295: Sometimes, I'm a Cheater

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I try to avoid cheating, that is to say using a code or a hack that breaks the coded rules (I don't count strategy guides as cheating).

I make an exception for cheats that save me time and reduce frustration while not reducing the real difficulty of a game. Case in point: getting the key items to upgrade the ultimate weapons in Final Fantasy X. I have neither the time nor the patience to waste mastering mini-games, so I resorted to using Codebreaker to speed the process. A cheat? Yes, but a cheat that let me fulfill my completionist desires and move on to my next game that much faster.

I am all for cheating codes and walkthroughs!

But, at the same time, I AM AGAINST THEM!!!

I'll explain what I mean. I play games because they are fun. I play them to enjoy myself. When I get stuck, I enjoy the challenge. I have even come to the point where I simply don't use the hint system or walkthroughs to Layton games any more. Not because I am smart. Because I undestand the game's logic and what it expects from me.

However, if it becomes too much of a chore, or too frustrating, to the point that the fun element is lost, I will use a hint or cheat system. It is a game, after all, not a job. It's ment to be fun.

If I need to use hints and cheats too much, then that can only mean one of two things. Either bad game design, in which case I simply stop playing, or that the game is too difficult for my taste and ability, in which case I also stop playing. There is no fun in a game that you play with a walkthrough on my lap or with infinite ammo and life.

GrizzlerBorno:

maddog015:

This. I, too, quit Dragon Age (and Mass Effect)

Mass Effect? Really? It had good combat. Inventory management was a right pain in the ass, but I never felt that the combat lacked much especially if you play tactically (use that pause thing a lot to micro-manage) against Hard opponents with Biotics! Fuck yeah for Biotics!

But, oh well, different strokes.

Funny, I thought to myself the exact opposite when I read "Dragon Age (and Mass Effect)". For me, mass effect combat was something that I found to be rather dull. I mean, the combat played so similarly to an fps that it gave me a "meh" feeling. In addition, I did not find any cheats that would allow me to more quickly plow through the combat. Combine that with my intense dislike for sheperd and I have yet to be able to finish it.

With Dragon Age, even when I began to find the combat a bit dull, I found that I enjoyed watching how my stats went into affecting the combat. Rather, I treated it as I treat DnD encounters...though I really wish I could have rolled my own d20. >.> In addition, I liked to see how leveling my character differently would allow for combat to be more or less difficult.

Back to the topic at hand, I own a cheat device for each of my consoles before the current generation. The reason for this is that I attempt to alleviate the monotony of certain points in games. There are some games I play for their combat systems, some I play for their story, and some I play for a roleplaying experience. If I am interested in a game's story, but I find its combat tedious, I cheat.

I completely agree with most of the responses when it comes to cheating in multiplayer, but this leads me to another concern I have. My PS3 has no cheat device. One of the main reasons behind this is that a great deal of emphasis has been placed on multiplayer gaming among the current systems. That said, I don't *do* multiplayer. I don't see why they don't allow a cheat device, but restrict multiplayer access when a cheat device is detected. Though there are some developers that don't like the idea of their game being modified through cheats, but if I want to experience a part of their game, but not another, I see no reason for them to complain.

Yeah Invedit in Minecraft stopped me enjoying singleplayer alltogheter
Luckily I found a SMP server. Which was a lot of fun.

I tend to avoid cheating as much as possible on a first run through of a game.

If I get stuck, I'll try for a looong time before giving up and looking at a walkthrough. Most of the times I've resorted to walkthroughs, it's usually something I would never have got, given all the time in the world.

I think my favorite cheats were one of the following

BoloPatch for Just Cause 2: Just the grappling hook editor alone should have been a feature. This was something that made the game tons more fun at a tradeoff for a little difficulty decrease (Unless you were using the other features of the trainer).

Ragdoll mode in Minority Report: MR was an okay game. But I discovered a glitch within a cheat that essentially made me cry with laughter every time I used it. When Ragdoll mode was active, a single button press would collapse Jon Anderton into a pile of limbs until he stopped moving, where he would get back up. Fun by itself. Then you combine this with a flaw in the game's combat system, where a ragdolling hit would negate gravity on the model for a split second if the target was in the air. Thus was born Ragdoll surfing. I would run, jump, and ragdoll, and careen through the air like a human cartwheel gone loose. Too much fun.

