So, one of my players has a bodyguard that he paid 10rps with. I have been allowing him during a Fight! to dedicate his bodyguard to Helping him, if he so chooses, contributing 2 dice to his strikes, blocks, whatever.
Is this Kosher?
Is the bodyguard immune to engagement? Erp!
Now, the upside is that he doesn’t have to script out two characters. However, the bodyguard is somewhat tough and could dispatch quite a number of people on his own. The idea is that he is more concerned with keeping his friend alive than upping his kill count.
To expand this slightly: PC and bodyguard should both script Block (rather than Block and “helping” or the like.) Then one of them gets targeted and makes the test while the other helps. So if the bodyguard is the target of a strike rather than the PC, he’d test as primary and the PC would help.
I wouldn’t treat that setup as an absolute right, there are a few cheaty things you could do that I’d disallow, but for “We’re covering each others’ blind spots” it works very well.
As Luke says, that’s probably not the way you should mostly run things, but you might end up in a situation where an NPC would have to be stupid to target the PC instead of the bodyguard (I’m thinking here of a positioning setup where due to variances in weapons, the NPC is at tremendous disadvantage to hit the PC but not the bodyguard.)
When you do this, I assume the player scripts for the bodyguard? I’ve been trying to find the right balance for myself in how to handle NPC allies. Back before I got into Burning Wheel I used to be quite comfortable with running NPC allies just like any other character, but I have really reconsidered this. But then, it leads to questioning on my part when is it appropriate to have NPCs make rolls that aren’t essentially in opposition to the PCs?
Certainly I see the sense that, say you hire a guide to get you from point A to point B. Well, your intent is to get from A to B, and the task is circles, so that logic works for me. But have an NPC that whose presence isn’t directly tied to such an intent, or have a Fight brew, and it’s not so obvious to me (especially something like Fight!).
This is rather beyond the scope of the original question, and if you’d like to discuss it further I’d suggest starting a new thread. But… As you say, if a player has succeeded in a test with the intent of gaining the NPC’s help, they get it. You can’t go back on that without reason. But otherwise? Ask two questions:
How do I play the world honestly?
How do I challenge BITs?
If the honest answer is “They’d shrug and let you fight it out: it’s a dockside tavern, they aren’t shocked by violence but they don’t know you or care that you’re being attacked,” so be it. Same if they’d flee at the sight of blood, or leap to your defense, or if they have bodyguards who’d drag you out back and beat the stuffing out of you for drawing steel in the presence of your betters. If you can spin that answer to reflect or challenge someone’s BITs, go for it. But start with what’s real.