I have a dedicated gaming group that meets every Sunday. We have been playing regularly for over a year now. It's small, just 5 of us including the current DM. We all rotate DM position per campaign so that we can all have a chance to be players.

One of our players is a very poor sport, both as a DM and a player.

As a DM, their game was full of heavy railroading and resentment towards the PCs. At some points, they would even usurp control over the PCs and demand we feel or react a certain way, even if it did not fit our character.

Things such as "You can't attack the enemy. That's your sister. You wouldn't attack her. You feel too depressed to even swing your sword,".

They would get unreasonably upset and argumentative if we questioned these rulings, so we simply accepted them. When the campaign finally ended, they had a very emotional reaction at the table because the ending did not turn out as they expected. Our characters died instead of saving the world. They told us this was our fault entirely because we had made selfish decisions and not done the exact right things to complete the quest.

No amount of consoling seemed to satisfy them. All of us tried to tell them we didn't play games to win, just to have a good time and spend time with one another as friends. This didn't seem to help that much, and they then refused to ever bring up the subject again and would willfully ignore any attempts to resolve it.

As a player, they struggle with playing nice with other PCs and being open to character development.

They have a particular bone to pick with Charm Person-type spells or successful Persuasion rolls. Any indication their character's opinion may be swayed or changed, by magic or by a dice roll, is met with a huge amount of arguing. They will flat out deny the roll worked, will refuse to accept the DM's ruling and insist "No, my character DOESN'T feel that way. You can't force them too,".

This gets awkward when it's stuff done in good fun; for example, An evil spellcaster using Charm on their PC to force them to find them amiable and stop attacking. They will agree to stop attacking but will refuse any "roleplaying fluff" associated with the roll and brood over being forced to act against their character's nature.

They will do this with other PCs as well. They often play a Chaotic Neutral character who refuses to work with the party unless compelled by magic or high Persuasion rolls, but then will become icy and resentful out of character that they were "forced" to do so.

I have also noticed that they fudge their dice rolls.

They will purposefully use difficult to read dice, or they will snatch their dice up before anyone can check their roll.

We can't talk to this player. So I don't know what to do.

Not playing with them isn't an option. They are the best friend of another player, so if we stopped inviting them or asked them to leave, it would likely just dissolve the entire group. (This best friend acknowledges the problem player is a problem, but they don't want to game without them.) These are minor gripes that I hope to find an amicable solution to rather than that.

We have all tried individually talking to them about their behavior, which they will ignore or just shrug off. They won't even directly answer a question, or they will claim they didn't notice.

How do you deal with poor sports at the table?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not that this is off-topic here, but I wonder if you'd get more helpful advice at Interpersonal Skills... \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 1:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related Question on Interpersonal Skills SE: What to do with a friend who cheats in games? \$\endgroup\$
    – A J
    Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 9:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answerers, please keep in mind Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. Good answers will Back It Up! with actual techniques they've used or seen used, or citations. Answers that just say "do X" as an unsubstantiated opinion aren't good answers even if they "sound good"... \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 22:46

13 Answers 13


"We can't talk to this player. So I don't know what to do."

I think you just took away most people's #1 answer.

If you can't talk to someone about issues, and you can't remove them from the game, then your choices are reduced to 1) Stay, or 2) Leave.

Stay. If the overall fun outweighs the annoying bits, then stay. Ignore the behavior as much as possible, try not to let it get to you.

Leave. There's an old saying: "No Gaming is better than Bad Gaming." Fun is only fun as long as it's fun, and then it's not fun. If it's not fun and you can't make it fun, then it's more like work, except no-one's paying you to do it. So why would you?

There are also some middle ground options, such as:

  • Opt out when it's their turn to GM. Find something else to do.
  • When you GM, don't use the things you know will bother them, on them. That might mean pulling spotlight from them, but so be it. This is a natural consequence of them being difficult, that you find ways to make it easier.
  • When you're co-players, don't engage with their character. Disengage quickly when they engage you. This can be difficult do do smoothly, and personally if someone is so bad you don't want to engage them, that's just another mark in the "leave" column. But it is possible.

That being said, I'd make darn sure I've exhausted all the talking options first.


Like this

exit sign

Life is too short to play games with poor sports.

If their leaving causes others to leave, don't worry, it's a big wide world out there full of gamers who are not poor sports.