Half-Life 2 Demo Console shenanigans: I was fairly young when HL2 came out, and I had neither a great computer, nor a source of income. So I downloaded the demo. I love it. I played through it a ton of times. Then, one day I caught G4's Cheat!, with a segment on half-life 2. I immediately ran to their website, tried out some of their codes (Gravity, impulse 101, etc) and a whole new game started for me. With a little more research, I had found out how to spawn NPCs with a single keypress, light people on fire ("ent_fire !picker ignite" is still my favorite source command) and spawn massive armies while AI was disabled so they could fight it out when they came back.

Those three are the most memorable examples of "Cheating" in my mind, and they are so because they vastly improved the game I was playing. I still run back to HL2 (Now that I own The Orange box) and rebind everything for maximum shenanigans.

I was under the impression that cheating was removed from the current generation for the addition of achievements, and if that were true, we got the wrong end of the deal.

I don't cheat often, but I love cheating. There are many games, especially RPGs, where the game length outlasts the gameplay ideas. I killed loads of enemies in Fallout 3. I learned how to fight; my tactics no longer change, and neither does the enemy behavior. Therefore, I'm basically now wasting my time fighting as I'm doing nothing new and no surprise. So it's time to cheat. Same with JRPGs, like FF7 and the like. I learned what the game had to teach, and now I'm tired of regurgitating it.

zedel:
snip

Definitely right on. Cheating, while sometimes secretly destructive to our own gaming experiences, can also be constructive. It lets you play the parts of the game you really want, without forcing you through the other bits. It lets you enjoy the game your way.

(Oh, and about multiplayer cheating, that's a definite "don't" for me, too. I didn't even see a need to include that in the article. When you cheat in multiplayer, you're doing something destructive to another player's game experience. That's never a constructive thing. Oh, and if it's by mutual consent, it's not "cheating" anymore.

The dangers of single-player cheating are that you can inadvertently cheat yourself out of some growth, but for some it's an acceptable risk. I think cheating others is never acceptable.)

silvain:
I was under the impression that cheating was removed from the current generation for the addition of achievements, and if that were true, we got the wrong end of the deal.

I don't cheat often, but I love cheating. There are many games, especially RPGs, where the game length outlasts the gameplay ideas. I killed loads of enemies in Fallout 3. I learned how to fight; my tactics no longer change, and neither does the enemy behavior. Therefore, I'm basically now wasting my time fighting as I'm doing nothing new and no surprise. So it's time to cheat. Same with JRPGs, like FF7 and the like. I learned what the game had to teach, and now I'm tired of regurgitating it.

Very good points, there. In addition to teaching us about ourselves, how/why we cheat should also teach a lesson to developers about what they need to add/remove/fix going forward. Removing cheating, you remove that reflective process.

Achievements are nice and all, but they don't have to come at the expense of cheats. It's not too hard for games to disable achievements when the player enables a cheat of one sort or another. As mentioned in the article, Rock Band disabled saving (and thus high scores) when using the "unlock everything" code. Fair trade, and it allowed for both paths to coexist in the same game.

(Regarding FO:3, I think you've hit on exactly why these games need to include so many weapons. Combat gets very same-y in these especially, as it ends up "Point, click, run backwards" most of the time. Unfortunately, shooters now have a lot of weapons... that effectively work the same way with different animations. Half-Life is a great example of a game in which different weapons feel different, and ammo is quite limited, so combat changes itself up a little bit more as you're forced to cycle through your weapons.

Changing the animations and stats on a weapon doesn't necessarily change the player's input or experience. And bland, repetitive combat is a game-killer... without cheats!)

Dastardly:

silvain:
I was under the impression that cheating was removed from the current generation for the addition of achievements, and if that were true, we got the wrong end of the deal.

I don't cheat often, but I love cheating. There are many games, especially RPGs, where the game length outlasts the gameplay ideas. I killed loads of enemies in Fallout 3. I learned how to fight; my tactics no longer change, and neither does the enemy behavior. Therefore, I'm basically now wasting my time fighting as I'm doing nothing new and no surprise. So it's time to cheat. Same with JRPGs, like FF7 and the like. I learned what the game had to teach, and now I'm tired of regurgitating it.

