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Stan’s Favorite Systems Compared

I’ve played and read dozens (or maybe hundreds) of RPGs over the decades. For the last two years, I’ve settled on these as my current favorites. They each have distinctive features so I’d thought I’d compare each of them. Some of these observations are subjective, but they’re based on what I’ve seen in the games I’ve run.

SystemD&D 5eSavage WorldsFate CoreClassic Traveller
Player System Cost$50 Rulebook (or free PDF/SRD)$10 Rulebook (or free test drive rules)$25 Rulebook (or free PDF/epubs/SRD)Out of Print ($35 CD or OBS PDFs)
Genre SuitabilityFantasyAnyAnyHard Sci Fi
Combat Modifiers1-2 max, Advantage mechanic1-4 on average1-6 on average (when stacking aspects)1-3 on average
Combat Time20-45 minutes range30-90 minute range30-90 minute range20-45 minutes range
Social ConflictsNot emphasizedNot emphasizedElegant rulesNo mechanics
Mass BattlesNo support (house rules available)Elegant systemElegant system (in Fate Toolkit)No support (house rules available)
Stat Block ComplexityHigh (but not as high as 3e or 4e)MediumLowLow
GM Prep TimeMedium (if using minis and maps)Medium (if using minis and maps)LowMedium (if using minis and maps)
BattlematMiniatures and Theater of the Mind equally supportedMiniatures focus Theater of the Mind focusMiniatures and Theater of the Mind equally supported
Multi-Year CampaignsHigh leveling-up satisfactionHigh leveling-up satisfactionLeveling up not emphasized (focus on swapping aspects)No leveling. Focus on acquiring ships, wealth, and influence.
Special FeaturesGreat Fantasy specific rules like classes and spells. Extensive support and high-production value and community support. #1 played RPG on the planet.Exploding dice lends an amazing energy to the table. Great, flexible, multi-genre system.Amazing flexible genre emulation through aspects. Focus on story and shared narrative. A bit non-traditional if coming from a d20 background.Great Sci Fi specific rules like Amber Zone, subsector maps, dying in character creation.
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