Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Aid Another in Pathfinder is More Useful Than You Think

When I published my blog entry on 5 Rules Pathfinder Players Keep Forgetting there was a lot of positive feedback. There was one constant criticism though, and that was that the "Aid Another" action shouldn't have been on the list. Why? To paraphrase, "It's just useless. What's a +2 bonus worth anyway?"

My answer to all of those who don't think that Aid Another is worth looking at is to take a second look using this week's guide. You might be surprised at what you find.

What Is The Aid Another Action?


Quick, while he's not looking at you!
The Aid Another action, for those who don't want to look it up, is a standard action where one character helps another achieve a certain task. In combat a player and the target of the aid must both be in melee with an enemy; the player rolls an attack against an AC 10, and if he hits may grant the target a +2 to hit, or a +2 to armor class against the target they both threaten. Details for this action are on page 197 of the Core Rulebook.

The other way someone can use Aid Another is on page 86. It states that if two characters are making a skill check then one can aid the other. Simply roll the die, and if the character hits a DC 10 then he helps his companion with a +2 bonus. The bonus from Aid Another is untyped, and as such it stacks with everything. That's going to be important later on in this article.

The Complaint


The big complaint seems to be that sure, at level 1 or 2 a +2 to AC or to an attack is a nice bonus. The higher in level a party becomes though, the less useful such a bonus is. Even if the whole party goes in to give the fighter with the specialized weapon a big boost, that's only a +6 (assuming a 4 person party). It's nice, but how often will the whole party sacrifice their actions to give even this mediocre a bonus?

More often than you think, less often than you'd believe.
I'm not going to disagree that giving even a level 6 character, much less a level 10 or 12 character, a +2 is a pretty paltry use of one's turn. That said, Aid Another can be made a lot more powerful if you're actually planning on using it.

Traits


As with any other bit of mechanical wooge it's important to start stacking the numbers right from character creation. If a character is a halfling then he or she can take the helpful trait, which says that whenever the character successfully uses the Aid Another action that the bonus is a +4 instead of a +2. If a character is not a halfling then there's a universal helpful trait that allows them to provide a +3 instead of a +2.

Pro Tip: If you're willing to get creative with your backstory you can take adopted, which gives you access to traits for races you don't possess, and then take the helpful version that is usually only available for halflings. Adopted is in this case a placeholder, allowing you to pick the better version of helpful.

This is just the tip of the ice berg, my friends.

Classes and Prestige Classes


A surprising number of classes and prestige classes offer a bonus to the Aid Another action. Some are bigger than others, which is why it's important to keep your character's final destination in mind. Is this character a battlefield commander, helping his troops achieve victory, or is she someone who knows when she's out of her league and isn't shy about assisting others in getting the glory some of the time?

Something to think about.

Cavalier


Cavaliers (Advanced Player's Guide) are an often-underutilized class (lots of players aren't willing to bring mounted characters into a game that so traditionally is full of dungeon crawling), but one of the most under-utilized abilities is the bonus to Aid Another granted by the Order of the Dragon. Starting at level 2 the cavalier can provide an additional +1 when using the Aid Another action to assist allies with armor class, attacks, saving throws, or skill checks. For a cavalier with one of the two helpful traits that's either a +4 or +5 bonus at level 2. Not too shabby. This bonus increases by +1 at level 8 and every 6 levels after.

Cleric


Surely an Aid Another bonus in a class as popular (and let's face it, necessary) as the cleric would have been noticed by now? Not exactly; you see the bonus comes from variant channeling (Ultimate Magic), which is something not a lot of players use. For clerics who take the Strategy option for variant channeling, and who channel positive energy, all Aid Another actions used by her allies during the turn add the cleric's channel bonus (+1 at level 1, +2 at level five, and increasing by another +1 every five levels) to the usual Aid Another bonus delivered. Certainly not something to sneeze at.

Pathfinder Chronicler


The very rarely played prestige class of the Pathfinder Chronicler (Core Rulebook 388) reflects the idea of a scribe, scholar, and tale-teller who accompanies great heroes and records their deeds. These Chroniclers also pitch in when needed, and that's where their improved aid ability comes from. At level 3 a Pathfinder Chronicler provides a +4 bonus when using the Aid Another action.