Very good points, there. In addition to teaching us about ourselves, how/why we cheat should also teach a lesson to developers about what they need to add/remove/fix going forward. Removing cheating, you remove that reflective process.

Achievements are nice and all, but they don't have to come at the expense of cheats. It's not too hard for games to disable achievements when the player enables a cheat of one sort or another. As mentioned in the article, Rock Band disabled saving (and thus high scores) when using the "unlock everything" code. Fair trade, and it allowed for both paths to coexist in the same game.

(Regarding FO:3, I think you've hit on exactly why these games need to include so many weapons. Combat gets very same-y in these especially, as it ends up "Point, click, run backwards" most of the time. Unfortunately, shooters now have a lot of weapons... that effectively work the same way with different animations. Half-Life is a great example of a game in which different weapons feel different, and ammo is quite limited, so combat changes itself up a little bit more as you're forced to cycle through your weapons.

Changing the animations and stats on a weapon doesn't necessarily change the player's input or experience. And bland, repetitive combat is a game-killer... without cheats!)

Thank you :)

Yeah, Fallout 3 needed either less combat, better AI (and varied AI between enemy types), or very different feeling weapons to make it engaging throughout.

The achievements killing cheats point, I should clarify, is for products like the code breaker, gameshark, and action replay, where you're not enabling cheats in-game; you're modifying registers directly so the game doesn't know it's being cheated. Therefore, there'd be no good way to ensure achievements are disabled when the devices are used.

I remember getting fed up with Civ IV at times, i didn't want to deal with diplomacy, all i wanted to do was raise an army and conquer the world. The thing is, when i was completely ignoring diplomacy, there were unanswered threats that piled up in my in box that eventually ended up with me VS the world. So i ended up discovering the world editing tools... If anyone threatened me i would send an army of Barbarian Modern armor to destroy them, this had amusing side effects too. Like mechanized infantry spawning from barbarian camps... made out of logs... in the 16th century. It was kind of hard to play the game right after i started doing this. Though i did learn a valuable lesson. NEVER listen to a friend who tells you to give nukes to barbarians just to see what happens. That was another good laugh though.

Well said. I wish everyone felt the same way. I always pride myself on getting through a game without cheating, but sometimes you just have to if for only to ensure you continue moving forward and having fun.

And there is always the "watch stuff get blown up with my super powers" cheating fun. :D

Skratt:
Well said. I wish everyone felt the same way. I always pride myself on getting through a game without cheating, but sometimes you just have to if for only to ensure you continue moving forward and having fun.

And there is always the "watch stuff get blown up with my super powers" cheating fun. :D

Definitely! I think, for me, the key is to wait until after I've beaten the game the "legit" way. Otherwise, that kind of power is intoxicating, even in the imaginary world of a video game!

Case in point, replaying Fallout 2 recently... I got to a place where, in this open-ended world, I was thinking, "Where do I go next?" So I peeked at a walkthrough, just to remind myself. Managed to catch a glimpse of a trick to sneak basically unlimited money out of some traders... and I just couldn't "unknow" that information. Every time I saw something that I wanted, but couldn't spare the cash, I found myself wanting to travel back to that little pot-of-gold spot...

XT inc:
I think there is a missed area to discuss about this topic and how there is an utter lack of cheats in modern console games.

If you look at modern games the cheat selection is weak to say the least. Take Halo, the Golden eye of the modern age, has no cheat codes at all.

And yet, staying with the same series, Halo 2 introduced "Skull" modifiers as easter eggs that served as cheat codes; from Halo 3 on the Skulls were handled just like cheat codes.

Atop that, Halo games have always had a lot of customisation available in its multiplayer settings that has steadily increased with each release... Halo: Reach's Forge game editor is virtually a console port of the editor used to create the game.

(I don't agree with your point, and think you picked a bad example.)

-- Steve

PS: die captcha die

Dastardly:
Others do what the gentleman above you was looking for--they allow you to bypass the "chores" of the game and skip straight to the parts you want. Cheats can allow for a more user-directed experience.

And that's what it's about, right? Us. The users.

Yes, yes indeed. But in talking about failings of game design I didn't just mean things like bad puzzles. Some designers have begun to realise that, as you say, it's all about what users want. People like to have all the weapons? Give them a mode where they do. And so on.

