After years of talking about it, we finally ran our first game of Fading Suns last week. It was a Wednesday night session run by one of the guys in my gaming group, Damon Agretto, in his first outing as a game master for the group, and it went pretty damn well.
We're using the Fading Suns d20 rules, rather than Holistic Design's original ruleset, mostly because it's easier for us to adapt what we already know than it is to learn an entirely new gaming system. (You can read my complete review of Fading Suns d20 here) Some might think we're simply lazy, or uninterested in trying new things, but for me, it's more about time. The original Fading Suns featured a very time consuming character creation process that relied heavily on the rulebook. Given that only two of us have the original FS rule book, and there are five us playing, it would have been difficult to create characters in a single evening, or even in several.
The d20 version relied on rules we already knew, so we could wing it when someone needed to borrow a rulebook, and as a result character creation was a snap. We spent one night rolling up PCs, and were gaming the following week.
There's often a bias among hard-core role-players (as opposed to say, power gamer) against d20 games because the game mechanics (and the min-maxing associated with them) allegedly overwhelm the role-playing aspects of the game. This wasn't a problem in our first outing, as our characters investigated the murder of a nobleman. I don't think a single shot was fired during the entire night -- that's right, no combat, all role-playing ... and with a d20 game no less!
As a game, Fading Suns d20's greatest strength is its rich background -- GMs and players alike are able to easily draw upon dozens of books published for the original game (or newer books reprinted to include d20 stats). It's greatest weakness is a bare-bones ruleset. While it's got everything you need to run a game -- particularly with the character classes and a wide assortment of technological, physical and social feats -- it comes up short with regards to combat. The game mechanics for automatic weapons and such just aren't well written or documented. We'll probably end up using whatever mix of combat rules we use for d20 Delta Green (drawing from the Spycraft and d20 Modern rules)
Another slight shortcoming is the cybernetics and tech creation feat areas -- the d20 book has only a fraction of the implants and cool toys that the original book had. Since I have the original game, it's not a big deal for me to convert what I want to d20, but I would have preferred more native-d20 materials.
All-in-all though, it's a good game with plenty of deep role-playing opportunities. We've decided to add it to our regular campaign rotation, and will be running games the first Friday of every month. It'll be a nice change of pace from our normal D&D game.