Sometimes I have a hard time finding a good fit for what I want. Especially when my system desires run afoul of my setting needs. And then what happens is massive GM headbanging with out the joys of music.
So, what happened recently (besides trying to buy a house, always kills my free blogging time) is I've hit a Fantasy Slump. I've grown tired of Pathfinder breaking down past level 10, and well tired of level based mechanics in general. Mind you, I LOVE Pathfinder's wide selection of class options, the setting to play with, etc. But, it's getting a bit tiresome when it breaks in the same places.
So I started looking around for something new, something interesting to try out. And I hit a wall.
GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is fine but takes a LOT of Player heavy lifting if they don't grok GURPS logic. Add to that the glass (hydrogen) ninja issue of skills going past 18 causing people to explode if anything goes past their defences. I like the range of 'build' this, but need a group to kick in the time to build. That's the Biggest hitch with generic systems.
Fantasy HERO gives me the issue of trying to make sense of effect based mechanics in building a unique enough magic system and world rules. It's not the end of the world, but it can be a turn off if you are low on GM prep time.
So rather than bounce around I had to set rules for myself. (And ask friends their opinions) And well over time I started to get a picture of what I wanted.
1. A robust skill based system.
2. Options for tactical combat (but not requiring miniatures), and tactical combat is NOT dominated by magic.
3. No levels!
4. Flexible character options for combat and non-combat.
5. Skill/knowledged based magic.
6. Medium to low prep time.
And I came up with a few suprising options afer asking around:
1. HARP - The "not quite Rolemaster" HARP is fast, has a much streamlined crit table system and flexible enough magic. If you include the College of Magic book that came out recently my options double, and melee/ranged combat is not dominated by the Fireball. A good sword swing or arrow to the eye will still win the day!
2. Arrowflight 2E - This was one of my 'left-field' options but after talking to Dan the admin of the rpgnet IRC board the option looks legit. It has martial arts, multiple combat styles, custom magic styles, and fun takes on fantasy races. Combat looks interesting.
3. Runequest 6/Magic World - Just a matter of taste in complexity. I'm not big on Legend (aka Mongooses take on the same) but I'm cool with classic Runequest or Magic World's (Elric) inspired engines.
4. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy - Still a valid choice and I might have a chance of selling it to players. I'd have to keep an eye on 4E mechanically, but I know GURPS well enough the down time for relearning things won't be so long.
5. Fantasy HERO - Still a valid choice as well. Just harder sell than GURPS and I don't know how much building I'm inthe mood to do. (See buying House.)
So now comes the fun part, asking my players what they will or will not do.
So it's how I've solved my issue, kinda.
When trying to find a good fit for yourself pick a game that fits you tolerance for GM prep, combat complexity, and pay attention to flexibility to change the game to suit you needs. Make a list of priorities and then measure the systems versus this. You'll find it a lot easier than just random guessing. Mind you, asking for options to this list will give you a LOT false leads, but eventually you'll find a left field option you didn't think of. See me and Arrowflight 2E.
So keep your mind open, but have standards.