I'm a new DM for four people who are all friends (I am also friends with all of them). During the game, I observed one player turn a D20 from a lower number to a higher number a couple times with her thumb when all the players were rolling simultaneously. Both times, she verbally told me she rolled the lower number, but I also think she saw me observe her change the roll. At the time I chose to let it go, with a resolve to watch her more closely in the future.

However, another player approached me a couple days after the game, to tell me that this player was changing her rolls, and that they feel it is unfair that this player is manipulating their rolls. I'm not entirely certain that this second player didn't just observe the times I saw however.

I don't want to accuse someone of cheating if they were not, but I also don't want cheating to continue if it is in fact occurring. What is a good approach to dealing with this situation? Should I talk to the player in question, or make sure only one person rolls the dice at a time, or some other approach?

Additional information that answers questions that have come up in comments:

  • We were not using any form of dice tray or dice tower.
  • Each player has their own unique colored dice.
  • I am not assuming that this player is cheating, however it is possible the second player who brought it up to me could be assuming so.

11 Answers 11


Use a Rolling Tray

I don't want to accuse someone of cheating if they were not, but I also don't want cheating to continue if it is in fact occurring

Since another player has already mentioned it, your simple solution is to use "a rolling tray" or something similar. Any roll that does not land on the rolling tray does not count.

What is a rolling tray?

It can be anything. Something about the size of a Monopoly® box, turned upside-down, is big enough to accommodate this simple table top tool. An upside down Frisbee® is another nice option. Players toss their dice into the tray and whatever comes up is seen by all at the table.

While you could use a piece of green felt, the advantage to a tray with edges on it, like an upside down box top, is that it keeps the dice from rolling off the table/out of the tray.

How does this help your situation?

Since it appears that you don't want to confront someone and have the social friction of a cheating accusation arise, the rolling tray has a practical side: dice don't disappear, don't fall off the table, and you thus don't have to re-roll as often. This is the only feature you need to emphasize when introducing a tray as the new normal.

  • Who hasn't had a die roll off the table, under some furniture, into a grate on the floor for the house's heating system, etc?
  • Another advantage is that when using miniatures, a rolling die is less likely to knock one over or out of place.

    FWIW, I've run into die manipulators and various cheaters over the years. How one handles that is very much a function of the group's interpersonal dynamics. If your group is mature enough to handle a potentially difficult discussion, Molot has some solid advice here.

If you don't mind spending a few bucks, a dice tower is another option. There are a variety of models. I just linked to that one as an example. Thanks to @LeeMosher for the suggestion of the upside down Frisbee®.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 7 '17 at 3:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I myself (when I'm a player), and my table (when I'm a DM) use a strict "only rolls that land on the table count" policy (and my personal dice have to be in the tray). \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Dec 5 '19 at 13:31

Talk to your players

Seriously. This is the very first step. Do not accuse anyone, just talk. There may be many reasons for cheating on dice:

  1. Failed roll ruined otherwise good plan that had 90% chances of success and player is afraid of it happening again.

  2. Character is weaker than the group and character (or worse, player) was ridiculed for this.

  3. Player has no fun because when she plays honestly, she usually fails.

  4. Too much rolling, fights are already "won" but encounter continues and continues and player wants to get over with it and go back to interesting parts as soon as possible.

  5. Player feels she don't have a chance to shine without consistently good rolls.

And probably many more. The very first step should be to talk with your players. Identify if there is any one of these problems. If there is - solve it first, before talking any other action, because solving dice manipulation part without solving it's cause would only create other problems in another aspects of your game. So go to the root as soon as possible.

If that won't help, and player just has this habit - this really happens sometimes! -, or if problem was solved and you want to help player break the habit created by now-gone issue and help other players see all is clear now, then apply KorvinStarmast's answer.

Only you can know if group talk or a series of 1 on 1 conversations will give better result. Either way, be sure to pay attention to all your players and don't forget that you are kinda player yourself - you all are supposed to have fun, so don't forget yourself in the process of making everyone happier with the game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 7 '17 at 3:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ What to talk about? How to approach them first without being seen as "accusing"? Should the matter about "I've seen you modify your roll" or "Someone thought you modify your roll" be ever brought up? \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Nov 27 '18 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vylix Start with something like "are you having fun with my game?" or "are you getting bored? It looks like you fiddle with your dice, maybe game is not engaging enough for you?". Just get to know how player feels and thinks. Conversation and data gathering from people is a very soft skill and I can't give an algorithm. I wish I could. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Nov 27 '18 at 10:40

My answer is similar to Molot's answer, but based on certain details in the question, I'm going to challenge the presumption of malintent.

