Cheating


#1

Someone recently told me “there’s nothing you can do about cheating in larp”. I don’t agree with this. I think cheating can reduced in two ways: rules and culture.

Let’s take blow-counting as an example. There were some players at Mordavia that both crew members and other players repeatedly complained about as not taking their blows, across multiple events and characters. People who would be struck by a veritable hail of blows or poisonous tentacles and not go down. On confrontation, typical excuses were “I still had hit points left”, “a lot of the blows hit my cloak”, “we don’t count little flicky hits, do we?” etc, or just a sullen silence.

In such situations there is a real difficulty for the organisers. Should they give the player a warning and then stop them playing if the cheating continues? The problem with taking such action is that it can disrupt gameplay. Not only may the cheating player be upset, but they may spread discontent among their friends and bring unwanted out of character conflict into the event. However, if you let such cheating continue then many people may feel that the event is unfair and that the organisers are not doing enough to make people play by the rules. Deciding which option will cause the least damage to the larp is difficult.

While diplomatic approaches to cheating players can have some success, that is really the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. The better solution is prevention. Prevent cheating being an option in the first place.

First, how can rules reduce cheating? The simpler your rules are, and the fewer hidden elements they contain (such as Hit Points, which are only stored in the players’ heads) the less possible it is for players to cheat without it being immediately and undeniably obvious. If every strike takes a character down immediately, the only way of cheating is to say “it didn’t hit me”. It is usually very clear whether this is true, and only the most hardened cheats would pull this excuse out repeatedly. Similarly if all blows that land on armour don’t do any damage, then there is never an unknown factor over whether the armour is providing protection. Except in the dark, it should be fairly clear whether an armoured or unarmoured spot has been struck. The cheater cannot claim to still have health or armour points left if there is no such thing, and it is clear if they should go down immediately and do not.

In terms of culture, I think what’s needed is something similar to the SCA culture where people who don’t take their blows are looked down on. The culture needs to be one that recognises that “winning” isn’t the ultimate goal, what matters is enjoying the activity and helping create an environment where everyone can enjoy it. This is especially true in larps whether player character are likely to come into conflict with each other. There needs to be a very clear “spirit of play” in such cases that says that while your characters may be in deadly conflict, out of game you’re creating an enjoyable experience together and won’t resort to cheating because it would lessen the overall experience for everyone.


"A view from the other side of the world"
#2

I think you’ve pretty much summed up the whole conversation :smiley:

  1. make it simple so it’s obvious if people cheat
  2. when people cheat, call them on it and tell them you don’t like it

Golf is another good example of a culture that does not tolerate cheating. Even in professional competitions with $millions of prize money, the golfers still submit their own score card. If they ever believe they have made a mistake, they will usually disqualify themself and hand back the money. I remember reading about a golfer who disqualified himself because one of his gold clubs had been bent in transit and he played a shot with it before realising it was bent. There is a rule in golf that the shaft must be straight…

I think people can justify (to themselves) not counting hp more when it’s PC vs NPC. The PCs are heroes after all and the NPCs don’t have feelings…

At Mordavia, I was watching players taking 7-8 blows in a row and I couldn’t see how they were getting all the hp. They weren’t orcs and they didn’t have heavy armour. They were fighting one group of monsters after another I didn’t see them removing what little armour they had (or even doing ‘field repairs’) shrug

When we get to a situation where we’re all ‘players’ we start needing everyone to be playing the same game.

I’ve seen people at SCA tournaments come back on the field after they have “won” a fight and say they were mistaken and should have taken a blow and give the fight back to their opponent. They earn a lot of respect doing that and it reinforces the trust we have in one another.

I was amused on Tuesday when we were training because the arguments were more likely to be people saying “no, don’t take that, it wasn’t a good blow…” :smiley: That’s the type of culture I’m proud to be a part of.


#3

The real problem with cheating is the it occurs IC, but must be dealt with OOC.

We have very little, if any, cheating in Skirmish. This is because we have OOC rules that allow constant monitoring of each other’s Hit Points, Spells etc. At any time, a participant can “Status” another participant, plus you have to restate your new HP total whenever you take a hit.

We’ve traded immersion for information and it works.

Given a larp where immersion is a desired goal, you need rules that engender a culture of fair play, reward instances of fair play and discourage cheating.

