like watching characters get out of those situations (or dig themselves deeper in).

    I've been playing Deus Ex recently, and there's a scene near the end where a lot of firepower is suddenly pointed at our daring hero. All he says is, "Oh shit." before rolling behind cover and returning control to the player (boss fight). I was laughing my ass off, and much more invested in his success after that flub (granted, that particular flub was part of a cutscene and thus out of my control, but I do enjoy my characters failing and then attempting to save themselves, too).

    So if Mr. A(nderson) was coming from a "traditional" background of D&D, maybe he was where I was. Or maybe he just associated failure with having a shitty time. Everyone I've ever played games with has moments where failure is just shitty. The GM can't come up with an entertaining failure, the failure stalls the game, a character dies for no interesting reason, the climactic finale ends anticlimactically, the unsympathetic GM ruins the game for everyone, etc etc.

    So what I would do is keep that in mind, and talk to him about it. Explain to him how failure is meant to be fun, or at the very least interesting, in Apocalypse/Dungeon World. See what he does then. Make sure to set a good example; when you fail, be ready and willing to take that failure to an interesting place. Not that I assume you don't do that already; I'm just mentioning here to complete my train of thought.

    ***

    Also, Ben, I really need to visit you. Since you've moved, you seem to have way more fun gaming than I do...

    EDIT: Also, what Hans said. A+, would read again.
  • Posted By: Hans c-oThe guy could've gotten those lucky rolls, and the same stuff happened in the fiction, and that's fine. It's about the guy breaking the implied social contract (which he was totally aware of; if he wasn't, he wouldn't have been hiding the fact that he was cheating). Like Joel said, we don't lie to each other because it's convenient or to get what we want out of the game.
    Well, if you don't, it's because you have a relationship in which you value telling each other (more of) the truth higher than you value having fun in any particular game. (I don't harp on my friends' flaws or mistakes every time I see them, sometimes I just want to chill and hang out!) This is why the context of "we're playing one time, with a group of strangers" militates against confrontation.
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: JDCorleyWell, if you don't, it's because you have a relationship in which you value telling each other (more of) the truth higher than you value having fun in any particular game.
    Actually, it's that breaking the rules of the game and lying to people's faces actively detracts from the fun.
    Posted By: framweard
    So if Mr. A(nderson) was coming from a "traditional" background of D&D, maybe he was where I was. Or maybe he just associated failure with having a shitty time.
    Very much the case, here. One time he cast the "Sanctuary" spell, and began describing its effects, and I had to stop him and say, "Wait, that's not how Sanctuary works. Read the spell." He was genuinely surprised. The spells all had D&D names, and apparently he had all of their D&D effects memorized and was assuming it worked like in D&D. Clearly the gulf in our assumptions about the game was vast.
  • I think there's a lot of intimacy in RPGs and story games, in particular, require more trust than most. Whether or not cheating hurts the fiction, I think cheating violates that trust.
  • Posted By: Hans c-oActually, it's that breaking the rules of the game and lying to people's faces actively detracts from the fun.
    Not his fun! It enhanced his fun.

    Right?
  • Posted By: JDCorleyRight, you're going in thinking "it'll be so badass if THIS happens" and he's going in thinking "it'll be so badass if THAT happens", and that's just a matter of taste, nobody can resolve that.
    In my experience there are several ways to resolve that:

    Way 1: "Oh, we're doing things THAT way? Oh well, I guess I'll suck it up, since I agreed to play."

    Way 2: "Oh, we're doing things THAT way? Well, I guess I'll politely bow out, then, since I'm totally not into that."

    Way 3: "Oh, we're doing things THAT way? That's ridiculous! Excuse me while I ragequit."

    Way 4: "Oh, we're doing things THAT way? I'd really rather enjoy doing things THIS way, can we try that instead?"

    Way 5: "Oh, we're doing things THAT way? I guess I'll pretend to play along, while subverting that methodology at every turn."

    I've seen all of these in action. I've probably DONE all of these at one time or another. 1 works OK, but can be frustrating and dissatisfying, and lead to 3 or 5 as your patience wears thin. 4 is good but shaky; often people will listen politely, then revert to the way they were doing things out of habit. 2 is probably the most consistently functional way to handle things.

    5 is right out.

    5 goes beyond "matter of taste" for me. 5 goes into unacceptable behavior territory (so does 3, but that's off topic). 5 breaks my expectations for other human beings engaging in collaborative activity.

