12
\$\begingroup\$

During a recent session of Dungeon-World I was participating in 3 players entered a church. One player began to look around the apse to see if they could find anything that might be useful. This triggered Discern Realities the other players decided to assist the player by looking rummaging through stuff with them.1 This seems to trigger Aid or Interfere (in particular the Aid portion). Everyone rolled and while the player rolling Discern Realities rolled a hit (without the need for help) neither helping players managed a success, one rolled a partial and the last missed. This triggered a conversation around the table, it seemed to us that when a character aids another it increases the chance of troubles and the more people that help the worse it gets.

Now for this particular scenario it kind of made sense that the more people that are rummaging around the higher the chance that the acolyte that's hanging out in the sacristy will notice. But in general it seems like the Aid part of Aid or Interfere does the opposite of what it should. When the characters work together towards a common goal it seems like the players should gain more narrative power. When in reality the GM ends up getting more narrative power.

How is an Aid supposed to be played? What should I do as a GM to make Aid or Interfere work as intended?

Here is a Haskell program you can use for calculating the chance of hits and troubles with Aid rolls. Hopefully this can be of use.


1: The rules say that you cannot get bonuses from aid more than once, however there seems to be nothing to say two players can't roll Aid or Interfere on the same action.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ LOL! I always upvote an out-of-the-blue Haskell link. \$\endgroup\$ – Detective Chimp Mar 3 '18 at 22:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just as I was playing around with Elm. Are we all nerds or what? \$\endgroup\$ – edgerunner Mar 8 '18 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've seen a sign in a repair shop that read: "Price is X. If you watch, it is 2X, If you help, 3X." \$\endgroup\$ – Ralph Jan 15 at 18:31
7
\$\begingroup\$

Later Hacks And Mods

It is true that in the further development of Apocalypse World and games deriving directly from it, the Aid move has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

In the second edition of Apocalypse World the Aid or Interfere move has been expanded to a straightforward +1/-1 on 7-9 and a +2/-2 on a 10+. Just saying that on a 7-9 you expose yourself - well, it makes sense on the Interfere part of that action, but during normal gameplay, if you Aid someone, it's quite likely that you're in the soup with them already.

In other places, people have turned the Aid move into "as long as you have a bond, whoever you're aiding rolls 3d6 drop lowest instead of 2d6", but those games tend to have fewer bond slots than Dungeon World, so I find a good compromise is that you have to mark an unmarked Bond with who you're aiding, and you erase your marks at end of session or when you Make Camp.

But even without those modifications to it, with the move as written, the odds are-

Never Tell Me The Odds!

Shut up, guy who shot first.

Anyway, even without those, Aid isn't that long odds. If you have even one bond with the person you're trying to aid, there's a better than 2 in 3 shot you'll be handing them another +1. Two bonds means it happens 5 times in 6.

And a +1 is a pretty big deal in Dungeon World. It's going to halve your chances of failing a roll, or double your chances of getting a clean 10+ hit, or it doesn't do either (+0 or +1 base modifier) but it comes pretty close to doing both.

Limit One Per Customer

Though you are right in that the more people who are lined up to aid somebody, the more likely things are to gang aft agley, both because of the odds and because it's likely that successive people haven't written as many bonds. So in places where everybody's trying to make something positive happen, ask that the best person for the job roll, and their best buddy help them out. In places where some great calamity will drag everybody down, ask that the worst person for the job roll, but their best buddy can still help them out.

And remember, a 6- doesn't mean that a PC must necessarily have failed at what they were trying to do. It means that as a GM you get to do whatever you want, and that can include passing the aid bonus to the PC who would act next. It's just that it can also include passing the aid bonus because a nice young man in red robes pointed the way, oh look, he's calling all his friends, they seem so eager to come in here and help, and they're all bringing torches to help you look in the dark corners!

It would never include sarcasm. Perish the thought.

