Is it ok for the DM to cheat to beat players...?


Gamer Life General Discussion


Hi all!
I'm a relatively new player to the PnP scene and really need some advice. I've been a big fan of the standard single players games like Baldur's Gate, NWN, etc and have recently joined a PnP group. The group is great, but I got some concern about the DM and his attitude to the game... I might be totally out of line by asking this, and please tell me if I am, but some advice on how to handle the situation would be wonderful.

We're playing the Hell's Rebels campaign and I joined the group around the end of book 2. We're nearing the end of book 3 now after a few months of playing and I've been noticing some things I'm a little concerned with regards to how the DM has been handling certain encounters.

As I am totally new to the Pathfinder game, I have been devoting a bit of time to research into the game's mechanics and rules. A lot of time is spent looking at forums and class types so I can make something acceptable to the setting and that is useful to the team while being thematic at the same time. I quite enjoy this part. I have been doing some research into the Hell's Rebels campaign on book 1 and 2 so I can learn some more about the world lore and situation. I figure this important to do so I can learn how to build an optimised character and understand the limitations of the world.

To make clear, I do not read ahead on stuff we haven't done in the campaign as I believe this would be cheating. I'm only focusing on stuff already accomplished by the group. I figure this can be explained away as my character IC asking other PCs whats happened. Also, I just like learning about the NPCs, mechanics and lore.

In my research... i have found that the DM has been changing certain things to kill characters in encounters. There have been three clear examples of when I've noticed this after some reading:

Hei Fen: One character that hates PCs. Fairly strong caster with a spell called Plane Shift. According to her bio, she will not use Plane Shift on the PCs as she 'wants to see them bleed' but the DM used this to instakill one the Pcs. I feel like this wasnt necessary... Maybe the DM just didn't read the character description?

Another Encounter I forgot the name of: DM had the encounter use Waves of Exhaustion to debilitate characters and killed 2 PCs. I read the encounter bio and found that it did not have this spell.

Blue Dragon: The DM fudged the saves... The Dragon had a will save of 12 and was saving against a spell cast with a DC29. The Dragon saved 5 times in a row. It is highly improbable that the DM rolled a 17 or over 5 times.

Some more information, the DM is also extremely draconian on magic items and is not allowing any items higher than a CL4 or +2 enhancement bonuses. This does make sense for the campaign setting and have no issue with this. I would understand if the DM was upping the diffculty of encounters to match the players but this is definitely not the case.

I absolutely appreciate the DMs authority and don't want to dispute his decisions. My reasoning from bringing this up to seek advice is that a game is supposed to be fun and it is not fun to encounter failure because the person in charge doesn't respect the rules. And the rules, I believe, should be absolutely respected in an official campaign setting.

Am I wrong? If I am right to be concerned, how can I approach this with the DM? Is it appropriate for me to ask him about this and voice how I feel? I think something should be done as the mood isn't great sometimes and we all are there to enjoy the game.

Cheers!
Xev


It's not cheating if the GM changes the adventure (prior to the actual game) to suit the group of player characters. It's just being a good GM.

Fudging die rolls is cheating IMO, but some will disagree.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Your GM doesn't seem to be interested in keeping players around to the end. Do you actually want to stick around?

Sovereign Court

Many GMs take character descriptions from APs as guidelines and not rules. So if x character has powerful abilities, but the reasons for not using them seem contrived, the GM may ignore it. The GM may even replace the character entirely for something they feel fits their vision better. I know that when I run APs, I tend to make many changes as I see fit. I would not assume that any given GM will faithfully follow the AP stat blocks. If that is important to you, I'd ask the GM before joining their game what their intentions are.

Rolling many high saves in a row does seem rather unlikely. Sometimes GMs fudge results to try and provide a better experience. I'd say the GM is probably not doing this advantageously if their fudging is consistently killing PCs. Their is an acceptable line and it varies from group to group.

As a new player, I think you will find that non-organized games are going to vary to a great degree in rules adjudication. Typically, folks learn each others style through play or session zero discussion. In organized play, like pathfinder society, you will find a closer adherence to the rules as written.

Bringing this forward to the GM presents several challenges. Like your expectations of the GM to follow the rules, the GM most likely expects you to not read the adventure material. If you believe the GM to be way out of line, I'd would approach them with questions instead of allegations.

Ideally, what you want to do is set expectations jointly. If the GM is short with their responses, you should assume they are going to continue to run a difficult game. At that point, I'd decide if I can handle that, or if a closer to RAW game is what I require. Can you still have fun in this game? That is what you need to ask. If the answer is no, i'd be more likely to politely drop out (assuming you dont know these players and GM well). It is easier to pursue a new game with a clean slate than fix a disrupted one, IMO. Going forward, be sure to ask a lot of questions before jumping into a campaign, especially a long term one.

Good luck.


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Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I think it's bad style to beat your players.


