I paged through Pathfinder at one of my local gamestores yesterday. Really, really not my speed, but you know what? I wish 'em the best. It's a gorgeous book and if was a 3.5-head (or prone to liking illustrations of fighters with daiklaves ::shudder::) I'd be on it like white on rice.
Being on the DriveThruRPG mailing list, I was clued in to another d20-derived rulebook that actually has piqued my interest: Fantasy Craft. From the folks who brought you Spy Craft. I see a theme in their naming conventions unfolding here.
At any rate, it's only available in PDF right now, I believe, but I'm seriously considering downloading the beast and taking a looksee. If it bridges the gap between rules-light retro-clones, Castles & Crusades, and True20, then I may have found my system du jour.
The reviews on DTRPG look promising:
My favorite part of the book is chapter 6: Foes. It allows you to build any type of npc that you can dream up. The OGL conversion section makes me glad that I never threw out my 3.x monster manuals.
I like this quite a bit as it would let me adapt material from the various and sundry d20 products that I use (Blue Rose, the 3.5 Wilderlands supplements, C&C stuff) under one umbrella.
The Skill System: FantasyCraft's skill system, while still very familiar to the D20 formula, is a staple within the engine. Not a small sidenote to accent your character's Damage-per-round like in other systems, but an actual fleshed out system to handle everything (and probably thensome) of what a character would want to do....RPG friendly. That may venture the question, "How can an RPG book be RPG unfriendly?" Well... just look at other systems. It treats RPGing as second nature, and merely a small diversion to hacking and slashing. In FantasyCraft, your skills and your imagination can lead the way. Not everything is about Damage....
This addresses one of my main disappointments with the True20 system: it streamlines d20, but doesn't really take the emphasis off the combat mechanics.
The NPC creation system. Remember spending hours upon hours trying to drudge up and balance NPCs in other systems? The mind-numbing death spiral of time spent that went into creating 'bosses' for your group to fight? Not any more! FantasyCraft's NPC system is, perhaps, the most fluid, easy to use system I've ever seen. The NPC design scales (almost effortlessly) to fit the party. ..and it's actually FUN (again..) to create NPCs!
Oh man, if this is true then it is HUGE by my lights.
The NPC creation system allows an adventure to be scaled quickly and easily to any character Level. And the Reputation system helps GMs control the 'magic item lottery' that focuses too many fantasy games on all the magic 'bling' the characters can accumulate, and not on their innate skills.
Finally, the system actively encourages tweaking, through the use of campaign qualities. Want a historical game and no magic? Easily do-able. Want characters to have more/less feats, skill points, critical hits? All easily done.
I love the scaling idea too. It would allow me to use a bunch of higher-level adventure material at lower levels, since my campaigns rarely reach high levels.
Despite all these promising qualities, I'm still not totally sold. I'd love to see an in-depth review or two. More cogitation is required.