Also, I agree with your point that not every instance of walkthrough use involves a bad puzzle. However, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't use them at all if I could be 100% confident that all the puzzles were fair. For example, you'll notice where I mention Machinarium above that I say it didn't require a walkthrough. That wording was carefully chosen... because I did use one for one puzzle, then regretted it because it turned out there was no need. The problem was that my trust ran out before I solved the puzzle legitimately.

Dom Camus:
Yes, yes indeed. But in talking about failings of game design I didn't just mean things like bad puzzles. Some designers have begun to realise that, as you say, it's all about what users want. People like to have all the weapons? Give them a mode where they do. And so on.

I'm a little confused on this one, so I apologize if I'm reading it wrong--do you mean that providing this mode is a failing, or an example of correcting a failing?

Also, I agree with your point that not every instance of walkthrough use involves a bad puzzle. However, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't use them at all if I could be 100% confident that all the puzzles were fair. For example, you'll notice where I mention Machinarium above that I say it didn't require a walkthrough. That wording was carefully chosen... because I did use one for one puzzle, then regretted it because it turned out there was no need. The problem was that my trust ran out before I solved the puzzle legitimately.

An excellent point made on player-developer interaction. Especially for a new developer, this process is a lot like "first contact" with an alien: First, you have to establish what language you'll use to communicate, then you try a few simple things out to make sure that language is working, and then you get down to business.

A lot of game designers allow certain assumptions to cause them to skip that first step. Usually, this involves either 1) assuming the player has a certain body of prior knowledge and failing to provide it in the game, or 2) assuming the player will see this puzzle/problem from the same point-of-view as the designer. In either case, it means the designer isn't properly creating the language they're attempting to use to communicate with the player.

Like all relationships, trust is about communication. If communication is spotty, trust is going to be lacking. And if the language isn't well codified (by the designer, for the player), communication will be spotty. The payoff for all this is pretty simple: It is always the responsibility of the designer of a game to teach the player the language of the game.

Provide activities that show the player the skills, props/tools/items, signals and hints, and thought processes that you'll be asking them to use. Be very careful what you assume the player will already know or understand. And, of course, don't go to the other extreme and make your game a walkthrough for itself. Show them how, let them practice, and then make them do it.

A great example of a game that did this was Myst. The puzzles were tricky, and the various parts and buttons involved weren't usually labelled. But, being based around books, the game provided you instructions spread across the various books and pages you'd find. In these "hints," you were given clues as to what the pieces of the puzzle did, as well as what result you needed, and then it was up to you to connect the dots.

But most importantly, the "people" writing those books showed you how to play! They were making charts and diagrams, which in turn suggested to you (the player) to do the same as you worked it out. Not only were you being taught the mechanical aspects of the puzzles, but you were being shown a demonstration of the process of solving the puzzles.

(Myst also had its failings, occasionally, in that there'd be an object that was important and clickable... but the art design didn't appropriately draw attention to that item, occasionally leaving the player looking at a puzzle with what seems to be a missing piece...)

If you're cheating in a single player game, it's not cheating, it's overcoming the developers' failure to make the game fun for you.

If you're cheating in an online game you play with other players, consider your life forfeit.

If it wasn't for cheats I would probably still be trying to find the secret items in the Painkiller game and I played that years ago. :-)

Great article btw.

Anton P. Nym:

XT inc:
I think there is a missed area to discuss about this topic and how there is an utter lack of cheats in modern console games.

If you look at modern games the cheat selection is weak to say the least. Take Halo, the Golden eye of the modern age, has no cheat codes at all.

And yet, staying with the same series, Halo 2 introduced "Skull" modifiers as easter eggs that served as cheat codes; from Halo 3 on the Skulls were handled just like cheat codes.

Atop that, Halo games have always had a lot of customisation available in its multiplayer settings that has steadily increased with each release... Halo: Reach's Forge game editor is virtually a console port of the editor used to create the game.

(I don't agree with your point, and think you picked a bad example.)

I wouldn't exactly classify skulls in halo as cheats, they only offer more challenge to the game and add nothing new. The only skulls that comes remotely close to a cheat is grunt birthday,iwhbyd, and cowbell. Cheats to me, at least change whole dynamics of gameplay, sure you can edit features in multiplayer, but you can't edit the features of the game, there are no slow motion codes, or secret entertaining guns, or even traditional stuff like paintball, big head modes. All the unlocks are just armor choices that add nothing to the game, they could of at least half jokingly let you equip, say dual wielded swords in the campaign or add something unique. All you get is an aesthetic skin component for multiplayer.

