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I'm looking for a system mechanic that I could use in my homebrew campaign. I don't mind borrowing a mechanic from a well known system, like WFRP, DnD or WoD, but the truth is I am not that familiar with different systems to know where to look and I didn't like any of those that I found.

I know what I'm looking for though (most important features first)

  1. Classless system
    And preferably character development without levels, that seems to be accompanying this process
  2. Degrees of success
    So the player after rolling can get not only botch-fail-succeed result, but, like in Storyteller, he can "fix a car just enough to roll to the garage", "fix it so it holds for a few months" or "fix it forever"
  3. Light on the amount of rolling
    I'd rather throw a one complicated roll than a couple simple ones.
  4. Difference between high-risk-high-reward and persistent nudging tactics
    For example, I would like a character with a massive unwieldy axe feel different from one with a handy and accurate cutlass. Also, a skilled character with a regular pistol should feel different from an unskilled one with a fancy pistol. Also, difference between a genius relying on a strike of brilliance and a hardworking, bit-by-bit craftsman. Repeat ad nauseum.
  5. Fair amount of degrees of freedom
    In DnD GM has only one degree of freedom - difficulty. In Storyteller - 3, dice pool, difficulty and target no of successes. I prefer the latter.
  6. Passive defenses
    The player do not has to sacrifice his attack to dodge, defenses should be at least reflexive, like WFRP dodge.

DnD, either edition fails on 1,2 and 5.
WFRP: fails 1,2,5
Storyteller (cWoD): fails 3 and 6 and after Revised it actually lost 4 as well (shooting a derringer should be easier than shooting a hand cannon, right, White Wolf?)
Storytelling (nWoD): now fails 2,4,5. It just replaced old issues with new ones.
The rest is not familiar to me enough to really judge, and most open source lightweight systems just simply lack the depth or no 2.

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closed as too broad by SevenSidedDie, KRyan, wax eagle, MadMAxJr, Dakeyras Jul 8 '14 at 20:06

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I don't have a good idea what exactly you're looking for here. Do you want an entire system to layer your homebrew setting on top of, or are you looking for the core mechanical ideas to mash-up into your own collection of powers, artifacts, et al.? – Grubermensch Jul 8 '14 at 15:57
As much as I would like rpg.SE to give me an entire mechanic system, I will accept answers that describe a basic premise of the system (like for WFRP - you roll d%, success is when it falls under your skill, difficulty is handled by adding/subtracting a set amount from the roll result before checking) with a brief explanation which of those requirements are met and why. I think I might respond to that question myself to set an example, but that answer wouldn't satisfy me obviously. I am using Storyteller now, but because of its shortcomings I'd like to exchange it for something else. – eimyr Jul 8 '14 at 16:01
You're basically asking us to design a system for you. I'm voting to close as "too broad". If you meant to ask a more focused design question, or you meant to ask for a recommendation of a game you could/should play/steal from, you can edit the question to say so. – SevenSidedDie Jul 8 '14 at 17:14
Okay, let me rephrase that and edit the question in a bit. I would like the rpg.SE to give me examples of games, that have a mechanic that fills all (or nearly all) of the above requirements, so that I can look them up and modify. The question is asked because with a vast library of existing games I would have to go through a considerable amount of systems that are total misses. – eimyr Jul 8 '14 at 17:32
List questions are not on topic; we don't accept questions that simply want to generate ideas. This is not a discussion forum. Please read About. A question should be such that it (at least conceivably) has one, true, correct answer. There needs to be clear ways to say this answer is better than that answer. – KRyan Jul 8 '14 at 17:48
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Fate Core

I recommend Fate Core for your use. Let's take it point-by-point:

Classless system

Fate has neither classes nor levels. You build the character you want instead of ordering one from the menu.

Degrees of success

Fate has by default 4 outcomes: Failure, Tie, Success, Success with Style. Additionally, every successful roll has Shifts - degrees by which the opposition was beaten. Shifts power all sorts of stunts and determine Success vs. Success with Style. You can place more emphasis on shifts if you like, too.

Light on the amount of rolling

All rolls are about the same level of complexity in Fate...they're all 4dF (dF are Fate / Fudge dice - d6s with 2 "+" sides, 2 "-" sides and 2 blank sides). Aspects can be invoked to earn re-rolls, but that is in my considerable experience (I've been playing Fate since 2006) rare compared to just using them for a +2.

Difference between high-risk-high-reward and persistent nudging tactics

Fate does a great job of dealing with the cinematic "the whole team contributes to the massive stroke that takes the bad guy down" situation, which clearly differentiates between individual contributions and team efforts and puts everyone's success on the line for a single roll, too. Very much delineated between low-risk, individual contributions and high-risk team efforts.

By default, gear doesn't matter that much in Fate. But there are settings where particular gear matters a lot - fighter planes, giant mechs, etc.. But Fate is not where you go for a difference between two revolvers...unless you make the game about that.

Fair amount of degrees of freedom

The Fate GM has plenty to work with - opposing skills, flat difficulties, scene, situation, and character aspects. The whole Fate Fractal is there for you to manipulate.

Passive defenses

In Fate, every attack is met with a defense roll. However, players can choose to just take a hit (for instance one that was intended for someone else) and can also opt for Full Defense, exchanging an action for a better defense.

Fate is a great, modern, well supported game. It's available for pay-what-you want, so absolutely worth your time if what I have said here is attractive.

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