I'm really enjoying Savage Rifts, but every now and then I come to a rule that just makes me wonder what Shanne Hensley was thinking. This rule is really open to interpretation (emphasis added):
When an attacker misses a Shooting or Throwing roll, it may sometimes be important to see if any other targets in the line of fire were hit. The GM should only use this rule when it’s dramatically appropriate—not for every missed shot in a hail of gunfire.
"When it's dramatically appropriate" is incredibly vague. Does it mean every fight where the PCs lives are at risk? Only "boss fights"? Only fights with actual innocent bystanders?
Furthermore, should PCs be able to use it to just fire automatic weapons indiscriminately any time two enemies are adjacent, knowing that even if they miss they have a good chance at an "innocent bystander" hit on an adjacent enemy? In an extreme case (raised in a Reddit thread) why shouldn't non-combat PCs with d4 Shooting skill just fire fully-automatic weapons at any adjacent enemies. On a 4, they hit. On a 1 or 2, they also hit. Ignoring the wild die, they have a 75% chance of hitting with a d4 Shooting as long as two enemies are adjacent; that seems wrong.
I've scoured the Internet for any kind of official answer to when something is "dramattically appropriate", but found nothing. That Reddit thread I mentioned had one guy who got 24 votes (the most in that thread) for saying:
Define an innocent bystander to be "someone you don't want to hit." It's meant to be a penalty, not a bonus. Enemy combatants are not innocent bystanders. Civilians and friends are.
I love the logical consistency of that answer, but it's not at all what Shanne Henseley wrote. I've also seen a variety of other answers ranging from:
Only if its dramatic enough to change the flow of battle
if it falls into the top and might change the flow of battle or embolden some action, run with it
1) A PC/Important NPC is "In Melee" with the person the shooter wants to injure (this includes hostage situations)
2) There is a large crowd of 'innocent bystanders' in the surrounding area. (Gunfire into a Mardi Gras parade, for example) - Mooks/Goons/Allied Extras don't count in this case - ONLY unaligned, uninvolved types.
If one of those two applies, I usually find that it's also Dramatically appropriate.
it is always dramatically appropriate to screw over the PCs with a bad dice roll
So it seems like I can just always apply it, which will heavily favor the PCs since there is usually more enemies than them. Or I can only apply it when I feel it's dramatic, which is completely subjective: my PCs won't like it, and I'll probably unconsciously benefit the NPCs with it. Or I can convert it into a logical rule of "it can only hurt your side, not help", even though I'm really throwing out the dramatic part that way and just basically making up my own rule at that point?
Any answers on how Savage Worlds GMs in general should handle this rule (ideally canonical ones, but any well-reasoned ones) would be appreciated.