I finished reading ZeFRS this afternoon. Essentially the rules finish up with fairly standard chapters on Hazards (such as falling, fire, and poison) and Life in an S&S World (largely an economy and equipment chapter). These final pages were fairly predictable. They are virtually the same in every game because that's just the way it is. There is very little innovation to be eeked out of an economics chapter (The Riddle of Steel was the last I've seen with its unique and quirky way of handling specific countries' currency based on weight of precious metals contained). That's not a knock against ZeFRS, just a fact of game design. One of this type of coin equals this many of that type. It hasn't changed much. Likewise, hazards. Basically, the hazards chapter for any game simply shows how to plug said hazards into the damage system.
ZeFRS attacks its subject with all the gusto of a northern barbarian. It very exuberantly dives in, seeking to take its new ideas and forge a new type of gaming experience. Unfortunately, it ends up being like a bad teacher. We've all had somebody try to teach us something they are very passionate about and knowledgeable in. They'll explain it in a very quick and cursory fashion, and not understand how we didn't "get it". It is so obvious to them, they can't conceive of it being less so to someone else. That's how these rules struck me. I love how dangerous and risky the magic system is intended to be. But, other than the excellent Obsession rule, how do I translate those ideas into a playable system?
By the end of the book I realized something. The rules are chock full of fresh, innovative, and new ideas. Ideas that were indeed ahead of their time. Now, 27 years after the release of the rules ZeFRS is based on, their time has passed. There are a lot of systems that have taken a lot of those ideas (but not Obsession, for some reason) and refined them. All these ideas need is a well-explained system to plug them into and they will shine like the jewels of Atlantis. A system where damage is realistic, combat is gritty and dangerous, and magic poses a very real threat to the very soul of anyone who even dares to learn how to do it, let alone actually casts spells.
It makes me want to bolt these fantastic ideas onto Alternity. Don't groan, I've not made any bones about liking the system. I think it could pull it off. In fact, it seems there are certain ancestral ties between Alternity's resolution mechanic and the ZeFRS color chart. They both feature degrees of success based on the resolution roll. I know they aren't the only two rules systems to have that sort of feature, but I recall reading somewhere that there are design ties between the two. There are a few Alternity-to-Fantasy things floating around. I need to look at some, I think . . .