Dungeons & Dragons: how different my life would be today had I not discovered that incredible little game all the way back in 1980. Strangely, it was on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe and one night we just happened to be in a gift shop that just happened to have a copy of the Expert Rules. Ironically, the friend I was with had already played the game and knew what is was. When I showed it to him he said it was fun but complicated. Undaunted, I bought the box set (not knowing I needed the Basic Rules too, which I got later) and thus began a life-long obsession with hobby gaming. But it was that one little fantasy game that started it all. Not a surprising revelation, though, as most kids find monsters and wizards and knights fascinating anyway.
As the decades rolled on and I discovered the many other types of genres out there, I found that I was always most interested in the fantasy setting. So later, when I decided to take on hobby game design as a career, I knew I had to make my fantasy game special. It didn't have to be perfect (few things are) but I wanted it to reflect the deep love I had for the genre and for that first roleplaying game that had given me so many hours of enjoyment over the years. There had been many discussions, arguements and house rules put forth concerning D&D and other games and I made it a point to address those while designing S5A.
I felt that a good mix of skill-based and level-based mechanics would make most people happy, as both had their pros and cons. Also, I wanted to incorporate a richly-detailed character creation system that let the player make most of the major decisions (when it came to stats, etc.) while still retaining a random element of chance to make it interesting. Another important aspect was that of combat; too often did it boil down to a simple, uninspired roll. I wanted options and consequences to the way that combat was conducted in order to make it more dynamic. Similarly, magic has always fallen short in most games. Why should a mage suddenly become useless just because he ran out of spell points? A warrior can hack away at foes all day, so why shouldn't the wizard be just as useful? Lastly, I think we all got tired of adding up thousands and thousands of experience points so I tried to streamline that system as well, making it more than just being about how many monsters you could kill.
It took 6 months to come up with a satisfactory core mechanic for this game, more time than any other, while the world itself had been in development for over a decade! Officially it was my third fantasy campaign world, though technically it was my fifth. This was also the first of my worlds to have an actual name: Dreganus. Previous milieus were simply named "the Ancient World" or "the Civilized World" or, even more generic, "the Realm". I wanted it to be a living, breathing world, where character actions had consequences upon the development of Dreganus beyond the scope and timeframe of any particular campaign. Yet I also wanted its history to tell a story, one with a beginning, middle and end. So I laid out the timeline from start to finish and allowed players to choose what age they wished to adventure in. Most campaign worlds just plop you down in the "present day", but I thought it would be interesting for characters to take part in some of those historical events that helped shape the story of Dreganus. Or they could adventure "in between" some of the more formative years. Some complained that they would know what was about to happen if the whole timeline was laid out before them. Not necessarily. Whatever year was chosen as the "current year" would be the last year I allowed them to read up on. Even so, just because one knows what is going to happen doesn't mean they know how or why it happened...
I think the system works and works well. I think the world is rich and intriguing. I am happy with the result and hope you are too.