    And yes,I've done it, as I said. It wasn't "cheating" so much as pushing procedures in directions the other players clearly didn't want. It was dysfunctional and led to hurt feelings and loved ones not speaking to each other.
    Posted By: JDCorleyDoes Dungeon World work if everyone rolls 10+ all the time, or if one person gets unaccountably lucky and rolls 10+ all the time? (I don't know anything about it.)
    It doesn't break so much as "fail to pay off." In AW and DW both, when you do a Move you roll 2d6 plus a bonus from -1 to +2, usually, and follow the instructions for your result. 10+ is a solid hit, where you get pretty much everything you want. 7-9 is an OK hit, where you can get some of what you want but have to choose what to give up. 6- is a miss, and the GM will throw some "oh shit" consequences at you, like "while you're tyring to do that someone sneaks up on you," or "instead of seducing her you anger her," or whatevs.

    So never getting below 10 means you never get in that spot of having to make painful tradeoffs RE what I want. Never getting below 7 means never having that "oh shit!" moment of things going from bad to worse, and the GM missing opportunities to gleefully dump nasty shit in your lap. And even if we're not in competition, other players consistently avoiding those nasty choices and situations while I get landed in them frequently does indeed frustrate me.

    Hans, I know for awhile in our AW game you were lamenting (good-naturedly!) that we weren't blowing our rolls and so you were missing your chance to do hard moves. It equalized after a bit, and a bunch of blown rolls landed us in the shit. If we'd consistently continued to make awesome rolls, I can see that becoming quite frustrating, and losing some of what makes Apocalypse World sing. Similarly, when I run Lady Blackbird, a lot of the fun is in waiting for a Player to fail a roll so I can lay some crazy shenanigans down on them. There's often a string of successes early on that have me gnashing my teeth because I had such a FUN consequence in mind! But by the end of the session it'll equalize and I'll get to lay on consequences a-plenty. If it NEVER equalized...?

    And honestly? I can't separate "this is how the rolls went for this player" from "this is what the player dishonestly did to ensure those rolls." It happened because he did that, not because he was lucky. I'm not too interested in hypotheticals. The mirror universe where A plays honestly and is just lucky doesn't alter what A did in THIS universe, and how I feel about it. The fact that he liked the results doesn't sway me, either. "He's just cheating because he likes it?" Well, duh! "He just mugged me because he liked my money!" So...? He still broke my trust!
  • Remember, everyone! THREAD RULES! Don't say what your opinions are, say what your experiences are.

    If you want to explain what you think about this situation, tell about a time!
  • My experiences is that i think that this guy, A, whom i dunno, is like this:

    Maybe he had a series of really bad experiences roleplaying, wherein the game's ringmaster shat on him every time he rolled poorly.
    Maybe he has a really oppressive actual life and is looking for solid escapism.

    Not justifying, just pondering. Like, maybe he just doesn't trust anyone & it's like a lonely-fun-in-front-of-others.

    I mean, i don't want to play with someone like that, and it's not your fault that he's fucked up and you don't have to fix him.

    I feel sorry for A.
  • Posted By: JoelWay 5: "Oh, we're doing things THAT way? I guess I'll pretend to play along, while subverting that methodology at every turn."
    "Subverting the methodology?" If you hadn't noticed his rolls, you would never have known or really cared. Subversion seems the wrong language here. But whatever, he cheated.
    Posted By: Joel. The fact that he liked the results doesn't sway me, either. "He's just cheating because he likes it?" Well, duh! "He just mugged me because he liked my money!" So...? He still broke my trust!
    Never said he didn't, just that the benefit of confronting strangers in one-shots over the (hopefully miniscule) amount of trust they violated has never seemed worth it to me.

    I'll use my Pokethulu cheater from last year's RinCon. This is a way better example anyway because DW is a Story Hyphen Games Dot Com Pillar Of Virtuousness And Good Design and Pokethuluis just a regular old goofy RPG, there is absolutely nothing at stake in a Pokethulu game, a cartoony parody game that is more about yelling stupid battle cries and making Lovecraft jokes than anything else. The guy in my game had previously read and memorized the published scenario, along with the stats of the pokethulhu, including what they were "weak against". He also never rolled where anyone could see anything, and rolled from modest successes to super-successes, never a failure.

    I'm there to hang out and yuk it up and have fun with the game, not to make sure Everyone Plays It Right, so basically I just give him the successes he wants and make sure that everyone else gets to actually play and have fun with this hilarious game.

