The old high school gang is kinda-sorta getting back together this summer for some gaming. I say "kinda-sorta" because right now the posse consists of me, one of the four members of my original crew, her husband(!), and one of the members of the group I played with my last year of high school. There's some possibility that my brother and another member of that senior-year group will join next week, though I'm not sure how much of one. This is mostly cool, since I haven't seen most of these people much lately and I could use the excuse to get out of the house. But it also means saying "hello" to another old friend I haven't seen in a while: d20 Modern.
I've all but sworn off 3rd Edition and anything related to it, and this game, I suspect, is going to be a series of all-too-immediate lessons on why I really should continue that policy. I don't mean to harsh on anyone's buzz here; I know lots of people have all kinds of fun playing d20 and its derivatives. I've been one of them, and someday I might be again. But man, do I ever doubt that right now.
d20 Modern encourages me to focus on aspects of gaming I don't enjoy focusing on. Case in point: I'm putting together a Tough hero who specializing in surviving helicopter crashes. (Because she causes them.) I consider the Concentration skill. This seems like something my character should have. Flying helicopters is tricky; she's probably going to do it while being shot at and taking damage. And yet, in the back of my mind, I know -- we never used Concentration checks back in the day. So do I take the thing that the system says I should have, or should I bet that the GM isn't going to call me on it if I don't take it, and spend those points on something I can almost guarantee will come up? Intimidation, for instance -- I know I'll be able to create that situation. Likewise, I picked up the feat Aircraft Operation, and I probably shouldn't have, because all it does is eliminate a penalty to flying helicopters (anything besides ordinary planes, basically) that I'm pretty sure won't come up anyway. If I don't mention it, the GM's definitely not going to remember that exception.
This kind of thing pulls me away from in-game contemplation of "What can my character do?" to the meta-game judgement of "How is my GM going to handle this one particular rule?" Not to mention all the time I spend just manipulating the rules themselves. Point-buy is a major culprit here; I'm sitting there calculating the relative values of the various ability scores, thinking about the cost of odd-numbered scores versus even-numbered ones and trying to remember which of my character's abilities reference which scores, rather than, y'know, the character, or what I want to be able to do in the game.
Maybe this is a character flaw. Maybe I'm just easily distractable. But it seems to me that a large point of the joy, such as it is, in a system like this is the meta-game. And at this point in my gaming life, I don't care about the meta-game. I don't want to spend a whole lot of time manipulating the rules. I want the GM to roll some dice and tell me what happens and then get on with the actual game.