I am in favour of the Hit Point models used in Skirmish and Mordavia. I like fights where you can charge in a take a bit of damage, do some damage and hopefully get out again. While I would like to playtest the 1 Hit You’re Down model, I suspect it will lead to less combat (and more ganking). It kind of feels like we’re saying "Oh, someone might cheat, so we’ll stop everyone from doing ".

The trait of a cheat is consistency. They keep cheating and cheating and they develop a reputation for it. So, give bonus XP to people who are seen to take their hits fairly, and nothing to reputed cheats. Let players know this will be an entirely subjective model.

Give players OOC feedback, citing instances where it appeared they were cheating. Encourage players to scream “Aargh!” or “Ouch !” to indicate they have taken a hit.

Make it clear to players that suspected cheats will definitely have bad luck. More likely to get finishing blows, more likely to be targeted by enemy mages - although this only works in a crew vs players system.


#4

Actually, I think it’s even more likely to happen in a PvP system. :wink:

While the one-hit-you’re-down system may sound lethal, remember that (in my version of it) armour is a perfect protection that doesn’t wear out. If you’re heavily and strategically armoured you may last quite a while in combat.


#5

shields are also great for prolonging not getting hit. i had one last game and it took a while before anyone got around it, so combat was still fairly lond despite me only having three hitpoints.

one reason people might discount hits is because if they take them then die, they can get no rewards for any thing theyve done through the rest of the game in the form of experience points or whatever. with the no mans land LARP i liked the idea that you get experience if you attend and you can spend it on any character you had, not just the one or ones you used at the game. if people can die honourably and still get given experience for it then they might be willing to die more often. prehaps on the game masters opinon if a characters death was great and heroic enough they could get extra experience for another character.


#6

I like the idea of giving players experience over characters in high turnover games, we’ve considered implementing something to that effect in Ravenholme since the games will often be spread so far apart and leaping between periods of history that it will be mostly impossible to advance or munch a character very far. First we’d need to un-break the rules so that a character with eight skill slots would not be hell on legs, though.


#7

I’m not sure if I can quite follow that reasoning. I’m not going to take blows because if I die I don’t get XP. If you die, you’re dead, who cares if you get XP???

But, I think you’re right in that people don’t want to die because death is bad. I think, if we really want cheating stomped we must make having a reputation of cheating worse than death.


#8

I’m not sure if I can quite follow that reasoning. I’m not going to take blows because if I die I don’t get XP. If you die, you’re dead, who cares if you get XP???

But, I think you’re right in that people don’t want to die because death is bad. I think, if we really want cheating stomped we must make having a reputation of cheating worse than death.[/quote]

what i mean is that in mordavia, you got experience for the character you used at the end of the game provided you didnt die. dying means you get no experience for that character, as theyre dead, and if it happened towards the end of the game you couldnt really start a new character at that event so over the entire weekend you gained no experience even if for most of it you were alive and well.


#9

In Hamilton we have a couple of tests for cheating in play. The most famou of these is the “Angel of Death”. It soon becomes apparent if players are cheating.

The trouble with counting hits is that even with the best intentions it can be difficult. In real life it has been noted that people have difficulty counting to six in a high stress situation, hence police officers trying to fire empty guns.

In NZ we have always had the problem that the LRP community is small and often fractures into lots of little games rather than one large game, therefore we have to take who we can get. That is just the way of LRP down here. In this type of situation cheats get away with more than they should.


#10

For sure. That’s one of the reasons I’m keen for a combat system with no hit points. I’m suggesting that hits on armour have no effect (or the effect is just a roleplayed bruise), and that a single hit to an unarmoured location will incapacitate.

Maybe. Fractured groups are human nature and happen in larp in most parts of the world, certainly in western countries. Eastern block countries do seem to form groups that clump together a bit better. Size of event is mostly a reflection of distribution of population I think. NZ population is small and thinly spread, and so are the larps. But a big enough push could probably get a single larp with hundreds of people, I think.

On the other hand, in the USA the live combat larp scene is dominated by NERO and AmtGard and clones of them, and they look like utter utter shit. Imagine the worst larp rules you can think of and multiply by 100x and you’re almost nearing the carwreck that is NERO. Thousands of players and chapters all over the USA, but it’s size just makes it an even bigger mess.

