I threw this poll up a couple days ago, and wanted to talk a bit out the results and how I see Aid/Interfere…

I threw this poll up a couple days ago, and wanted to talk a bit out the results and how I see Aid/Interfere…

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!

40 thoughts on “I threw this poll up a couple days ago, and wanted to talk a bit out the results and how I see Aid/Interfere…”

  1. I disagree that aiding before the roll doesn’t fit the conversation, and I believe it’s the only way to make it fit organically the fiction. Obviously this can’t happen if you do not give time to the other players decide to help, but that is not a game issue. The other players are not interrupting. There are no turns, if another player wants to add to the conversation, they should, so the table agrees on the established fiction before the moves are rolled.

    Acting player describes what they try to do, helping player, before the things are attempted, propose to help and describe how they intend to help, so the fiction is established,then dice are rolled, aiding character’s first.

    Not following the sequence in most of the cases makes the results of Aid a mechanical effect disconnected from or even contradicting the fiction. I let rolling Aid after the roll if the players are able to describe how the help fits with the fiction. A player can Aid to find a hidden passage helping after the failed roll, but once a character fell down a cliff, it can’t be made unfallen. That would be undoing a hard move and changing the established fiction.

  2. In my games (just wrapped up a 32 session campaign!) players would often chime in to aid (or interfere) before the roll. It felt like it was getting play the right amount of time in our games.

    I’m not a fan of mechanics that add a bonus after a roll because I feel it takes away much of the suspense and sense if gamble.

  3. In my group, we pretty much always roll Aid after the prior roll. I leave open the option to roll before, but, as you say, it’s a terrible bargain. Mechanically, I like the way this extends the tension of a miss or partial. Narratively, I tend to imagine Aid as a ‘slow motion’ or ‘close-up of peril’ sequence in a film where you suddenly realize the protagonist is in trouble and then one of the other characters interjects, doing something to save the day.

    If you roll Aid before, it just becomes a more complex roll that constrains the narrative response (because now the aiding PC is involved), but otherwise still gets handled like a standard roll. You don’t get that extra dose of tension.

  4. More concretely, it goes something like this:

    Fighter: “…damn, that’s a 6.”

    GM: (deliberately drawing out the description to invite a response) “He moves faster than you expected, slashing his wicked blade toward your face. You see it directly approaching your eyes even as you move to engage…”

    Thief: “I want to Aid!”

    GM: “Okay, what are you doing?”

    Thief: “I’m gonna throw a dagger to distract him.”

    GM: “Okay, sure, roll + Bond”. (Thief rolls a 10). “Nice, the dagger distracts the swordsman just enough that you manage to duck the slice, sparing your eyes and giving you a chance to complete your swing. Roll your damage and 1d8 for his slice.”

  5. Further elaborating (I’ll take the leeway, since the original post was long), I think it’s very much connected to my GMing style. When they roll a 6 or a 9, I try to phrase my response as a sort of miniature version of show signs of an approaching threat, with the implicit understanding that this is all but inevitable. This sets up natural narrative positioning for aid without requiring any ret-conning, since it gives the other characters something concrete to respond to. I mean, sometimes I don’t manage to pull this off and we do have to ret-con a bit when a description gets interrupted by an aid that works in a different way, but it feels really satisfying when this pattern plays out as intended.

  6. Paride Papadia Exactly, we come to an understanding as players that when a miss is rolled, you have to accept the consequences. Except when Aid comes into play, because maybe it’s not really a miss! If players are relatively new, I may explicitly offer “Does anyone want to try to Aid?” Once we’ve been playing together a while, though, they know the option is there and I offer a more subtle invitation in the way I narrate.

  7. Dan Bryant Interesting!

    Even though we usually end up with Aid coming after the roll it aids, it always happens before any description is made. If I had already started making my GM move, I wouldn’t allow someone to interrupt with an Aid (or a new Defend, or anything other than maybe spending hold or clarifying the situation).

    So for us, it’s like:

    Fighter (rolls Hack & Slash against 3 goblins): oh crap, a 9. (He’s got only 3 HP left and 2 Armor; there’s a serious chance that this d6+2 damage will drop him and everyone at the table knows it.)

    GM (me, after a pause): Anyone want to Aid him?

    Would-be Hero (our “in over their head” class): Um, sure. Can I?

    GM: Yeah, if you can tell us how you do it?

    Would-be Hero: Oh, well, I charge in there, hoping to distract or take out one of the goblins.

    GM: Cool, roll to Aid!

