How Do I Know If My Game Master Cheating?

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0992

How do I know if my game master is cheating?

That’s the question I just read on Quora.

My mind instantly flooded with thoughts.

One central notion emerged above the chaos….

There are a lot of new gamers joining our beloved hobby. They might not know what’s right and wrong. And this could be causing great grief at gaming tables.

I grew up with Rule 0: The Dungeon Master Is Always Right.

I don’t follow that rule any more. Instead, my current Rule 0: I’m Never As Smart As I Think I Am.

It’s a collaboration game.

You also have a certain GMing style and preferences.

And the rule books themselves tell you to change things.

If you use a screen and fudge rolls, so be it. If you make an encounter happen no matter what the PCs decide, so be it. If you change a foe’s hit points mid-combat, so be it.

I don’t recommend those actions. It’s not my style generally, and I feel my games are richer without quantum ogres and such.

I got burned by this last season of Murder Hobos, actually. I had the villains doing their rituals regardless of player actions. And that tasted bitter afterwards.

I think with such a malleable, creative, multiplicitous game as ours, though, there’s only one way to cheat….

Cheating is when you break the agreement you’ve reached with your group about what’s cheating.

This implies you’ve discussed this with your group. New GMs might not think to do this. They might play RPGs like Monopoly: read the rules, obey the rules, and play the game as written. Every time.

New GMs might not know they can change whatever they want, ideally with player participation and feedback. You all make the game how you want it to be.

The missed step, I think, is not communicating on what’s verboten.

So have that chat before it becomes a problem. Before players get upset and turn to Quora for strangers’ answers.

Decide in your own mind what’s cheating and share that out with your group.