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    \$\begingroup\$ already +1, but just to be clear: are you talking about booting that player, or OP leaving the group? (Or possibly it doesn't matter....) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not everything is solved by leaving. :( I made sure to include in my question that I didn't intend to leave and would like other solutions. Thank you for the funny picture though! \$\endgroup\$
    – user32584
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 1:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @polterheiist I agree - not everything is solved by leaving, however, bad relationships with no ability to communicate can only be solved by leaving \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 3:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @polterheiist with "no leaving" and "no talking to them about it", I actively wonder what you expect from this question... answer will inevitably be 'suck it up' since you aren't willing to talk about it. Honestly I had a similar player in my groups. We did the same as you... didnt talk and didnt leave. Well all that resentment festered until someone cracked, had a meltdown IN game that caused a bunch of people from that group to never talk again AND (ofc) the game ended. In hindsight I should have left and preserved friendships. Don't do the same.... talk or leave :/ \$\endgroup\$
    – Patrice
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 5:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm sad I can't +1 this more than once. @polterheiist Absolutely do not accept this asinine behavior, since it diminishes you and your fellow non-garbage players. You're much much much better off getting a random dude from your LGS than dealing with someone that has been that socially inept, consistently toxic, and immune to reason. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 0:51

I'd encourage you to read the Five Geek Social Fallacies essay (honestly it should be mandatory reading for all RPGers). It discusses five beliefs that cause geeks a lot of grief:

  1. Ostracisers Are Evil
  2. Friends Accept Me As I Am
  3. Friendship Before All
  4. Friendship Is Transitive
  5. Friends Do Everything Together

All five of them are relevant to the situation you describe.

These are minor gripes that I hope to find an amicable solution to rather than that.

Any of these individual issues could be minor. I've dealt with most of those at one point or another in my gaming life.

What isn't minor, though, is that your player doesn't appear to be interested in working with the rest of the group to resolve them. Not for the group's sake, and since you've ruled out breaking up the group over this, they don't lose anything by refusing to change.

That's a big problem. IME it's almost impossible to sustain a productive interpersonal relationship of any kind unless both sides are willing to put in the effort to keep the wheels turning.

With some ingenuity you might be able to solve some of the specific problem points. But you're going to have to do it every single time, for every single one of the issues you mention, and it's going to be an uphill battle every time, because this player has no interest in helping you reach a solution.

It will almost certainly be faster to cut ties and find new players, and you have every right to do so. If you do, I predict you'll very soon find yourself looking back and wondering why you spent so long trying to make things work with this person when there are so many other great players in the world who are fun to game with.

(If you don't, your group may eventually lose the good players, and is that really a better outcome than losing the bad one?)

addendum There is one issue where your player might have a point: grumbling about their character's opinion being changed by Persuasion rolls. I'm not sure how later editions handle it, but at least in D&D 3.5 the rules made it clear that skill-based persuasion could only be used on NPCs. This is generally good policy IMHO since players tend to empathise with their PCs, and taking away their agency is frustrating.

Of course, that doesn't really count much to their credit if they've been going against that principle while DMing!

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "I predict you'll very soon find yourself looking back and wondering why you spent so long trying to make things work with this person." I have been in this position, and just walked away, and oh boy howdy am I glad in hindsight. Since then, I've had zero tolerance for rude players. Life's too short for crappy RP experiences. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ That is a great article, thanks for sharing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your point in the addendum is something I was thinking too: from the player's perspective they actually have a point about Persuasion, but it also sounds like they (ab)use that as a DM. \$\endgroup\$
    – jhocking
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 21:41

Plan A was to discuss it with the others, and it sounds like that's been thoroughly explored as a solution, so here's a Plan B.

Take affecting minds (skills, spells, powers, DM fiat, everything) off the table. For everyone.

These are things which already need a considerable amount of buy-in from the players, because even when used well they take away a certain amount of control from the player, and that can easily lead to hurt feelings as we've seen here.

As a player he gets resentful when he gets diplomanced or charmed into doing things he doesn't want to. (If he doesn't want to play with the party, let him leave the spotlight and treat him as having left the game. If he complains, remind him that he chose to leave, and offer to let that character, or another of his make, come and work with them.)

As a DM he uses it on you to railroad you. It's easy to chalk this up to him just being immature or inexperienced as a DM, but I have to give him credit here because you've demonstrated that you all consider it fair game by using it on his character. You didn't say whether you did so in a player or GM capacity, but it sounds like it could easily be both.

Taking these mind-affecting abilities off the table for everyone will both keep him from being the butt end of them and not make him feel like he needs to rely on them in order to stay competitive.