Steel Falcons


Andoran's Eagle Knights are famed far and wide for reasons that are alternatively good and bad. Because they must act together as a unit, particularly when facing slavers and other enemies of freedom, the Steel Falcons (Pathfinder Companion: Andoran, Spirit of Liberty) gain superior aid at level 2. This ability allows them to grant a +4 instead of a +2 on Aid Another actions.

Battle Herald


While it's out of order alphabetically, the Battle Herald (Advanced Player's Guide) is a class that is geared almost expressly toward helping the party achieve its full potential. A combination bard/cavalier (Order of the Dragon is a good base to work with, as well), the Battle Herald gains the Inspiring Command ability. While there's a laundry list of commands it's the Teamwork command that applies to this guide. This ability provides anyone using the Aid Another action with a competence bonus equal to the Battle Herald's inspiring command bonus, and if the ally is successful then the Aid Another bonus also increases by the Battle Herald's inspiring command bonus. That's an additional +1 at first level, and another +1 for every 3 levels after.

Magic Items


Seriously, just kiss it. It gives you a bonus.
Normally the meat of any build comes from feats, but in this case if someone really wants to add some solid numbers to their Aid Another the bonuses tend to come from magic items (and the above class features). The two items you're going to want on your side are:

Benevolent


This +1 enchantment (found in Ultimate Equipment) can be placed on both weapons and armor. When placed on a weapon it adds the weapon's numerical bonus to the Aid Another bonus that's provided on attacks. When placed on armor it has the same effect, but only for Aid Another actions meant to increase someone's armor class.

Ring of Tactical Precision


While it's hugely expensive, the ring of tactical precision provides a +1 to the bonus anyone wearing it provides through the Aid Another action. It also provides a +5 on profession (soldier) checks, and it allows a teamwork feat to be stored inside of it. 11k still seems a hefty price to pay, but if you find it in a horde you might not want to just pawn it at the local emporium glorium, sight unseen.

Gloves of Arcane Striking


While not typically used unless one is a straight caster, the gloves of arcane striking are useful for bards, magi, and others who intend to be using Aid Another. These gloves allow the user to transfer the bonus from the arcane strike feat as a bonus to Aid Another. That's a +1 for every 5 caster levels the user possesses, to a maximum of +5.

It All Adds Up


So how much of a bonus can you really give another player with the Aid Another action? What do the numbers really look like? Well, here's an example using the above rules and focusing on combat bonuses.

Let's begin with a halfling Order of the Dragon cavalier who takes the helpful halfling trait. Right out of the gate he can provide a +4 bonus to his allies.

At level 2 this bonus goes up to +5 with the aid allies ability.

Take 3 levels of bard.

At level 6 take a level of Battle Herald. Learn the Teamwork Command for a +6 on Aid Another. This goes up to +7 at 10th level and +8 at 13th level.

Purchase a benevolent weapon (preferably a lance or whip so you can aid from a distance). If you have a +1 weapon at level 6 it provides a +7 bonus. If you advance this weapon to a +3 item then at level 10 you can provide a +10 bonus to your allies in combat.

I cannot think of a single level where a +10 bonus to either attack or armor class is not a major game changer.

Post Edit Suggestion: Bodyguard


I continually thought this was part of the guide, but apparently it wasn't. The Bodyguard feat (Advanced Player's Guide) allows you to use attacks of opportunity to provide an aid another action to a party member you're adjacent to. Since the prerequisite is Combat Reflexes it's entirely possible that you can save the entire front line from a world of hurt without even taking up your actual action during the round.

Who's useless now?


As always, thanks for stopping by Improved Intiative's crunch section! If you'd like other helpful guides then check out this list of alchemical items every party should have. If you want to keep up to date with Improved Initiative and all of my other projects then feel free to follow me on Facebook and Tumblr, or to plug your email address into the box on the top right. If you'd like to help keep this blog going toss a tip into the jar by clicking the "Bribe the DM" button, or going to my Patreon page and becoming a patron today!

