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The Dark Eye RPG - opinions?

Tom B

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I understand this has been popular in Europe for a while, and there's an English version available now. I'm just curious as to what people think of it? What does it do well, or not? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

I'm browsing fantasy systems lately, and this one seems to have a lot of depth.

(If there's already a thread that discusses this, feel free to point me to it.)
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A Proper Villain.
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I've played it a handful of time and the first time I played it I absolutely hated it. I was playing a low level spellcaster and I didn't really grok the system well enough to know how to do that, especially the magic system. The second time I played a roguish fighter and I adored it. It has a beautifully complex, but still simple, skill system that really allows the individual characters to stand out from each other. Every character in that second game was essentially a fighter but we were all completely different and that was a product of that skill system. My character felt good at the things that he should be good at and the dice didn't feel as swingy as in other systems.

It is a pretty complex system and depending on the area you're in it could be difficult to get players with the same level of investment as you. I very much enjoyed it though.


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The Dark Eye has been very popular in France in the 80s, but is rather obscure nowadays. I've heard the same happened in Italy.
The game was also very different from its current incarnation. It was a very simple game, heavily influenced by D&D and BRP-based games.
Characters had 5 attributes and 2 combat "skills" (attack and parry). Action resolution was made by rolling 1d20 under an attibute or combat skill.
There were character classes (adventurer, fighter, magician, elf and dwarf), but most characters were from the Adventurer class, which had no attributes requirements. It was possible to "upgrade" and adventurer into a fighter later in the game, though.
Attributes and skills had starting values between 8 and 13, and they increased as you levelled up at a rate of 1 attribute point per level.
Elves and Magicians could cast spells by spending Astral Points. At each level up, they had the choice to increase their hit points total, or their astral points total.
Armor reduced damage, like in BRP games.

There was an extension boxed set, which introduced a more complex skills system, similar to what exists in BRP, and new classes. But I'm not familiar with it.


Oiled Greek Wrestler
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I'm really surprised that they managed to get a lot of English publications out there. That was a major hurdle in the past, as the game is much more about the setting than the rules themselves. Their previous attempt petered out after a thin version of the basic rules...

Being German, I was pretty much "raised" on TDE. Starting when I got the first edition core box from my church library...
At a time it was so dominant when it came to fantasy gaming in Germany, that you're going to find lots of people who just burned out on it, like with D&D in the US. Looking for different playing styles or writing TDE heartbreakers. Bet this will come up in this thread, as it usually does.

I got out in the early '00s, both because the then new fourth edition looked like a badly done version of GURPS but still retaining all the sacred cows from the earlier editions, and because the alternatives were big enough at the time (D20 etc.). I played it a few times after that and got along with it better. And renewed my love for the setting when we did a rather kitchy campaign in my group (using HERO).

So I didn't do a lot of 5E gaming, but I try to keep up with it. They're doing interesting things with it, and while I don't agree with everything myself, I think it's moving the game into a more approachable space. And between PDFs and digest-sized versions, it's not even that expensive, despite them trying to bring way too many auxiliary products on the market (e.g. you don't just have a regional expansion, you also have an arms/armor book for each one).

The first and most important thing that one has to consider when picking TDE as a fantasy game is that it's somewhat more "grounded" than D&D (which itself is the "gold master" for almost any other FRPG). In that regard it's closer to Warhammer, yet not quite HarnMaster.
So not as many monsters, weird wilderness regions and high-level magic.

The game system tends to reflect that, especially if you want to play a caster. It's gotten a bit "better", but still don't expect any high-level D&D shenanigans. I'd say the power level stops at 3rd/4th level Wizard spells. On the other hand, as it's skill-based, you might reach your potential a bit earlier. This can be more frustrating for those kind of players who need a steady progression along one axis.
My recommendation for spellcasters is to really lean into their "tradition". Wizards should be scholars, elves are a bit weird and not just fighter-mages. Never mind witches & druids. And a lesson paid in blood and tears: No changelings. Ever.

You'll get used to the skill system, especially if you don't let the players roll for everything but have a narrative reason for it. Most of the complaints don't matter as much if you don't have to do a Perception roll for every facet of a room or do spurious Climbing rolls for every obstacle that doesn't really matter.