Now, if doing this creates some kind of mechanical imbalance, try reskinning it instead of removing it. If it's an enemy spellcaster trying to take someone out of the fight with a charm, then mechanically just treat it like a stun or hold or blind or something similar. Still gets the job done for the caster, and while still annoying for the target it's not the mind-rape it was before.

So start with that. It only addresses about half the problems you cite, but it seems like it's enough of a sore spot that it might have a hand in the other half as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I recommend doing this, and starting it when the difficult player is a player rather than GM, because this will look more like a compromise rather than a penalization. They dislike Charm/Pursuade as a player, so they'll be happy to have it taken from the table. Then they can be told they just have to accept it out of fairness like everyone else as a DM, so they won't feel like they're being targeted. Once they get used to it, it might even make them approach the stories of their games differently, since they'll know going in that they can't railroad the players as they did before. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 6:02

We had a player who was causing problems in our group and we had a discussion with him about it which, although heated, ended up making things significantly better:

In our case, he would play characters which ended up being opposed to the party in many situations, and would do rash things against party wishes after being explicitly told not to, then get angry (OOC) when we reacted negatively to those actions because "that's what his character would do".

The tl;dr version of our response was then don't play that sort of character.

We had to explain the social contract of RPGs to him: this certainly doesn't apply to all games, but it does hold for traditional RPGs:

There are a few things expected of all PCs:

  • PCs are expected to get along to some degree
  • PCs will (in the gross majority of cases) not willfully act against the party
  • PCs generally give other PCs the benefit of the doubt
  • PCs will buy-in (to the game and the collective story)

In my experience, an unruly player is playing a character whose core personality is at odds with one of those rules: Playing a lawful good paladin in an evil campaign, for example.

Without those ground rules and PCs who follow them, the social contract of the adventuring party falls apart:

  • "that's what my character would do" (for more on this, see My Guy Syndrome) is bad justification for a negative action. That's great for an NPC, but there is some moderation of PC actions with respect to the above rules.
  • It's OK to occasionally go against party wishes, but expect consequences: If it continuously happens, expect to play a new character as your old one gets the boot for ruining things. Your freedom to harm the party is their freedom to kick your PC out of the group or harm you... and the party descending into in-fighting is usually a bad thing.

In your case, it sounds like they are also getting stuck on the "that's what my character would do" and violating part of the game ("buying into it"). They want complete control over their portion of the story instead of allowing others to play their part and influence things. Fudging die rolls also leads me to believe this.

I'd have a discussion focused on that:

  • The goal is to collectively tell a story, and none of us have full control over what happens
  • Part of the game is allowing others to influence your characters progression: In the same way you could be arrested and shackled, a charm spell can stop you from doing what you want to do.
  • As such, "my character wouldn't sit by and do nothing..." is not a method of escaping restraints. So far, it sounds like you have allowed this, which I would say is enabling it.
  • Being angry about being charmed is great, I'd be pissed too, but that anger comes after the spell: During it, those feelings are suppressed.

Regardless of what you do, until you talk to them it won't change. Reading up on "I feel" vs "you" statements and other intervention language might also help ease the conversation.


Might I recommend desensitization?

Play a few other games where the goals aren't defined so strongly. The whole rescue-the-princess-from-the-dragon bit is fairly serious business. Lots of large storyline and huge opportunities for character development. Maybe something lighter would get your friend to lighten up.

I'd recommend playing a game of Toon. You're all cartoon characters. You run around and pie each other in the face and drop anvils on each other. There are no opportunities to say "your character wouldn't do that" if you're a rocket powered iguana with a pie cannon.

Another good game would be Paranoia. You have clones so if you die nobody cares. And the more ridiculous the death your character has, the more fun it is. The best part of this game is to see how large of a crater you can make when you die.

I'd also recommend Call of Cthulhu. It's a good middle step. A serious game, but it usually ends poorly. It's a mistake to get attached to your character in that game - almost all the enemies are orders of magnitude bigger than you. This might help break his attachment to the characters a bit, and help him to let go some.

Play a few other games where strict control of the storyline and the lives and motives of the characters isn't as important, and maybe you can teach your friend to lighten up a little.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Paranoia is a brilliant idea but do see if you can find the original version \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was also thinking of Paranoia as an outlet -- though with the possibility of control issues as raised by @MivaScott, the sheer silliness of Toon may be a more appropriate outlet. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2018 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Call of Cthulhu - a game in which the best ending your character can hope for is that they die. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 17:19

While the majority of answers seem to focus on either the OP leaving or kicking out the offender, the first thing I see when reading this is that the person needs more interaction.

