So this past year I have had the opportunity to play some d20 games...
Yes, not earth shattering news,but for me this is unusual as my 'usual fare' has consisted of Savage Worlds, Fate, Dragon Age and pretty much everything not d20 related since 3.X came out.
Dungeon Crawl Classics has become something of a 'backup game' for me to run for the group when we have scheduling conflicts. When we start a game, we all know that some characters are going to die, some wizards are going to call upon the twisted forces of elder beings to fuel their spells and that the cleric may or may not help you because she is 'neutral' and the world will not be a better place
by the end of the adventure.
For me it brings to the table the 'good memories' I have of D&D in my early teen years. Balance goes out the window and everyone watches it plummet to its demise and laughs.
13th Age is one I have only played at conventions and a one shot in our group, but like DCC it favors fun over books of rules and enabled such wonderful characters as 'Mr. Chuckles' the Necromancer and his skeleton minion 'Pookie'. It is d20, but with enough 'dirty hippy indie game' elements to make it interesting. The skill system combined with the One Unique Thing help to make every character memorable, and most character concepts fully available at first level.
Finally, we've started a campaign of D&D 5E. It is in my mind, the best iteration of 'plain D&D', but therein lies my problem... it is plain. There is nothing (in my mind) that I could not do better with either 13th Age, Savage Worlds, Fate, or Barebones Fantasy (the first and the last in particular.)
The constant need to lookup spells (hello no pdf available outside of 'Basic') and the feel of being grossly incompetent at early levels has proven to be a challenge and the system feels very... passionless.
Perhaps this is just my gamer ADD kicking in.