Is it ok to cheat in a table-top roleplay game?

Updated: Feb 27

Yes! Surprised about my answer right? Everyone's gut reaction to this question is always "No, it's not okay to cheat. It's never ok to cheat!" Now before anyone tries to light torches or sharpen pitchforks hear me out for a bit.

I agree that what most people think of cheating is not ok. After all, if someone keeps rolling 20's you know some b.s. is going on and that's no fun. The type of cheating I am referring to is very small cheating. Nothing super fancy but like a couple of gold to buy something you may not have had enough for or a +1 to saving throw so that you just make it by the skin of your teeth. My view on letting a cheat go through boils down to a couple of things:

Is it blatant?

If everyone is watching your roll and has a good view of the dice definitely don't do it then! Or when you say you get a total after a roll that you have no business getting not cool. The more obvious the cheat, the worst it is. Keep it very small to none at all!

Have you done it multiple times?

I (as a dm) will generally give everyone a pass a couple of times. But the more you do it the less forgiving I can be. I have found this is the same for most people as well. My rule of thumb is that unless it is going to be a long campaign, I'm talking months if not a year-long, then you should only cheat a handful of times as best. And never more than once or twice in a single game session! If you do cheat in a game session it's better to be on your best behavior on the next 1-2 sessions. Makes it easier to forgive.

Above all, does it help the story/situation or help keep the mood?

I have cheated in efforts to help the story/campaign or keep a character alive, even when I'm the DM. Although if I do when I'm the DM it's generally towards the players' favor, such as that massive damage I just rolled at one character is reduced by like 10% so they aren't just one-shotted into oblivion or lower the needed amount of a check roll by a point or two if someone is really close.

When I notice a player cheat (even as a player) I will think about how it affects the game. For example, some of the things I consider is: Did it just let them survive? Did it just let the party notice the important hint needed for the puzzle? Did it keep the fun go-merry mood of the session or even better switch the mood to that?

Do all of these line up?

If all these manage to line up then I will consider the cheat a good cheat and give it a pass. But if not, then even if I don't say anything I will remember, keep track, and if need, call you out on it. While in my games, I or the groups I have been in, have not had to kick anyone out due to cheating there have been close instances. Thankfully a simple discussion with the individual was all it took and we were off to having fun again. What is your opinion on cheating? Have a changed your mind a bit on it or have you dug in further into your side?

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