14 comments:

  1. Cavalier's archetype Inspiring Commander can Aid Another as a Move Action and add his INT bonus to the result. He can also make it at 30ft with a Perform check. In Pathway #16, there are many Aid Another feats: Aiding Strike, Swift Aid, Lasting Aid, etc...
    My char can give +13 to AC against the next two attacks as Move Action, then a smaller bonus to another one as swift action then make an Aiding Strike to make another one. Aid Another can be very good if have partners...

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  2. Thanks for the tip! These shall be researched and added into the guide.

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  3. I'm fairly sure the Adopted trait lets you pick a race trait "for free" and you don't have to pay your second trait for it. So while essentially you have 3 traits now, but one of them is really just an empty trait.
    The "price" you pay is that both the race and social list are blocked now.

    While all these ideas are good, I think you should have mentioned the most obvious use of Aid Another: When someone is really really hard to hit. (I know you mentioned it in the other post, but this would be a nice spot to put some math behind it and show how and when it can be useful)

    Say most everyone needs a nat 20 to even hit, and let's add onto it a high DR or Sneak Attack immunity (Elementals for example), so even if the Rogue hits, he's not going to do more than 5 damage maybe.
    On the other hand you have the Fighter or Barbarian who needs a 19 to hit, so not really that much better, but he's a lot better at dealing damage to that thing, and probably will do 20-30 damage with a hit, and even more on a crit.

    So now you got the option to:
    a) try to hit yourself with a chance of 5% for a whooping 5 damage, and let the fighter have a 10% chance to hit for 20+ damage. But even if he rolls a threat he only got a 10% chance to confirm it.

    or

    b) you could Aid Another. Hitting an AC of 10 is alot easier, even at low levels and at higher it becomes trivial at higher levels. So now you sacrificed your 5% chance at 5 damage and you just doubled the Fighters chance to hit something (from 10% chance to 20% chance), and he's gonna hit for a lot more damage too. Also if he hits and scores a critical threat, then his chance to confirm also doubled just now.


    Now, granted this is a border case scenario.
    But even if the Fighter would need, let's say a 11 to hit (so he has a 50% chance to hit) and the Rogue would hit on an 18, it might still be worth it. The +2 is still a 10% increase in hitchance.
    Sacrificing a 15% chance to do low damage (assuming Sneak attack resistance or high DR obviously) for a 10% chance at high damage is still worth it.

    If there's no DR or Sneak Attack resistance in play than it might not be worth it for the Rogue to sacrifice his own attacks to Aid Another of course.

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  4. I find aid another tends to be needed for gamemasters. Hordes of zombies and such often can't hit characters. However, suddenly with high bonuses (mob effect) they are a threat.

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  5. There is one feat that really should be pointed out here. Bodyguard. When an adjacent ally is attacked you may use an attack of opportunity to Aid Another to improved their defense. Requires Combat Reflexes, but you'd want this anyways. So that character is now not only granting +10 to attack, but +10 to defense against 1+DexMod attacks per round. Particularly useful when given to an animal companion as their damage tends to lag anyways.

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  6. hmm i guess this counts as necroing the blogpost. But here goes anyways :-)
    According to RAW some of the combinations are questionable. The dragon order bonus at lvl 2 states you give +3 when aiding another. Not that you give +1 additional. This doesn't combine with the "helpful" trait that states you replace the +2 bonus with a +4 bonus. The pathfinder chronicler lvl 5 ability uses the same phrasing as helpful so those wont stack either.
    No need to be sad though. There are plenty of good traits to pick that can help you, some of them might be 3rd party though, so might not be accepted where you play. But traits like "fools for friends" and "battlefield disciple" arent bad. the former obviously being stronger. If you want to play chronicler or dragon order cavalier, these might be better options than the incredibly powerful "helpfull". For real kicks though, grab them all and find your plusses elsewhere, like the 3rd party archetype inspiring commander.
    Also while at the topic, although somewhat lackluster in the lower levels, the lvl 11 ability of "tactician" fighter archetype is amazing with an aid another build. Allowing you to aid 1+ your int bonus allies every time you use aid another. By RAW this combines with the bodyguard feat to make striking anyone near you strictly stupid, I doubt many GMs will accept that though :-).

    An interesting point is whether you can apply aid another twice yourself to the same allies AC. It specifically specifies that similar bonuses stack and that several "aiders" can help the same target on the same roll. But as the action is ordinarily a standard action it seems they neglected to mention whether the same person can aid the same roll twice (or more...)

