I'm a young player, and an even younger DM. As such, there were very few systems (read: 2) I've had the pleasure of trying out, and now I'm looking for a system to host a new session in which wouldn't have the downsides of the systems currently known to me.

It's also entirely possible that, after writing all my hopes for a new system it'll seem like I want everything. If that is the case, please smack me silly and point this out - this would likely be my lack of experience.

So, these are the systems I've played and what I think about them:

  • Warhammer - I really like the SETTING of Warhammer, but the mechanics seemed to be really really uninteresting. It felt like I, as a starting player, could at most "hit with sword" each and every round in combat. The game MIGHT grow into something more later on, but without a sense of wonder and awesome newer players (such as myself and my colleagues at that session) won't be all too willing to return to the table.

  • D&D 4e - Here's the system I've spent most of my time with, both as a player and as a newbie DM. I don't really care that much for the world of D&D - it feels like your standard, rather generic fantasy setting. As a DM, I felt this is a good quality - it meant I can shape the world as I see fit, and it also means it's recognizable by newer players. It takes a bit too much time to create a character in D&D (I personally didn't mind, but I've found people who just wanted to have fun playing the game would get intimidated by all the possibilities), but on the other hand the initial character is "awesome" right out of the box and you can do more than just "hit with sword". This definitely has a nice empowering effect. The other good thing about this system is that, as a DM, I know what my players are capable of, which means it's easier to create a story and keep the players following said story. (I know, this smells of railroading, but I'm not that good of a DM to create a sprawling world all in one go.) Finally, there's one small downside to all that awesomeness - the actual combat can become really, REALLY tedious. I think this is partially due to the fact that, in a way, this game could "play itself". I mean, outside of story-telling moments and occasional out-of-the-box ideas most combat scenarios are "locked in" after the first turn, i.e. players are engaged with enemies and complex manoeuvres become difficult (due to opportunity attacks, which players tend to avoid). Finally - playing D&D with real-life friends was a bit difficult as preparing maps was a problem - we don't have tokens or maps. Best we could do was s gridded table-cloth and Scrabble letter tokens to indicate things. The experience was a bit better when I was a DM via an online virtual table, where grids and rolling mechanics are built-in... but I can't rely on these things being available in real life.

So, I'm looking for a system which, ideally, has the following properties:

  • familiar setting - note that it doesn't HAVE to be fantasy and I like SciFi, but I can't shake the feeling that SciFi always comes with a bit of essential backstory and there's no such thing as "generic SciFi"... but if someone can prove me wrong I'm interested!
  • easy character creation - the requirement for players to flip the D&D manual back and forth looking for descriptions really slows the experience down
  • characters should feel "awesome" from level 1
  • it would be nice if one could make do without grids and tokens for combat, and yet have some structure (as to not have the whole thing falling apart)

There, I think that's all of it. I wonder if such a system exists... '>_>

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you narrow down the scope of this a little: for example, would Exalted or Heroes or Shengoku work for you? Also, what do you mean by "awesome"? For me, it means deeply flawed characters with lots of potential for growth, drama, and tragedy. Superman is tedious whereas Nightowl is awesome. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 18 '13 at 7:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I understand the first part of your comment. I realize my question is rather generic, but than again, I don't know how to be more specific because I haven't played too many systems. As for the latter - it's to avoid a situation in which a character, mechanically, can only do one thing in combat. This was a direct comparison between Warhammer and D&D - in the former the level 1 characters could, at most, attempt to hit enemies with their weapons (that's it), while the latter presented a choice of empowering abilities. \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Jul 18 '13 at 7:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you feel about Pulp? What is "simple?" And it has to come with its own setting? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jul 18 '13 at 7:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, but what is Pulp? >_<' "Simple" refers to D&D and its large number of rules for combat. I don't mind said rules, but I found my friends would get intimidated by them. Finally, there's no requirement for a setting! In fact, the more generic the setting the better as it'll be more familiar and easier for me, as a DM, to shape. \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Jul 18 '13 at 7:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I cannot really be more specific with this question - again, this stems from my lack of experience as a player and because I just don't know what options there are and subsequently my requirements are too broad. Still, I'm going to go ahead and accept Feng Shui, as that sounds awesome and does fit the bill pretty nicely. I'd also like to thank @BESW for throwing another recommendation my way via the chat. Thanks! :) \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Jul 19 '13 at 6:48

Trust me on this: Feng Shui.

