I have a friend and who is currently playing under a GM that cheats in the players’ favour: uses poor enemy tactics, will not use enemies abilities correctly, generally keeps enemies from finishing off player characters and when they do he effectively gives them free resurrections. My friend believes this is cheating. He has said out of frustration, "If I know there is no real chance of failure, why play?" He hasn't said this to the GM though.

(From his descriptions the GM isn't just bad at these things, it sounds like he has a good knowledge of the game, but just believes that always having the players come out on top in some way makes for a better game.)

He doesn't want to leave the group though, as he loves to play whenever he gets the chance. He wants this to change, but he is very non-confrontational. He has kindly requested that the GM roll in the open, to which the GM reluctantly agreed to do, but it hasn't helped as there are more ways to "fudge" things besides dice rolls.

He has talked to a few people outside his group that he trusts to talk to about such things, and they've told him, "maybe you should play a board game," which doesn't help. He loves D&D, but believes rules and consequences should be enforced.

He loves plot, exploration, and role-playing. Speaking of role-playing. He believes that not playing monsters and NPC's according to their personalities, stats, and desires is extremely bad role-playing.

His view is that if your playing D&D/Pathfinder, there are rules for a reason. Whether you fail that check to jump across a chasm, or if you fail a check to bluff a cruel king to seriously mislead him, there needs to be real repercussions for your actions. If not, you might as well be playing "story time" with whatever I want goes and not even touch the dice. Therefore there is no need to play D&D/pathfinder.

The other players are happy to have a get together and don't seem to mind.

What advice would you give for how he can approach the GM about these issues, while being as non-confrontational as possible?

My friend is way too shy to ask here. I'm not, so I'm looking to help by asking this for his sake. Him being shy might be relevant to the question too.


7 Answers 7


They aren't playing the same game.

The entire problem here is that your friend and his GM come to the game with almost opposite expectations. Your friend wants a ruthless game, and if I may guess a little I suspect he probably wants it to be fairly combat centric.

The GM is running a merciful game, that if I may guess is probably plot centric.

These are both fine playstyles, but they don't mesh overly well. While I don't take it to the extremes you are describing, when I GM it is much closer to the latter. I tell my players upfront that their characters absolutely will not die without their express decision. I never fudge die rolls, but I do a lot of mitigating the results of the rolls, let the enemy use tactics I know are suboptimal if necessary (it even makes sense when the enemy is supposed to be unintelligent...), and will have Deus Ex step in overtly when necessary to prevent a character death.

There are other GMs that play a more tactical, more deadly style. I enjoy playing in those games sometimes, but I won't run games that way.

You're friend has a few options:

Ask the GM to play a more ruthless game.

It sounds like your friend has already tried this and it hasn't worked. However, it sounds like he hasn't been explicit about it.

I suggest not saying that the GM is "cheating" or "playing it wrong". As mentioned above, this is not wrong or cheating. However, it is also not what your friend wants. He should try approaching it from that angle that he would like to see a different type of game.

He should tell the group as a whole that he would prefer a more ruthless playstyle with more risks. He should explain that the risks make the game more interesting for him and give it more substance. Again, he shouldn't say that what they are doing is wrong, but that he would like to try something else.

When it is put explicitly, but non-confrontationally, it might get real results, at least long enough for the group as a whole to give it a trial run.

Your friend can realize it isn't that type of game, and adapt.

You said your friend does not want to leave this game. Presumably he is having fun, if not as much fun as he wants. He might be able to just accept that he will not get exactly the type of game he wants at this table and then focus on the parts that are fun to him.

(With thanks to @NeilSlater) - One thing that might help is to ask the GM to explicitly lay out his play-style. There are many valid play-styles, but it helps when the GM and players are all at least aware of, and preferably in synch with, the general play-style being used. Having it be explicit will help everyone adapt to the game jointly.

Play other games in addition to this one.

There are other tables for D&D out there which are more ruthless and tactical. They may even be the majority. He can go look for one of those in addition to this one. I emphasize in addition to only because the OP explicitly says he doesn't want to leave this game. But he can get his fix for tactical gaming elsewhere and then come back for whatever he finds fun about this game.

Also, true board games may well appeal to him. Games like chess, go, and even Magic: The Gathering emphasize tactics with no need for a story and they strongly discourage any form of fudging. He can play those, in addition to, the game in question.