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Harrying Partners deserves a special mention, especially combined with bodyguard, a caviler gives all of his allies his teamwork feats (Harrying Partners) which makes it so when he uses bodyguard to give an ally his aid another bonus it lasts until his next turn, which could be a potential +10 to the armor class of all his allies for the entire round (every round if he so desires) with only sacrificing an action at the beginning of combat + his attacks of opportunity. (Fixed an error)

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  9. I'm thinking Trait bonuses would stack with other class and magic bonuses (I would need to re-read to be sure). Using this Halfling Battle Herald example as the ultimate buffer, additionally stacking with his multiple Inspire Courage bonuses & Flagbearer Feat with Banner of the Ancient Kings, you have a powerfully ally that never has to directly attack any enemy... :)

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  10. Oh wow, sorry. I totally went to comment and filled out the contact form instead. (Not enough caffeine today. Oops.) Worst part is, now I have to type this all out again. T_T Here we gooo...

    Half-Elf (exotic wep: Whip) -> Paladin (FCB hitpoints) -> Temple Guardian Archetype -> [Any deity with Community] -> Community Domain/Blessing -> Swift Aid -> Bard (FCB: Performance Rounds) -> Juggler Archetype -> Flag Bearer -> Combat Expertise -> At least 3 ranks in Acrobatics -> Weapon Focus -> Dazzling Display -> Disheartening Display

    Warrior Priest blessing wording does not have the "instead of +2" clause, so it will work with Swift Aid unlike Helpful.

    Juggler Archetype allows you to use your flag, your whip, and have a free hand for deflect arrows and your buckler. Sing is probably your best bet for Perform. The bonuses to attack/dmg do stack, the bonuses to fear saves do not. But you're a paladin so who cares? You give a +4 to your allies already, or +2 or more outside your aura from bard song.

    Gear: Enchant armor and whip with Benevolent
    Traits: Threatening Defender / Memorable

    Tactics: You only care about hitting AC 10, ever. You don't do damage. Smite is only to boost your AC vs nasty evil things. In the first round, activate blessing (swift), start performance (standard/move). Second round, Swift Aid, Dazzling Display. Third round, Disheartening Display, Swift Aid. Subsequent rounds, trade off between Dazzling Display or Standard Aid as needed.

    At level 11 (and PFS legal) you can hit AC 10 with combat expertise and fighting defensively on a 2 even dumping STR. You grant +3 to attack and dmg to your allies, and roughly +7 to AC or attack rolls on an aid (if aid another stacks you might get away with both aid actions on the same target). You can stand next to an ally to deflect arrows from them. You give +4 on saves vs fear at 10ft, and +2 vs fear out to audible range. You can LOH, channel, cure nonlethal and remove shaken, sickened, fatigue (yw barbarian). And you should be able to get your AC up around 40, especially vs evil targets (using smite defensively is just lol). Your saves are all ridiculous (primary stat for this build is CHA) because you have Divine Grace, which works nice with Evasion. And finally, while you do give up paladin spells, you still get some bard spells (and there are some nice immediate actions in there well worth giving up Swift Aid on the next turn!)

    In home games where you plan to level passed 11, Noble Scion (War) is great for a 1st level feat since having a decent initiative means you are more likely to boost everyone in the first round.

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    1. Oh and in addition to your bonuses you get to demoralize and potentially frighten enemies so they're ALSO getting a -2. Max out Intimidate obvs!

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  11. Effortless aid investigator talent will let you do an aid another as move And/or as swift in addition to the standard action aid another and in addition to the aid another you could do with bodyguarding all of which could be done with helpful trait. Unfortunately you have to choose different bonuses (AC, attack) because bonuses from the same source don't stack

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    1. "...Multiple characters can aid the same friend, and similar bonuses stack." An effortless aid investigator could stack it all on one guy

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  12. First Harrying Partners is amazing.
    Then, you forgot the mount....
    Battle Herald (cavalier 4, bard 1) can act as follows :
    Cavalier aid 3 2 times (team up) for ac and hit.
    Mount aid once.
    Both have body gaurd (it stacks ) and protect

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