A number of design and organizational elements changed in the Great Archive Rebuild of '09, but the most important was probably the necessity of dividing "animeverse" into two. Obviously the Redo has a formal name, but that left open the question of what shorthand to use for the Original (other than "original", given that technically Mangaverse would be the true "original"). For lack of any other inspiration, here are the categories for the different continuity lines.
A story's notes may include mention of a timeline: pre-series, mid-series, post-series, or entire-series. For those stories whose events impinge or overlap in some way with canonical events, the timeline notation will tell you where this falls, in combination with knowing the story's world. 'Entire-series' is used when a story's time-range covers two or more of the first three options: eg, starts in the middle of the canonical events, and continues into an after-series storyline. TWT is for when the time-setting is so broad it's not easily identifiable or is an outright intentional TWT (timeline what timeline) story.
Because the series therefore has at least two canonical alternate universes (Fullmetal and Shambhala), the alt-universe tag is used to identify only those stories in which there is no canonical relationship in setting. For instance, a story that takes place in Germany pre-WWII could be canonical (via Shambhala), but a story with no Amestris and no Ishbal Conflict would be fully alt-universe.
Stories that have an originating premise but diverge somewhere along the way from canon are marked as DF (even if the divergent point is pre-episode 1), and are not alt-universe. (See below for more on that.)
As stories are being converted from the old version to the new version, they're being tagged with foci characters and the noted pairings per Scimitar 2.0. What this means is that if you're looking for a story that focuses on a character, then click on the character's individual name. The majority of the character tags are firstname surname. The few exceptions are those of military rank, such as Cmd Grumman (Commander), and when a named canonical character is not designated with a full name (ie, Martel).
If you want all stories with a character regardless of pairing, skip the tags and use the search function instead to find an exact string (the character's name). For some characters you may need to search by several versions, as there's been no attempt to update/correct non-canonical name spellings. (For instance, the official spelling is "Riza", but authors have used Riza, Liza, or even Lisa. The same goes for Winly/Winry.) This will require repeating the search-steps several times, but it's the best way to make sure you've found every applicable story.
Three character tags are shorthand for a group of characters.
Indicates a significant focus of the story is on the relationship between the two brothers (Alphonse and Elric). If you want the specific pairing of Alphonse/Edward, look for the 'Al/Ed' pairing tag.
Indicates three or more of the homunculi play a significant role in the story.
Indicates the story's major players are those in Mustang's immediate command: Hawkeye, Havoc, Farman, Fury, and Breda. The manga never specifies Mustang's military office title, nor the particular brigade under his command. Lacking that information, the designated title here is a nod to the Ninth Air Force's 354th Fighter Group, which flew exclusively Mustang P-51s in WWII's European theater. The group had 701 air-to-air combat victories, making it the top scoring outfit in aerial combat of all fighter groups.
Technically, Mustang's immediate office staff would probably comprise a group similar to the 354th's Mission Support Group; every fighter group has a variety of support, maintenance, logistics, and other types of groups working alongside the main fighter group. In general, though, Mustang — at the rank of Colonel for the majority of the first anime series and the manga — would not be the commander for the entire group; that would likely be Brig. General Hakuro (who is not only one of Mustang's superior officers but implied to be one of his commanding officers, as well). But it is feasible that as a Colonel, Mustang might be in command of one of the groups within the 354th Fighter Group, which includes an in-group headquarters.
Every relationship-tag is always in alphabetical order, with first names. Exceptions are when the character is almost always referred to by last name (Havoc, Farman) or where first names would create confusion, ie Alfons Heidrich is referred to as Heiderich, since many writers used 'Alphonse' for both until the official translation clarified the spelling difference.
There are fandom standards, such as RoyAi and Elricest, which not every author uses. For simplicity, these fandom-named pairings have been replaced with their equivalent firstname/firstname combinations. Thus, if you are looking for RoyAi, search by Riza/Roy; for Elricest, search by Al/Ed.
For stories in which the second half of the pairing is meant to be a surprise (or was uncertain at time of upload), the pairing combination is written as name/___. This is not the same as a pairing with an original character, however, which would be marked as Winry/OC. The use of 'various' (ie Roy/Various) means the character is pairing with several other characters in the course of the story, and does not designate whether these are canonical or original characters.
Scimitar makes no political statements of who's doing what to whom, and shifts all blame onto the limitations of fuzzy searches.
Some categories contain 'ref', which is short for 'references'. These are actually implied/inexplicit versions of strong categories (ie ref. drugs or ref. noncon). Reference-categories indicate that by some admittedly semi-subjective standard, the referenced theme may be mentioned in passing, or takes place off-screen or in the backstory. Check the story's actual ratings to get an idea of what kind of 'mild' to expect.
If you're not sure what's in the author's mind for choosing a tag, check the category's archive page. Under the category name will be a short description, which will give you an idea of how it's defined by Scimitar. If you find a story that deviates wildly from its categories (or has some that don't apply), use the Mark for Correction option on the story (in the footer), and the editors will take a look.
