Looking for some system advice from the hive mind. This is mostly academical right now, as I’m not actually looking to bring a new system to the table in the near term. But I’m always on the hunt for the holy grail…
Which system would you recommend that caters to tactically minded players that enjoy crunch (combat, character advancement, etc.), while being as straightforward as possible for the GM to prep and run?
- Fantasy genre
- Tactical combat
- Overall, skews towards traditional RPG, rather than story game
- Significant player choices at character creation, as well as during advancement (many “builds”)
- Reasonably easy to run for the GM (not too many “fiddly bits”)
- Simple and concise monster stat blocks, both for quick and easy monster creation during prep, as well as usability at the table (minimize flipping back and forth between stat blocks and rules)
- Bonus: Online tools for character generation or rules lookup
- Bonus: VTT support, preferably for Foundry
The closest match in my collection that I can think of is Shadow of the Demon Lord. This gives player a lot of options via its path based advancement system, while keeping things pretty simple for the GM (streamlined mechanics such as boons & banes, fast & slow turns instead of tracking initiative, etc.). Monster stats are pretty straightforward, especially since there are no skills or saving throws. Some monsters do have spells, though, which requires familiarity and/or flipping through the book. There are also nice options to use either grid-based combat or simplify things further with zones.
My ideal game would be pretty close to this, but even simpler monster stats, and with better tool support. E.g. getting all these SotDL monsters entered into Foundry would be a pretty big lift, and I’m not holding my breath for any official Foundry support from Schwalb.
In terms of monster stats, my favorite example is DCC. The stats are extremely concise, because they’re asymmetrical from player stats and rules. No attributes, just the 3 saves, hp, attacks, etc. Monsters typically don’t use full spell rules, but rather concisely list any special abilities inline. But while it’s one of my favorite systems overall, it doesn’t offer the kind of choice during player creation and advancement that I’m looking for in this post.
Most of the systems I own and have flipped through either don’t offer sufficient tactical or character crunch (e.g. DCC and most OSR games, Forbidden Lands) or aren’t especially streamlined for GMs (e.g. Savage Worlds, D&D 5e, Pathfinder, Zweihaender, The Dark Eye) - to be clear, I enjoy a lot of those systems, but they’re not what I’m looking for in this post.
Monster stats in WFRP 4e look quite streamlined, and I know the path based system offers a lot of character options and crunch. But (not having read the rules yet), I believe it’s not exactly a streamlined experience for GMs (I do love me some Warhammer, though!). Will need to take a closer look.
I’m also not very familiar with the 2d20 system (e.g. Conan) or Cypher (e.g. Numenera). I get the sense that Cypher could check this box quite nicely, but don’t know enough about it. The monster stats look quite simple, but surprisingly verbose.
What system would you recommend that matches these criteria? Also feel free to offer alternative opinions on the systems I’ve already mentioned, as my experience with some of them is very small.