Hate to say it, but the week has been flying by with little productive action from me. I'm working on a little something-something that I hope to have in "test-able" form for tomorrow night...but we'll see what happens.
In other news: a quick search of the web found that Five Ancient Kingdoms has been talked up in a couple places, though the only new review I've found was on a French forum. Those who can parle francais are welcome to check it out here. It's fairly complimentary (thanks pseudo!), with his main gripes being A) the resolution of the artwork, B) the blandness/unoriginality of the introductory adventure, and C) the changing of proper names from their original (real world) analogs....especially irritating to folks who already have to translate the game into their own language (e.g. from English to French).
Regarding that last complaint...sorry. At my own table, I generally stick to the actual proper names, but for the 5AK game I wanted to emphasize that the setting is fiction, not historical. I'm sure there are folks who would take umbrage with painting certain cultures with an unflattering brush...but a fantasy game requires fantasy antagonists, you know? It's like my other adventure game (only play-tested once) that makes all the fine folks of Portugal to be heinous villains because...well, you know the justification for that is really a separate post topic. But there's a reason I haven't put that one up as a free download.
In completely rewriting the whole "fantasy adventure game" concept from the ground up, I find myself branching into territory that I have (for years now) been avoiding: namely the realm of gaming divorced from the concepts of "class" and "level." Ugh...gross. I like class and level, and I use it in most everything (Cry Dark Future and Clockwork being notable exceptions...but then, they're based off other RPGs that don't use class and level)...even such random concepts as DMI, post-apoc, and my supers game. Hell, even CDF has levels if not actual classes.
The problem with ridding oneself of classes and levels is you rid yourself of two very useful design concepts: an archetypal shorthand (chargen made easy) and a golden carrot (reward system). Unless you're trying to design a one-off (or otherwise short-lived serial) story game (i.e. premise addressing RPG facilitating the narrativist creative agenda) then all you're doing is setting up a sim-style game in which PCs just piddle around, in which the GM is either a dancing monkey for the players' enjoyment or a railroader extraordinaire. Neither of which I was shooting for, by the way.
Oh, and no...there's no "skill system" in the game. Get that out of your head!
So, I've been working on a different style of bean-counting reward system (literally...the mechanic is currently referred to as "beans" in the draft notes). In some it feels like I'm trying to reinvent other "chip-counting" systems like FATE or Savage Worlds...except that I'm not and the system feels a lot different from those (other than the beans). Still...classless. The whole thing makes me decidedly uncomfortable. What's to keep players from making all sorts of random, dumb-dumb type characters?
The rest of the rules, natch.
Well anyway...that's just what I'm working on this week. Who knows? Maybe it will all be scrapped by the weekend. At this point, I'm still shooting for something around the size of Holmes Basic.