    (And then after we have her roll, I’ll narrate the outcome of both rolls, or ask them to do it, whichever fits better.)

  8. Jeremy Strandberg I have that happen sometimes too, if a player interjects before I even start responding. In that case, I play it out the same way you described. If they don’t, the slow, tense narration offers an opportunity and helps make the threat more concrete to help guide the players into deciding how they’re aiding. It can be harder to declare how you’re aiding when you’re not yet entirely sure what bad thing is going to happen due to the miss.

  9. Dan Bryant​ thanks, it’s actually what I meant by Aid compatible with the fiction. But we usually imply that once the gm starts narrating the consequences, it’s too late for Aiding, ’cause that would break the fiction. Actually wording the fiction in an Aid friendly way is a very good idea.

  10. I’m actually okay with them breaking the narrative too, as I have no problem with ret-conning (especially for recent narration) if it makes things more interesting. It does feel better if it fits naturally into the flow, though.

  11. Paride Papadia I totally agree that:

    1) Whoever’s Aiding has to say how they do it! Of course they do, just like every other move.

    2) It certainly leads to cleaner fiction if the Aid roll is established first. I’d like Aid to happen before the roll, but I’m finding that it doesn’t.

    You say this:

    “Obviously this can’t happen if you do not give time to the other players decide to help, but that is not a game issue. The other players are not interrupting. There are no turns, if another player wants to add to the conversation, they should.”

    There are no formal turns, but you take turns talking, right? It’s a conversation, not a bunch of people talking all at once. Which means that there’s either some prompt, some beat in the conversation, between “sounds like you’re Defying Danger with DEX” and the player rolling it, during which the Aid gets initiated.

    What does that pause, that conversational beat, look like? That’s the big question I’ve got!

    (Dion Kurczek, same question to you!)

  12. Paride Papadia So, we’re having a conversation. I say a thing to you. You are listening. I ask you a question, you respond, maybe ask a question yourself. Someone interjects, but unless someone’s saying or doing something extreme, they interject at a pause, not while someone else is talking.

    That’s what I mean by “taking turns.” You’re having a conversation, a back-and-forth, not everyone all talking at once. Especially in a traditional RPG like DW, where the GM is facilitating the conversation. (At least, I assume! Maybe I’m greatly underestimating cultural differences here.)

  13. Jeremy Strandberg you sound a lot like you’re talking about a lecture.

    The gm doesn’t really alk to one player at a time. they talk to the whole table. One character may be under the spotlight, but every player is involved. Any player can ask or tell anything at any moment. Sometimes they will overlap, sometimes they will build together, it’s something that the players can handle themselves. I see two cases only where the gm needs to actively enforce a structure in the conversation:when a player’s action activates a move or when the gm introduces a new danger and needs to get specific information about every player’s character choices. The second one is what classic games formalize with initiative, while the first one is needed because the fiction has to be in a single place before it can follow the results of a move.

    And yes, probably you would find our games chaotic. Chaotic good, anyway. 😛

  14. Usually one player states their action:

    “I will examine the altar closely looking for traps.”

    Then there is a pause in the conversation.

    Sometimes, at this point, another player jumps in and says something like:

    “I want to help him.”

    If no one does this by the time the original player makes a move, it’s too late to help because in the fiction we already resolved the outcome.

    That’s just our procedure, I can see how at other tables it can work differently.

  15. Another reason I prefer the aid come before the outcome is determined is that it precludes metagaming. Even using the tweak that aiding bumps up the result to the next tier, if the outcome is already a success, there is no reason to aid. The player’s decision is influenced by future knowledge.

    Maybe there could be some benefit to aiding even if the outcome is already a 10+?

  16. Dion Kurczek ah, interesting… so for your table, the Aid usually gets established between the player saying “I do X” and the GM invoking the move/calling for a roll.

    So, like, after the GM says “sounds like you’re Defying Danger with DEX,” the other players probably could offer to Aid but usually don’t? Yes?

    (And, yeah, I totally hear you about the preference to Aid before the roll. I’m just not seeing happen in my games, and I’m trying to figure out why that is and how it’s actually working for the majority of y’all.)

  17. Our table does interject often. As Paride Papadia​​ mentioned, the GM usually talks to the table, not an individual. This opens up the possibility for another to chime in.

    This dynamic also requires the players personality to be more out going and not passive, but i find that DW requires alot more of that vs DnD or other initiative based games anyway

  18. Paride Papadia Hah! I’m a software instructor by trade, typically lecturing 20-30 professionals at a time, so… yeah, maybe I do facilitate my games more formally than most.