Devs have taken their games way to seriously and cut out a lot of the cheat content that used to be fun and entertaining in the old games. Hell even prince of persia let you equip a teddy bear as a weapon if you unlocked it.

My last serious cheat was... almost never?

I cheat about for the fun of it all the time.. who doesn't love GTA cheats for messing about?

I do look up walthroughs some times.. but only if I've spent atleast an hour searching

I remember this one time in Prince of Persia sands of time where you had to bounce some light, I made it harder for myself by not moving one of them and arranging all the rest of them so it would still work

I checked a guide - turned out I HAD to move that one so Farih {The girl} could slip through a crack in the wall to help me..

Unamused me was unamused.

Sometimes, level design was poorly considered and makes the section incongrously difficult

My example will be Bulletstorm, the entire game's "normal" difficulty (compared to other shooters such as Crysis) is the "very hard" option, but in Act 7 Chapter one there is this one room which is IWBTG difficult to clear

You know what I mean, like the Broadcast room in CoD4 veteran, where the massive spike in difficulty was unintentional.

For these areas, I tuned down the difficulty to "normal" mode so I could clear them

Thinking of more examples, Delta Crysis, when the tanks roll in that base and you must literally crouch walk with stealth mode until you find two JAWs to take out the tanks. It's just hell, especially cause you gotta 1HSK every guard and slip back into stealth mode..

and there's over 100 guards you have to do this with or they'll murder you very, very fast.

"Cheating" is what allowed me to figure out that the original Civilization was, well, cheating. ("Hmm, my nemesis civilization has as much gold as I do... What a coincidence...") I would point out that I'd already given up whole days of my life to the silly thing at that point.

And then there's "Gun", where the designers filled the rest of the game with slow-motion headshots and then decided that the final boss wearing a breastplate made him immune to same and the only way to defeat him was to blow up dynamite while he was standing on gray patches on the ground. Yes, I headed to GameFAQS, no, I'm not sorry- sometimes a little guidance is the only plausible way around stupid design decisions.

Sometimes cheating can really improve the experience of an otherwise awful game. Currently playing through Saints Row 2 and i've had the cheats on since i started playing it. I'm thoroughly enjoying every bit of it.

EDIT: I should probably point out that i tried playing it once before with the cheats of and i really didn't like the game back then.

The Sims and Grand Theft Auto were no fun without cheating...

I'm Very surprised that Doom's cheats were no where to be found in this article. The infamous God Mode 'IDDQD' allowed even newbies to blast demons with the best of them without any fear of dying, in the process, they learned how to coordinate themselves better. Because, if you can't die, there is no reason not to explore that black section of the map and blow up everything you find.

Cheating in Doom allowed players to plan for when they tackled the game without them. Monster placement, weapon location, secrets, all these things are important when running through Doom's Hellish Levels, and cheating is possibly the best way to prepare for it. Sometimes you must cheat in order to get the most out of your gaming experience.

Cheating in single-player games isn't cheating, it's taking advantage of.

Cheating in multiplayer is just pathetic though. No one 'deserves' to win so much as they want to, and cheating in order to win? That shows you deserve it even less.

But using 'cheat' codes in single-player games, I mean come on; the experience of a video game is to have fun, right? Or to be scared, or emotionally toyed with or whatever. If cheating improves the enjoyment, entertainment, or fright you get, then it's not cheating, it's improving the experience!

In World of Warcraft, your almost considered a bad player and sometime wrong if you don't learn things from outside the game or get addons.

I don't use walkthroughs because I need them, usually I could probably figure things out if I had enough time. Problem is I don't have all the time in the world. My time is extremely limited and sometimes it just faster to look something up then keep trying.

All Hail Lelouch:
I'm Very surprised that Doom's cheats were no where to be found in this article. The infamous God Mode 'IDDQD' allowed even newbies to blast demons with the best of them without any fear of dying, in the process, they learned how to coordinate themselves better. Because, if you can't die, there is no reason not to explore that black section of the map and blow up everything you find.

Cheating in Doom allowed players to plan for when they tackled the game without them. Monster placement, weapon location, secrets, all these things are important when running through Doom's Hellish Levels, and cheating is possibly the best way to prepare for it. Sometimes you must cheat in order to get the most out of your gaming experience.

