Dec 172013

CheatingI think just about every gamer has experienced cheating at the gaming table in some form or another.  Heck, cheating at the gaming table is as old as the gaming table itself.  Some of us cheat when making our characters, some of us cheat when rolling our dice, and then some of us meta-game (which may or may not be a form of cheating).  However, I’m contemplating cheating in a way that is either totally inexcusable, or completely justified.  You decide…

In any given game, I can be either an aggressive gamer or a passive gamer.  I get the most joy out of the character when he’s full of character, but how I approach playing in a given campaign will make or break my enjoyment.  Ultimately, this is dependent on how much effort I’m putting in with regard to following the story – if I pay attention, everything’s great.  If I don’t take notes, I have trouble following along, and then I get bored.  I don’t know what my issue is – perhaps I’m just lazy?

I get most bored when I don’t understand what’s really going on in the campaign, so I just trod along acting like I know what’s going on.  Hey, there’s tons of weird names, it’s hard to remember who is who, I miss the plot clues, and then I find myself just wondering when the next fight is.  And, to validate my case, I see it in the faces of the other players as well…

So, I’m contemplating pulling a fast one on the players and the GM – I’m contemplating reading the adventure in its entirety, before we get any further in.

Is that cheating?

Let me defend my position: I’m sure the adventure/campaign is well-written and just fantastic, but it’s getting lost on most of us at the table.  Either the story and plot are too smart for us, or we just aren’t serious gamers.  Either way, my solution (I think) will help us get through it in a way that preserves fun for everyone at the table – I’m going to read the adventure in its entirety, so that I have all the ammunition I need.  And I will not tell a soul.

I don’t need to be “wowed” by the big finale, I don’t need to get powerful magic items, and I don’t need to be the one who finds all the clues.  I like being there because of all the fun and interesting things that happen spontaneously, often that have nothing to do with the adventure.  It’s the interaction at the table between player characters, and also the interaction with the NPCs.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of times when we (as player characters) are lost because we don’t understand what’s going on.  We could spend hours dealing with some writings on the wall, when really it’s just there as decoration.  We could spend hours searching the throne room, interrogating a spy, or chasing some dumb orc, all because we think it’s relevant.  Or, we could completely bypass the clue that will effectively take us into the next plot arc.

When there’s a lot of things going on, we can forget what our goals are, or not even figure them out in the first place.  Have you or your players ever sat there, dumbfounded, with no idea what to do?  That’s us, and that’s us often.  That right there is a heavy contributor to our games falling apart.

If I read the adventure – right now – I could alleviate a whole lot of wandering, a whole lot of unfun and confused derailment, and help keep us on the path.  I would know what’s going on, and I could use that as a base to help keep the other players focused.  I’m not going to suggest we search “this” particular room because I know that there are some hidden treasures, I’m not going to avoid a certain square just because I know it’s trapped, and I’m not going to suggest that we investigate the baron because I know that he’s the big bad evil guy;  I want to read the adventure so that I can keep us on track, so that I (we) don’t get lost, and so that we don’t get bored and start killing peasant farmer NPCs.  I’m not in-it-to-win-it; I’m in it for fun, for all of us.

If “spontaneously” drumming up the answer when everyone else gets stumped and frustrated makes me a cheater, then so be it.  I don’t know, what do you think?  And feel free to tear me a new one…

This article originally posted at The Gamer Effect on April 17th, 2013.

Anonymous Charlie

This closet gamer loves to game in Denny's restaurants on Sunday nights (go figure, and thank you for reading).

  15 Responses to “I’m cheating in a way that is either completely justified, or totally inexcusable. You decide…”

  1. The fact that you think this is some kind of innovation is pathetic. Yes, learning GM knowledge is cheating. This isn’t some grey area, the books literally say, “DO NOT READ THIS.”

    If you need to cheat because you’re lazy and self absorbed and can’t pay attention, then perhaps table top gaming isn’t for you.

    This is a HOBBY, not a pass time. If you want to enjoy it, you need to put effort into it and you need to contribute for the benefit of the people you game.

    Yes, it’s cheating and by doing it, you are no more of a gamer than a 12 year old kid entering cheat codes into his X-box.


  2. Did you write that just to justificate you cheating? Wandering off and guessing whats going on is part of the fun. If i were the DM and i realize that you know stuff you arent supposed to know then you would be banned from my table. Being a player that wants to keep the other players on way it’s bad, you would be the main character bossing around the others.

  3. In today’s world of moral ambiguity, definitions are malleable and subject to individual interpretations and whims. What you might construe as cheating, another might shrug off in indifference. In the past I might have opted to chide you for even asking this question as the answer is obvious to me but I’m too old to care. Let Rome burn.

  4. You say you are not going to tell people to go into certain rooms, or not step on traps or basically no meta-gaming but you will keep everyone on “track.” I do not see how you can keep everyone on track without meta-gaming or cheating.

  5. If you do not like it, then don’t do it. If you want to, then do it. This is a hobby, you do it for fun. If this makes it more fun for you then why not? But be careful that you do not ruin the game for everyone else in the process.

  6. I think that the potential for others to find out about your ultra-meta-gaming is too great, and you will ultimately lose out with the group. I’d much rather my players take more notes and ask more questions, than to read ahead for the answers. As a GM, if I found out my player had done this, I’d wonder if it’s worth it to put in any more work.

    My buddy, John, always has a small whiteboard that anyone can write notes and goals on, and players go over it and update it every session. That helps a lot, so try that instead of reading ahead.