    Still… I have a hard time imagining the conversation you describe as not having “turns.” DW is, really, a very traditional RPG in terms of where the “authority” lies. The players say what they’re characters do, and then look to the GM to see what happens as a result. Yeah? There’s got to be some back and forth, some turn taking as people say things and ask questions, as we all process what the others are saying and build a shared imaginary space. I’m not talking about “who has the talking stick” or anything, just that human communication involves give and take, back and forth. And that’s magnified by the authority position that the GM has.

    So, like, walk me through it! Think back to a recent time where Aid got triggered at your table and walk us through the conversation.

  19. Jeremy Strandberg I’m thinking part of why it doesn’t come at your table is because they know there’s an option to Aid after the roll. If that’s an option, it’s always ‘better’ to wait and most of us have at least some desire to ‘do well’ as players. I was influenced by seeing Adam Koebel encourage rolling Aid after the fact, so that’s just become the way we do things.

  20. Aiding after the roll does not make any sense to me fictionally. The rolls are not part of the fiction, the actions are and the outcomes in which the rolls result.

    As such, if the choice to aid depends on the outcome of the action (only noticeable after resolving the roll)…you’re too late to aid. You are however of course able to respond to the outcome and try to ‘help out’ in some way… but that would likely be a separate (new) action. Some rare exceptions may apply but I can’t really think of any right now. Such teamwork is an perfect way to swivel the spotlight around by the way.

    As Dan said above me, if you allow aiding after the roll as a rule that encourages a certain gameplay. Its players responding to a roll & optimizing their chances in a rule system, not characters responding to events. The latter, to me, is what DW is about.

  21. I think Aid should be used before the roll. From a game-design point of view, there’s not much difference between allowing an Aid after the roll, and just handing focus to the potential Aider and letting them try to dig the victim out. Both move the spotlight in the same way, and both lead to similar mechanical outcomes.

    The main purpose of Aid as I see it, is to spread the spotlight around when you are in a situation where a single character is going to make a small number of high-value rolls. For that to work right, you //have// to declare Aid beforehand.

  22. Why would anybody aid before a roll? It’s only even useful on a 6 or a 9, and if you roll a miss yourself you’re inviting a hard move on a roll that very likely won’t benefit at all from your attempt in the first place.

    For me it makes perfect sense in the fiction to have people interject with attempts to aid after they see that 6 or 9. It’s still a risky thing to do and can range from really helping to making things even more sideways.

    Plus that way it is never a pointless attempt.

  23. Jeremy Strandberg I don’t have a recent example in mind, but normally the Aid process goes like: Player A says “I would like to fizzle the zlorb” and player B says “I would like to help them. And then, if the players themselves do not explain how they fizzle or how they help to fizzle, the GM asks them to explain before rolling. Normally Aid rolls first because “On a 7–9, they still get a modifier, but you also expose yourself to danger, retribution, or cost.”, so it’s way better to know in advance to build the fiction consistently.

    Anyway, I see a misplacement of expectations on Aid (and also a bit of a metagaming view about how Aid should be rolled only when useful).

    Aid, as written, is not something intended to be useful without taking risks, it means involving tightly a character in the fiction of another character. It’s always risky, in the most common case of a character having 1 bond, there is around 28% chance of getting hit by a hard move, and another 30% of getting anyway caught in the failure or partial hit of the other player’s roll, to give their character just a + 1 bonus on the roll. Interfering has a much better impact for your gamble (-2 on the rolls). For comparison, in Apocalypse World the bonds can easily go to + 3, making the roll much easier for characters having a common story helping.

  24. Nothing you said explains why I would ever help someone ahead of time knowing that unless their roll is a 6 or a 9 then my aid is meaningless even if I succeed.

    To me, help is seeing an ally about to narrowly fail or succeed but not quite perfectly and jumping in to aid them in an interesting way, with the risk that you may screw up the attempt.

    It makes perfect sense to me that way, and since the guy who wrote the book runs it that way I feel confident it was the intent anyway.

  25. Josh Miller Someone might aid before the roll because they haven’t had the opportunity to watch how Adam runs his games, and may only be going by the example given in the rule book, in which the aid roll clearly happens before the defend attempt.

  26. Josh Miller Someone might aid before the roll because it’s an important roll. Not “stab the orc”, but “defuse the hostage situation”, or “close the dark portal”. In combat, there’s rarely a point, but outside of it you often see small numbers of important rolls, and aid helps mitigate the risk of failing those.