In combat it's just a single D20 roll, and the new edition makes parrying a bit harder (about the same level as GURPS), so there's less whiff, never mind that hit points don't approach triple digits anymore. I think the core rules present a rather manageable system, not more complicated than competing systems. And the amount of special options/feats is both limited and available to everyone, so you don't encounter many exceptions. It might be a bit more to learn in the beginning, but once you reach that level, you can stay there, even when progressing much further, even when switching characters. And there's still not just one way to win things.

No, it seems that the English edition has both the Aventuria Almanac for general information about the world/continent (I really like this edition) and the Warring Kingdoms as a fleshed out regional expansion. The latter might fare a lot better in Anglo-dom than in Germany. We're talking about two small countries, not politically very important and even a bit backwards, socially and technically. So for German players, the mere names of "Nostria" and "Andergast" (besides being horrible puns), evoke images of barely relevant hicks, comic relief characters in the setting.
But coming with fresh eyes, you got a pretty lovely medieval setting (as opposed to the rest of the world, which is quite almost baroque), war between human countries and viking invaders. Not as many weird casters or exotic cultures from the rest of the continent, so ideal to get your grips on the world and the system. You can play it pastoral and picaresque or outright grimdark.


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Well, TDE is the number-one German RPG since the early eighties.

Its strength is the close connection between world, rules, and adventures. When you notice some obscure detail in the setting material, rest assured that there'll be a rules representation of this detail somewhere. Maybe you'll have to browse half a dozen books to get it, though. (Note: Ulisses publishes a free wiki-like site collecting all those rule details and referencing it to the sources. As I understand this project is driven by volunteers and may not represent an up-to-date status of the material)

The sheer amount of background material across all editions - the new TDE is the fifth - is amazing. My guess would be that it's more - much more - than for the Forgotten Realms. If you focus on fifth edition stuff, the detail only goes as far as the regional sourcebooks cover, of course.

Another feature is the amount of adventure modules published on an ongoing basis. The total number of official modules must be in the region of 250-300. The quality of these adventures is mixed, though. Quite a lot of them propel the strong metaplot of TDE, and the PCs may just be witnesses of important events without a chance to have any influence.

Handling of the metaplot in fifth edition is a point of contention for the German fans. Old-time fans claim that the MP isn't going anywhere and clamor for stronger development. Facts like the Star Fall, growing power of the Nameless, the awakening of some regions and stuff like that are not handled like they would love to see.

Characters are built buy buying basic stuff and oodles of additional features, abilities and what have you. This might place you in a quandary. Do you want to restrict yourself or your players to published stuff? This would make several characters (fighters from specific schools, mages attending a specific academy, clerics of specific deities) impossible. Or do you implement those special stuff yourself? This could lead to a situation where later published '"official" material does not conform to your interpretation; a unbearable for hardcore fans.


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I’ve, uh, painted a few of its miniatures. They’re old school and not bad, especially the catfolk, but they run small.


RPGnet Member
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... There is no catfolk in Aventuria, though? °confused°
I wouldn’t know. They’re called “Nyamaunir” and I have a pirate, a shaman I think, and a warrior. They came from the official DSA miniatures line. I liked the figures because whoever sculpted them gave them a good furry texture.


40 Years of Unknown Pleasures
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I wouldn’t know. They’re called “Nyamaunir” and I have a pirate, a shaman I think, and a warrior. They came from the official DSA miniatures line. I liked the figures because whoever sculpted them gave them a good furry texture.


That's for "Myranor", the other continent on Dere (the world/planet The Dark Eye is set on) which is more-or-less a more "high Fantasy"/"deep Myths" kind of setting and which has been a blank state for about the first decade of the game's existence.

After FanPro went unter, it was in limbo and later published by a different publisher (Uhrwerk) from Ulisses (who hold the Aventuria/Dark Eye rights) but is now under Ulisses' control again, and we might end up seeing an updated version of the setting (with DSA 5th Ed rules) in the near future.

Here's one of the more recent Myranor core-book covers:

Compare it to the much more subdued/low-key current Dark Eye core-book cover:



Bifrost's Guardian
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The book is beautiful, and the concepts are really amazing overall. The level of detail and information is awesome.
The number of character concepts and the freedom allowed is unmatched.
That being said, the editing is terrible, I've never seen a worse job
Just before the second printing, there were some 20 pages of errata that had been compiled, none were incorporated into the book.
It is amazingly pretty on a shelf tho.
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