Monday, May 4, 2015

Savage Worlds or Shaken Worlds?

This weekend, Pinnacle Entertainment Group dropped a pretty amazing rules change on the forums.
At the beginning of their action, a Shaken character makes a Spirit roll to recover. On a failure, he remains Shaken. On a success, the character removes their Shaken condition and may take their action normally.
Clint Black, Savage Worlds Core Rules Brand Manager
As you can see on that thread, as well as on the Savage Worlds Google+ Community, there's a lot of disagreement on whether or not this is a good change. A small amount of that disagreement is based on misunderstanding both the intent and the effect of the rules, while others' points of argument are based the actual effects of the rules.

To summarize, the majority of those opposed feel this diminishes the value of Test of Wills and Taunts among other tactics used to prevent the opponent from being able to take actions. On the side of those who agree with the new rule, and according to Clint, the intent of Shaken was never to prevent action and keep the target in a perpetual stunned state.

I'll go on the record as saying that I agree with the new rule for a number of reason.

Defining the Argument

I think it's important to focus on what this rule is doing. It's not making it harder to make an opponent Shaken nor is it making it easier for a defender to remove the Shaken status. It's simply allowing a character to act if they recover from being Shaken with the a successful Spirit roll. The character can still become Shaken again, and just as easily as before.

Tricks and Test of Wills

Tricks and Test of Wills have an added benefit of making the target Shaken if either earned a raise.

Here's what the core rulebook actually says about Test of Wills.
A success means the attacker gets a +2 bonus to his next action against the defender during this combat. A raise on the roll gives the attacker the bonus and makes the defender Shaken as well. This can be a great setup for an attack, a trick, or even a second Test of Wills if the first one didn’t get a Shaken result. [emphasis mine]
The primary function of Test of Wills is for the attacker to gain a +2 bonus on his next action. The Shaken condition is a bonus effect on a raise. Apparently, however, there seem to be those who use it specifically to not only cause the defender to be Shaken, but to also hope that they lost their actions even if they recover.

And here's what the core rules say about Tricks.
If the character is successful, his opponent is distracted and suffers –2 to his Parry until his next action. With a raise, the foe is distracted and Shaken as well. [emphasis mine]
Again, Shaken is a secondary effect, not the focus of the effect.

Referring back to our definition of the new rule above, these combat options don't change at all. Players and GMs can still use these tactics, including to inflict a Shaken status on the defender, but it's not about keeping them from acting round after round.

Savage Worlds or Shaken Worlds?

With all of the arguments for preventing actions as a form of combat tactics, or tactics and character options to employ to avoid becoming Shaken, I get the impression that I've been playing the wrong game all these years. I thought I was playing Savage Worlds, a game in which characters do really awesome things, but apparently the game is Shaken Worlds, a game in which characters don't get to do anything other than game the game to avoid not acting or just simply not act.

I've also heard a lot of arguments about combat tactics and character options to avoid being Shaken, to which I argue that the game shouldn't be so heavily focused on avoiding being Shaken; it should be about doing cool stuff. We can't forget about the "Fun!" part of the game's tagline!

In my personal opinion, if I'm playing in a game in which the opponents aren't doing anything but standing around in a perpetual loop of being stunned while my party wails on them, I'm bored. That's not interesting, exciting, or even inspirational. I want dynamics, action, movement, etc. Could you imagine watching a movie or reading a book that played out like that? Heck, it reminds me of the trip monkeys in the D&D v3.5 rules. Improved Trip, chain, Attacks of Opportunity for movement and standing up from prone, and Combat Reflexes. Boring!

Exploitation of the Mechanics

I think what most of those who are opposed to the change are complaining about is the inability to exploit an added effect of the mechanics rather than understanding and agreeing with the intent of the primary effects of the mechanics. A few have said that this is specifically how and why they use those tactics, but I think they are a vocal minority rather than the norm.

Rant Off!

And now my rant is over. I have some other nuances I could argue, but quite honestly, I'm spent. I'm going to play the game I'd like, and you're going to play the game you'd like. No one is going to take our GM/player's licenses away if we don't use the rules in either way.

Stay Savage!