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GM fudging to make things more challenging or cheating aside, it's never ok to read a module or AP without your GM's consent. If you hadn't read, would you even know if the GM was changing encounters?


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Zaister wrote:
I think it's bad style to beat your players.

*Tries to casually put down the scourge he uses on players, affectionately called "Player Flayer".

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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RedRobe wrote:
GM fudging to make things more challenging or cheating aside, it's never ok to read a module or AP without your GM's consent. If you hadn't read, would you even know if the GM was changing encounters?

But, if you believe that you have a GM with the "vs. Players" mindset, it might be necessary to find out if you need to move on to a different group.


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Being serious for a moment, seeing the players as adversaries is a bad thing. I'd either have a talk with him (which probably won't change anything) or leave the group.


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Zaister wrote:
I think it's bad style to beat your players.

Also not very smart, given that they outnumber you. ;)


RedRobe wrote:
GM fudging to make things more challenging or cheating aside, it's never ok to read a module or AP without your GM's consent. If you hadn't read, would you even know if the GM was changing encounters?

"Unfair! If you cops hadn't investigated, you'd never have known I committed a crime!" (AKA "I would have gotten away with it if not for you meddling kids!")

GMs modifying encounter parameters is not only acceptable, but very frequently necessary. Making an individual encounter more challenging isn't wrong, it keeps players on their toes. Our group will often field 6 PCs and if the adventure was balanced for 4, then...

On the other hand, constantly making encounters tougher, while cutting back on treasure, all in the name of "beating" the players is not what GMs are supposed to do. If that really is what's happening, you probably want a different GM.

Now, as for reading modules you've "finished" playing:

(angel on my right shoulder) Your good intentions aside, there is every possibility of running across some tidbit of information in one module that could give advance knowledge of something down the line. And it won't be easy to tell which times the GM changed something for a good reason (to deal with a party of 6 PCs instead of 4) or just to screw with you -- any change will be suspect and may think worse of your GM than is fair. As far as NPCs casting spells they don't have, I have read somewhere that a Paizo developer admitted in an interview once that NPC spellcasters are assigned spells based not on what makes the most strategic sense for the character, but what which spell names will fit in the allotted space on the page. Consider than an unsubstantiated rumor since I cannot provide a citation for it.

(devil on my left shoulder) I occasionally read modules we've finished with, in part to see what the GM changed and in part to see what background "fluff" was in there that we never knew anything about. In our group, is is axiomatic that a Pathfinder AP will have reams of flavor text that may be interesting to the GM, but which the players have no method of every finding out about. At the moment I'm doing this with a non-Pathfinder game. Our group is being run through the classic D&D module Temple of Elemental Evil but the GM is using ACKS rules. ACKS has a smaller assortment of monsters, so some dungeon encounters were simply removed: there is no su monster in ACKS. But he also deleted a bunch of treasure, and not just where the deleted monsters had been. For TOEE, I did more or less what you describe doing: once we believed we'd cleared level 1 and started on level 2, I read about level 1. I didn't peek at level 2 until we'd moved on to level 3, etc. I've stumbled across a couple of things the players shouldn't know, and just had to not act on it in-game.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lord Fyre wrote:
RedRobe wrote:
GM fudging to make things more challenging or cheating aside, it's never ok to read a module or AP without your GM's consent. If you hadn't read, would you even know if the GM was changing encounters?
But, if you believe that you have a GM with the "vs. Players" mindset, it might be necessary to find out if you need to move on to a different group.

If you don't trust your GM you should probably leave the group regardless of any actual shenanigans.


Thanks all, super appreciated the range of advice.

On the comments on increasing challenge to match characters, I can appreciate that entirely. Challenge is great in situations to increase the sense of urgency or fun if it’s required against PCs that are notably more prepared or powerful than they should be. As I said though, the DM has been very strict on item levels in line with the campaign requirements and I think that the challenges would be appropriately balanced. And that’s not met just saying so, the challenges have been strong! I just noticed some changes that added unnecessary misfortune.

I also agree that the DM shouldn’t be “against” the players in that way. My understanding is that the game is a collaborative story telling experience that’s supposed to be fun... it’s a game right? And that shouldn’t mean it’s without failures but those failures should be earned, not decided through one instant move that was modified by the DM outside of the balanced rules.

I appreciate the DM and the authority associated completely. I liken it to when I handle my team at work. A large part of my role is to manage the wellbeing of my team and handle the workload so it’s appropriately challenging and rewarding for them. So while yes, the DM has all authority necessary to do his job, with that comes a responsibility to use it correctly and not abuse it.


Also on the talk about the reading on the campaign. I never read ahead and I enjoy the background lore. I like having the context and the DM is aware that the players do read. I can remember him giving book one to another player.

It could be argued that it might give advantageous info for the future of the campaign... but I don’t think I know enough about Pathfinder itself to utilise it and even if I did, it’s a LOT of information.

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