Addressing Cheating

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.

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  1. #1 by Jordan Taylor on July 6, 2009 - 5:57 pm

    While that’s all fine and dandy for small things like overcasting, real cases of willful cheating need to be handled quickly and strongly to maintain the integrity of the game. If those involved are staffers, then IMO they should be dealt with even more harshly!

    The other thing is that as you say, the social stigma of cheating in the LARP community is very negative. With the way the rumor and gossip mills spread news like wildfire, you need to be very mindful of addressing the issue away from other players, especially if there is a chance you might be mistaken (Sally says Bob used a bunch of cloaks he doesn’t have, but turns out when you speak to Bob that he just got a new item that no one else knew about).

    • #2 by Lord Byron on July 8, 2009 - 9:51 pm

      excellent points

  2. #3 by Daniel Burke on July 7, 2009 - 1:22 pm

    When the game gets Meta

    One of the moments at a recent event which really bothers me is ‘cheating within the rules’, or when game play takes on SUCH a meta level that it becomes ludicrous. (If this should be filed in another section Dan please delete and move it, just struck me as the right place to put it after reading the above)

    The lead in, which might belong down in the article on carriers, is that the monsters du jour were swarm like insects that have been part of the local plot line for the past year. Well established, abilities known, swinging for paralyze.

    Now there is a well grounded debate amongst NERO players, largely it would seem divided into camps of “older” “Newer” “PC and “NPC” on the nature of calling carrier attack verbals.

    The full call at present should be “X normal paralyze” being the amount, the type and the effect. Classically this was just “X paralyze”. The issue becomes clear that one is arbitrarily ‘easier’ or in essence shorter, which means it can be employed more rapidly by an NPC to cause damage. It has also caused a great deal of friction between staff, players and rules committees over the issue of ‘is this necessary’ which is in part a small side of the issue I am approaching.

    During this event an NPC was calling their damage in the classic fashion, and had received the blessing of the local chapter owner and heads of staff to do so. A visiting player took great umbrage at this, called a hold and began arguing the matter, not without good cause or logic, that this was in violation of national rules which required the full use of the verbal. The hold and argument were showing no signs of abating so I asked the player and the NPC to please go speak with the chapter owner off the field so the rest of the battle could move forward.

    Making a point to do so, I later sat down to talk with the player as no one wants a visitor to feel put out at their game. He explained to me he did not really care about the rules violation he just ‘hated carriers’ and ‘hated NPCs having an advantage’. This was a bit shocking to my core.

    After this happened I realized that no one was right here. The whole aspect of combat had been turned into a meta gaming argument.

  3. #4 by Glen MoP on July 8, 2009 - 5:27 pm

    I have a comment on the OP and a comment on a comment.

    If your group is blessed (or cursed) to have a wide variety of OOG weapon skill levels, a good interim solution for cheaters (assuming there is no one in authority to deal with them and no one not-in-authority wants to deal with it) is to have the best fighter fight the cheater. It’s hard for even the worst cheater to sluff shots when they are being landed cleanly and obviously. Most NERO chapters probably won’t have that great a skill-gap unless they have people who cross-game to the more combat-oriented LARPs, but if you have the resources, this is a good fix.

    I’ve also run into the meta-gaming cheating. I was at one event, and some long-time player kept refusing to take hits from a 1st time newbie because the newbie was stumbling over his damage calls. The newbie was a cross-gamer from a combat-LARP and was, to coin a term, owning his face off. The long-time player’s solution was to rules-lawyer the other guy to death.

    I actually saw that sort of thing happen several times, as newbie confusion coupled with out-of-people’s-league combat skills ran into long-time players who thought they were invincible. One Sarr player tried to scare a newbie with his “I’m a scarry cat-person with claws!” impression, and the newbie, thinking he was a monster, slaughtered him. The dead guy then started threatening the newbie with all the bad things that would happen to him for killing a noble if the newbie didn’t get him a Life spell.

  4. #5 by JJ on July 23, 2010 - 1:16 pm

    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.

    I disagree with this. If they have an established habit of cheating and refuse to correct the behavior when given gentle (or not so gentle) reminders from staff, they should be kicked out of the game, whether or not they actually cause other players to leave.

    I can think of some games where I get really, really irritated by omnipresent cheating. Do I leave? Probably not, I like my character/the story/hanging out with my friends. Will I refer to the game as ‘the one with all the cheating’ and recommend that people not start playing it? Absolutely.

    Not to mention, you shouldn’t need another reason (losing players) to enforce the rules. You should enforce the rules regardless. If a person cheats all the time, they don’t get to play, even if they brought 30 friends to come play with them and doubled the size of the game.

    JJ

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