  7. It’s cheating, and I’ll tell you why:

    “I like being there because of all the fun and interesting things that happen spontaneously, often that have nothing to do with the adventure. It’s the interaction at the table between player characters, and also the interaction with the NPCs.”

    By reading ahead, you and you ALONE are becoming the arbitrator for how much of that spontaneous interaction is “enough”, and how much is “unnecessary”. That takes away control from all the other players, and even from the GM’s role.

  8. The fact that you’re planning on reading the module *behind your DM’s back* speaks volumes about whether or not this is cheating.

    If you want to help your DM and your group, do it openly: talk to your DM about your concerns and come up with a way for both of you to work together to keep the players on track. There’s nothing wrong with the DM refreshing your memories about plot points, names, events and the like if that’s what it takes for the party to stay involved. He can pass notes with hints to the character who rolls highest on an Intelligence or Wisdom check. He can have an NPC offer advice.

    There are a lot of ways the DM can help you guys out – but if you don’t say anything he may not even realize what the issue is.

  9. I don’t think you’re the debil for considering this but there is already someone at the table who has read the adventure and who is responsible (in part at least) for keeping the party on track: The GM. Your responsibility as a player is to give the GM and the other players your attention, buy-in and best effort.

    If the GM just let’s you flounder and meander about aimlessly then that is an issue you should take up with them in a more direct fashion. If the issue is that the GM is running adventures that aren’t interesting to you and the other players then that should be discussed. If the GM is trying to run games of mystery or political intrigue and your group is more interested in tactical combat or dungeon crawling then obviously that’s gonna be a problem.

    Other things you might try is assigning roles among the group to help everyone remain focused. Put someone in charge of maps/cartography, someone else in charge of keeping a party log, someone else in charge of tracking resources, etc… If you are really lost ask the GM/logkeeper to recap once in a while, or ask an NPC for advice. My point is that if you are feeling overwhelmed there are steps I think you can and should try before resorting to this tactic.

  10. Well, thank you to everyone for leaving comments. All of your comments have helped me look more at myself, what I want out of gaming, and what I should do to get there. I think my next step will be to talk with the GM, and also devise some sort of group minutes every session. Thanks, everyone, for the feedback!

  11. “there is already someone at the table who has read the adventure and who is responsible (in part at least) for keeping the party on track: The GM”

    This. It is the responsibility of the GM to help te party if needed. Of course he can’t just walk them through the game but he can help if the party is stuck. An NPC comes up with new info, they find some clue, etc. Of course it could feel like deus ex machina (it kinda’ is) but if it’s done right by the GM it will be okay. It is stupid for any GM to run a written campaign by the letter and let the party be stuck indefinitely if they took a wrong turn. Don’t use written material *literally* literally, use them as guidelines.

    On the other hand, it’s not a game you play to win money or beat the other players, so, “cheating” with the intent of bettering the experience is not that bad. It’s like taking a GPS to a hike – you won’t use it unless things get effed up beyond recognition. Players often have information they shouldn’t use in-game, this is just another example of that. There are people out there with broomsticks up their asses condemning everybody who doesn’t play the way they do. Don’t let them bully you.

  12. Who cares if it’s cheating or not? As a player, I’ve been in that position of not knowing what’s going on and wondering if I’ll bother making it back to the game next week.

    Often, it was a player that helped get me involved in the game, simply because I didn’t have a clue about what was going on. Well, if that player knew what to expect in the adventure, I didn’t know it. Now, if I did know that he had all of the answers back then, I don’t think it would take away from the memories of my enjoyment.

    If you think it will help the game, then do it. If you get “caught,” be prepared for the wrath of the GM or players, but if they never know, who loses? No one.

  13. @Torin “but if they never know, who loses? No one.”

    The poster loses, or the other players do. Ultimatley either he’ll be bored sitting there putting no input in so the story can progress without artificial spontaneity or he’ll ruin the flow for the other players. I’ve been in this position with Pathfinder Society where I sat in at a table I already ran…it sucks.

    If the plot is to convoluted ask the other players and the gm ask the gm to institute a house rule for clues. Maybe, when all of the players agree they genuinely can’t think of a single thing to do they ask the gm to shake things up! The gm takes the hint and injects a scene, clue, or some kind of lead for the characters but as a result of not finding it on their own the discovery costs them something. It could be personal, monetary, morally wrong, etc.

    That way the plot isn’t spoiled, the characters lives get more interesting, and the plot can still follow a nice flow.

  14. @ Seth Drebitko: “I’ve been in this position with Pathfinder Society where I sat in at a table I already ran…it sucks.”

    This is the most compelling reason I can agree with for not cheating (as the poster puts it). Well said.

  15. Eh. My personal feeling is that unless the game is a competition (which for some groups it could be) the only real harm you are doing is to your own enjoyment. Which, if you already aren’t enjoying it, is rather a wash in the matter. Generally I’d say, if you are uncomfortable doing it, don’t do it. If it doesn’t bother you go ahead. It is possible to still enjoy a game you know to much about… I’m in the process of playing through the old Ravenloft module… which I’ve played before, and run before, so I have a good idea of just how fucked we are in many situations. It’s not made it less enjoyable for me, and the GM knows I know certain what things mean at times, so it’s not impacted his running negatively.

    That all said, the ultimate issue is there being a disconnect between the GM,story and the players. You might have as good a result, if not better, by just talking to the GM and explaining your issue. It may not be obvious to the GM that there is an issue… sitting behind the screen, with all the info, everything makes sense to you. I’ve had that discussion before and ultimately it makes things better.

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