    If there were PvP, I would have insisted on rolls in the open, confronted him, etc. Because then it would have made a difference. As it was, as far as I could tell, it really didn't. Everyone, including the cheater, seemed to have a good time and enjoy themselves.

    If this were an ongoing group, a focus group for improving our Pokethulu play, a demonstration group for good Pokethulu play, or a PvP Pokethulu game (IT'S SUPER EFFECTIVE, I should do this), it would be different. But the important thing is to evaluate the impact of the cheating. I disliked it, he liked it, that's a wash, over one session. It would be just as effective to eject me from the group as it would be to eject him, if all we're talking about is preserving the fun of our leisure pretendy time games. If the group has some other purpose, or more trust than complete strangers, then not-so-much.
  • Why is it so difficult to get all the die rolls in the open? Just say dude, rolls don't count unless we see them. His other cheating is going to have only a marginal impact on a DW game. And if you catch him rolling an extra spell a few times he'll probably stop doing it.

    He probably hasn't decided that you people matter to him yet.
  • Jackson, I love you truly, but that wasn't telling your story or asking a question, as far as I can tell. As it happens, your assessment seems spot-on, from my brief read of A (who I dunno either). Any and all of those things could easily be true of him. But I can't play favorites, so I gotta insist: you got an experience of your own to share that illustrates this? I'd love to hear it.
    Posted By: JDCorleyI'll use my Pokethulu cheater from last year's RinCon
    JD, thank you for sharing your experience. I can sorta see where you're coming from now. It's an effort to reward ratio, right? Like, is working out issues and establishing boundaries with guy going to lead to enough improved life experience to be worth the hassle of confrontation and engagement?

    We DID shy away from confrontation, for precisely that reason--he's just a random guy who we may not ever play with again. And it wasn't the most poisonous, unfun game session I've ever played, by a long shot. It was actually pretty fun! It was just a big pile of mostly fun with this one downer aspect that was a minority of the experience. SO confronting didn't seem a huge priority.

    Thing is, though, now he wants to come play ALL THE TIME. Which means we do have to consider how to to address this, because the stakes are higher now. This happened with the last difficult person too; gritted my teeth through a session, thinking "Oh well, this game will be over soon and life will go on," and then that player became the most freaking loyal regular any club has ever had. So I had to figure out how to coexist with them, or else ask them to leave.

    And here we are again.

    Also:
    Posted By: JDCorleyDW is a Story Hyphen Games Dot Com Pillar Of Virtuousness And Good Design andPokethuluis just a regular old goofy RPG
    Please knock that shit off in my thread, thanks.
    Posted By: noclueWhy is it so difficult to get all the die rolls in the open?
    OK, you've gtechnically asked a question, but it's hard to read it as a good-faith, help-me-understand inquiry. Assuming that it is, my only answer is to point you to the previous comments where Hans and I have both shared our determination to do exactly that. So I guess we agree...?
    Posted By: noclueHe probably hasn't decided that you people matter to him yet.
    That's nice. I, as ever, insist on operating from the assumption that ALL people matter, all the time, and I expect others to do the same.

    Works out even BETTER in person as it does on the internet! (Also, that wasn't your story, or a question. Tell about a time?)

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: JoelThing is, though, now he wants to come play ALL THE TIME. Which means we do have to consider how to to address this, because the stakes are higher now. This happened with the last difficult person too; gritted my teeth through a session, thinking "Oh well, this game will be over soon and life will go on," and then that player became the most freaking loyal regular any club has ever had. So I had to figure out how to coexist with them, or else ask them to leave.
    Yep, very true. Also true of people who don't wash, who talk in funny voices when they shouldn't (or don't when they should), and all other negative aspects of a person.

    If my Pokethulu guy had tried to get into my next game at the con, even, that would have been a different thing. That would have been something I'd have to work on right then.
    Posted By: JoelPlease knock that shit off in my thread, thanks.
    What, joshing around? Okay, I'll be serious from now o
  • Posted By: JDCorleyAlso true of people who don't wash
    Funny, that was the problem with the first problem person. Thankfully they disappeared after the first time.
    Posted By: JDCorleyWhat, joshing around? Okay, I'll be serious from now o
    Cute. I'm not demanding you be SRS, just that you refrain from the Story Games identity politics jabs.
  • edited September 2011
    So here's two experiences of mine with noticing other players cheating:

