Suppose there’s a portcullis. It’s this huge chunk of gnarly black iron, and it’s just a little too heavy for your barbarian pal Hrolf to lift by his lonesome. Being a good party member you naturally step up to help. The two of you strain, Hrolf gets a nice little bonus to his Lift Portcullis roll, and up she goes. Doesn’t matter what game system you’re in, that kind of help-a-buddy-out rule just makes sense. Sadly, the problems crop up pretty quickly when you move away from the obvious scenarios like portcullis lifting.

Take the Pathfinder system. The rules give you this handy little nugget to chew on: “In many cases, a character’s help won’t be beneficial, or only a limited number of characters can help at once.” That means you’ve got to exercise the old GM discretion. That can be frustrating for some players, especially in those life and death situations where you positively, absolutely have to know how many peasants it would take to break atmo if they all used Aid Another to help Neil Peasant-strong’s vertical leap.

As an experiment, I’d like to try a little something different down in the comments today. Read through the following scenarios. Take a minute to jot down whether you think help would actually be helpful in each case, then post your results down below. My hypothesis is that we’ll see a lot of variation between commentators. Sound fair? Alright then, onward to the experiment!

  1. Can you help Thief to pick a lock?
  2. Can you help Wizard to recall the name of that obscure cult?
  3. Can you help Cleric read his opponent in a charity poker tournament?
  4. Can you help Fighter to spot the piercer before it falls on his head?
  5. Can Thief help Fighter sneak past a sleeping dragon?
  6. Can Cleric help Wizard make his save vs. poison?
  7. Can Wizard help Cleric to snap out of a hold person spell?
  8. Can Fighter actually do what he’s doing in the comic?