But we were talking about cheating. Even if you had all the players in the world to draw from, you’d find that the cheats are good friends with a bunch of other players and may be leaders or respected members of the wider community. Just chucking one person out on their ear can disrupt half the people in your event, from the all the PCs that have links to that character to the players who are associated with the player OOC. The bad word-of-mouth that would result from chucking some players out for cheating would be nasty.

That’s why avoided chucking people out of Mordavia, even though a lot of tooth-gritting had to go on. That’s why I’d rather take a preventative approach.


#11

So what are you going to do to deter cheaters that you aren’t already doing?

Put up a Wall of Shame and publicise the names of people who consistently fudge the rules in their favour? It might work. It might create bad feeling. Whether it would deter the undesirable behaviour enough to make it worthwhile is debatable.

Pity you can’t put people on detention, or hand them a red card…


#12

I think Ryan got it pretty much solved in the first post:

  1. rules simple enough that you don’t cheat by accident - any wound to an unarmoured location pretty much does that

  2. confront people when you think they’re cheating

Within the SCA there are procedures to follow when you think people are not taking blows:
First you talk to the fighter.
Then you talk to the marshal watching the fight.
It goes up the defined heirachy from there.

Usually, step one (talk to the fighter) is enough. I’ve never taken it higher than that in 12 years.

Rather than punishing poor behaviour we reward good behaviour. If you’re a GM you could allocate XP for “playing fair” in the same way as you do for good role playing and good costume.


#13

[quote=“Derek, re: SCA rules”]First you talk to the fighter.
Then you talk to the marshal watching the fight.
It goes up the defined heirachy from there.[/quote]

Eh, I like your idea of specifically rewarding good behaviour.


#14

Would it be worth asking people who are cheating to stand down for half an hour? People who are doing it deliberately will feel bummed out at missing fights all the time, and people who, for instance, are hitting too hard from fatigue or excitement could probably do with a break and a bit of a think.


#15

One of the problems with not counting hp correctly is that it is very open to individual perception. We don’t have the benefits of video replay and referees.

The person who is struck is in the best position to judge the blow. Other people get a visual indication but only them and to a slightly lesser extent the attacker get any tactile sensation.

Talking directly to people immediately after an incident does work. I don’t believe any other sanction is needed.

If that doesn’t work, give them a strange brew :smiley:


#16

Works in a 1 HP setting, but when characters have >1 HP and they keep their HP count secret, there is no way of knowing whether someone is keeping tally or not. i.e. if they are still walking after taking 3 clear hits in a combat, is that because they cheated or because they started with 4+ HP in the first place ?

Hence my idea for IC declarative HP indicators in Multiverse.


#17

Works in a 1 HP setting, but when characters have >1 HP and they keep their HP count secret, there is no way of knowing whether someone is keeping tally or not. i.e. if they are still walking after taking 3 clear hits in a combat, is that because they cheated or because they started with 4+ HP in the first place ?

Hence my idea for IC declarative HP indicators in Multiverse.[/quote]

You’re right, but this suggestion was more in response to the “make them take a time out” suggestion.


#18

Got it. Then again, if someone is regularly suspected of being a cheat, perhaps we could arrange for a forced timeout via a well-targeted kidnapping. Which is basically a timeout, but IC. :wink:


#19

If I think someone is cheating and one day they do go down in combat, I’d not hesitate to deliver a couple of killing blows to them.

I think of it as karma.

:slight_smile:

I tend not ot kill characters if I can think of a reason to keep them alive. Like the fairies I kidnapped as Sir Nigel. We ambushed them and they took their blows fair and square. We dragged them off and tried to ransom them.

That’s not to say I suspected the players that I did killed were cheating. They were for the most part too heavy to carry or I risked discovery if I dallied.

I think a bit of “natural justice” can go a long way, providing it doesn’t go against what the character should be doing.


#20

[quote=“Derek”]If I think someone is cheating and one day they do go down in combat, I’d not hesitate to deliver a couple of killing blows to them.

I think of it as karma.

:slight_smile:[/quote]
Agreed. Even tanks like Eric Von Braun (not a cheat, BTW) can go down relatively quickly if they are attacked by enough people at one. At Solstice he got cut down in the second wave of portal nasties.

As it happens, that would be my retinue plus Matt. Good to hear they all took their blows. The outing of Sir Nigel (damn him, he gave me his word !) and the rescue mission were extremely cool to play out :slight_smile: I agree that killing needs to be motivated by more than “they were incapacitated”.