    The first is from my carefree days as an idiot teenager, playing AD&D with a couple of friends and some friends-of-friends I didn't know very well. Crowded in around a card table in a cramped basement room, all idiot teenagers together, having our pretend elves and dwarves castin' spells and killin' orcs. Good fun, honestly. Except that W., one of the friends-of-friends, had this character that was noticeably more uber than anyone else's at pretty much everything. Not a single stat under a 16, magic items falling out his ass, always made every save against everything, never missed a to-hit roll, and so on. You could see him doing a trick roll every now and again, just kind of spinning that d20 like a top instead of rolling it for real, that sort of thing. If anyone at the table got told to roll again where everyone could see it, you could bet that W. would be told twice as many times. It didn't really matter, though, because W.'s character was good enough to succeed even with a shitty roll most of the time.

    The DM? Just fucking HATED W.'s character, and routinely went gunning for him in both active and passive-aggressive ways. It was the most adversarial GM/Player situation I've ever seen in a game, to be honest, although in real life they were great friends and seemed to really enjoy trying to one-up each other in AD&D. For my part, I was annoyed and frustrated because anything my character could do, W.'s character could do better, faster, while riding a manticore blindfolded...except when we were teetering on the brink of a TPK, and W.'s character would once again prevail and save all our asses. Then it was all "Yay, W.!" happy fun times for everyone but the DM, who would be pissed off during the game but would laugh genuinely when we were all heading home and say, "I'll get you NEXT time, W.!"

    Was W. breaking the rules? Holy crap, it was either that, or he was wasting his luck on killing imaginary kobolds when he should've been bankrupting Las Vegas. What I don't know even to this day is whether the game would have been better -- more fun, more interesting, better in any measurable way -- if he had been 100% honest instead. I can look back now and see that, like a lot of nerdy young boys in high school, I was kind of a control freak and incredibly sensitive to any perceived slight (like W.'s character being more effective than mine), and that the main reason why I would be annoyed and frustrated by W.'s cheating was because I was choosing to be annoyed and frustrated by it. I wasn't fighting W.'s character, because roleplaying wasn't a competition for us even back then. What W. did in the game rarely if ever directly interacted with what I was doing with my character, and even when it did, he was usually on my side. I know that at the time, I wanted my character to be better than his, but...man, that sounds so empty when I think about it now, like most of the things I put way too much emphasis on back then.

    W.'s cheating definitely didn't make my play experience significantly better. But honestly, I don't think his cheating made it significantly worse, either. My emotional, probably-irrational reaction to his cheating, though, that was a bummer. It wasn't the kind of group where I felt I could confront him about it, so I didn't, I just let my resentment churn silently. It might have been better if I'd said, dude, no one fucking believes you rolled any of that shit honestly, why don't you just play the game by the rules, you big cheater. Or maybe it would have been better if I'd put in some hours perfecting my own phony spin-roll to get that 20 when I needed it. Or maybe I should have realized that the reason failure sucked so much in AD&D was that it was boring and stopped the game dead in its tracks, and talked with the GM about ways that failure could be more interesting and actually give us new directions to move instead. Or maybe I should've just moved on to a different group. Or maybe -- and this is I think what eventually happened, although not in high school and not in AD&D -- I should have been able to separate what W. did from how I felt about what W. did, and realized that I was creating most of my own misery over it when I genuinely had no need to.


    Story two is much the same, although it happened in my early thirties with an entirely different group and has a different ending. This time the game was Vampire, and the cheating player's initial was K., but it was still unbelievable dice rolls and dubious math on the character sheet and a character who was basically going to win everything every time.

    But this time, the GM wasn't adversarial about it at all. He'd put obstacles in K.'s path, and K's character would brush them aside and keep moving, and the GM would smile and just keep moving on. If K. wanted to win handily and I wanted to struggle and deal with terrible complications, he was perfectly willing to accommodate us both: K. would roll on in a cloud of easy victories and I would slither through the muck of compromises and complications, and to be perfectly honest, I felt like I was getting the better deal. I was certainly getting more spotlight time, just because me dealing with all my character's failures was more time-consuming than K. throwing down a fistful of d10s and announcing more than enough successes to win again.

