How to deal with cheating at the D&D game table

It’s weird when people cheat at tabletop RPGs.

There’s no winner in D&D. It’s just some friends getting together to tell a great story and participate in a little adventure.

So why would someone fudge their die rolls or lie about their passive perception score?

It could be to feel heroic. Being the guy who finally took down that dragon with one huge fireball blast feels pretty cool. It could be for comedy. Sometimes, players purposefully drop their scores for comedic effect. And it could be an accident. Math suddenly becomes hard when you’re adding up 7d12 in front of a bunch of other people.

No matter the reason, nobody wants that sort of thing at their game table. It messes with the chance component that’s such a big part of tabletop RPGs.

So how do you deal with it?

Establish some rules about dice. If the die goes off the table, do you keep the roll or reroll? What if a die lands sideways against a book or a mini? Decide upfront how those sorts of things work so you don’t have players deciding that tilted die is a 14, rather than a 4.

Use community dice. It’s common with board games for there to be a pile of dice for everyone to use at the center of the table. You can do this with your Dungeons & Dragons games, too. That way everyone’s using the same dice and rolling in the middle of the table in front of everyone else.

Ask players to see their character sheets. If you’re suspicious of a cheating player as GM, this can help stop that. They’re less likely to mess with stats, abilities and scores if they know you’ll be checking their math. But this also serves another function: It’s important to know what the characters can do and what players are interested in, so you can challenge them and tailor the game to their abilities.

Make sure everyone knows how their modifiers work. This can be nefarious, but it can also be an innocent mistake. With all the modifiers and proficiency bonuses and pluses and minuses, it can occasionally be confusing to add all that stuff together just to figure out how high your character can jump.

Tell players the story goes on. If their players lose in battle, that doesn’t mean the campaign is over. Maybe instead of a straight TPK, they get captured instead. If a player’s character dies, make sure they know they can roll a new character to join the party. If players know the fun will continue, they might be less likely to cheat.

Play on a virtual tabletop. Using something like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds makes it way harder to cheat. Everyone’s dice rolls are recorded, and their character sheets are built into the software. GMs can see everything that’s going on, and it reduces the likelihood of cheating or fudging.

Let it go. Sometimes, it’s an accident or unintentional. Just keep an eye on that person whose rolls always seem a little suspicious.

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