I know I’ve mentioned this before, but FEAR is trying their hands at an open system. For a while now they’ve been using variants of the same general system for most of their games, and they took the version from Alshard GAIA (the modern-day Earth version of Alshard) and created SRS (“Standard RPG System”). Since I have a couple of back-burner projects with a relatively mainstream bend to them, I decided to go translate it in my spare time. Here are my impressions:
SRS uses a very simple roll-over system; 2D6 plus whatever modifiers you have. It also has a very simple class-and-level system. You pick out a total of three levels of classes at character creation, and those mostly determine your attributes, add bonuses to your combat values (derived values for various things) and decide what Skills (special powers/shticks) you can select from. SRS is basically just a framework for creating games, so it lets you decide on what attributes, combat values, and classes you want. It’s definitely a toolkit for making games, rather than a game itself. With, say, Fudge, you can treat it as a complete game out of the box if you want to play it a certain way, but that’s not the case with SRS.
One interesting thing about it is the use of scene framing. It doesn’t have any particular meta-game effects (though the design notes say you can add stuff like that if you’re so inclined), but the rules call for fairly tight scene framing, over which the GM has substantial authority. The GM designates certain PCs as “scene players,” and other PCs are either left out, or can make some kind of roll to get into the scene.
The most glaring omission is that the SRS Basic rules have nothing for combat. This would seem very odd, considering most FEAR games seem to be fairly combat-oriented. However, their plan is to have the stuff in SRS Basic be required (or at least if you change stuff from it you have to acknowledge such in your game’s text). They’ve started to release combat rules in the form of “Plug-Ins,” though they’ve started with one on “Combat Movement and Engagement,” which I haven’t fully read just yet but seems like it’s actually SRS’ answer to Attacks of Opportunity. On the other hand, there aren’t really any limits as to what you can add to the game. Skills in a more traditional sense aren’t in SRS or a lot of FEAR games, but they do have them in Beast Bind, and they’re hardly unusual in Japanese RPGs.
Also, as Andy noted, FEAR is putting out a new game called Tenra WAR, apparently a crazy crossover between Tenra Bansho and Terra The Gunslinger. AFAIK it’ll be the first SRS-branded game, where neither of the games it’s based on used the proto-SRS that appeared in many other FEAR games.
So, as far as SRS is concerned, I think I’ll hold off on trying to do anything with it until there are enough plug-ins released that I wouldn’t have to build a combat system from scratch. On the other hand, along with the new Yuuyake Koyake supplement (Mononoke Koyake, which adds spirits, ghosts, and aliens into the mix), I already have a decent list of games to order from Japan when I have the money to do so. (I still have no idea how to get my hands on Meikyuu Kingdom though…)