Based on your own observations, it's not clear that this player is, in fact, cheating, because as you said, every time you actually observed the player reorienting their die, the result that they announced was in fact the true result, and not the number that they subsequently turned the die to. Thus, it's possible that what you're really seeing is not cheating, but merely idle manipulation of the die.

  • The player could be turning the die as a form of fidgeting - they need to be doing something with their hands, and at that particular moment they choose to manipulate an object on the table in front of them.
  • The player might be imagining how the scene would play out differently if they had rolled some other value than the one they actually rolled, and are turning the die to said other value as a visual aid for their mental calculations.
  • They might just be OCD about what number their die sits on when idle.
  • They might have superstitions about their dice, imagining that the longer a die sits on the table with a given side up, the more likely that side is to be rolled in the future. (I can relate to this, as I like to set all of my dice on their highest value when they're in reserve. Intellectually I know that dice are not affected by sitting in one orientation for long periods, and I tell myself that I only do this to make it easy to find a given die more quickly, but I can't entirely deny that I could be just slightly superstitious myself, if only in a wishful-thinking kind of way.)
  • Similarly, they might imagine that if they tilt the die from one face to some adjacent, higher face, it will make the die more likely to roll from the first face to the second on subsequent rolls.

Talk to the player one-on-one, and approach the conversation from the assumption that this is what's going on, something like "so I've noticed that occasionally, you'll absently mess with your dice while they're sitting on the table". Then explain that you foresee the possibility that another player might mistake this for an attempt at cheating, so you wanted to bring it to their attention to prevent any unnecessary and unwarranted conflicts, and suggest that they be sure to both wait a while after rolling before doing this, and to be sure to do it far enough from the rolling area to avoid any misperception.

And even if the player was cheating, and just skillfully noticed your observation on those occasions, there's a chance that this diplomatic conversation could be enough to discourage the behavior in the future.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there's a further ground to challenge the presumption of malintent. Sometimes people cheat at solitaire. This is not generally considered "malicious", although it might be ridiculed as wasting time in an incorrect way, different from the way solitaire was designed to waste time! Players are told that RPGs are collaborative, not competitive. A player should learn that other people at the table want everyone playing by these rules, and that's why they chose this game, and that's why they shouldn't cheat. But until they learn that, they have no reason to think that cheating is harmful. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop Jul 16 at 9:30

Authorized 'Cheating'

Depending on how your implementation of @Molot's answer goes and the reason behind the fudging, you might giving folks the option for a few rerolls each session could help reduce the perceived (or actual) unfairness, while still allowing to counter some of what might be the reason being the original fudging.

As an example PathFinder Society has several opportunities for rerolls built in... if you've bought some of the materials (like the stuffed goblin or some specific shirts) and that's an organized play situation. Depending on how susceptible to bribery you are bringing snacks or drinks might be worth a reroll, and/or just give everyone one.

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The players where I've seen this happen usually fall into one of two buckets:

  1. Casual cheaters who just want to win for sake of not being a loser who loses.
  2. Heroes who think their characters / the party shouldn't ever fail.

The previous suggestions have included a Dice Tray so everyone can see the rolls and they're not hidden (or an electronic equivalent). I second that. If you can see them make the roll, there's less chance to cheat.

Another suggestion to add to that is no pre-rolling dice. I've seen cheaters who will "play" with their dice constantly, especially during other people's combat turns. But the moment they roll a 15 or higher on that D20 (or suitably well in your game system's rolling scheme), suddenly they put their hands down and leave the die right where it landed. That becomes their next attack roll... If you think your players might be doing that, stop it. Cold and fast. Everyone rolls their dice in the communal dice tray (if it flies out of the tray, re-roll), and no one rolls until the GM calls for the roll. If they want to play with the dice, that's great; but don't accept those rolls.

As a GM, you can also help by making failed rolls entertaining rather than destructive to the party. Don't just label the fail, but describe it. Make it amusing but not detrimental (unless the mechanics require it). If the player doesn't feel that a failure threatens them, they're more willing to let fails happen.

Also, as a GM, one of my unwritten house rules is that no single die roll should ever kill a PC or destroy any item of value (whether of value because it's expensive or of value because the plot needs it). If a single failed roll can kill your character, or the NPC prince you're rescuing, then you're going to be quite nervous of that roll. If instead a failed roll means you / they are knocked out and must make a series of rolls later to not die, then you've added tension instead. And tension is more fun than despair. I sometimes use this rule to protect the enemies the PCs face, but only if doing so supports the Rule of Fun for the group, and not just to lengthen combat or save a bad guy.

