The foundations of the system that would grow into Tab-System Classic were laid one cold day the winter of 1998-1999. Originally named the Swords & Arrows Role-Playing Game (SaARPG), the system was conceived of as a fantasy role-playing system built to handle the then-in-initial-development Trystell setting. The initial system took much inspiration from roleplaying products that came before it, including the Dragonlance: Fifth Age game, Middle-earth Role Playing (1st & 2nd Editions), the Starshield Role-Playing Game and the Tales of the Lance boxed set.
The Swords & Arrows Role-Playing Game also drew on its thematic predecessor, a line of comics drawn by the authors, and also given the title Swords & Arrows. This comic series was set in a then-unnamed fantasy world, which would grow into Trystell around the same time that the Swords & Arrows Role-Playing Game was developed to support the world.
Almost as soon as development began the system and setting took front burner, pushing back the previously-in-development [The Zeotis] setting. (Although the Swords & Arrows Role-Playing Game was originally conceived as being an engine capable of later supporting The Zeotis superhero setting, too.) Decisions about what to support in the game, and the Trystell setting, were made around the lunch table as the four original developers of the project — Thorin Tabor, Matthew Pennell, Tim McAtee and John David Parsons — discussed the matter. Sometimes unorthodox tools were used as well to make decisions on the setting, such as the oft-remembered Civilization II map used to divvy up deity influences on the Trystell world.
Development continued for the next year, during which due to circumstances beyond their control, Matthew Pennell and John David Parsons had to leave, and Jesse Pingenot was brought into the central development circle. Both Matthew Pennell and John David Parsons would later return in developing the game.
It would be remiss of us, of course, not to mention the other people who had a hand in the development of the world, playing the game and offering suggestions. Over the course of three years, many lunchtime sessions were ran and many campaigns enjoyed, as Brandon Smith, Ben Goreham and Darin Strouts contributed much to the world through their play.
In 2000 the 'Swords & Arrows Role-Playing Game Core Rules were completed, as well as a novel-length story set in Trystell, The Aggression of Licad. The edition of the rules and setting survived as the authority on the topic until 2002, when an attempt to make a second edition was started—and even a full campaign ran in the developmental version of the second edition rules—but ultimately the attempt at a second edition was aborted in favor of a full conversion of the Trystell setting to the d20 System.
From there development moved away from the rules that would become Tab-System Classic. A d20 version of Trystell was completed in early 2005, followed by a revised d20 version in late 2006. But the earlier system did not die. It was kept alive, revised and revived in mid-2007.
And here it is: ready to play. This edition of the rules has been made setting neutral at its core, so that it might be used to power the many house settings that have been developed over the years: Trystell, The Zeotis, Arth, etc. (And on that note, keep an eye out for complete Tab-System Classic stats for The Zeotis supplement, when it finally comes out in the not-too distant future.) But also included in this book is a Tab-System Classic conversion of the Trystell setting. The conversion assumes have a copy of the Trystell Campaign Setting Revised (the final version of Trystell made for the d20 System). But if you do not have it handy, the game should still be easy enough to play using the framework for Trystell presented here, and a bit of your imagination.