Funny you should mention them. I had a whole section of the article dedicated to those specific cheats in my original draft. For exactly the same reasons you mentioned, in fact. When I first played doom, it was just getting used to FPS games as a genre, and just moving around was a chore and a half.

In the interest of space, though, I had to make some cuts. It was interspersed with my golf anecdote, and I really felt I needed to include that example of real-life cheating... But you're dead-on with that example!

Xenosaga 2 was a game that was immeasurably improved by cheating. The new! improved! combat was hideously boring and tedious but the plot was good (if you like that sort of sweeping religious sci-fi space opera) and it had some fantastic cutscenes. I'd have never finished the game if I hadn't just cheated up my combat skills to blow through those endless random encounters.

A good piece by Brian, disproving the adage that cheaters never prosper.

What I loathe though, is people that try to cheat in D&D. Concealing and mis-representing dice rolls, lying about hp rolls, forgetting rules conveniently, mis-interpreting and out-right not reading feats and special abilities.

There have been some giant cheaters in my gaming group. As I am often the DM, I wonder. Do they think I was born yesterday? I've already done plenty of cheating when I was a wee lad, and now these college-age friends are into-it.

A sad state of affairs, any stories people?

I say old chap:
A good piece by Brian, disproving the adage that cheaters never prosper.

What I loathe though, is people that try to cheat in D&D. Concealing and mis-representing dice rolls, lying about hp rolls, forgetting rules conveniently, mis-interpreting and out-right not reading feats and special abilities.

There have been some giant cheaters in my gaming group. As I am often the DM, I wonder. Do they think I was born yesterday? I've already done plenty of cheating when I was a wee lad, and now these college-age friends are into-it.

A sad state of affairs, any stories people?

Thanks!

And agreed--cheating others is a totally different matter. And your D&D stories are a good place to look very closely:

I'll agree that what they're doing is basically cheating. It's sort of a reverse rules-lawyering approach, in which they omit a fact and hope that no one else catches it. Outright lying or hiding of rolls is a bit shadier, of course. And there's no doubt it's annoying and detrimental to the game... but, as I recommend in the article, there's always cause to look at why they're cheating.

It's easy to say, "Because they like to win." And largely, it's probably the truth. But they're not getting a prize or anything... so there's got to be more to it than that, no? In the case of pen-and-paper games, I think that sort of cheating reveals a few possible truths about the players and the game:

Cheating is their way of saying, "I'd prefer if this had gone differently." It's about the player feeling a bit of control. They had an image of how they'd participate in this story/adventure... but the rolls or rules had other ideas. So they quietly rebel against them, and take back control.

Remember, the player is sometimes seen as the "low man on the totem pole." There's the rulebook at the top, then the GM/DM, and then the dice... and then the player finally gets to have a say about whatever's left. RPGs are largely about power fantasies, and yet so much of it provides the player very little power. Often, it becomes a power fantasy for the DM/GM, rather than the whole group.

Some rules just don't work for some groups. Keep tabs. If there's a rule that people are continually wanting to work around... or a rule that one or two want to work around, and the rest don't really care about... consider suspending it for a session and see if it improves the experience. Give players a limited number of no-questions-asked "fudge" points, where they can turn a near-miss into a close-shave. Let them feel like their vision is (occasionally) more important than the rules. They need it.

Dice don't care about what's good for your story or gameplay. No one enjoys failure. Challenge, yes, which does include the risk of failure... but no one enjoys failure itself. Dice don't care about that. It's been said that the universe is "fair in that it is equally unfair to everyone." Sometimes, it's okay to help players impose a little justice on the proceedings--remember, the player has a personal interest in having the game go well, and the dice don't care if your game dies a fiery death.

Different players want different things. For some, it's all about showing how strong a character sheet they put together. For others, it's all about the story. For others, it's an excuse to hang out with friends. Make sure your game design leaves room for different kinds of enjoyment. Leaner rules might take away some of the gritty realism... but they can also ensure you spend more time playing and less time measuring and bickering. If a player can provide a convincing reason why this change would fit (and benefit) the story as a whole, why not let 'em have it?

If your players know they've got a legitimate way of exerting control over the game, even if it's a limited number of times, they'll be less likely to try the illegitimate ways.

