One of the things that really bugs me about fantasy games, and I mean really bugs me, is that it's so hard to bring in the bits I really love. Superstition. Occultism. That sense of the strange. Sure, Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons both have some room for superstition with material components to spells and certain materials bypassing damage reduction, but that's generally about as far as it goes rules-wise. The spells don't really feel magical. They feel mathematical. Because they are.
It's a problem that a lot of roleplaying systems have for me, really. And it's a problem that's increased by my position as Storyteller since I have to know the maths behind each character and creature. While I could slow down the action by requiring my players to gather their material components in-game in a realistic low-magic fantasy setting, I will still know that I'm expanding the focus on one element of gameplay that isn't really meant to have that much attention put upon it. Sure there is the occasional session that might revolve around players having to think fast because their spell component pouches are gone and they have to make do with what material components can be found in the ship. But how often can you do that in one campaign?
I have the same problem with the World of Darkness. Well, more of a problem with it in the World of Darkness. While the system is meant to be a toolkit and you are theoretically encouraged to have any old McGuffin be vital for a monster take-down, the system is still very lock-and-key. The fact that the monsters are designed to be player characters and that certain realms and antagonists can only be affected by certain creatures with certain powers or certain objects really bugs me. There's a little bit of canonical material surrounding what happens when a human enters the hedge, deals with spirits or runs into the Hisil but not very much and it generally ends one way -- with a splat.
While I know that the World of Darkness is meant to be horror first and urban fantasy second - something all the more firmly displayed with New World of Darkness 2.0 - it's still annoying that splat or *use specified power here* is the only answer. Since the system is so modular it's easier to disregard canonical words then house rule mechanics, it's a bit easier to work around but maybe I don't want to find a work around.
Maybe I want to find something that really captures the spirit behind all those superstitions and strange occult practices that proliferate in the world.
The other thing that bugs me in typical fantasy games is something quite small and easily fixed by any Storyteller worth their salt and that's the rather uninteresting array of quirky mounts, animal companions and familiars. Sure there are different species to choose from, but not much variety within species. It'd be nice to have a few alternative feats to really reinforce their different personalities and abilities. Especially with horses. I really think horses are under-utilised in fantasy games. Unless I'm going with a western theme my players generally don't bother with them and instead go about on foot. For shame! Horses are both speedy and interesting. I'd definitely prefer a game that reinforced that.
While I'm sure there are other systems that do deal with these problems satisfactorily, the fact is that both my players and I really do like these systems and their versatility. As far as the players are concerned, the systems are just fine. Sure some of the elements of a World of Darkness game are kept under lock and key but, hey, not only does each monster type have it's own realms to explore but I create enough workarounds to ensure that I (and therefore they) get to play in other creatures' sandpits. And with the Pathfinder monsters the magic is in the presentation. Oh, and they like their quick cast spells and easy access magic, thank you very much. They don't need overcomplications to get in the way of their monster mashing which is fair.
I guess my main annoyances (and why these are nitpicks) is that while these are truly fantastic systems, I just have a few issues with them that get in the way of my sense of adventure.