    But more important, I think, is that by then I had played enough games with enough different people to know what I wanted out of it and to not let basically unrelated issues (my now much-reduced control-freakiness and my desire to outshine other people, for example) run roughshod over everything. K. was a big cheater, sure, but I didn't care. K. was having fun winning, I was having fun losing (and holy shit, the way that edition's rules worked, I lost a LOT). The GM was, I think, just having fun running the game, and had made his own peace with what K. was doing. Everything ended up compartmentalizing very well: here's the fun I'm having in our Vampire game, over there is the fun K. is having, and we can both have our fun without resenting each other for it.

    That game might have been better for me if K. wasn't cheating, just because the synergy of our combined failures could have been hilarious fun to explore together. But would it have been a better game overall? I don't know, I had a good time and have fond memories of it, and that's a great result for any game under any circumstances. It might have been easier on the GM if K. had played it straight...but then again, maybe not, since K.'s interactions with the game were simple and cinematic and clearly satisfying for K., and that sounds much easier to handle as a GM than trying to find new ways to make failure interesting. The big thing for me was that somewhere along the way, I'd decided that the thing I thought was fun about gaming was achievable without having to worry about W. or K.: if their cheating didn't directly affect what I wanted to enjoy, then it couldn't really ruin that enjoyable thing for me.


    It's still a thorny issue, and there are types of cheating that really do wreck games (competitive games with a cheater? no thanks), but these days for the types of games I play in and the friends I want to play them with, I can honestly say that most of the time I don't give a shit what people roll or don't roll or pretend to roll. It doesn't seem to ruin my fun either way, and I just can't see it worth getting upset about unless it does. YMMV, as always.
  • Ok, so in the spirit of sharing experiences and so forth, here's a couple of little anecdotes.

    I joined a roleplaying group a few years back, and started to play in a D&D game they were running. Said D&D game wasn't a traditional dungeon bash, it was more in line with how you might play Call of Cthulhu or similar - investigative, with some combat. There was a guy there who cheated. As a newbie to the group I didn't really feel qualified to tackle him on it, but it annoyed the hell out of me. In a way it was silly to be annoyed since it was a co-op game, but in a game with a significant element of "hit that monster, take its stuff" there's nothing much more annoying than someone else who, without having paid the price of admission (i.e. generating a combat monster character), woops the ass out of monsters that are a challenge for your character. It makes you feel "why did I bother creating a character who was a good fighter, and strategising within the combat to try and maximise my impact, if guy A just comes in and romps home without doing all those things?

    Nevertheless I was able to enjoy the game. The interesting thing about cheating is, it is kept within limits. Someone who attackes with a 2d6 damage weapon won't declare damage of 100. So they gain an edge over everyone else but they can't just declare that they have killed all the baddies. It was an irritation, but not an insurmountable one. Pls of course there were the bits of the game which weren't combat-focused, where cheating was less of an issue.

    Second anecdote: I played wargames with a guy who cheated. theoretically, this should have been more annoying. After all this was a competitive situation, so cheating really should be a deal-breaker. It was frustrating that the guy felt it was ok to do this, and massively diminished my respect for him, and my desire to play him in future. However, as I was a better wargamer (i.e. more skillful), actually his cheating was not too much of a problem for me. In some ways it was a challenge.

    So I can see why one might put up with cheating. These days I wouldn't, though - life is too short to waste roleplaying with the above people.
  • Ok, going with the "my experiences" option:

    Anecdote A:

    Every dice I have ever owned hate me. Not in a consistent, predictable and livable fashion, but in spurts of pure and unbridled malice. They let me succeed just enough to reach some crescendo of awesome and then go on a protracted session of abject failure and loathing, ensuring the antithesis of whatever I am trying to do occurs in a manner designed to crush what tiny flickering flames of hope and glee I had kindled. I am entirely used to this and have grown to love playing horrible failures who let everyone down when it really matters :)

    There has been an unforeseen offshoot of this horrible dice luck though: GM pity. I have been taken aside at least a half dozen times by the GM for a little talk, a gentle talk, the sort of talk you give someone whose cat has just died, or who isn't going to Disneyworld after all. It goes something like this, every time:

    GM "Bowen (for this is mine own name!), I've noticed you suck/your dice hate you/you have luck so horrible I believe you tortured a gypsy child on the way to this game."

    Me "Yep. I am used to it, but if it is screwing things up I crave forgiveness, oh Mighty GM!"

    GM "No dude, it just hurts my heart to see [your character] succeed until the important stuff and then come crashing down in such a huge blazing mass of fail and dice fuckery."

    Me "S'ok, I know the Universe loathes me and have come to enjoy it, nay thrive upon it!"

