Welcome to Part Three of Player Tips and DM Rants
I continue my rant/guide/request of various player behavior that needs to stop. If you want to be a better player, don’t do these things. Get rid of the bad habits and then, afterward, we’ll focus on some good ones to build.
I assume you’ve read parts one and two, so without further introduction… let’s discuss more SINS OF PLAYERS!
Whether it’s changing the roll of the die, or “accidentally” writing the wrong modifier on your character sheet – you’re cheating.
Think about it. Your rolls are way above average. Almost all the time. You pick up the dice before anyone can see, or you call out numbers stiltedly like “Four… Teen.” Somebody knows you’re fudging, and they’ve mentioned it to the others – maybe even the Dungeon Master. Does that make you feel bad? If not, your moral compass might not align with mine – but it’s still against the spirit of the game and undermines the work that the Dungeon Master and the other players put into the game.
The Dungeon Master, especially an experienced one, will get a hunch that your good luck is suspicious, or perhaps there’s a mechanic within your character that’s overpowered or misunderstood. This has a long list of potential repercussions, that hurts you, your party, and the game as a whole.
Perhaps the DM starts fudging his rolls behind the screen to overcome yours to preserve the state of the game and make the scene still feel dangerous. You’re curb-stomping everything that’s thrown at you, so they have to throw harder things at the party for combat to no longer be uninterested and remain a challenge. This becomes very dangerous for the rest of your team and probably makes you have to cheat even harder so that you can still be the amazing spotlight that you think you deserve to be.
NPCs will start to focus you more or treat you differently (humanoids and monsters alike). You’ll get put down faster and harder more often. This isn’t fun – but you brought it on yourself. You’ll be busy over there super-fudging during encounters while you natural 20 everything you come in contact with, fulfilling your masterbatorial fantasy of being the party hero. The worst-case scenario is that you’ll get kicked out or players will leave or dislike you – causing the game to fall apart. So just stop.
The Dungeon Master has a lot to keep track of, one of them shouldn’t be wondering if you’re cheating. This can occur in a myriad of ways, both subtle and obvious.
- I must be confusing editions.
- It’s a new ability, I don’t know.
- It’s homebrew, that’s just how it works.
- The app here says I can do it.
- The die was cocked.
- I’m double proficient, so I get +24.
- Oh, I thought I had those spell slots.
- No, I’m pretty sure my Sorcerer can cast two 9th level spells because I twinned it for only one sorcery point.
Usually, it’s easy enough to do. I’ve seen it countless times. One of my best friends is a “Dice-Fudger.” It’s part of the reason I no longer play with that group and instead started DMing. We’re still friends, but this $h1t can ruin the game for some people. This sin ties in very closely with the “Stop being a Mary Sue” sin that I’ll discuss in another post. If you don’t know what that term means, here’s Wikipedia.
A Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Typically, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfillment. They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience, and usually are able through some means to upstage the protagonist of an established fictional setting, such as by saving the hero.
Always wanting your character to succeed, perpetually “winning” and never having to experience setback is boring. I understand that, like Skyrim, D&D is a means for people to live out their “Power Fantasy” and crush Evil (or Good, if that’s your thing). But, you’re putting down other players when you do this and taking away the fun. If you take away the randomness of the dice, you’re no longer playing D&D the way it was designed. If this is something you enjoy, then you need to explore some other tabletop role-playing games that focus more on story-telling and no dice rolls.
This is one of the reasons I love my digital tabletop, Fantasy Grounds. All rolls are made public, and there’s no fudging.
Failure can be one of the best parts of the game. Setbacks are what help build character. It’s what makes books Best Sellers and movies Block Busters. When you fail, embrace it and fail with style. Make it memorable! Fail creatively.
How To Deal With The Cheaters
It’s a precarious situation because it’s not easy to prove someone is cheating sometimes. It may require a delicate approach, especially if you want to keep the player around.
- Point the player to this post; explain to them why what they are doing is wrong. Do so in private, whether you’re a player or the Dungeon Master.
- Make a rule that dice rolls must be made visible. Depending on the venue, such as online or at a table, this may be harder to implement. You can just have another player verify the roll, or it “must be the DM that sees the roll.”
- As a Dungeon Master, you can ask to review character sheets. I recommend you do this whether you have a cheater in the group or not. As you’re doing so, audit the sheets as well to check for mistakes as well as “mistakes”.
- This can be addressed with the 0-session and explaining expectations. Don’t underestimate the power of conversation and just setting boundaries and ground rules.
Sabotaging the Party
You’ve probably seen this nonsense happen before. The party sits outside the enemy stronghold, and they’ve been gathering information and discussing tactics for 45 minutes now. Finally, Wind the Paladin becomes impatient (really, the Player decides he wants to “Move the plot forward and get to the cool stuff”), so he goes up to the gates and knocks, demanding entry and that they should just surrender because the party has them surrounded.
You know how it ends. The enemy opens the gates, crossbow bolts rain from the walls above, Wind becomes a pincushion and is swarmed as the thugs pour from the gates and carry his body into the hold. The party must now either abandon their party member or abandon all their plans in hopes of saving Wind.
