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:
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
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.