Dungeons & Dragons players reach verdict on if it’s okay for a DM to “cheat”

Noelle Corbett
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In response to a DM’s question, the Dungeons & Dragons subreddit has largely agreed on what constitutes cheating and whether it’s okay.

In Dungeons & Dragons and other TTRPGs like it, the role of the Dungeon Master is crucial. It’s up to the DM to prepare for and run the session, which includes planning encounters, roleplaying NPCs, adjusting to their players’ behavior, and more.

The number of moving pieces DMs have to keep track of makes it a challenging but rewarding way to experience the game. Luckily, there are plenty of online spaces where newcomers can get advice and discuss ideas with more experienced DMs.

Now, it seems the community has generally agreed on the topic of “cheating” as a DM, and their reasons for it are incredibly helpful for anyone trying to improve their skills.

A D&D party in combat

D&D players discuss if & when it’s okay for a DM to cheat

The discussion started with a question from Reddit user Imaginary-Wasabi-370, who asked, “Is it bad as a DM to cheat a bit ?”

They explained how, during a recent session, they noticed the party was having a “pretty fair fight” against what was supposed to be a difficult boss. To address this, the DM chose to increase the creature’s HP and damage output, making for a “a close call” that the party said was “fun for them.”

However, the feeling that they may have cheated led them to seek insight from others in the D&D community.

Overall, the consensus is that this DM didn’t really cheat, and even if you were to count their decision as cheating, it would still be acceptable.

As one commenter explained, “Cheating? Yes, it’s bad. Adjusting the difficulty of an encounter on the fly because you overestimated or underestimated the difficulty of that encounter is not cheating as far as I’m concerned.”

Another concurred, saying, “Encounter design doesn’t stop after you roll initiative,” a quote attributed to writer and D&D YouTuber Matt Colville.

Others, still agreeing that what the player did was fine, even encouraged, provided additional insight on how to handle on-the-fly changes and where to draw the line.

“No judgement here, just advice: never cheat any numbers the players see,” suggested one player. “If you change things the players know to be true you will lose player trust, immersion, and buy-in.” As an example, Armor Class shouldn’t change mid-battle outside of certain circumstances, such as a preplanned multiphase fight or an action players see (like a monster picking up a shield).

At the end of the day, D&D is meant to be fun. To deliver that experience, it’s important to know what your players want from the game. While some rules-focused groups may see something like this as cheating, for the majority of tables, making these kinds of changes mid-game keeps things enjoyable.

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About The Author

Noelle is a Senior Games Writer for Dexerto who can usually be found playing an RPG. Her favorites include Persona, Pokemon, and DnD. When she isn't writing or gaming, Noelle is probably making silly noises at her dog. She can be reached at noelle.corbett@dexerto.com.