Why Most RPGs Suck
How to fuck up your game, summarized.
Step One: Promise that your player can do Cool Things that peak his interests. (Examples below.)
Step Two: Don't even TRY to deliver.
Yes, I point out BattleTech again, but they are hardly the only offender. Palladium plays like that, and so do far too many hobby game products out there.
Yes, there are games that do deliver. Some do so better than others, and some require that the premises behind their rules and procedures be Explained Like They're Five (or they will be misunderstood), but they do exist.
But this is not good enough. All products should be fit for purpose.
Insufficient Subject Matter Mastery
You are reading this on the Internet.
You have no excuse for not knowing, for example, how firearms do damage to human bodies.
That expands to weapons vs. armor, effectiveness of cavalry (horse and chariot), and more.
Or how religion works.
Or how ancient societies work.
And there's a lot more out there about both the real world and the unreal worlds.
Your product must (a) produce verisimilitude with regard to everything that is derivative of the real world and (b) produce consistent results to established canon with regard to all unreal elements incorporated.
With regard to contested results, it's a binary result at least 80% of the time; either your man succeeds or he fails- degrees are irrelevant. (Daleks don't roll damage.) There are only a handful of occassions where anything other than Pass/Fail applies, and then the only other result is "Partial"- typically this is someone that's still able to resist, but damaged/injured significantly.
But far too many of you product pushers can't be bothered.
And then you wonder why so many of your prospective players bounce off your bad books and go with some alternative that does get it right. When XCom has better game design than over 90% of tabletop products that ever existed, you know you ALL fucked up.
How To Fix It Before They Fix You
Your rules and procedures need to reduce the range of results down to "Yes/No" or "Yes/No/Maybe".
None of this "Fail Forward" faggotry. None of that Theater Kid crap. A believable result means You Did It, You Fucked It, and sometimes You Grazed It.
Knowing how things really work makes figuring out how to design your rules and procedures to get to that Point of Decision AND produce a satisfying play result reliably is not optional- it's required. You can remedy massive gaps in your knowledge just by finding experts in various areas and watching/listening to them actively with notes a plenty just so you can find those Points of Decision and figure out what to abstract, how, and why.
This ain't the pre-Internet age anymore. You have no excuse. If Macris can do this to make ACKS better, you can do it to make your product better. You've got nearly 50 years of tabletop game design to work with; if I can cobble together a jury-rigged game out of mismatched parts while laid up in a hospital room waiting for my prosthetic leg, you pros can figure it out and improve your business. Also, revisit the games that DO work. This is how you improve, you poser punks.
If your fantasy adventure game can't do this without taking FOR-FUCKING-EVER then your game is shit and you deserve to fail. Guess which ones DON'T?