I threw this poll up a couple days ago, and wanted to talk a bit out the results and how I see Aid/Interfere (particularly Aid) playing out. Warning: this is gonna get pretty wonky.
First, the results:
● For 3/4ths of us, Aid either must (29%) or usually (46%) comes before the ally’s roll
● For only 1/4, Aid must (2%) or usually (23%) come after the roll.
I’m in the “either, but usually AFTER the ally rolls” camp myself. But I’d really like to be in the former. The move is much easier to resolve when the Aid is established before the roll it’s Aiding.
But here’s why we usually end up with Aid’s coming after the roll:
1) Aiding before the roll is a bad bargain. Seriously! If you’re rolling with anything from a -1 to a +2, the chances of rolling a 6 or 9 are 25% (it’s about 20% if you’re rolling +3). That means that there’s basically a 1 in 4 chance that your Aid is actually going to affect the outcome of your ally’s roll. That means you’re risking a miss (chances: 42%/28%/17% for +0/+1/+2 to Aid) in order to have a 1 in 4 chance of affecting an ally’s roll. And that doesn’t even consider the “danger, retribution, or cost” that you expose yourself to on a 7-9.
Aiding after the roll is a way better deal, because you know whether it’ll make a difference and you don’t bother if you can see that it doesn’t.
Now, I’m not some probability savant who just saw those odds right away. But I felt them pretty early on as a GM, and stopped encouraging my players to Aid before the dice were thrown. I knew it was likely to result in a worse (or at least more complicated) outcome.
In my home games, I’ve been using this house rule as a way to make Aid a better deal: Aid doesn’t give a +1 forward, it shifts the ally’s results 1 tier (so their miss >> 7-9, their 7-9 >> 10+, and their 10+ >> 12+ if it matters). This makes the move worth the risk (usually).
But! I’ve been playing with this mod for like 20 sessions, and I’m still not finding that my players Aid before the roll very often (like, almost never). Which leads me to…
2) Aiding before the roll doesn’t naturally fit into the conversation. At least not for me, my players, or any game I can recall being a part of. In order for Aid to happen before the ally rolls, one of these things needs to happen:
a. The GM asks a general “what do you do” and multiple players declare actions before anyone resolves any moves.
GM: “What do you do?”
Fighter: “I’ll charge up the middle, trying to get to Count Badguy before he finishes the spell!”
Ranger: “I’ll take shots at the goblins, trying to keep them pinned down so Fighter has a clear path.”
GM: “Okay, sounds like Fighter is Defying Danger with DEX, and Ranger you’re Aiding. You’re taking a bunch of shots, though, so no matter what you’ll mark off 1 ammo. Yeah?”
This is pretty seamless, but it’s not the typical way the game plays out. I only do this when a dynamic scene starts or when there’s a pause in the momentum. Normally, I’m moving the spotlight from PC to PC, making a move and asking “what do you do?” to an individual.
b. The GM asks a specific player “what do you do?” and the player responds and it triggers a roll, and the GM asks if anyone wants to help, and another player’s like “Yeah!”
This works smoothly, but it only happens if the GM is being proactive about it. It’s basically the GM making a second move, offer an opportunity, in response to the player’s declared action (which is totally legit, just not a natural response IMO). (I never do it if using standard “a 7+ to Aid gives them +1 to their roll” rules, because see above.)
c. The GM asks a specific player “what do you do?” and that player’s response triggers a roll and another player interrupts the conversation in order to Aid.
This totally doesn’t happen in my games. Maybe it’s our Midwestern niceness. Maybe my players haven’t really internalized that it’s something they can do. Maybe we’re too used to D&D and taking ‘turns.” Maybe I’m an authoritarian GM and folks don’t interrupt me? I don’t know! But I can’t really remember a case were this actually happened, in either a game I was running or playing. Does it happen in your games?
d. The GM asks a specific player “what do you do?” and that player’s response triggers a roll and that player asks the others for help before they roll.
Again, I rarely see this happen. I think it’d be awesome if it happened more often, but it doesn’t appear to be natural behavior to my players, even when they’re rolling their bad stats. I’d love to hear about it if you see this type of behavior in your games, or if there’s something you do to encourage it.
e. Some mashup of B and D, where the GM’s “what do you do?” and the player’s like “I look for a secret door or something” and the GM’s all “so you’re Discerning Realties, yeah? roll WIS” and the player’s like “ugh, my WIS sucks, does it have to be WIS?” and the GM’s like “yeah, if you’re closely studying the situation, trying to find something that isn’t what it seems, that’s totes Discern Realities… maybe someone could Aid you?” Basically, the player express dismay/discomfort/a need for help and the GM reminds the table that Aid is an option.
It’s reasonably fluid when this happens, but I don’t know that’s all that common.
Contrast all of those with “roll Hack and Slash” “Crap, a 6.” “Oh, a 6… anyone want to Aid?” Aiding after the fact (especially when the Aid is a +1 bonus) means that the roll itself serves as a conversational trigger. Someone gets a 6 or a 9, and that’s so close and a +1 would tip the scales and it’s really natural to ask “Anyone want to help him out?”
With our house rules (that a successful Aid just steps up a miss to a 7-9 or a 7-9 to a 10+), I’ve found that this still happens, but it’s mostly based on the perceived consequences of a miss or a 7-9. Like, our fighter had like 3 HP left and was tussling with a 2 or 3 goblins, and got a 7-9 to H&S… and the other party members were worried that the goblin counterattack would drop him, so they Aided. The conversational pause and prompt is still there, it’s just more subtle.
ANYHOW… (still reading?) Here’s what I’m interested in hearing from you all, especially the 75% of you who regularly see Aid happening before the roll:
What does it look like at your tables? How does the conversation actually go? Is it usually one of the a/b/c/d/e options I’ve laid above? Something totally different? Or, is there something about your play style/GM style that encourages it?
Help me understand!