Dragonlance 5th Age
You can tell a lot about an RPG by looking at its experience system. For example, AD&D was always about beating up various critters, and thus the focus of its experience system was on combat. X amount of points for killing a critter of Y toughness. Champions, on the other hand, worked without any real focus, showing its generic nature. The GM would simply give a character 3 or 4 points per session, plus or minus a few.
Dragonlance 5th Age (or DL5A) uses a "Quest" system. This means that when a character completes a mission (killing the dragon, saving the village, convincing the king to stop the war, finding a great fast food joint), he gets a Quest, which can increase his hand size and reputation. Immediately you can tell two things about DL5A: it's very story oriented, and it doesn't care if that story is about combat or creativity. You can play an AD&D-style kill-bad-things-for-gold game with the DL5A, but you'd be missing the point. Instead, the system gives you the ability to run a game that's more like a Dragonlance novel than a list of battles.
Story was always a strong point in the Dragonlance series. No other RPG has as much good fiction, fiction that focuses on more than just killing things. Although the original Dragonlance was tied down to the archaic AD&D rules, DL5A has the potential to allow the story to shine through. Finally, an RPG that really can break away from the combat paradigm.
The SAGA system is a big bonus for this game. An 82-card deck is used in place of dice. There are 8 suits of 9 cards each (one suit per attribute), plus the 10-card suit of Dragons. Each card depicts, in addition to its value, a famed Dragonlance character, like Palin Majere or Tasslehoff Burrfoot. The cards are fairly sturdy and are attractively printed, but the art is ranges from the excellent work of Larry Elmore to some extremely crappy colored pencil art. It's not bad overall, but some new stuff, perhaps by some of the Magic: the Gathering artists (hey, TSR is owned by Wizards of the Coast, so why not) like Anson Maddocks, Randy Gallegos, or Ron Spencer, would have been really great. The art inside the game books, on the other hand, is some very well done.
The actual SAGA system is incredibly easy and cinematic. If you want to try something, you tell the GM and play a card from your hand. If the total of the card+the relevant attribute is equal or greater than the GM's target number (which he doesn't tell you), the action succeeds. If the card you played was the corresponding suit to the attribute, you get a trump, which lets you add the top card of the deck to your action. Just like in real life, you'll never know exactly how difficult something is.
The really great thing about the SAGA system is its control. You decide what cards to play. If the action you take is incredibly crucial to the game, you no longer have to be lucky. Just like in a book, you can succeed when it counts, instead of rolling a one and watching your character die. This does not mean you'll always win, nor does it mean you're in total control. Your hand is still randomly dealt out, and you could easily end up with a hand full of ones, but by saving cards for when you need them, you too can perform legendary feats.
Combat in SAGA also benefits from the card-based mechanics. Your hand of cards also functions like a health rating. When hit, you must discard a number of cards with a value equal to or greater than the damage. Your hand will stay at this size until you rest back, neatly handling pain and the weakness from wounds in one mechanics. Even the strongest characters will go down after 3 or 4 good whacks from a broadsword, making the system fairly realistic, as well. Your characters are going to have to think before they leap into the fray. Distance between the heroes and monsters is handled in an easy-to-imagine range system reminiscent of Dragon Dice's Magic, Missile, and Melee range system. All in all, combat in DL5A is a lot of fun. It takes a while to get used to the idea of a system where all the action is in the hands (pun intended) of the players, but you'll find that it frees up the GM for more important things, like scrambling to deal with your latest unexpected scheme.
Finally, you shouldn't have any trouble coming up with adventure ideas. DL5A comes with a guidebook to the 5th Age of Krynn that includes a complete timeline starting at the creation of the world and ending at the present day (70 years after the original Dragonlance game), detailed information on the many realms and countries of Ansalon, descriptions of NPC's, and important groups like the Knights of Solamnia. You'll find more story hooks than a fisherman's convention, and plenty of fascinating places to launch your games in. The main rulebook also boasts sketchy info on over 100 different beasts and monsters. It's true you won't get the detailed information available in, say, the AD&D Monster Manual, but seriously: how many times have you ever really needed to know more than what a creature looks like and what its stats are? There are enough monsters here to keep your players on their toes for quite a while, and the ability to port over AD&D monsters gives you even more options.
Now for the bad news. DL5A obviously either got seriously messed up when it was sent to the printers, or it should have been revised a few more times before sent out. Important things were left out, like the rule that you should draw a card after using one in your hand for an action. If you don't realize this, you'll end up wondering how the heck you're supposed to last any amount of time in combat when your hand keeps getting smaller. Also, magic is a real killer to understand, although it's a great system once you do.
In short, I heartily recommend Dragonlance 5th Age. It's a great game, with fantastic background and it looks like TSR is going to support the heck out of it. It will take you a while to work out what the designers meant to say instead of what they've written, but the end result is one sweet RPG.
Style: 2 (Needs Work)