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I have a set of Koplow jumbo dice that I give to anyone suspiciously and consistently rolling really good. That way I can see the result from where I am. No one has ever argued with me. I think the way I play it up, it tends to be a badge of honor to roll the giant dice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Lol if you sell it as an honor and never say anything about cheating, then you get to watch them squirm! "No no, that's all right, I didn't deserve the honor, I'm fine with my own dice"... \$\endgroup\$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 7 '19 at 22:38

One option would be to use another form of randomizer than dice -- one that can be operated in the open, on the table, but isn't vulnerable to player manipulation. Electronic dice are one possibility; another might be drawing cards (take all the face cards out of a deck, shuffle, then draw one card face up; add 10 to the value shown if the card is red). Throwing the dice in a box lid is an old method for this, and it's less vulnerable as well (though not so much so as electronic dice or card draws).

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This is a meta problem (sorry for the big model speak) that you should turn into a social issue.

Players who cheat at dice rolls are not cheating you the GM. They are cheating the entire group. The right solution is not for you to play referee on this, but for players to police each other.

You had the right idea: Let people roll one at a time, and openly for everyone else to see (and check). I have always done it like this for one other reason: The dramatic curve is better when people announce, roll, resolve instead of having breaks between those steps.

Whether or not the player is actually cheating is not important at all. If other players believe that she might, the damage is already done. Just don't announce this change as a countermeasure to cheating.

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How about you tell everyone at the table that they don't have to roll their dice any more?
Tell them that each player gets to decide whether they succeed or fail in every circumstance and by how much or how little.

From the comments, I am adding a bit: Roll a d6:

  • On 1-3; At some point, it should become obvious to them that cheating at a game of make believe takes away what makes it fun.
  • On 4-6; At some point, it should become obvious to them that allowing randomness to determine a game of make believe takes away what makes it fun.

Make sure you roll behind a screen so you can fudge your D6 roll and pick which one you like better.

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I had the same problem and decided a rolling tray or dice tower would help. At the beginning of the next session I addressed the players like this:

I have to make a new rule because it appears that some rolls may be being manipulated to get better outcomes. First, no player may idly roll his or her dice. Second, when a roll is called for, each player, one at a time and while I watch, will roll so that the results can be verified.

This put the player doing the manipulating on notice that others were catching on and that the behavior was affecting the game's flow for everyone. This also put the other players on notice that I was aware of the situation and would now notice when such manipulation happened. It's tough to engage in this behavior when I must watch the dice land and verify the result.

In my instance, the problem player left after 2 sessions of this. Afterward, the rest of us went back to rolling normally, and I haven't had a problem like this since.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Who ya gonna call? Cheat Busters! \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 5 '19 at 13:41

The highest rated answer, with its dice tower and rolling tray does not actually solve the problem stated. The amount of table real estate needed to give everyone a tower or rolling tray would leave little room for everything else that is usually needed for a gaming session.

The problem is said to arise during simultaneous rolls. It has been a while since I played regularly, but simultaneous rolls were not usually something that was done or needed.

I've played several different systems (D&D, d20, Gurps, White Wolf, Shadowrun, etc) and when a player needed to roll, that player was the focus of attention. It was less a matter of distrust, than it was that everyone was interested and invested in the other players' characters. The crit, or hit, or miss, or fumble would occasion cheers and/or groans. The outcome of most die rolls had an effect on not only the rolling player's character, but also on the other characters or the scene.

This may be a difference in play style, but if simultaneous rolls are often used, then you could simply have the players hold the dice they will be throwing, and then simply (and quickly) go around the table with each throwing their chosen dice in quick succession. The results are then all applied simultaneously.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 7 '17 at 3:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ You don't need a tray for each player, nor a tower for each player: one for the table suffices. Not sure where you got that assumption. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 5 '19 at 13:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast The question specifically states that the problematic rolls are all simultaneous. At the time I responded, I do not believe the note about players using unique sets of dice had been added (though it has been 2.5+ years). Without the unique sets, using the same tower/tray for simultaneous rolls by two or more players could cause confusion. Simply not doing simultaneous rolls would seem a much simpler solution. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Richardson Dec 5 '19 at 17:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't find it difficult for everone to drop their d20 into the dice tower when we roll initiative, and it's a lot easier to toss them all into the upside down monopoly box lid. (But at our table, each peson has a different colored d20. ) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 5 '19 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I think Michael is concerned with one person's die being indistinguishable from another's so having no idea who got what roll... That is not my experience of playing D&D at all, people love to buy unusual dice or customize them. You already trace over the inset numbers with a sharpie, so it's not far out of your way to use purple and brown sharpies. \$\endgroup\$ – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 7 '19 at 22:35

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