GMs - how to cheat your players?

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GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby mutecebu » Tue Aug 24, 2010 9:14 pm

Okay, so back in the real world, in his own campaign Parson intended to "cheat his players until they found a way to cheat him." I like that idea, and I'm dreaming up a freeform RP campaign where I do just that. My question to you: what exactly constitutes cheating your players, other than just "being a GM douche"? And where do you draw the line, and let them win? When they do something so foolproof you honestly can't come up with a plausible counter-occurrence? ('cause there's always evil-deus-ex-machina.) Or maybe when they just manage to do something extremely clever, out-of-the-box and rules-bendy, so you say "Okay, that was pretty clever, you win."

This discussion can be about any game format, from freeform RPG to D&D to strategy games to whatever. Mine is a play-by-post roleplay.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Nihila » Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:35 am

Well, look at what happens in Book 1, for a start. If they have the dwagon trick, send your scouts close enough to the lake to see the dwagons. If they don't recall the dwagons, move all your siege into a hex that has all your archers. Let them uncroak four thousand units, but have your Warlord slaughter them. If your Warlord nearly croaks, that's what Charlie's for. Once you get them to exercise lateral thinking, then they can win.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Fri Sep 03, 2010 9:57 am

Simple answer is

you do not cheat your players nor try to railroad them into too detailed a plan. (Great articles and series, imo.)

In real-life, Parson's plan would have been a strain on his gaming partners, and not that good an idea. If you cannot trust the GM to obey the rules that you and the GM agreed upon, then you cannot trust your planning, and in the end, you cannot trust your play. Game over, even if you're still at the table rolling dice. Through gritted teeth. Thinking "what a douchebag!"

So if you want to cheat your players, you must be a lawyer about it. Make it either clear from the beginning or clear if, you know, you had read the fine print, that things will go south very quickly if only conventional approaches are used.

Case in point, a city besieged and the troops inside outnumbered 25 to 1. No cheating necessary. It's already an almost impossible to beat scenario.
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Siralus » Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:12 am

How about. You are the besieging force. Its a tremendous defensive position. You outnumber the defending force by 3 to 2. The defenders have reinforcements coming in a moderate time period. You outnumber those reinforcements 3 to 2. Fine tune so that its as suitably near-impossible as you feel appropriate.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Chris Goodwin » Fri Sep 03, 2010 12:13 pm

It's not so much a rules cheat as a scenario cheat.

"You're in an aircraft. Badly damaged but still flying, and low on ammunition and fuel. Suddenly, radar shows enemy inbounds. Over a hundred of them. What do you do?"

In a typical wargame situation, a scenario like that would be played twice, with the players trading sides between. It's intended to be a slaughter, but the "winner" is the player who does the best in the "losing" seat.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Crovius » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:37 pm

So, it isn't: "Beat all the enemies in this level without dieing."

It's more of a: "Who can get the most point in this level before they die?"
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Sat Sep 04, 2010 5:35 am

Just like Arcade games, come to think about it.
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Trost » Sat Nov 13, 2010 1:07 am

Crovius wrote:So, it isn't: "Beat all the enemies in this level without dieing."

It's more of a: "Who can get the most point in this level before they die?"


so... Tower defense?
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby W.U. » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:12 pm

The only GM "cheats" that are acceptable is when they are discreet. You want to break a rule? Be sneaky about it. Make it LOOK like it's on the up-and-up.

The only other GM cheat is preparation. Give your players' opponents the resources to be able to spy on the players and know everything they have, if not what they are planning.

In any case, make it believable.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Crovius » Thu Nov 18, 2010 11:24 am

I always make two NPC adventuring parties, one mostly nuetral and one that is clearly an opposition to the player party. I have this team do little adventures in the backgroiund, occassionally the players may hear words of an orc camp being attacked by a group of people, or a powerful group of induviduals sacking small villages. Little plot hooks to goad them into meeting the other parties. I actually roll thsi other parties stats, determine xp gain compared to the adventures the players have, and keep them only 1-3 levels behind the players. While a fight with the is inevitable, the fact that the players are facing characters that are as varied as the player party and these people have character levels and access toe verything the players do is not "cheating", but certainly interactions are a great deal different from the usual fight with a Giant or goblin band or evil wizard and his golems.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby zilfallon » Sat Nov 20, 2010 12:54 pm

ah yes crovius, it isn't really "cheating" though.

providing your players another adventuring party as enemy always makes interesting combats. i actually make my players fight npc's more than monsters because npc's have more options to be customised. and in a long term game you have to do it because eventually you run out of monsters, so you have to create something yourself to keep combats interesting.
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby thetobias » Sat Nov 20, 2010 1:20 pm

There are two styles of GM "cheating"

One: The "benevolent" cheating for dramatic effect. There are times when us e of this can be excused because sometimes that one awesome situation will be botched by one of you're dierolls. (here the cheating is used to make the game more enjoyable for your players which is good.)

Two: The extremely malevolent Paranoia cheating. Only good PC is a dead PC. This style has it's moment, especially in Paranoia which is designed around GM, NPC and computer malevolence, but it shouldn't be used in more "serious" games, such as DnD or wargaming. Unless your players are very masochistic that is... :twisted:
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Re: GMs - how to cheat your players?

Postby Squeejee » Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:45 pm

As a GM, I find it's best to "cheat" my players in the Gygaxian sense - lots of deadly traps, some of which the Rogue can avoid, but others that don't fall into the purview of trapfinding and therefore require the players to recognize them using their heads instead of their dice. As an extension of that, creating puzzles that have no apparent solution (ie, the object you need to get is enclosed in a mini sphere of force that resists attempts at standard dispelling, what do you do?) is also a good tactic to make your party think outside their stats for a solution, and generally makes for a more memorable gaming session. Typically I don't even come up with a solution to these puzzles myself, but when my players describe a solution that sounds like it might work, I give them a fair go at it (in this case, they smashed a wand of dispelling against the force sphere until it broke, releasing the pent up abjuration energies within while the wizard focused it into a single powerful dispelling effect - one spellcraft check later, the item was theirs).

Admittedly, you run the risk of introducing a dangerous precedent into your campaign on the latter method, but you can always BS your way into nullifying it next time it comes up (like, say, a powerful enemy Wizard counterspelling the effect, meaning they broke the wand for nothing and will think very hard on risking that again). The trick there is to let the broken tactics work occasionally, but be thwarted when it really matters - if you need justify it, obviously the forces that the players are working against are saving their resources for those times when it really does matter, so it's totally logical for them to counterspell you this time and not those other times.

It can also be used to create a thrilling scene - the party needs to get to a similarly protected object or area, but the broken wand method won't work until they can take care of the evil wizard's apprentice, who is readying a counterspell action every turn while they square off with the man himself. The party now needs to come up with a tactical solution that renders the apprentice disabled for one turn so they can get the device and use it on the wizard to kill him permanently instead of watching him regenerate every round. Sounds like a campaign finale to me!
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