At first, this core rules books seems a bit backwards, because it presents things like combat and ability check rules before it goes into character creation. But yet that makes sense, because in order to maximize your character you need to understand how certain things work so that you know how to assign your points.
I think this might be the first game system that not only acknowledges that DMs house rule, but seems designed to encourage house rules. Want to run a high power game? Just give players more points to spend and more flexibility with things like race and spell creation. Want to run a more low-power game? Reign in points and limit access to certain powers.
Spell creation and magic item creation is a mixed blessing. If you are the type of player that always spends time thinking up new spells and items and trying to convince your DM to let you use them, you will fall in love with this system. Combine the right specializations with the right magic group and you can pull off some amazing spells and magic items relatively early in a campaign.
If you prefer to flip through a book and just pick out stuff a la carte, Karma might not be for you. There is a pre-generated list of starter spells included in the core book (there is also a supplement that has more spells and pre-generated magic items) but otherwise ready made spells and magic items are scarce. Playing any sort of spellcaster in Karma can be a time consuming effort as you make your own spells from scratch. If you enjoy having that kind of power, you will love it. If you don’t, then you’ll play a non-caster. Non-caster character creation can be done in under fifteen minutes once you understand the basic rules.
There are a few things that aren’t clarified in the basic rules, maybe intentionally. Do spells require a verbal component? Can wizards be “silenced” for example? What exactly happens if you are encumbered (the rules mention it in passing, but don’t provide a firm “if X then Y”). The answer may depend on the type of game, and basically these are the sort of things you need to sort out in advance with players before starting play.
[4 of 5 Stars!]