I didn’t pick up much at Gen Con this year. One thing I did buy, though, was a copy of Spirit of the Century. I’d almost bought it last year. In the meantime, I’d heard only good things about it and had developed a potential use for it. So, yeah. I read the book over this weekend. It is awesome.
Spirit of the Century uses FATE 3.0 mechanics. There is an online SRD. If you aren’t familiar with FATE, go check it out. It is totally awesome. Am I repeating myself? Anyway, PCs are defined in terms of skills, stunts, and aspects. Skills are pretty standard. Stunts are abilities that expand on or break the normal rules of skills – like d20 feats, I guess. Aspects, however, are really what drive the system; they are free-form descriptors, shticks, or things that matter to the PC. Here are some examples. Aspects are invoked to give a bonus (this costs resources) or compelled (this increases your resources) to require some sort of response. You can impose aspects on other people (or locations) via manuevers – tossing sand in someone’s face can give them the aspect “Blinded.” You can invoke aspects on other people (or locations or objects or whatever) as well as on yourself. The system is beautifully oriented to make the most out of the environment.
The system is well-integrated with the pulp genre, but it wouldn’t be too hard to separate it. I will say that the book has some of the best GMing advice I’ve read in a while, with discussions about how to leverage the aspects system to get your players to do some of your adventure design for you and how to structure pulp adventures. The game is billed as a pick-up rpg. I don’t know how successful it is in that format, but the GMing advice is well geared toward it.
Check it out. You won’t be sorry.