  27. Josh Miller I mentioned it already. That’s entirely fiction-disconnected Metagaming. The dice rolls do not exist in the character’s world. The Aiding character doesn’t know if the acting player is going to fail before the action is attempted. A character Aids another because of a judgement based on fiction. The acting player has to attempt the roll before the fiction is established. If the acting player has failed, there will be consequences depending on the roll. That’s the rule of the moves. A trap will go off. A monster will be awaken. A sigil will be broken. A king will be offended.

    Since you call upon authority, this is from the person that invented the system: The full explanation of the move in the MC’s section of Apocalypse World states that Aid and the move should be rolled at the same time.

    interfering one — roll at the same time, but don’t be a nit about

    it. If the player’s like “oh wait a second! I provide covering fire of course, am I too late to roll to help?” the answer’s no, not too late.. >

    while this is from the other author of DW:

    If it makes sense fictionally that someone could see things going badly and help, they can aid

    after the roll. I’m pretty generous with this. (Sage LaTorra)

    The meaning being in both cases: be nice and allow (that being an exception) to roll Aid even after the acting player’s roll if it can be explained in the game.

    I’m sure the games will work either way, with the difference that in my games, the characters will sometimes will fail together or triumph just because of the way they are, not because of how convenient is to roll Aid.

  28. Choosing to aid after a roll is not fiction breaking at all. The players are the audience, and if they decide to interject new details into the fiction to avoid a miss or try to push a roll to a full hit that works great imo, and serves to enhance the story.

    I get better games letting moves like aid be rolled after the dice. I don’t judge anybody else for doing it the other way if that is what works for them.

    If I was ever going to make it only allowed before rolls, then it would have to be changed so that a success moves a miss to a partial, partial to a full regardless of what is rolled though. No way would I ever make people roll before and have the majority of situations be “cool I rolled a 12 on aid and bumped your roll from a 3 to 4, or 8 to 9, doing nothing.”

  29. Josh Miller One consequence mechanically to a ‘bump-up’ is that it reduces the impact of the stat modifier. Someone with a -1 benefits more from being aided, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it creates a different type of ‘meta’ effect. Though, to be fair, I don’t think ‘metagaming’ is all that evil; we’re playing a game, after all and part of playing a game is engaging the mechanics.

    Manipulating those mechanics using player knowledge is a way to influence the narrative in interesting directions, with the challenge being how to keep it fictionally coherent. Players who are up to that challenge can collaborate to create some very cool results. Being saved from certain peril at the last moment can be exciting and I think we should absolutely encourage scenes like that.

  30. Josh Miller a character helping another character it’s never doing nothing. The fiction is the game  The character did something together. The fiction created is not the same as if a single character did it. That’s one of the ways that resolve bonds and make characters gain XP and grow.

    You can check on Apocalypse World:Dark Ages for a different implementation of the aid concept that on a hit always shifts the acting character one level of success up.

  31. Josh Miller your suggested change (make Aid bump the result up 1 whole tier) is exactly what I’ve done, but that by itself hasn’t really encouraged Aid getting declared before you roll.

    Regarding which is better (rolling before or after), I agree that there’s not really a problem with the fictional trigger when people Aid after the fact (it’s just a little retcon or slow-mo, as appropriate). But I don’t like how it pulls the spotlight away from the character who’s rolling. Hence my desire to change how we play.

  32. Dan Bryant I didn’t say that metagaming is evil. I mentioned specifically fiction-disconnected metagaming: if a character has a +3 to STR and the player tries to use the character’s strenght to break things easily, that’s metagaming, but the player’s knowledge and the character’s knowledge are two different ways of seeing the same thing (The might of the character). If the same character has 2 positive, friendship bonds with another character and does not Aid because “there’s no point in rolling, the results will be good/bad anyway”, it’s fiction-disconnected metagaming: the character would help because of the bonds, but the player doesn’t want to help because of the mechanical outcomes and plays against the established fiction.

  33. I’m not interested in changing how aid works for the record. I like how it works now. Every once in a while somebody rolls a 6 after stat and if the fictional positioning makes sense, an ally can do something interesting to help them narrowly succeed instead of fail, or snowball things worse if they get a 6- on their aid.

    It does exactly that I want it to, make the story more interesting.

  34. Jeremy Strandberg could you explain what do you mean with “But I don’t like how it pulls the spotlight away from the character who’s rolling.”? I am sure I am failing to understand where’s your issue.

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