Hope some of this helps!

Dastardly:

I say old chap:
A good piece by Brian, disproving the adage that cheaters never prosper.

What I loathe though, is people that try to cheat in D&D. Concealing and mis-representing dice rolls, lying about hp rolls, forgetting rules conveniently, mis-interpreting and out-right not reading feats and special abilities.

There have been some giant cheaters in my gaming group. As I am often the DM, I wonder. Do they think I was born yesterday? I've already done plenty of cheating when I was a wee lad, and now these college-age friends are into-it.

A sad state of affairs, any stories people?

Thanks!

And agreed--cheating others is a totally different matter. And your D&D stories are a good place to look very closely:

I'll agree that what they're doing is basically cheating. It's sort of a reverse rules-lawyering approach, in which they omit a fact and hope that no one else catches it. Outright lying or hiding of rolls is a bit shadier, of course. And there's no doubt it's annoying and detrimental to the game... but, as I recommend in the article, there's always cause to look at why they're cheating.

It's easy to say, "Because they like to win." And largely, it's probably the truth. But they're not getting a prize or anything... so there's got to be more to it than that, no? In the case of pen-and-paper games, I think that sort of cheating reveals a few possible truths about the players and the game:

Cheating is their way of saying, "I'd prefer if this had gone differently." It's about the player feeling a bit of control. They had an image of how they'd participate in this story/adventure... but the rolls or rules had other ideas. So they quietly rebel against them, and take back control.

Remember, the player is sometimes seen as the "low man on the totem pole." There's the rulebook at the top, then the GM/DM, and then the dice... and then the player finally gets to have a say about whatever's left. RPGs are largely about power fantasies, and yet so much of it provides the player very little power. Often, it becomes a power fantasy for the DM/GM, rather than the whole group.

Some rules just don't work for some groups. Keep tabs. If there's a rule that people are continually wanting to work around... or a rule that one or two want to work around, and the rest don't really care about... consider suspending it for a session and see if it improves the experience. Give players a limited number of no-questions-asked "fudge" points, where they can turn a near-miss into a close-shave. Let them feel like their vision is (occasionally) more important than the rules. They need it.

Dice don't care about what's good for your story or gameplay. No one enjoys failure. Challenge, yes, which does include the risk of failure... but no one enjoys failure itself. Dice don't care about that. It's been said that the universe is "fair in that it is equally unfair to everyone." Sometimes, it's okay to help players impose a little justice on the proceedings--remember, the player has a personal interest in having the game go well, and the dice don't care if your game dies a fiery death.

Different players want different things. For some, it's all about showing how strong a character sheet they put together. For others, it's all about the story. For others, it's an excuse to hang out with friends. Make sure your game design leaves room for different kinds of enjoyment. Leaner rules might take away some of the gritty realism... but they can also ensure you spend more time playing and less time measuring and bickering. If a player can provide a convincing reason why this change would fit (and benefit) the story as a whole, why not let 'em have it?

If your players know they've got a legitimate way of exerting control over the game, even if it's a limited number of times, they'll be less likely to try the illegitimate ways.

Hope some of this helps!

It is always good to get a well thought out response. Thanks.

The most common type of cheating I have seen is blatant omissions and not rules-lawyering, but convenient memory loss and ignoring rules. One guy takes quick draw, and forgets it only applies to weapons (not potions, scrolls). One chap takes a vow of poverty, loads up on food and equipment for an adventure, like some professional treasure hunter, and breaks his vow. One dread necromancer loses a bunt-load of cha in one combat, you know how some monsters are, and conveniently forgets that he now loses control of a lot of his undead. Does not inform the DM, that his unusual class runs off cha to keep the undead in check (undead motivational speaker?).

The worst was actually a new char, he put together a monk, we got him into a cool prestige class, and many games later I check over a few things and then have to do a complete "audit" since so much was wrong. I'll list, for lols sake.

He had cheated on the xp, somehow he jumped way ahead of what he should have. Actually past the most common attendee by far.
His ac was wrong.
He hadn't kept track of his items and enchantments (who knows what they actually were).
His monk damage was incorrect, it was too high. This was after I went through and worked it out with him and showed him what it was, how it progressed.
He had no alignment, despite his class having an alignment requirement.
He had interpreted monk bonus feats, to mean any bonus feat he wanted.
His hp was unusually high for a monk with lowish con.