After the MPAA banned anyone from using its rating systems, Scimitar Smile created its own, using colored icons as a quick visual for identifying content. For Scimitar 3.0, there are now also coded icons indicating the levels of sex, violence, and language. This version also introduces a midway point between G and M, which is called K. (The real halfway point between G and M is J, but that letter is more ambiguous for quick identification compared to G, so K it is.)
The K and M ratings have up to three additional notations to give you a better idea of why the story gets that rating. There are three areas for warnings: sex, violence, and language.
From the very beginning, Scimitar has used colored icons to represent a story's romantic relationships. After six years, the icons have simplified to merely circles, but the color-values remain the same.
Icons are repeated in the story meta (text-based information). For easier scanning, the M/M & F/F pairings are represented as "S" (for 'same'), to visually off-set them from the M/F combination. For orange and purple icons (low-level sexual interaction), the text-based version uses a '+' per traditional fanfiction systems. For red and blue icons (sexually active), the text-based version uses a '×'. Thus, a story with a blue icon and an orange icon -- a M/F sexually active relationship and a M/M or F/F pre-sexually active relationship -- would be marked as "M × F, S + S".
While most stories with sexual content will receive a blue or red rating (depending on the pairing), stories where the relationship has not proceeded past PG-13 kissing will receive an orange or purple icon. Both orange and purple include what could be considered 'first love' or 'beginning of relationship' stories. The exception to this rule is all stories in which the relationship may be interpreted as a strong friendship. In this case, the story will receive the lowest possible rating, to protect the author's intent to be ambiguous.
The icons do not indicate rating, in the MPAA-sense. A story can be any rating and if an icon applies, it will be used. Some stories may receive more than one icon, if there are multiple pairings. Icon colors also indicate a relationship in the story has been (or is, during the course of the story) sexually consummated. For this reason, there may be a red or blue icon on a story that's otherwise G, if the story contains non-canonical relationships that a reader may infer are between two sexually active adults.
If you see a story that should have a different (or additional) icon, please notify Scimitar as soon as possible so it can be corrected.
The following have been instituted to allow new readers/viewers to select stories that will not ruin the surprises in the series. Because so many of these stories were written while the series was being broadcast in Japan, there may also be stories in which the author's speculation of the series' end turned out inaccurate. So as to prevent additional confusion, the following codes have been defined:
If a character appears in the story who dies in canon, the divergence point is the episode before that character's death. Stories which posit a 'what-if' scenario for the beginning of the series are also divergent futures, and are marked DF: episode 1.
Scimitar Smile was created to serve as a home for fanfiction authors who would otherwise be lost in the morass of stories and high-turnover rate on the public fanfiction sites. Scimitar operates by invitation only, with an emphasis on hosting authors who do not have a personal archive/site of their own.
When the archive began (in 2004), personal fanfiction archives were relatively rare, and most authors were stuck with public multi-fandom archives or managed archives similar to Scimitar. However, many archives tended to be thematic: the archivists preferred stories of this pairing, or with that trope, and would disregard stories that didn't qualify. Scimitar's everything-is-welcome policy was designed to balance the speciality archives by encouraging as much diversity as possible, in the view that this would only make the fandom stronger all-around.
These days, many authors effectively self-archive via a personal (or fanfic) journal. This reduces the need for an inclusive fandom-based archive, but doesn't diminish Scimitar's role as a gateway to introduce authors to new readers. More importantly, it doesn't change Scimitar's long-standing position that it will never deny a hosted author's story because of canon, pairing, or content.*
* This has never been tested, but stories that contain significant racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or xenophobic content will be denied. Some lines are not for crossing. Complaints brought by readers will be considered very carefully before a decision is made, but once made, any decision will be final. See the last section for the only other exception to the everything-is-welcome approach.
These are authors whose works are fully archived at Scimitar. The ideal is to archive the author's entire body of Fullmetal Alchemist fanfiction, but this is no longer mandatory (for the authors) nor a guarantee (for the readers). It's just an option that exists, if an author chooses to utilize it.
Hosted authors can add/update stories and their profiles (biography, offsite URL). An author added after the 2010 upgrade will receive how-to information automatically, as part of being added; authors already on the site can get the information by contacting the site admin.
Sometimes an author's work is just too good not to highlight, even if the author is already self-archived or hosted elsewhere. Scimitar will ask permission to host a few of the author's stories -- again, as a type of onsite taste for readers -- and send Scimitar readers to the author's own site to read more. This category of authors have alternately been called partially-hosted, guests, or recommended. (For now the term seems to be 'guest'.)
Co-authors will receive credit on those stories for which they were co-authors. They will end up with a page of their own simply due to the way the archive's database works, but otherwise their access and hosting is about the same as Green Lion entrants.
If you're a hosted author and have co-authored fics, have the courtesy to let your co-authors know you're uploading the co-authored story to the site. You can either list the co-author as a one-time tag, or you can ask to have the co-author added to the site, which will allow your co-author to also receive a story's posted comments. If your co-authors raise issues with this after the fact, any resolution is your responsibility, and not the archive's.
Scimitar has a zero-tolerance policy. If Scimitar determines a resident or guest author has plagiarized another's works, that author will be fully disinvited -- with a public explanation that the author represented someone else's work as his/her own. Plagiarism is a shameful act and Scimitar has no problem shaming anyone who does it.