Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Cheaters Never Prosper Until They Stop Playing D&D

There’s an interesting discussion about cheating over at the Farsight Blogger. I can absolutely understand a player who’d quit because they can’t cheat. That’s a player who probably shouldn’t have been playing D&D in the first place.

If you must always win, if you find missing boring but don’t find always hitting boring, if the thought of your character being tied to a chair and interrogated like James Bond in just about every movie in the franchise leaves you cold, then you should be looking to games other than D&D and the many, many others built on a similar chassis, for your RPGing fun.

The Cypher System puts nearly all the mechanical heavy-lifting in the hands of the players, allowing them to effectively purchase success. The Leverage RPG assumes the PCs are hyper-competent individuals who simply do not fail. No matter how badly you roll, you succeed. A poor roll just means a new complication has arisen and must be dealt with. Further along that spectrum are GMless games that give narrative power to the players, allowing the group to dictate what does and doesn’t happen during a game.

D&D, and the many games built in its image, embraces randomness and chaos. As many have pointed out (and complained about) in the past, the d20 is an incredibly swingy thing to build a core mechanic on. Out of 100 rolls, even the best swordsman, the slickest thief, and most knowledgeable wizard is going to roll a 1 an average of five times. Stack critical success and fumble rules on top of that and you’ve got a recipe geared heavily towards the random, the zany, and the unexpected, rather than the competency porn of other games.

D&D is about the unexpected, the unplanned, the curve ball that came out of nowhere. It’s the anticipation as everyone waits with baited breath while the die bounces across the table. It’s the sure-thing that was whiffed and the long-shot that connected.

This is why pages and pages of random tables make sense in D&D. These are the crazy props you toss to the improv troupe that is your game to see what they’ll come up with this time. A world built from randomly generated hobgoblins eating pie and drunk PCs making clumsy passes at witches.

I have often said that when you’re rolling the dice you’re not playing the game. That’s not the same thing as saying the dice are not important to the game. If your game is D&D, the dice, and the randomness they bring, are vital. If you don’t like that, there are many, many games that will be more fun for you than D&D.

1 comment:

JB said...

Read the post. Interesting discussion.

I remember the first time I met someone who cheated at cards. This was an adult. The person was a friend...hell, a coworker and (sometimes) a manager at my work place. But we happened to have a friendly history from even before our mutual profession. Having a friendly game (with drinks) and finding she couldn't help but cheat...I assume because she didn't like losing...was kind of mind-blowing to me, as she conducted herself with such integrity and professionalism in other areas. I was too embarrassed for her to even call her out (we weren't playing for actual money or anything).


I've (of course) had a player or two who used to cheat with the "magic character sheet," or (more often) the "magical ability scores" when rolling characters. I never worried too much about it. The dice rolls...which I policed in draconian manner...always evened things out, and a beefy character was never the equivalent of "good play" in D&D.