The first thing that caught my attention is the rolling method for character creation. It is the same as Microlite 74, it just didn't catch my attention in that. The player rolls 3d6, and assigns the roll to the desired stat. Then, he rolls again, assigns that roll, and so on. I find this very intriguing. It gives the player a hint of the "arrange to taste" method, but not without a dose of choice-and-consequence. It impresses me as having a subtle, yet important, impact on rolling characters.
There is only one race, human, and two classes. We have the catch-all Adventurer, and the dark and mysterious Sorcerer. The Sorcerer is able to use any armor/shield and any weapon. However, the use of shields or heavy weapons can interfere with spellcasting.
Each class has an advancement table, listing two new things: Physical Combat Bonus (PCB)/Magical Combat Bonus (MCB), and experience points. There is no "experience multiple". The PCB is added to a d20 roll + STR bonus in combat. It can also be used for other overtly physical activities, such as bashing down doors. I would hazard to say it would make a nice addition to things like intimidation, as well, since a character with a high PCB would have an air of menace about him. I didn't see any reference to the use of the MCB, however. This is the first beta release, though, so I am sure it will turn up.
There is a listing of class-specific special abilities to choose from. Players select one at 1st level, then additional abilities at levels 2, 4, and 6.
Magic is a blend of the standard Microlite take on magic (casting costs HP) with the Colours of Magic house rule from Akrasia (man, that dude's house rules are getting some press lately, and deservedly so). In true S&S form, it is also noted that "Sorcery takes a toll on the caster's body". At 2nd and 5th levels the sorcerer suffers a handicap. It is either selected, by referee or player, or determined randomly. Interestingly, there is no chance to avoid said handicap, but there is also no chance of "extra ones", such as from botched casting rolls or whatever. I don't see that as a problem, it's merely an observation.
The idea of Talents is introduced. It is essentially the "good at" house rule. I've seen it before and thought it looked good, but now for the life of me I can not find it again. So, I can't properly attribute it to its author. I apologize for this. My google-fu has deserted me this morning. Anyway, having a particular Talent means that your character is "good at" something. There is no set list of Talents. It is understood that the player will devise whatever seems appropriate to the character's concept. They are narrowly defined, however, basically representing an area of singular knowledge and/or ability. The player selects one at each level, beginning with 2nd level. It is possible to select the same Talent more than once, representing further mastery in the talent at hand.
There are rules for Spirits, and the summoning and binding thereof. Definitely cool, and definitely S&S.
The last thing I want to say about this S&S edition concerns character levels. They are capped at level 6. Hallelujah! This puppy is E6 right from the box. I love it. Low, gentle power curve, superheroes need not apply. This should keep things nice and gritty. Once characters hit 6th, they can still advance, through the acquisition of "Epic Points". These can be accumulated or used immediately. They have a variety of uses, from a measure of narrative control (surviving an otherwise fatal situation) to adding more talents or special abilities.
All in all, this is a very well thought out selection of changes that brings Microlite in line with gritty S&S play, especially considering it is the first beta. There's a couple of rough spots that need sanded down, such as a use for the MCB, and a somewhat convoluted system for tactics points. But, to borrow a phrase, those are minor quibbles. This is a great first beta, and it's free, so give it a look.