    GM "Yeah, but....... Have you considered fudging your rolls sometimes?"

    Me "What? Cheat?!? NOOOOOOO!"

    GM "No, not cheat.... But really dude, you are making me sad in my heart with your epic-ly awful dice rolling. I can't sleep at night, my libido has plummeted and I wake screaming at the sight of your dice tray filled with ones and the tears of those who will not survive your poor fortune."

    Me "Oh. Ok. I guess I can fudge a little, if it makes things easier."

    This is of course a lie, I only fudge when the result will be funny, draw us into amusing conflicts or will generally make the game more interesting. I have come to embrace the death spiral, just ask anyone who has played Contenders or Fiasco near me :)

    Anecdote B:

    The wife of my current GM rolls with the luck of The Morningstar Himelf (Lucifer, not the games designing fellow!). If she rolls dice, at least half will max out. In Jadeclaw, she almost always succeeds due to only needing one good dice in a roll of many and she waded through an entire warfare section of a campaign (months and months of horrible, brutal warfare against genocidal death cult fellows) without getting a mark (I died in pretty much every battle, only to be dragged back through obsessively devoted sorcery) other than the soles of her shoes getting soaked in the blood from the windrows of dead her sword left for the carrion eaters. Scary part is, she doesn't cheat or fudge, she just rolls horrifically well.

    I think she and those like her are stealing my dice luck.

    Anyone, that's two tales of dice....... My opinion on the open game cheater is pretty simple: Just say no. Once you are 100% they are cheating, ask them to stop. If they don't, ask them to leave. Life is too short to put up with anyone that douchey.
  • Thanks for sharing, both of ya!
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteFor my part, I was annoyed and frustrated because anything my character could do, W.'s character could do better, faster, while riding a manticore blindfolded...except when we were teetering on the brink of a TPK, and W.'s character would once again prevail and save all our asses. Then it was all "Yay, W.!" happy fun times for everyone but the DM
    Interesting! I've been in similar situations (whether cheating was involved or not), and my annoyance was pretty consistent whether my ass was getting saved or not. I think it has to do with what Josh described:
    Posted By: rabaliasIn a way it was silly to be annoyed since it was a co-op game, but in a game with a significant element of "hit that monster, take its stuff" there's nothing much more annoying than someone else who, without having paid the price of admission (i.e. generating a combat monster character), woops the ass out of monsters that are a challenge for your character. It makes you feel "why did I bother creating a character who was a good fighter, and strategising within the combat to try and maximise my impact, if guy A just comes in and romps home without doing all those things?
    I feel you on this, Josh. It's about way more than who "wins." It's about spotlight time (who gets to have all the memorable moments in the session?), about getting a payoff for your effort (will my character build/in-character plans, etc provide me with that YES! moment or get negated/rendered redundant?), about social cred (who gets to be the memorable guy whose character did all this awesome stuff?), about collaboration (when I do my thing, are you there backing me up in mutual creative support, or are you just ignoring me and and doing your unrelated thing?).

    None of those are necessarily tied in to cheating, or even one player succeeding constantly. For instance, a character's FAILURES can be truly memorable (as you relate in your second example, AfT), if the player can parley them into awesomeness at the table. But this is ONE way that those things can break down. And if it's breaking down due to one player's deliberate deceit, that's a dealbreaker for me. The "what you don't know can't hurt you" defense rings hollow to me. I know what I feel when I DO find out, and that's enough.
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteBut more important, I think, is that by then I had played enough games with enough different people to know what I wanted out of it and to not let basically unrelated issues (my now much-reduced control-freakiness and my desire to outshine other people, for example) run roughshod over everything. K. was a big cheater, sure, but I didn't care. K. was having fun winning, I was having fun losing (and holy shit, the way that edition's rules worked, I lost a LOT). The GM was, I think, just having fun running the game, and had made his own peace with what K. was doing. Everything ended up compartmentalizing very well: here's the fun I'm having in our Vampire game, over there is the fun K. is having, and we can both have our fun without resenting each other for it.
    Hmm. Y'know, I can sort of imagine a game situation where someone's cheating and I'm OK with it, as you describe...but I can't imagine it at ALL with A. I wonder why that is?

    Theoretically, it should be EASY to be OK with him cheating since i don't have any particular investment in a relationship with him. And to some degree that's true...having a cheating cheater at one session was easy to endure, and it's only the prospect of him coming back week after week and cheating that churns my gut.

