I am the king of the defunct system. My go-to mechanics for modern and near sci-fi, like cyberpunk, was — for the longest time — James Bond:007. The last time it was trotted out was for a Stargate campaign, and the rules worked admirably, easily as well as they had when my group first tried them in 1983, and never went back to Top Secret. Similarly, I was playing Space: 1889 or some variant for a decade and a half; long after it and Castle Falkenstein were gone. We were playing LUG Trek and Decipher Trek for years after they folded. (The latter’s still on my shelf.) Cortex, at least the classic (and I’d say, better) version, hasn’t been supported by Margaret Weis since 2010, but its my favored set of game mechanics.
The nice thing about games is you don’t have to stop playing them when the new hotness hits. Some you come back to, some you don’t… I haven’t played any of the above, save Cortex, for five to six years, but my favorite is indisputable:
James Bond: 007 by Victory Games. This was the game that blasted me out of Dungeons & Dragons when Traveler couldn’t. It allowed me to play in settings I much preferred — I was a big mystery and spy novel fan in my high school years, steadily moving away from fantasy. My taste for fantasy was quickly being destroyed by the slew of half-assed fantasy movies in the early ’80s — from Krull to Beastmaster (but the ferrets!), to the much better Conan franchise.
The rules were innovative — with characters you built to an idea, not created by a set of random die rolls. There were skills, as well as attributes, and they worked together. Tasks had difficulty ratings, and you could succeed at different levels. Combat damage was cinematic, but still more realistic than the armor class of D&D. Guns, cars, gadgets — everything had that name-brand, product-placement flavor of Bond and other action movies — and it ported well into different settings. It could stretch to do cyberpunk and Stargate. It worked with modern action movies, as much as the older Bond fare. It even did Space:1889 alright, if not great.
So there it is. And I hope to be playing it again, in the future.