  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it's fair to assume the player wants a combat-centric game. I'd say I'm a player preferring a (potentially) "ruthless" game, and the last time I remember being frustrated by a DM over it was during a session consisting entirely of social interaction. It became clear the DM was announcing results of charisma-based rolls depending on how he wanted the plot direction to go. It was frustrating because I wasn't there for DM's story time with an illusion of interactivity. I wanted our rolls--adjusted by character development choices--to influence the direction of the story. \$\endgroup\$
    – stwlam
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 23:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @stwlam You may be right. In general, I find that most people that want to adhere to the rules tightly are focused on combat and people suggesting he go for boardgames reinforces that to me. Still, it was an assumption on my part. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 0:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Although not directly stated by OP, it is possible to fall into a trap of "self-conflicting style" when a DM presents a high stakes strict rules game (for excitement), but then actually runs a merciful game. It is hard to keep adrenaline levels up once players notice that is happening. The "merciful style " involves more than just being merciful - it involves up-front honesty as you suggest (telling players their PCs won't die) plus making choices and rolls meaningful in other ways. Maybe OP's DM would benefit from some pointers in this answer, it could allow OP to relax and enjoy things. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NeilSlater Excellent point. I'll add it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 16:13
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @trlkly I have never tried that one, but my suspicion is it wouldn't work. For one thing, teams are meant to work together so that could easily result in the more protected characters rushing in to save his character on a regular basis. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 3:11

This is probably going to be significantly similar to other answers, but I have a few specific points that I didn't see and would like to address.

(Note: I will say "You" in this answer to mean "a person who has this problem". I think it would make the answer worse if I had to say "your friend" every time instead.)

Don't try to fight it in-game

This is a Player/DM issue, not a PC/NPC issue. Sometimes the line isn't obvious, but in this case it is. Trying to react to this problem by playing your character differently is unlikely to solve it, and is relatively likely to cause problems for other members of the group.

Avoid the word "cheating"

"Cheating" is a serious accusation, and I wouldn't call the DM's behavior cheating even if it potentially would be if a player had done it. It's not worth making the discussion more heated with such charged words. Just say that you think the game's too easy, or it's even fine to specifically say that you think the DM is "fudging" results too much, but don't say "cheating".

Don't go behind the other players' backs

I assume you are not the only player in the game, which means the other players deserve just as much input on whatever decision is made. When you talk to the DM, as many of the other players as possible should be there to offer opinions. It might even be a good idea to discuss with the other players ahead of time to see if any of them feel the same way, and then they could be prepared to support your request, or they might think of a good compromise.

Accept that leaving might be the best option

If the DM doesn't want to or can't adjust, or the other players aren't on the same page about difficulty and consequences, then it might just be the case that there's no way for the game to accommodate everyone at once. That's fine, RPGs can be played in many ways, and the rest of the group isn't any more likely to enjoy being forced into playing your way than you are to enjoy the current way. If there's no way for everybody to enjoy the same game then you shouldn't be playing the same game.

Short version

This isn't a matter of "somebody is wrong", it's a matter of "I'm not enjoying this". Get everybody involved and see if there's a change that will make everybody happy, and if there isn't then that's not anybody's fault. All you need to start the discussion is "I feel like in this campaign the chances of failure and/or the consequences for failure have been too low. Is it alright if we start being a bit stricter about that?"


Remember that RPG stands for Role Playing Game. Some people are more interested in role playing and others are more interested in the game (and many, many subdivisions of the two). Neither style is more "right" than the other. They are just different.

I think that the first thing he should do is find out if the other players are happy with the current situation or not.

From the comments about suggesting board games, it seem that, at least, some of the other players are happy as things are now.

If the other players are, indeed, happy, it doesn't seem reasonable to expect everyone in the group to become unhappy by playing in a style that your friend would be happy playing.

If the other players are currently happy, your friend might either choose to either learn to like the role playing aspects or look for another group.

Another option is to offer to DM to show the others what he likes. It may be that the other players haven't had the opportunity to try the style your friend likes.


“The other players are happy to have a get together and don't seem to mind.”

There’s your answer right there.

Your friend’s wishes are understandable, but what is the actual benefit to catering to his desire over everone else’s (including the GM)? Will it dramatically increase everyone else’s enjoyment? I would guess “no”.

Otherwise, he could suggest a different strict-rules campaign or find another group to play with. That may seem harsh, but if he can’t enjoy himself in this game then that’s how it needs to be.


Cheating is really strong expression for this type of rules (D&D/Pathfinder).

  1. Check if all players will be happy to "change the game".

    If more dying make another player unhappy, then your actions were pointless. Be sure that everyone is OK with the fact, that their precious creations may die (even just because they don't have luck that day).

  2. Speak about it with your GM directly.

    You (or your friend) didn't requested if the GM could be more ruthless1. Just requested roll in the open and the GM (reluctantly) agreed. Maybe he would be OK with the game change, but you didn't ask for it and to be honest, I would agree more willingly with that than with showing my rolls.

At end of the day, it is really up to you and your group, but if there is no need to have e.g. some healer in your party (because if something happens and you accidentally die, you are resurrected for free), you just throw away important part of several classes and make them not as useful as they should be - almost useless actually (and I like my cleric! ;-)).

1 By ruthless I didn't mean without logic, but just actions with consequences and monsters/NPCs using their abilities and knowledge.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie It should be more context to those two points. I didn't realise that it is not written like that in English. \$\endgroup\$
    – Artholl
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 12:52

Do nothing

This is as non-confrontational as it gets, and yet it actually is what I would recommend. Stop obsessing about this. Play the adventure/campaign the way the GM intends it.