    But more than that, I think a lack of friendship or trust with this guy makes his cheating LESS ok in my mind, because I don't have any other personal value to balance it against. There's no tradeoff like "OK sure, A cheats at games, but he'll also drop everything to go give you a lift when you're stranded," or "Well, A kinda hogs the spotlight in play, but he's always a sympathetic ear when you're dealing with ugly shit in your life and need to vent." There's just "A cheats and hogs the spotlight, and is a huge suck on everyone's time and energy, and...that's IT."

    Also, I think my hypothetical game where it's A-OK for so-and-so to go off in their little corner and cheat would have to be a pretty damn good game otherwise. I'd have to have a bunch of creatively-charged, supportive fellow players all grooving on the same page to make up for the one guy who's just ignoring us and rolling his dice and declaring "I win!" over and over. I've had game situations where the overall play experience was OK compensaton for one or more unpleasant player(s), but it was never great. Just OK. And I resented the problem players like hell. I think this thing you said gets at why:
    Posted By: Accounting for TasteThat game might have been betterfor meif K. wasn't cheating, just because the synergy of our combined failures could have been hilarious fun to explore together.
    Yeah, that's a huge deal for me: synergy. Me over here doing my thing, another guy over there doing his thing, another gal over there doing her thing, and a GM trying to juggle all of that and tie it together somehow...just sucks the energy out of play for me. I played that way for years, because I thought that was the only way to do it--there was no way I was going to convert Mark or Joe or Ben to valuing the things I care about in a game, or vice versa, so the best you could do was coexist and hope that you could carve something satisfying and meaningful out of the sliver of spotlight you were allotted.

    Now...I roleplay for creative collaboration, not unlike playing in a band, or shooting a movie, or writing and drawing a comic. This means my fellow creators and I need to be on the same page with each other, aesthetically in sync and enthusiastic to hear each other's contributions and build on them. It's frankly NOT enough for me that "we're all having fun." If we're not all having fun together (as opposed to just near each other), then it might be alright but it'll never be great. I don't mind if there's some innocent disconnects as long as the good faith is there; then I can decide whether to address a disconnect or let it slide, based on circumstances. But that good faith foundation is crucial.

    Now, playing at a public, open game store meetup, you won't always get your synergy. Of course. But I still demand a good-faith effort. if I don't get it, then I'll start figuring out how to A) ask for it clearly and directly, and B) how to disengage myself if you won't give it to me.

    Which is what this thread is about, really.

    Peace,
    -Joel
  • I see an ethical issue in the Story Of Player A.

    As I read it, the cheating Mattered enough that you were bothered by it, but it Didn’t Matter enough to say “no” to it.

    So then, did the cheating Matter, or Not?

    The more egregious his cheating was, the more your complicity could be interpreted as tacit consent. Cheating is a widely accepted practice in rpg play, so you can’t defer responsibility by claiming that it ‘goes without saying’ that cheating is unacceptable. No such unanimous consensus exists.

    I’m not sure you can even say he is cheating “again”, until after someone flags it as cheating a first time.

    One solution, to make sure it is perfectly clear that cheating Matters, is to play for money. It is universally understood that money Matters.

    If he still cheats, then gun him down like a wild west poker game.

    Or call the cops.

    Unless gambling is illegal where you live, in which case you’ve got a lot of nerve crying foul. After all, it would then be literally illegal for you to be playing a game where cheating Matters.

    The real victim here is A, who made the mistake of assuming he was playing with law-abiding folks who were playing a goodcleanfun game, where cheating doesn’t matter.

    http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15066&Focus=343083#Comment_343083
  • Posted By: JoelAnother way to help this kind of situation is to play very openly on a clear and uncluttered table.
    Playing on a clear and uncluttered table makes the game generally better; it helps build a better focus by reducing the downtime when players check their character-sheets or look for the die.

    Sorry to say, but cheating is a sweet temptation for a lot of players. So, as a GM I see to it that my players don't get tempted. My simple solution: no roll is legal unless it is rolled in open. "Roll again, dude", I say, and ignore the fantastical result a player claims to have rolled. As long as I'm treating all players the same way, that is no problem. By doing so I clear our shared psychosocial field for dishonest clutter; as cheating is impossible, the players stop thinking about how to do it, or if others do it. By accepting the random nature of the mechanics, and living with it, we are free to enjoy the drama, and to contribute to it it constructive ways.
Sign In or Register to comment.