FS3 grew out of the FUDGE-based +combat system first used on Battlestar Pacifica MUSH, so it was optimized for that setting. It’s customizable enough to work in other games, but it works best with ones that have similar roots: cooperative, near-modern, and lightly-coded. This article will discuss those three points and why they’re important when considering whether FS3 is a good choice for your game.
Because FS3 supports disparate power level characters, it works best when those players work together against a common enemy. When one character can be a Navy SEAL and another a raw recruit, is it really fair to pit them against each other? When they work together, you can still have competition but it takes a back seat to the greater goal.
FS3 also has very “soft” mechanics. It is a lightweight conflict resolution system designed for cooperative-storytelling games. It deliberately leaves a lot open to player interpretation. If you’ve got an environment where folks are constantly at odds, you’re going to end up with a lot of disputes.
The combat system was designed for a near-modern technology level. Ballistic weapons are the focus. Explosives, vehicles and armor are all designed with near-modern tech in mind.
FS3 adapts very well to historical setting and low-tech sci-fi. Higher sci-fi tech levels can work too, as long as you don’t want blasters/lasers to work too differently than ballistic guns.
Non-magical fantasy/medieval settings work pretty well. There aren’t as many attack options, but FS3 Third Edition fixes many of the issues that made FS3 a poor fit for fantasy.
FS3 is not designed for superhero/supernatural/magical games. It simply has no concept of “powers” or “spells”, and the rating system is not designed to accommodate superhuman abilities. There is a detailed analysis of why the mechanics don’t scale well to beyond-human abilities in Scaling FS3.
It may seem ironic to say that a coded skills/combat system is intended for “lightly-coded” game, but it’s true. As mentioned previously, FS3 is a “soft” system. Since Background Skills are free-form, any skill that the code relies on would need to be an Action Skill.
For instance, if you wanted a coded crafting system, all your craft skills would be Action Skills. Coded economy? Now your business/professional skills need to be, too. Pretty soon you end up subverting the very idea of Action Skills, ballooning the skill list, and throwing monkey wrenches into the streamlined Chargen process.
So FS3 works best when you have a very narrow focus of what “action” mechanics need to be automated.