Author Topic: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)  (Read 4334 times)

Orion

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Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« on: July 27, 2010, 07:51:59 PM »
This post is not a complaint; it is an attempt to draw attention to a rather quirky effect of the rules.  The effect produced is in fact very much in genre, but it's one players should be aware of when choosing their moves, and MCs should be careful of when planning theirs. 

When you try to help someone, you give a bonus to their roll as long as you roll a 7+, which is pretty easy, right?  But if you outright miss, the MC gets to make a hard move.  And sometimes, those moves aren't good for the person you're helping.  let's look at an example from the book:

Quote from: Vx, p.206
Marie’s helping Keeler get into the water cult house by talking
animatedly with Tum Tum, trying to hold their attention while
Keeler sneaks behind them. (On a 7–9, maybe Tum Tum start
pressing her for … unsavory commitments, with threats to back
them up.) Marie misses the roll, so I get to make as hard a move
as I like. I choose to put Keeler in a spot. “Do you glance Keeler’s
way? Or do they read your mind? Or what? Anyway, one of them
turns, very deliberately, and Keeler, looks right at you. What do
you do?”

In this case what I believe is going on is that Keeler is acting under fire, rolling +cool to sneak into the building, and Marie is rolling +Hx to help.  When Marie misses her help roll, the MC responded by causing Keeler to automatically fail her own move.  We could generalize this as an application of "turn their move back on them" -- a missed attempt to help can cause the main effort to fail.  That certainly keeps AW feeling real--wannabe helpers ruin 4.7 projects, according to the Department of Fanciful statistics.  But it means that there's a trade-off and a balance point: a rolled help move can make the main move more or less likely to succeed. That means that a helper with a low +Hx can actually make you less likely to succeed than going it alone.

Now, AW characters are *supposed* to act rashly and self-destructively from time to time, so there's nothing wrong with the existence of a well-meaning move that actually screws your friends.  But what might surprise you is just how hard actually helping is.  I've crunched the numbers, and it turns out that the answer is this:

If you assume that missing your help roll causes the overall effort to fail or become irrelevant, then

IF you have +3Hx AND the person you are helping is rolling +1 or less, THEN you increase their chance of hitting; ELSE you make no difference or are an active hindrance. 

Now maybe you're fine with that, but I'm a big believer in player transparency, so I would implore you to make sure your players know this fact.  They can still choose to "help" when the fiction demands it, but they should know how the dice fall.  But, maybe your vision of AW is one where teamwork is more beneficial.  In that case, here is my advice:

--remember that to do it, you have to do it.  You could, when answering a read situation or offering an opportunity, decree that some things can't be done without help.  Marie rolling +Hx hurts Keeler if it's *optional*, but maybe Keeler can't even try to sneak in without Marie creating a distraction.  If you do it, you do it, so Marie has to roll.  Besides the difficulty in getting two PCs together, this move ends up being less likely to succeed for other moves, so try to make sure the payoff is worth it

AND (the big one)

--be judicious about how hard you go with the move you get on a failed help.  Try to put the burden of failure on the helper, not the helpee, and even then go a little softer than you might.  Share with your players your intentions Re: failed help rolls. 

PS-- the same thing applies to interference in principle, but interference is *way* easier since it gives a -2 when you hit.  And, while occasionally failing to interfere might help, it usually wouldn't.  Still, if you consider missing to be equally bad as making him miss is good, check this out:

IF you have +3 Hx THEN you are more more likely to cause him to miss than to miss yourself

IF you have +2 Hx AND your victim has -1 or better THEN you are more liekly to cause a miss than to miss

IF you have +1 Hx AND your victim has +1 or +2, THEN you are mroe likely to cause a miss than to miss yourself.

ELSE you are more likely to miss than to cause a miss. 



Orion

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2010, 08:30:13 PM »
Addendum: sometimes people roll more than +3 due to being in a car, or reading a situation, or having insight.  

If someone is +4 or more, don't help them.  Just don't do it.  (Unless they desperately need to hit 12 or something).  

