People cheat at LARPs. Usually they’re not even aware of it – in the heat of combat, players often forget whether they had a spell shield up, or how many hit points they have. Sometimes players get hit a bunch of times and just estimate how much damage was done. It’s easy to overcast spells if you have a lot memorized. Isolated incidents like these don’t hurt the game that much.
The word “cheating” may be a bit strong for this kind of unintentional error. We think of a cheater as someone who is willfully breaking the rules. When addresing these kinds of problems, be calm, don’t get in the player’s face, and don’t make a big deal in front of others. Doing so is unprofessional and rude. Take the player aside and let them know what happened – for all you know, it might have been an accident. Assume positive intent! You’ve let them know that you’re watching. They should now be aware of the problem and adjust their behavior. After the issue has been addressed, shut up about it.
Avoid escalating the discussion into an argument. Keep your cool – you might be wrong too. Hey, it’s possible that the player was casting all those extra spells from scrolls and you just didn’t see it. You don’t want to come off as an authoritarian jerk. Yelling at people will repel players from your game and make you seem like a high school gym teacher. Resist the power trip!
When cheating starts to get out of hand, it is time to try a different approach. All players are concerned with their reputation. The social stigma of cheating is often much worse than any discipline levied by a LARP staff. In a friendly way, let the player know that others have been gossiping. “I just want you to know – people are starting to talk about you like you’re the guy who does’t take his hits.” You’re not accusing him of anything, you’re just letting him know what the rumors are.
More often than not, this will correct the behavior in question without entering the bitter cycle of accusation, defense, debate, and escalation.
If you need to address cheating in a more straight-forward way, do it calmly and diplomatically. Establish a consensus with other staff members to reduce the risk of the conflict becoming personal.
If a cheater has been warned and continues to cheat, you could remove them from the fight by taking away their skills for an hour.
Sending monsters to target cheaters does not address the problem. It is levying an in-game punishment for an out-of-game behavior.
Banning or kicking out a player should be saved as a last resort. These methods and should only be used if that player’s presence is causing others to leave or avoid the game. Measures like these are heavy-handed and usually unnecessary.
When addressing cheating, keep in mind the goal – to ensure fair play and an enjoyable game for everybody.
Make sure that the player in question knows that they are wanted at the game. Often, after being accused of cheating, the player will feel that the staff is out to get them, and will never return. Your goal isn’t to remove cheaters from the game, but to bring them back to fair play with everybody else.