For Everything Else, There's Homebrew

Of course, there are the occasional big dramatic scenes where everything comes together, where everyone's got a part to play in building some machine or searching the treasure room or scouring the Infinity Fair for the last phoenix feather in existence. And, I mean, when you thought about a divine avatar of judgement and Defy Danger wasn't adequate for the task at hand, you wrote a custom move. When you thought about an ancient labyrinth and Discern Realities wasn't adequate for the task at hand, you wrote a custom move.

You did, right?

Well, if you think about something so big that Aid or Interfere isn't adequate for the task at hand, you can write a custom move. Something like:

When you all spread out and search the Infinity Fair, everyone pick a stat:

  • +WIS to quickly scan the stalls and pick up or rule out traces of a phoenix feather
  • +CHA to ask after one without alerting attention to yourself
  • +bond with someone who's rolling one of those other two (limit one per)

Roll 3d6, keep 2, and add to your total. On a 6-, muahaha. On a 7-9 you make good progress. On a 10+ I'll also tell you something interesting that you find for sale.

But that's not what you're really after here, is it? You choose which dice to keep for yourself and which to contribute to the party.

If your contributed dice average to at least 5, I'll name and describe some people who might have a phoenix feather up for offer and what they trade in, and you can tell me who has it.

If they average 4 or more, but less than 5, I'll tell you who has it.

If they average less than 4, I'll tell you who had it, and you can probably get them to tell you who bought it from them yesterday.

\$\endgroup\$
5
\$\begingroup\$

An Aid or Interfere roll is where the party's bonds (Dungeon World, pp32 & 54) matter. It's the only +bond move in the book, yet p32 says:

Bonds are what make you a party of adventurers, not just a random assortment of people.

So while it may not be immediately obvious, setting up a network of bonds within the game world, where characters have multiple bonds to the comrades they're most likely to be able to help (and the enemies they can best oppose), makes Aid or Interfere an effective move.

For example, Alice has two bonds to Bob. With those two bonds, she only has to roll 5+ for a partial success in aiding him, and 8+ for a complete success. That's much better odds, and the way the move is meant to be used.

\$\endgroup\$
1
\$\begingroup\$

There are two main ways to answer this question.

Narratively

Characters that are perfect at everything aren't interesting, they're Mary Sues. Naturally, flawed characters are worse at some things, or prone to particular kinds of trouble. So, they occasionally need help. The usual trope for a group of hero-types is they will help each other out, even at (great) personal risk.

Mechanically

For the less Haskell-inclined, there is a convenient table over at this question.

Aid will give a +1 to a roll on a 7+. It will also typically have a +1/+2 from Bonds. So, you're typically risking a 27%/16% chance of failure (or 44%/41% chance of complication). This means a 73%/84% chance of giving a variable benefit to an ally.

The effect of the +1 will vary based on the current effective modifier. If the modifier is -5 and becomes -4, the ally goes from a 3% chance of not failing utterly to an 8% chance. Still not great, but if the expected failure is really bad, then the ally is likely to appreciate it. In the middle, a +0 to a +1 is an improvement from 58% non-failure to 73%. And on the higher end, an already high +4 to a +5 reduces the chance of failure from a slim 2% down to zilch.

So, there are reasons to help each other out at any level. A totally gimped character might need any straws they can grasp, a middling character gets the best bang for the buck, and a highly proficient character sometimes needs to be absolutely certain.

I glossed over partial success, but suffice to say it follows the same overall distribution as the failure.

This Situation

It seems your concern is with 'narrative power' here. In this case, the characters are aiding the main searcher by... also searching. Perhaps what they're doing isn't aiding him, but independently searching. They would certainly be exercising more narrative power by each making the Discern Realities move, rather than trying to aid each other. The net effect would be roughly the same risk of a failure on the dice, but a much higher upside in terms of range of possible successes. That is, they could end up asking way more questions.

As for how Aid should be played: it's not up to you. The players decide when and how to help their teammates, not you. My best advice for the players is to do things to aid that aren't as risky to themselves. The DM is bound to make a move that follows, so narratively doing less risky things should clearly have a less painful failure (even if the odds are a bit higher). You help the ranger up the tree, you don't climb it yourself.

\$\endgroup\$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.