Third Rail Time – Shaken Rules

On a snowy Saturday afternoon in New England, I decided it was time to tackle one of those third rail rules topics – the revised Shaken rules. In the original printing of Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition, a character could remove the Shaken condition either by spending a benny or making a Spirit roll on her turn. In the latter case, if the roll succeeded without a Raise, the character was no longer Shaken but also did not act that turn. In a more recent revision, this rule was changed so that a simple success allowed action. Any listeners of the Savage Worlds GM Podcast know how sensitive a topic this can be, but for those who haven’t heard the various rants, let me sum up the pros and cons.

On the plus side, the new rule means that characters act more often. Rumor has it that some players complained about making their Spirit roll but still being unable to act for another round. On the minus side, the value of rendering an opponent Shaken is degraded by allowing them to act on a simple Spirit roll. This reduction in the benefit of Shaken especially hits certain powers (stun being a good example) where your ability to slow down or compromise an opponent is much lessened. It also makes things like Tricks and Taunt much less attractive.

I’ve run games with the rules both ways. Both can absolutely work, but it is true that something is lost with the new Shaken rule. My general operating mode is to use the old rule; the exception is a setting where the general tone is light and powers don’t play a major role. As an example, in my current ETU game, I’m using the new Shaken rule to reflect the lower danger level in most scenarios, and to make combat a bit more free-wheeling. The new Shaken rule is also easier for inexperienced players, most of whom won’t take advantage of things like Tricks and Taunt that make Shaken more dangerous.


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