[Lets Read] The Dark Eye Basic Set (1984)

Keefe the Thief

Guuhhn Fingas
Validated User
Well, here we are: i´d never thought i´d do it, but all the fans of the Dark Eye on RPG.net have been writing me PMs and blatantly forced me to do this Lets Play, so… Nah, that was a lie. ;)

Anyway, did you ever wonder how most Germans started their roleplaying career? How they learned how to roll their first d20? Here you´ll get your answers. The Dark Eye, printed in 1984 by publisher Droemer Knaur and produced by boardgame titan Schmidt Spiele, took the market by storm.





And this is the box that started it all.



The game was - of course - inspired by D&D, and created after the two partners were unable to get a license for that. Loads of rumors surround this part of TDE´s history. Some people whisper that the licensing fees were really exorbitant, showing how greedy TSR had already become. Others say that he partners were nervous because of Midgard, another German system trying to copy D&Ds success, and pressed for a quick entry into the market. When the licensing deal fell through, they asked their translator - who had already begun work on D&D - if he didn´t know a system he could use.

In other words: history happened. Uli Kiesow, Germanies Gygax if you will, grinned and said something like "well, i have written this system here…" As i said, the rest is history. I´m pretty sure that this special creator-publisher-relationship shaped the game a lot. Kiesow brought in long-time friends to work on his world. Very often, fans would send him stuff and he would get in contact with them and give them work. Best example here is Tomas Römer (one of the more important writers for the game since Kiesows death), who sent in his home-created, full-fledged magic system in and was hired because of that.

And if you´ve ever wondered why the game is called The Dark Eye: An artist drew some concept art, and Kiesow (who wanted to call his game something like Aventuria) was told:
"Here, see this Dark Eye? Your game is now called The Dark Eye. What do you mean, what a Dark Eye is? Who is the writer here - you or me? You´ll think of something." Ahh, Marketing. :)



The core goal of this readthrough is to try to catch the original atmosphere of this game that started it all in Germany. What was the feel, the flavor of fantasy, that caught our adolescent minds and hooked them on the game? And of course, we´re gonna have some fun! I will try to update the Lets Read at least once a week.

Next time: A look at the first book

Last teaser: Overview over the contents of the box.





And yes, this is the "censored" version - more on that later. ;)
 
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g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
Wasn't this the one that came with a mask for the GM to wear (in certain editions only, perhaps)?
 

Keefe the Thief

Guuhhn Fingas
Validated User
Wasn't this the one that came with a mask for the GM to wear (in certain editions only, perhaps)?
Ahh, the legendary "Maske des Meisters" (Mask of the DM). That one was in the second box that came out, "Werkzeuge des Meisters" (Tools of the DM), a kind of expansion set - quite needed if you have a core box that only contains six monsters. ;)

That was another case of Marketing-has-an-idea!!!111 Schmidt Spiele simply had a couple of thousand of those masks lying around from a cancelled product. They renamed them, packaged them with the set and forced the writers to tell the DMs that wearing them during play was pretty much mandatory. Much hilarity ensued.
The "20 years TDE" book reprinted a letter from a fan that basically said "hi, im 30, love your game, but wearing this dang mask gives me a headache so our sessions are sadly rather short..."

Because, you know, the masks were kid-sized. :D
 

Nem

Passionately Jaded
I'm caught between embarassment at the oft-awkward roots of my first fantasy RPG and nostalgia here. Which is to say that I'm looking very much forward to this! :)
 

Sosthenes

Oiled Greek Wrestler
Validated User
You're missing one important historic bit. Yes, as most fantasy RPGs, there's a certain shade of D&D in the mix, but the major influence for TDE was actually Tunnels & Trolls. If I'm not mistaken, Ulli Kiesow translated it into German in 1983, calling it "Schwerter & Dämonen" ("Swords & Demons") for some kind of reason. The astute reader will notice that some rules clearly show this heritage.

I'm actually looking forward to the rest of this thread. The original version of the game is still one of my favorite games ever (and by far the best version of TDE). If only the decline of the game world wouldn't have marred the memories of my players...

By the way, is the blue D20 original? Can't remember anything else than black D20s from the boxes...
 

Keefe the Thief

Guuhhn Fingas
Validated User
I´m pretty sure the d20 is not original - i got that set from ebay, my own first set disintegrated from heavy use. ;)

And regarding the influences: i hope that others will chime in to comment on that - i don´t know T&T too well. I knew that Kiesow worked on the German version, but it remains to be seen which mechanics are related to what.

By all means: if you see something comparable which could be related, post it! This thread is definitely thought as a Web2.0-lets-contribute-thingy.

Hmm, best edition of TDE - so there exist people who are the oD&D-fan-equivalent for Aventuria! I won´t begrudge you that opinion, as long as i don´t have to share it. ;) Thanks for the additions!
 
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skaville

Registered User
Validated User
A
Schmidt Spiele simply had a couple of thousand of those masks lying around from a cancelled product. They renamed them, packaged them with the set and forced the writers to tell the DMs that wearing them during play was pretty much mandatory.
Oh god, thats hillarious, worthy of KoDT.
I´m laughing my head off !
 

Sosthenes

Oiled Greek Wrestler
Validated User
Oh god, thats hillarious, worthy of KoDT.
I´m laughing my head off !
The bat masks are pretty infamous around here. Strangely enough they published a complete remake of the "Werkzeuge" box without a mask, but with lots of cardboard miniatures, floor plans and walls. I actually used that a lot in my 3E days...

It also had a nice booklet with riddles and traps. Once again, showing the T&T roots.
 
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