Oh Occultist. Why you gotta game the system? Aside from it being your whole deal I mean?

This is the same sort of behavior that you’ll see with dice that “slipped out of my hand” or combats beginning with “I meant to declare that I’d cast enhance stats today.” This mess isn’t always gamesmanship. Sometimes the dice accidentally fall before you’re done describing your action. Sometimes you’d honestly cast your buffs, and only forgot to say so aloud. And sometimes your breastplate really is made out of ironwood rather than steel when the shocking grasp comes around. But whenever these moments crop up at the table, I find that they erode my trust as a GM.

We’ve all had that one guy at the table. The dice get picked up a little too fast. Their casters never seem to run out of spell slots. Hit points somehow fail to get subtracted properly. These are the cheats that live inside the benefit of the doubt. And that’s the real trouble. It’s awful getting called out on this stuff when your motives are pure.

I’ll never forget going to D&D Adventurers League. We’d bumbled into a few traps already, so I suggested we march in staggered formation.

“I don’t like the look of these tunnels,” I said. “If there are traps, I don’t want everyone getting hit again.” It seemed like a reasonable precaution to me. The Adventures League DM disagreed.

“You read the module!” he said. “Look man: just because you’ve played this before, don’t ruin it for the others.”

Apparently I’d guessed right. There was a deadfall trap in the next chamber. Staggered formation would save the party a lot of damage. And this prick had accused me of cheating in front of everyone. I finished out the session, but  you’d better believe I never went back.

That’s the trouble with policing cheating. Moments of gamesmanship might erode trust, but accusations outright shatter it. That’s why I tend to let them go. A player like Occultist might take advantage, but I’d rather take that risk than wag the j’accuse finger at an innocent gamer.

What do the rest of  you guys think? As a player, is it better to take your lumps and admit, “I should have declared it ahead of time?” And as a GM, when exactly do you call bullshit? Let’s talk honest mistakes, adversarial GMing, and dealing with cheating down in the comments!


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