I actually caught this guy cheating twice in articulate, if you know the game.

Now with that bit of amusement out of the way, we come to the why. I've DM'ed for many a year and I try to run a uncharted-like action-adventure game. Players die, but they do have some protection compared to npcs, and I have instituted a re-roll pool. In a way I wonder if fudge is superior, a fudge is a past, a re-roll can do diddly squat. Gives em another chance anyway.

The games can be hard and the games can be demanding. I certainly play the enemies smart at times (not always). However, these guys have traversed all manner of terrain, shattered all manner of enemies, they do really often come out on top, and there are always ample oppotunities to win. With all this experience witnessing my players, and gaming doesn't always bring out the best in people, I've got some theories on why they cheat, but first on power.

As for power fantasies, ah there is more to it than that simple psychological point, roleplaying has a lot of rewards contained within it. New roles to play present new actions to take, new cons to make (playing a rogue atm), new ways to approach situations (bluff, diplomacy, bluff, backstab, ha!). I have some sympathies since you can win and control the game a few ways (I wonder if you'll agree). First off you can be inventive, entertaining and charismatic. These types of players are almost always one step ahead of the dm, coming up with new solutions, entertaining all (but somewhat annoying other jealous players, something ive seen a lot of). Almost no matter the char, they'll come out one way or the other, or the dm spares them from death out of genuine admiration. Second is that lucky bugger whose dice really help him out, I've seen some really lucky players and that can lead to good control over actions and the game. Lastly is knowledge, one of the prime areas of player discontent. Knowledge of the system, what you can do, what you can try, what feats can aid you in your work. Basically how to make and use an effective character.

Finally back to why on the cheating.
I blame video games. Yep, I've noticed a trend, people that come to pen and paper games second after playing rpgs or action games on the computer or console can be quite the giant babies and hissy-fit chuckers. I think non pen and paper gaming changes people and pushes them along a predictable path. Some things I've seen:

1) Treating npcs as tools, xp, not equals. Reluctant to role-play with npcs, horrible treatment of them, and shame and anger if they are defeated, tricked or inconvenienced even a little.
2) A wish to game without learning the rules, to ignore inconveniencing rules, to bend as much as they can and get away with.
3) Save game mentality. After so long of re-loading botched missions on a pc or console, the gamer becomes highly frustrated if they have to deal with a negative situation over the medium term. In a com or console game they might cheat their way ahead, but in a collaborative rpg it ain't so simple, and they can really dwell on their losses or set-backs.
4) To think combat is all there is. So, used to combat games, or biffing their way through final fantasy the new player to pen and paper emphasised combat abilities and stats, and really stumbled when that is moved away from, or they simply have to make a diplomacy check. I make the world rich and multi-layered, but the requirement is that while important, combat is not all, this frustrates some greatly.
5) Cowardice. Common to spell-casters I've noticed supreme cowardice. These people aren't playing Conan, they are playing cowardly wizards who shoot and flee, expose the other party members, are concerned only with their own well being. It is a sad thing to see, a lack of team-work. In a solo game via keyboard and mouse or controller you privilege the one over the many, and I've seen that done time and time again.
6) Greed. While nigh-unwilling to learn the rules or accurately understand abilities, I've witnessed a lot of greed from green characters coming in. Oh loot there is plenty, its dnd, there always is; but the sheer greed can be amazing sometimes. This can be funny, and sometimes it can be a face-palm moment. Use to continuous accumulation in something like diablo or a final fantasy, the players become obsessed and other aspects of the game fall away. It becomes a grind for money or loot, and if they don't get it steadily they cry and become frustrated. The greed can also lead to the foolishness of grabbing all items and quickly donning them before the rest of the party. This happened once in game, and the laughs started when one hoarder later realised (because of no knowledge: religion) they had raided the temple of a cult that makes cursed items as a form of worship.

Gaming doesn't always bring out the best in people. I've seen a lot of greed and shallowness alongside good times and great fun. I attribute rampant cheating to attempts to fulfill greedy impulses, to maximise power in combat and satisfy the impulses brought about by a strong current of selfish computer/console gaming which can so easily go against the spirit of original party role-playing. It is just a game, and sometimes people can't step back and chill out, accept some losses and limitations. That is when they cheat.

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