Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Skill Checks: Aid Another

This is the start of a series of articles focused on the Skill System from Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons presenting alternative uses, methods, and readings of the skills as presented in the d20 System Reference Document – because it’s free, editable, and I can provide my own flavor text.

Today we’re going to be talking about the Aid Another mechanic in the game. This mechanic is one of several that can be used in combat and in skill challenges; it’s also one that in its original form continuously got forgotten by my players during our games. Which is a shame because it was damned useful.

As things stand currently you can Aid Another player in Combat when they attempt to “. . . attack or defend by distracting or interfering with an opponent. If you’re in position to make a melee attack on an opponent that is engaging a friend in melee combat, you can attempt to aid your friend as a standard action. You make an attack roll against AC 10. If you succeed, your friend gains either a +2 bonus on his next attack roll against that opponent or a +2 bonus to AC against that opponent’s next attack (your choice), as long as that attack comes before the beginning of your next turn. Multiple characters can aid the same friend, and similar bonuses stack . . .” (Aid Another, Combat)

While in Skill Checks you can Aid Another player “. . . achieve success on his or her skill check by making the same kind of skill check in a cooperative effort. If you roll a 10 or higher on your check, the character you are helping gets a +2 bonus to his or her check, as per the rule for favorable conditions. (You can’t take 10 on a skill check to aid another.) In many cases, a character’s help won’t be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once . . . In cases where the skill restricts who can achieve certain results you can’t aid another to grant a bonus to a task that your character couldn’t achieve alone . . .” (Aid Another, Skill)

That sort of functionality with Aid Another is fantastic, but I was convinced that it could be improved without breaking the game. I've tested out a couple different methods, but so far the method that has been received the best by my players is the Adding Dice Mechanic.

Adding Dice Mechanic for Skill Checks Outside of Combat
Instead of having each player roll a modified d20 skill check to determine how many bonuses are applied to the primary player have each player who wishes to help give a d20 to the primary player. That player then rolls all the d20s, taking the highest roll and applying his modifier bonuses to it. For example, Tom wants to build a boat and four of his fellow players would like to help him in doing so. Tom then rolls 5d20 (1 for Tom and 1 for each of his four friends) taking the highest result and adding his modifiers to determine success.
I vastly prefer using the Adding Dice Mechanic over the original method because it provides the primary player with multiple opportunities to succeed without the ballooning bonus effect of all those players choosing to help. Now partially that’s a direct result of running for large groups throughout the majority of my time as a Dungeon Master (my largest group had 20 players, playing twice a week, for a year); but mostly it’s because this method is just a lot of fun.

Now the thing that I have done to prevent this from becoming abused is that each player who wishes to take advantage of the mechanic has to come up with a narrative way to help in the task’s resolution. So if you’re building a boat then Tom is going to be lead on the project with Michael and Mary helping him out by double checking the plans, getting the materials, and helping put the damned thing together. It has allowed for some of the more creative solutions to problems that I have ever encountered.

I hope some of you guys and gals reading this can use it to your advantage in your own games. If you do, let me know how it turns out.


  1. Very interesting it will evaluate for my next campaign. :)

    1. Hope it makes things more fun for you guys!

  2. --on d20 skill checks in general--
    allow a player to split a d20 into 2d10 for situations where aid can be shared in any manner of ways between 1 or more allies

    1. I'm sorry, but I don't see how that would work. By splitting the d20 into 2d10 you greatly reduce the chance of success and discourage teamwork between the players.

  3. the d10 stack in with the d20 check
    (equal to 1-10 ranks)
    the split is to allow for players' choice in who and how to aid, even doing so for more than one character

    1. Oh, that makes a bit more sense.

      I'm not such a fan of that method as I don't like breaking up the Aid Another between multiple players. Good idea though.


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