Try to enjoy it. Accept that this is the way it goes and go with it.

Once it's over you can talk things out. But don't make it less fun by complaining all the time. You already mentioned your concerns and were ignored. You can speak up again once the adventure/campaign ended. Maybe do a review session where everyone says what he liked or disliked about the adventure (this should be obvious but you should definitely have more positive things to say than negative ones. ESPECIALLY if you want people to listen to the negative ones. Don't be afraid to compliment the GM on things you really liked).

And if they don't care and you didn't have enough fun.. maybe it's time to leave and find a new group.

Of course, doing nothing is really boring, so here's something that might improve the situation while being much more fun than doing nothing:

If the GM won't make your actions have consequences, make HIS actions have some.

If I got hurt really bad and suddenly the monsters started targeting the other players instead, it would annoy me as well. But then you can always make your character pick up on it. Because it IS illogical.

So maybe he suddenly considers himself chosen by the gods and walks into danger without a second thought (maybe even without weapons).

Or he gets completely offended, throws his weapon on the ground, sits down and pouts.

Maybe he starts to think that the monsters have some hidden agenda, only trying to hurt and not kill you and he gets completely obsessed with that idea and more and more paranoid.

Or maybe there is someone manipulating them. Can there really be such a powerful mindbender? And what are his goals?

Maybe people are lying when they say everyone is the main character in their own story and everone has to die. Maybe your character IS the main character and will never die. So maybe it's time to make a dragon or demon into your pet.

Or if you're on a sneaking mission and realize even though you failed some rolls the GM won't let you get caught, just let your character laugh out loud in relieve (immediately covering his mouth afterwards in shock) or - if that's in character - get bored with sneaking and just walk out of the shadows and say "Hi! You must be the people I'm trying to steal from. My name is Bigboggle Bogglebig. Pleasure to meet you."

Or if you're trying to convince some NPC to do something and you fail your rolls and the GM still lets you convince him just be blunt and say something like "Wow convincing you really takes no effort at all. Don't you have any willpower? What if I asked you to jump off a bridge?"

Stuff like that.

While this has the nice effect of making the GM see that not giving your actions consequences has consequences, it's also very much in line with playing your characters role. Because he WOULD try to make sense of things always going his way. He would become more and more careless. Things always go his way, so why try hard at all? Why not go fight a dragon with a stick? It will probably slip and crack its head on a stone anyway.

Just make sure you do this with a positive attitude. It's not you punishing the GM, it's you playing your character within the narrative the GM creates to the best of your abilities. And it's very important that you do it in a way that is fun. Not just for you but for everyone, because that's what this is about.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ I think if the GM is explicitly fudging to prevent character deaths and the player has their character respond to that meta-concern you run the risk of getting into a kind of passive-aggressive conflict because the player is quite deliberately working at cross-purposes to the GM. In my experience, this kind of 'jibbing the GM in character' comes across as confrontational, even it's not intended that way. It's a bit like the player saying 'I see what you're trying to do, so I'm going to mess it up!' I would advise not doing this without discussing it with the GM first. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kaine
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 11:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "sits down and pouts" is non-confrontational now? If in a game my PC goes "on strike" because me as a player isn't happy with what's happening..... I don't think anyone will think this is non-confrontational. You're just using your PC instead of talking like a human, to another human... \$\endgroup\$
    – Patrice
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kaine it's not about messing up what the GM does it's about finding a way to enjoy the game by actually going with it instead of going against it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 7:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Patrice yes it is non-confrontational. It's not AGAINST the GM, it's accepting his way of playing and finding a way to still have fun. Keep in mind this is something the character does, not the player. The player keeps staying positive and having fun. Your character doesn't pout because you pout, he pouts because that's just his personality and you think it might be fun to let him do that. Of course different personality means different reaction and if you don't think him pouting in the middle of battle would be fun there would be no point to do that as that is the goal. Not disrupting. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 7:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ While I don't like the idea of the character sulking, the character picking up on the monsters going easy on the party and assuming a conspiracy afoot sounds like a really interesting idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – Josh
    Commented Aug 22, 2018 at 12:43

I would try explaining to him that you understand that he is trying to make the game fun, but in reality, he is causing you to lose out on the best part of role-playing games. Namely the:


Ask any Klingon, they'll tell you. There's nothing more glorious and honorable than dying in battle. Seriously though, I don't play much anymore, but when we reminisce about games we used to play, the failures and deaths come up and are way more fun to recount than the victories.

Sure, the time I rolled a 20 with my vorpal sword and beheaded the troll was great. But the time my cybernetic soldier got thrown into a bag by a dragon and, rather than just use his 18/00 strength to rip the bag open, he decided to blast through it and shot the Kiwi in the face, now that was awesome.


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