Feng Shui is a game designed to emulate every action movie ever, especially Hong Kong action cinema. As such, it hits most of your points.

The game setting does have some interesting background, but a large chunk of it is set in the "modern world" of 1996, so the conventions and elements of that setting should seem reasonably familiar if you've watched any action movies made in the past few decades. (Well, sort of. The setting also includes a secret war between numerous factions trying to take over the world by controlling locations with good feng shui in multiple different time periods, but the details are light and largely left in the hands of the GM, and the game is designed so that these details can be very easily introduced during play. Heavy exposition would get in the way of the action, you see.)

Character creation is very easy, and fairly quick: Players pick an action-movie archetype, some signature stchicks, and they're pretty much done. Despite this, character creation is extremely flexible: In the last campaign I played in, the PC roster included an assassin heiress to a criminal empire, a maverick cop out to avenge his partner's death, a Shinto priest-slash-tourist, the ghost of a cat, and a crazy guy with a bicycle full of C4.

Player characters are definitely awesome from the start of the game, and should be expected to regularly perform feats equivalent to leaping from a crashing biplane onto a nearby skyscraper while locked in hand-to-hand combat with a demon, or clinging to the outside of a train as part of a car chase on a regular basis. (Don't believe me? The example of a "simple baseline stunt" given in the rules is "riding a motorcycle sideways under a eighteen-wheeler.")

There are no grids used in combat. Instead, the game follows action-movie logic: If it's sufficiently awesome and barely plausible, it can happen. And will probably involve an explosion. While the game doesn't have great tactical depth, it deliberately rewards over-the-top action and awesome-sounding descriptions of actions: At one point in the most recent campaign I played in, I used a crane and wrecking ball to interfere in a duel between martial artists.

The game is easy to get into and combats move quickly: Rather than pondering over tactical options, players spend time coming up with awesome descriptions of they want to do, and make a single roll to resolve the action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Big Fat +1 Feng Shui is simple, fast and excellent fun; play it like every action movie ever. Great fun. \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Jul 18 '13 at 10:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Ghost of a cat"? O_O On another note, it sounds awesome... if a little cheesy (but it's clear it's deliberate). I'll definitely look into this and I hope my friends will also appreciate the setting. \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Jul 18 '13 at 10:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Feng Shui was great 20 years ago... but there's many more RPGs that took the ideas and ran with them. Feng Shui feels very dated now IMO. \$\endgroup\$ – voidstate Jul 18 '13 at 11:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Man, I don't know a single thing about this system, but the amount of potential fun is so great here It's pretty scary. "Rule Of Cool the RPG", huh... \$\endgroup\$ – Baka-Mastermind Jul 18 '13 at 11:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @voidstate Why not list a system or two then? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Shaamaan Jul 19 '13 at 7:39

I would recommend 13th Age, a streamlined variant of D&D 3.5E and D&D 4E.

  • The setting is generic but filled with awesome. The authors go out of the way to pack it to the brim with exciting locales, but without paragraphs after paragraphs of history, or culture. The GM is encouraged to reskin locations, places, cultures and races as he like.

  • Easy Character Creation: 13hth Age streamlines the feat trees in an easier to access manner and all you need to create a character of a particular class is in that section of the book. Feats only upgrade your class features or powers, so they are listed alongside with your powers. Classes can be simple or complex - we create a level 1 Ranger in about 10 to 15 mins, but a wizard (complex class) will probably take more time. There are also no skills to pick from, just player-defined backgrounds (see below).

  • Strong level 1 characters: Characters start with a class feature and 3 talents, and more complex classes have powers and maneuvers, comparable to a level 1 D&D 4E character. However, it's not just the combat skills, your character is also awesome in 3 different ways. First is his One Unique Thing, the one thing that sets him apart from others. You could be the only halfling dragon rider, a familiar who switched place with his master and so on. Those are for role-playing, and don't give crunchy modifiers. Then you have relationships with Icons, which are powerful NPCs and organizations, and you can use them for benefits in the game. Last is your backgrounds, which represent your skills. It's free-form and defined by players. So a Fighter who wants to be a witch-hunter or demon-slayer can have a background like "Hunter of Demons and Supernatural Beasts +5", and in-game he has access to all those knowledge.

  • Gridless tactical combat: 13th Age ditches the grid for range bands. You are either engaged with a foe, close to him or faraway from him. Everything else is positioned relative to where you are. Players state intention ("I move behind the Fighter", or "I move till I am in range of the Orc Wizard") instead of counting squares.


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