If someone has +5, you need +3 Hx to reasonably interfere with them.  If they're rolling +6, you have nothing to gain.  If he's rolling +7, well... he can't miss even with your interference.  So don't fight an insano driver with perfect instincts.  It won't end well.   

fnord3125

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2010, 08:47:48 PM »
Well... I think the big thing is "If you assume that missing your help roll causes the overall effort to fail or become irrelevant"

I, personally, am not making that assumption.  The thing from the book is an example, and I don't think it's supposed to be generalized to an overall rule.

I think it should be based on the particular circumstances.  Sometimes it will make sense that the helper missing should cause the actor to automatically miss as well, but I suspect that most of the time it wouldn't.

Orion

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2010, 09:27:58 PM »
Sure, and that's a big part of why this isn't a bug, just something to be aware of: as the MC you can choose not to screw the player being helped.  That said, I think you and I differ about how often my criterion applies. 

Sure, it's relatively rare that you would directly negate the move being helped (give away the person you were covering for, kill the patient you were helping to restrain, offend the person you were helping manipulate--or accidentally hook up with the person you were helping to seduce.), but there are other reasons a miss might amount to the same thing.

First of all, if your miss starts a fight in a previously social encounter, or sets off explosives in a relatively tame firefight, or unleashes psychic badness in any situation, you may create a situation so big that it affects everyone near it.  The other player's goal may just not be possible in the new context. 

It also makes helping a dodgy choice if you are less than self-sacrificing.  If the single most important thing is that the roll you're helping succeeds, then go ahead and roll to help as long as your GM won't screw the guy you're helping.  But, if the guy you're helping cares about *you* at all, then it's a much bigger problem. 

Let's say your buddy has gotten himself into a fight with some thugs, and you want to help him out.  Ask yourself: what happens if I get myself in danger.  If the answer is "he abandons his objective to make sure I get out" or "he risks himself to cover me," then the best thing you can do for him is not get involved.  Again, there are dozens of dramatic scenes that work exactly like that--look at Romeo and Juliet, for instance.  I just wanted to point out that, no matter how good their relationship is, your gunlugger and your battlebabe are probably better off *not* fighting back-to-back. 

Orion

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2010, 07:00:52 PM »
I resolved to show my work on the math part, but I can't be arsed to write the tables up in BBcode.  It works like this, and forgive me if this is too basic:

When you roll two dice, each die generates 6 possibilities.  Together, there are 36 possible outcomes: each number on the first die can be paired with each number on the other die.  If you group them by sum you get:

2 1,1
3 1,2; 2,1
4 1,3;3,1;2,2
5 1,4;4,1;2,3;3,2
6 1,5;5,1;2,4;4,2;3,3
7 1,6;6,1;2,5;5,2;3,4;4,3
...

Basically, the number "7" comes up at a probability of 6/36, because there are 6 different ways to roll "7".  As you move awya form 7, which is the center of the table, you lose 1/36 each time.  So the final probabilities, in 1/36ths are:

2, 12: 1
3,11: 2
4,10: 3
5,9: 4
6,8: 5
7: 6

So when helping, the odds of *helping* are the odds of rolling the 1 number that would have missed, while the odds of causing a problem are based on your own total odds of missing.  Since the middle numbers are the most likely, your helps helps most when the person you're helping needs a moderate number, and is less useful when the odds of success are very high or very low. 


nemomeme

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2010, 04:35:53 PM »
1)  All three of the MCs I've played with (and now me as MC) allow helping rolls after-the-fact and so help most often occurs when the players see that the intial roll is sitting at "6" and just needs one more +1 to get to a weak hit.  That has a strong mathematical impact on the case you present above.

2) I like what the risk associated with helping others adds to the game, both the play dynamics and how it informs the genre.  But I and some others have allowed the highlighting of Hx in one form or another to further encourage help rolls.

3) Some AW characters might choose to be self-destuctive but I wouldn't derive that as a general case from the rules or from the play I've experienced so far.

Elizabeth

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2010, 12:42:08 AM »
1)  All three of the MCs I've played with (and now me as MC) allow helping rolls after-the-fact and so help most often occurs when the players see that the intial roll is sitting at "6" and just needs one more +1 to get to a weak hit.  That has a strong mathematical impact on the case you present above.

Vincent does this when MCing, too. (shh don't tell anyone)

Orion

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Re: Too many cooks... OR (help: not always helpful)
« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2010, 08:37:10 PM »
Interesting! That does, obviously, change the statistics completely.