  • As a DM, their game was full of heavy railroading and resentment towards the PCs. At some points, they would even usurp control over the PCs and demand we feel or react a certain way, even if it did not fit our character.

  • They would get unreasonably upset and argumentative if we questioned these rulings

  • When the campaign finally ended, they had a very emotional reaction at the table because the ending did not turn out as they expected.

  • As a player [...] They have a particular bone to pick with Charm Person-type spells or successful Persuasion rolls. Any indication their character's opinion may be swayed or changed, by magic or by a dice roll, is met with a huge amount of arguing.

This all speaks to needing control and losing control. The player seems to have a great need to have control over how the game is played, from both sides. They must control the other players, but also cannot have their character controlled. Since the game is about escapism, they may be lashing out because they lack control in their real life and therefore are overcompensating.

The emotional reaction at the end of the campaign could be because even though they felt "in control" by dictating actions of the other characters, things still went wrong, perhaps bringing on feelings of futility.

We have no information on the players backgrounds (the OP, the subject, and the rest of the group), so there are tons of factors that could be influencing all this and it really could just be a case of trying to be a bully.

As suggested in another answer, you can bring up making the house rule of no charm-like spells; no DM can ever dictate how a player will act/react. Spells, monsters, and campaigns will have to be adjusted (All charm just becomes a Hold Person variant for instance).

If this works, then great. If the player fights back saying that they need to dictate player actions, then you'll need to dig deeper into why they are so hung up on controlling; both as a DM and as a player.


This is classic bully behavior. They want to control everything, and they get their way by being difficult - precisely so you'll back off and "let the wookie win". That's how the mechanism works.

I don't know if they’re an accidental bully, who has fallen into the habit because it works so well... Or an intentional bully who knows exactly what they are doing. Regardless, they have selected your group because their strategies work on you. Likewise they have selected your mutual friend because it works on them.

If they’re an accidental bully, then in theory they should respond to correction. But as you have noticed, part of the game is to be extremely hostile to correction that is polite and civilized (and this resistance is neither polite nor civilized).

Do you owe them civilized correction? Maybe once, but you don't owe it. I assure you the downvoters on this answer will wholeheartedly agree.

So face the fact that civilized behavior will not work on them. Groups of people often have a great deal of trouble finding the courage to stronger action, and end up paralyzed in a miserable stasis. But I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

Start by targeting the friend: In cases like this, I have made crystal clear that the person who invited them into the group is responsible for their behavior. And their conduct reflects on them in the eyes of the group. That may help. It probably won't put them right, but it has a fair chance of flipping their alliances, to supporting group amity instead of the troublesome bully.

Once you know where you're at with the friend, you can then take direct action (on them or them both if they are unloyal to the group). The action will need to be forceful and definitive. Settle the matter; close the door. No half measures. No reform periods (they just slip back into old habits after a few months). But at this point, it will not just be over; drama will ensue and it will be a race to see who can defeat whose efforts. The trouble is, they have more practice. If your correction fails, then you are even worse off. Now they know they own you.

Regardless, the wild optimism is that you reform them and turn them into a productive member of the group, this week. That's just crazy stupid optimistic. It's not going to happen. The deliberate bully will know they’re beat and clear out quick, because they will not be happy operating on your terms. The accidental bully will quit because they feel hurt, confused and blaming in the short term (read: 6 months to 5 years), and this will become one of several life-lessons that, in aggregate, might drag them back to the realm of the reasonable people.

So for your group, your only option is the status quo. Unless you can find the courage for a firm and final expulsion. I know that stinks and I'm sorry. But I've spent decades watching groups and even Boards search for any middle ground, and it has never worked. And while they patiently wait and hope, they just get taken advantage of more. Often it kills the group.


They would get unreasonably upset and argumentative if we questioned these rulings


"No, my character DOESN'T feel that way. You can't force them too,"

sounds like you're trying to have your cake and eat it. As in, when [unpopular player] is the DM, none of you want to co-operate with playing out the scenario as written; but when [he or she] was "just a player", you're expecting them to co-operate and even coercing co-operation in-universe. So you're complaining about being asked to role-play within the game they set up, but then demanding they role-play what you want ...