Now, of course, Wind’s player will have any number of excuses:
- “I was bored.” – If this is you, please keep in mind that there are many facets of D&D and various people will enjoy some more than others. Be patient, and soon enough things will go back to the more exciting parts you enjoy. Alternatively, speak up and urge them to come to some sort of decision. After all, spending nearly an hour deliberating can be excessive. Maybe contribute a little and help them move forward.
- “It’s what my guy would do.” – I’ll address my guy syndrome later. Fundamentally, though, the player IS ALWAYS IN CONTROL of their character’s actions. The worst players will always find a way to “rationalize” just why what “their guy” did was exactly in character. I don’t %&^*ing care, Mike. YOU are in control, and you need to consider whether what you’re doing is going to ruin things for other players in this PARTY.
- “That’s a fantastic failure and a memorable way to die. It’s a great scene.” – This one’s harder to argue against. If the player wants to throw away their character, and it won’t punish the rest of the party for doing so… it’s probably easier to just let them have their “memorable” death scene.
As I said above, though, you need to recognize that this part of the game – the strategizing and the planning, or whatever part is “boring” to you, is perhaps their favorite part. You’re denying them that so that you can serve yourself. Don’t just rush in. Express your impatience, even stepping away from the table or momentarily “checking out” is a better alternative than sabotaging the party.
Maybe it’s not the planning… maybe it’s something else. Do you hate shopping in town? Interact with the store or shopkeep in some fashion that’s more than just a navigation window. Look about, maybe you’ll find an interesting item that wasn’t mentioned before or a clue that leads to the next location/quest phase. See everything as an opportunity. Stop sabotaging.
Go gather information, gamble, come up with something that your character would do. Sure, you’re “dividing the party,” but only the most heinous of Dungeon Masters will punish you during scenarios like that. Even so, if that’s something you’re concerned with, then tell the DM something like “I don’t really enjoy this stuff, so I’d like to find something else for my character to do. Communication is key.
There’s a special type of player that’s fantastic at sabotaging the party. The Escalator. They don’t take the time to listen to what’s going on and are just itching for a fight. They take a perfectly normal situation and turn it into a battle by provoking or insulting the NPC. They bash down a door that wasn’t locked that leads to a room you have no information on rather than listen.
Maybe they got a new class ability, spell, or magic item and they are eager to use it. Usually, though, it doesn’t even take that much. They just immediately escalate whatever scenario is presented to them because of “My Guy” syndrome or some other inexplicable reason. If you play an impulsive character, great. That can lead to some exciting, funny, and memorable moments. Keep in mind, though, that it can also be very annoying, disruptive, and counterproductive if you don’t judge the situation accordingly.
Fantastically terrible examples of the Escalator that I’ve had to bear witness to:
- The Party learns that they can’t immediately see the town leader, and must instead make an appointment. The Escalator instead bursts into the town hall council chambers – demanding to be seen immediately. Thus, getting the party thrown out of town. What could have been a good dialogue instead delayed the quest and progression significantly as the party had to deal with the repercussions?
- The Party is going to rescue a captive person. They overhear guards having an intelligent, philosophical conversation and eventually complain about their employer. The Escalator just got a new spell and so just starts flinging spells down the hallway rather than potentially talking to the guards and exploring more about what they dislike about their employer. This led to a terrible, nearly campaign-ending, the session that was eventually ret-conned and redone.
- The Escalator insults and antagonizes NPCs in a leadership position totally unprovoked, resulting in the NPC disliking the party and not handing out full rewards or information. Instead, the party loses respect in the town they just saved because they were so insulting and demanding.
There is a very thick line between being impulsive, being impatient, and just being predictably annoying. Guess what, Mr. Escaltor, the group, and the game do NOT revolve around you. It’s not all about you. Good DMs will have their NPCs respond accordingly to your actions, so you don’t dictate the consequences, but you trigger them. Perhaps other members of your party have their own ideas and solutions. Hear them out, talk with them, engage with them. If you’re going to escalate, then make sure nobody has a problem with it and other options have been explored.
How To Deal
First of all: sometimes you can’t. Certain people just play like this. Maybe that’s the only way they enjoy the game. If that’s the case, remove them and replace them. If YOU are an escalator, maybe just think about what you’re doing before you do it. Even if your character loves violence, wait until other options have been exhausted before you start burning bridges, literally and figuratively. If you aren’t going to let the rest of the party play the game they want to play, you need to leave.
Otherwise, as usual, the best plan is to just talk to the player out of the game. Make them aware of their actions. Tell them what they are doing and why it’s such a problem. If they don’t listen, see the paragraph above.
Finally, and an option I rarely see players take, is to stop the player or character. Sure, you want to let them “have their fun,” but if you know or think that this thing they are about to do is bad for the game, then address it – right now.
Escalator: “I guess Buildyone just starts casting fire bolt down the hall at the guards.”
Any other member of the party, immediately: “I want my character, Umbalk, to stop Buildyone. Either by saying stop or tackling her if I need to. I think we have other solutions available and I want to be able to explore that before it’s too late.”
And So Concludes Part Three
Rest assured: there is plenty more to come. I have a significant list of things I want you to stop doing. I hope you’re now on the path to correction.
For now, have some finger guns. *pew pew*
What are some of your pet peeves with other players?
Share with us! Make others aware of their disgusting habits.