D&D: 9 Ways DMs Cheat Without Even Realizing It

It is arguably impossible for the Dungeon Master in a Dungeons and Dragons game to cheat. the culture of d&d, both as established by the majority of players and by the 5e books themselves, casts the Dungeon Master as arbiter of the rules and story. They are given implicit license to fudge, change, add, or ignore any rules they don’t think are applicable for their table.

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But the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook are full to the brim of rules. Many of these rules are never used in most d&d games, while others are used in fundamentally altered ways. Some may consider this a DM’s prerogative, but others may consider this cheating.

9 Adjusting Hit Points For Pacing

Dungeons & Dragons, Giant

Monsters in d&d have a pool of hit points that the players must whittle down if they are to defeat them. 5e presents monsters with a set hit point value, while also providing a dice roll formula in case the DM wants to have some extra variety. But this number does not always match up with the pacing of play. Sometimes players will roll exceptionally well and down a monster too fast, while other times a creature turns out to have far too many hit points. It’s easy for a DM to, whether they meant to or not, adjust hit point values ​​on the fly to better match the pacing of the story.

8 Linking Skills To Abilities

One of the least used rules in D&D 5e is that skills can be uncoupled from their normal ability scores. the Dungeon Master’s Guide provides examples, such as how a character with proficiency in Athletics, normally a Strength skill, might apply their proficiency bonus to a Constitution check to make a long haul swim.

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This rule, which is found in the main section of the book rather than the optional rules section, explains why 5e materials tend to describe skills in the “Dexterity (Stealth)” format. Unfortunately, very few published adventures mention these flexible skill uses, leading many DMs to keep all skills bound to their respective ability scores.

7 Accidentally Making Fights Too Hard, Then Rolling Things Back

Fourth edition dungeons and dragons dying fighter and warlord performing ritual

D&D 5e’s encounter balancing calculations are notoriously difficult and unreliable. The Challenge Rating system does an ok job at approximating the difficulty of a monster, but factors such as environment, party composition, monster spellcasting, weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and more can make it hard to use reliably. Anyone who has run d&d for any amount of time you have found yourself in an encounter that is accidentally way overpowered. A DM who realizes too late that they’ve sent a killer death squadron against their party might be tempted to adjust enemy hit points or introduce an opportunity for escape or reinforcements that they hadn’t initially planned for.

6 Fudging Dice Rolls When Needed

DnD tavern scene.

Some DMs like to roll their dice out in the public to keep everything fair and transparent. Others, however, like to keep things behind a screen to preserve some mystery. Rolling in secret also introduces the opportunity for a classic DM tradition: fudging dice rolls. There are several camps when it comes to fudging dice in D&D Some say that it takes away from the point of using dice. Altering the whims of chance removes some of the tension and danger that comes from using dice in the first place. Others, on the other hand, say that fudging dice allows DMs a level of control over the narrative that can help them keep things flowing better and avoid situations that might be unsatisfying for the group.

5 Giving Out Too Much Or Not Enough Loot

In another prime example of 5e’s cavalier approach to DM guidance, there is no one right way to dole out treasure. the Dungeon Master’s Guide includes some tables to assign treasure based on a monster’s challenge rating, but this is far from applicable to every monster. Not every creature would be carrying 4d6 silver pieces in its pockets, for instance. Similarly, the book provides a rough guideline for which kinds of magic items should be awarded at which level. But this guidance is very loose, leading to many DMs handing out treasure more or less on instinct. This loose guidance could lead to depriving the party of treasure for too long, or flooding them with treasure. While this falls under the umbrella of DM fiat, some players may feel cheated out of treasure or a challenging experience respectively.

4 Everything About Bonus Actions

Dungeons and Dragons’ bonus action is an evolution on the swift action and minor action of 3rd Edition and 4th Edition respectively. It is an extra opportunity for a character to act outside of their normal action. However, the way most players use bonus actions isn’t quite right. d&d characters don’t actually get a bonus action unless something grants them one, usually a class feature or spell that stipulates how the bonus action is used.

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But not every feature uses the same wording. The rogue’s Cunning Action, for instance, says “You can take a bonus action on each of your turns in combat,” while the spell Spiritual Weapon says “As a bonus action on your turn…” The way the bonus action is actually written into the rules causes some confusion for some Dungeon Masters, as it is unclear whether features like Cunning Action grant an extra bonus action or simply allow them to take one in the first place.

3 Inspiration Is Very Versatile

Inspiration is one of the new additions to 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons and is the source of discussion among DMs. It takes cues from narrative games like FATE, awarding players with a token they can use to affect future dice rolls. By the rules, players can spend their Inspiration to gain advantage on an Attack roll, saving throw, or ability check.

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Some DMs find this somewhat anticlimactic, and so allow the Inspiration to be spent retroactively to reroll a failed roll. Others allow players to stockpile Inspiration, rather than limiting them to a single point as per the rules. Still others dislike the Inspiration mechanic altogether. Like so many DM choices, this is not necessarily cheating, but could rub some players the wrong way.

two Playing Fast And Loose With Cover And Range

A pair of adventurers flee a dungeon in Dungeons & Dragons

d&d has a long history in tactical wargaming, and this DNA still shows through in 5e. While d&d no longer explicitly requires a grid to play, lots of its mechanics still reference distances measured in feet, along with radii, cones, and spheres. the Dungeon Master’s Guide features diagrams to illustrate half cover, three-quarters cover, and flanking. Flanking is categorized as an optional rule, but the specific types of cover are not. Despite 5e having some pretty robust cover rules, many DMs simply choose to abstract this or simplify it down to using the advantage or disadvantage system.

one Saying “I Will Allow This!”

A fight breaks out in Dungeons and Dragons.

One of the DM’s biggest jobs in d&d is to arbitrate the rules, especially where these rules should be ignored. As players flex their imaginations and explore the world, they will inevitably come up with outlandish plans to overcome challenges. The DM is responsible for deciding how these plans will be resolved mechanically, and this often means ignoring the rules as written. It’s impossible to know every single rule, so DM’s arbitrating plans on the fly will invariably end up breaking some rules, but this is to be expected in a game where anything can happen.

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