Most players assume, incorrectly, that the only way to aid another is when they’re trying to make a skill check, most often during a skill challenge. They don’t know or don’t remember that there are other options when it comes to aiding another PC. In Monte Cook’s October 11th Legends & Lore article, Live Together, Die Alone, he talks about the importance of teamwork in D&D. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to highlight some of the benefits of using aid another for players and DMs.
For some readers this article will serve as a refresher. Although I’ll provide some creative ideas and situations in which aiding another can be useful, for the most part I’ll be highlighting a lot of the rules that are already out there. However, for many others I know that a lot of what I’m about to cover will be new to them.
Aid another is one of the most underused and under appreciated elements of 4e D&D. Few players are willing to give up a standard action to do anything that isn’t an attack or a second move. But in many cases there are better options and if you’re willing to work together as a team and not feel the absolute need to be the star of the show then aiding another can sometimes be the action that makes the biggest difference during combat.
Aid Another’s Skill Check
Let’s begin with a quick refresher. The aid another section of the PHB was updated a while back so I’ll be referencing what’s in the compendium. Everyone knows that they can aid another when making a skill or ability check. You use your standard action to aid an adjacent ally while he makes his check. Your DC to assist is 10 + half the level of the PC your assisting. Since all PCs in the same party are generally the same level anyway, this is a minor detail that doesn’t usually matter. For each success the ally gets +2 to his check and for each failure he gets -1.
The number of PCs who can provide aid to another single PC’s action is four, but most DMs will limit this to two, especially if it doesn’t make sense for four people to be huddled together for some detailed of fine task. In situations where four assists are possible the difference can be as much as +8 to -4 on the check based on how everyone rolled. Depending on the importance of the check or the speed with which the task must be completed, deciding not to aid another is sometimes a better option.
Aid Another’s Attack Roll
This is where we start to get into the aspects of aid another that are less familiar to most players. Did you know that you can help your ally hit an enemy? As long as you are adjacent to the target you can aid you ally’s attack by distracting the monster or pointing out a weak spot in its defenses. As a standard action you pick the ally that you want to aid (it can be any ally) and they get +2 to their next attack against the monster. You don’t even need to make a roll! You just declare that you’re aiding another’s attack roll and thy get +2. The benefit only lasts until the end of your next turn so the ally has to act quickly.
Up to four PCs can aid the same PC’s attack roll, as long as everyone is adjacent to the monster. If a monster has particularly high defenses or if a PC wants to use an especially deadly daily power, giving them the +2 to attack could mean a huge swing in the course of the battle. If it’s that important, four PCs could surround the monsters, all provide aid to the same PC and suddenly he’s got +8 to attack. This might be worth it if the attack will daze, stun or dominate the creature.
Aid Another’s Defenses
The third and final way that you can aid another is to act distract the enemy or act as a human shield thereby making it harder for monsters to hit your ally. Similar to aiding an attack, it requires a standard action and you must be adjacent to the monster making the attack when you take the aid another action. Just like aiding another’s attack, aiding another’s defenses does not require a roll. As soon as you take the action your ally gets +2 to whichever defense the monster attacks him with next.
Again up to four PCs can aid another’s defense in the same round. So if the party is trying to keep a wounded ally from being hit long enough to do something awesome or long enough to heal himself, giving up an attack to aid their defense might be a more sensible course of action.
Maximizing and Exploiting Aid Another
Now that we’ve covered the way aid another works it’s time to look at how to get the most out of this underutilized action.
There are multiple ways to bump up the normal +2 that the aid another action provides through feats, powers and items. Here are a few to consider taking if you meet the prerequisites.
Inspiring Aid (heroic)
The prerequisite is that you must be a Warlord with the Inspiring Presence class feature. Who are we kidding; this is one of the more popular Warlord builds out there so plenty of PCs will qualify. Whenever you or an ally who can hear you and who has line of sight to you takes the aid another, aid attack, or aid defense action, the bonus granted to the target equals +4 instead of +2.
Think about the potential. Four allies surround the big boss monster and all of them aid the striker’s next attack roll. On top of his normal attack score he now has an additional +16. Time to pull out that daily power.
Warlord’s Formation (paragon)
The prerequisite is that you must be a Warlord with an Intelligence 17 or higher. When you use the aid another, aid attack, or aid defense action, you can target up to two allies with that action.
A Warlord with this feat and Inspiring Aid can potentially provide two different allies with +4 to their next attacks against the enemy by giving up his standard action. Don’t forget that the Warlord can also spend his move action to flank, providing combat advantage for another +2, and spend his minor action to heal. Not a bad turn for any Warlord.
Both the Bard and the Paladin have heroic tier utility powers that can really make a difference when aiding another PC.
Clockwork Precision (Bard, level 6 Daily Utility)
This power is burst 10 and grants everyone in the area a +3 bonus rather than +2 when using the aid another action for the entire encounter.
One Heart, One Mind (Paladin, level 6 Daily Utility)
This power is burst 6 and gives all allies telepathic communication as long as they remain within 20 squares of each other. On top of the telepathy (which is cool in its own right) the power grants everyone in the area a +4 bonus rather than +2 when using the aid another action for the entire encounter.
This Divine Boon has a property that grants your ally a +4 bonus rather than +2 when using the aid another action. It also has other healing powers which make it very useful. It is an uncommon boon so this may not be something that your PC is likely to get any time soon.
Anyone Can Aid Another
Now that I’ve highlighted some of the potential that working together and aiding another can offer don’t forget that the monsters can use these tricks too. This is not limited to just the PCs. As a DM I often throw in a lot of really low level minions just so they can aid another, namely the big monster, with the really devastating attacks. The minions get slaughtered but they get the job done. By using minions a few levels lower than the encounter level I can get a lot more into the encounter than normal and still stay within my XP budget.
It’s All About Teamwork
For teamwork to be most effective everyone in the party needs to remember their role and be sure to follow it. When it comes to aiding another it’s unlikely that strikers will (or should) give up their standard action to aid another’s attack (unless it’s another striker). Yet that same striker may indeed be the best PC to aid another’s defense depending on circumstance.
Communicate with the rest of your party and if you think that getting a bonus to your attack or defense will make a difference in the upcoming round ask the other players to aid you. By explaining what you’re trying to accomplish or keeping them informed about how badly you’re hurt, they’re much more likely to give up their standard action to help you. It doesn’t matter who deals the killing blow as long as the entire party survives the ordeal. Remember that the next time you’re asked to aid another.
How much of this article was news to you? Now that you’re better informed about how aid another works do you think you’re more likely to do it? How often do PCs in your game aid another’s attacks or defenses? Does your DM have his monsters work together to aid one another?