In case it needs saying: I'm not going to claim this person sounds like the most fun to be gaming with, but unless you are actually playing with Sheldon Cooper, I suspect the situation could be improved by not making them the target of the very behaviour you're complaining about.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not following the paragraph at the end of this answer. It seems to be referring to both quotes as DMing by two different people, but one is one person as DM and the other is the same person as a player. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Er, yes, on re-reading, I've made no sense at all there, sorry. I'll try to improve it ... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 16:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, I think the newer answer here (from @sevenbrokenbricks) explains this much better ("... but I have to give him credit here because ..."), should I delete mine, or edit it to point to his? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ It took me a bit to figure out what you're getting at here, but I think I've got it -- mainly because it seems like both parties (the asker, and the problem player) are trying to eat their cake and have it too. The problem player uses heavy railroading to tell the other players what to do, but doesn't like their own character ever being told what to do. The asker doesn't like the railroading, but accepts the problem player being railroaded via coercion. (But apparently the coercion is not to get them doing exactly the right thing, but to get their character cooperative at all?) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've a different interpretation - the problem player as GM forced railroading on the PCs (the GM indirectly playing all characters by fiat - the other players are incidental to how their story plays out, even down to the personal emotional reactions of all the characters), while refusing to acknowledge any in-game mechanics on their own character when playing a PC (I dictate the feelings of your characters when I GM, but when you GM you cannot influence my character in the slightest even with legitimate magical effects like I have some innate immunity to a helm of alignment changing) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 19:57

Accept the loss of the jerk and his overly-loyal friend as a risk and remove them or remove yourself

Bending to accommodate a difficult and unrepentant jerk just encourages them to continue and reduces the fun for everyone else. I'd say don't reward the behavior and don't play with the jerk OR the friend who 'won't game without him'.

Find new players to replace these two, bring them in, disinvite the others. Collude with your other reasonable player to cut them out and move on to greener pastures. If the jerk and his buddy question it, simply say 'Well we can't play with Jerk because he's a jerk, and won't listen to reason. We'd like to play with Niceguy, but Jerk comes with him as a package deal, and that's not acceptable, so you both have to go. Sorry'

Life is too short. No gaming is better than bad gaming. Drama is for IC, not OOC, and have enough self-respect not to accept abuse, especially over a game.


We have all tried individually talking to them about their behavior, which they will ignore or just shrug off. They won't even directly answer a question, or they will claim they didn't notice.

Perhaps you need to talk to the player as an entire group. Talk with the other players and ask them if they'd be willing to talk to the problem player all at once, and if so, agree on what to address with him. Talking to him as an entire group would be overbearing if it were the first step you took, but if you've all tried to talk to him on your own, it might be the only option left.

If he still won't listen after being talked to by the entire group, unfortunately, you might have to remove him from the group, leave the group, or decide to just put up with him, as the other answers suggest. (But if you talk to him as a group and then let him keep playing without making any changes, you'll have signaled to him that he can get away with absolutely anything, so I would be very hesitant to stick in a group with him if he continued to be difficult to play with after such an intervention.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for handling it as a group. I would combine this with MivaScott's & sevenbrokenbricks' answers. Talk as a group first to figure out who will 'lead' the discussion and how you might implement the 'no railroading/charming' rule. Then bring it up with the trouble player: explain what behaviors you all have an issue with, explain your solutions, and ask if there's something going on with the trouble player. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 6:14

Talk to them.

I know you stated you already talked to them and it didn't work. Consider thought how they might want to be talked to, rather than your preferred way of talking to them. They may not like confrontation. You may be able to express your feelings better and more completely through an email (be careful with this, it can be hard to understand tone through text).

Get a mediator.

You are already bringing this to a 3rd party with your discussion here. However, it might be better to get someone involved who is more familiar with the individuals involved. If they are respected by this bad sport even better. This person could possible here all sides and everyone agrees to follow their advice (and then its done). Alternatively if they would fit in with the group perhaps having them attend a few sessions (as a guest PC) could give them some insight into the issue. If the bad sport respects them then there might be some things that this mediator could suggest as the issue comes up. Be prepared though, you may also receive some advice on how you should be correcting some things too.


First try talking to them about and say how its bothering you. Just talking to some one can go a long way.

As for dice, I always provide the dice. (partly because I'm the only one that actually owns any.) I also make sure to get the whole group invested in dice rolls. I have one d20 for the party, that lights up whenever it gets a twenty. If every one is pay attention to a dice roll its harder to get away with stuff like that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A link to the "dice lights up on a 20" d20 would be a cool addition to this answer, in terms of helpfulness. Never heard of it, and I've been rolling d20's for a long time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I wanted to edit to add that link, but they no longer seem to be available on ThinkGeek or Amazon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Longspeak
    Commented Dec 17, 2018 at 23:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here’s a link to a youtube video demonstrating the die: m.youtube.com/watch?v=iv1PBcY4p_0 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 18, 2018 at 1:09

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