On a random wikipedia adventure, I stumbled across this German RPG from 1984. I'd never heard of it before, but according to the article, it has been the most popular tabletop RPG in Germany bar none (beating out D&D). There is a summary of the rules on the Wikipedia article, and an English translation of the 1st edition here: www.apolitical.info/webgame/eye/
Has anybody played this game? Even if you haven't, what are your thoughts? It seems to have a pretty strong flavour of oldschool D&D, but the rules are quite different.
The five abilities ("qualities") range 8-13 (d6+7), one of which is Courage. In combat, armour subtracts from damage, attack rolls are contested by the defender (parrying). Spellcasting uses a mana system ("astral points") and requires the player to recite "magic words" to cast. I like the mechanic as an alternative to Vancian magic, but there aren't many spells. The general purpose mechanic for resolving situations not covered by the rules is to roll d20.
I own the English version of the game that was released in the US some years back. It has a very detailed world feel to it, and I can see where the writers are trying to go in comparing the civilizations of Men to real world cultures.
The problem is that, in the United States, only the core rules book was published. That means that there are some 50 books that fully flesh out the world and it's inhabitants that nobody outside of Germany ever got to experience. While the core book has a lot of flavor, it only provides a taste of the world as opposed to a whole meal.
That said, it's certainly a playable game though the rules are nothing brilliant. I don't think it'll topple Warhammer, Cadwallon, Blackmoor, or Arduin in terms of a fully fleshed out world based on what was published in the United States, though I've always been curious about the myriad supplements I never got to see.
To introduce myself, I usually go by the nick name of Spec. I'm 20 years old, and until next semester, bored. Thus, I currently have too much time on my hands and, apart from exercising and of course role playing, roam teh internets for random stuff most of the time. I'm german, and a role player, and as such have of course played TDE/DSA. And continue to play it. I'm not one of the old players, of course, and have only started playing Pen and Paper RPGs relatively recently, i.e. a few years ago. But it's the perfect hobby for me - I've been role playing long before starting to play Pen and Paper games. We needed no rules, no books, no dice. I loved just telling stories and making up stuff since I was a very young child, and now just do it in a more organized way. Keeps you young, and that can only be a good thing.
Now, as I said, I'm playing TDE. At peak times, I played it twice weekly for ~7 hours a session, though now that I'm done with school I had to tone it down a bit, especially with the players moving, going to different universities etc and it being more difficult to find common dates for us all to play.
I've actually first played TDE in the form of the PC game that was released for it a few years ago, Drakensang. That game wasn't very impressive (and, looking back to it now, doesn't do the pen and paper equivalent justice), but it came with a free PDF containing the entire core rule book for the P&P. Naturally, I wanted to try that out, and found a few players. Two had previous TDE/DSA experience, two had previous D&D experience, one and myself had neither. All of us liked it, most of us still play it. It was a weird group. We played at school, and even had TWO teachers join in. One was a nerd, I admit - the other wasn't even that. He had experience with theater though, having once worked there, which was why he was interested in it. Anyway, now I only play every few weeks, usually for about 10 hours, plus TDE/DSA-inspired (and officially licensed!) LARP (shush you haters, those LARPers are a lot less nerdy than most people on teh internets ) that I recently also got into.
Now, the reason I ended up on this site and write this as my first post is simple. As I said, I'm currently waiting for the winter semester to begin (informatics, but that's just to kill time and save money, until I feel physically fit to apply for a spot at the state police university) and as such have too much spare time. Hence, I ended up searching for the little information there is about the English translation of DSA/TDE, mainly because I got tired of the discussions about TDE/DSA within the german community (people who only played the old TDE bashing the outdated rules, people who don't want to play fantasy settings bashing the fantasy aspects, and TDE fans falling for every troll attempt and flame wars being the result). I stumbled upon many threads on different boards on which the discussion was quickly derailed by germans who ended up just discussing their favorite alternatives to TDE or comparing different versions of it. This thread here isn't long, but one of the few with non-german posters showing actual interest and no germans to derail the thread so far.
- TL;DR version: I'm a The Dark Eye player who is happy to see interest of the international community in this game and would enjoy explaining the system and discussing it, comparing it to other sytems, without the topic being derailed by other TDE players or ex-TDE players who just end up arguing about details of the system.
So, if there is still any interest in this from the posters in this thread (which is about a year old, but the forum seems relatively active still, although I might have to wait a few days for a response; I'll not forget and check back often enough, don't worry!), I'd be happy to share any information about this I can deliver. And perhaps my thirst for a fresh, unspoiled view on TDE from an 'outside perspective' can be appeased.
I'm playing the most recent version of TDE, v4.1, and haven't played anything before that. I own a stack of rule and source books that is probably as high as my desk, and although I haven't played for many years, I've played for a whole lot of hours and am relatively deep inside of the rule mechanics, setting, story and feel of the CURRENT TDE/DSA.
So - if there's any interest in 'cultural exchange', if you will, please respond to this, if you managed to read the wall of text
By the way: I would not recommend anyone to try and play TDE based only on the rules and sources available in English. TDE is easily one of the most complex worlds I've ever read about, and one book can't ever do it justice. I won't attempt to convince anyone here to play it
TDE "L'oeil Noir' was quite popular in France in the late 80's, at it was translated by a mainstream publihser and released under the same cover than CYOA's. I tended to dislike it because I was playing the only real fantasy rpg, but as faras I know it was a pretty good system. I remeber guys in my school playing D&D modules with TDE.
Gygax was pretty much right. Ulrich Kiesow (in a way, 'our' Gary Gygax, who sadly also died way too early, he was around 50 when he died in '97) (co-)translated D&D, which of course also hit the german market, but not by the large publisher Schmidt Spiele, who rather wanted their own product because that'd be more cost effective than obtaining the rights for D&D from TSR. The new game was also created by (among others, of course) Ulrich Kiesow. So he basically did both, translate D&D and create his own game, which he named "Aventurien" originally. Schmidt changed the name and added the "dark eyes" into the game world as some sort of magical artifacts that, quite frankly, are completely meaningless, and always were. It's just a name. They never played any major role in the game and aren't all that useful.
As for the magic system - that is one of the things that changed a lot from DSA 1 to DSA 4. The original magic system in DSA 1 was extremely simple, and, sadly, tried to be 'funny' with silly, rhyming names of spells and the requirement for players to speak them out every time they wanted to cast them. The amount of spells that could be casted was, not unusually, simply limited by a slowly regenerating pool of mana ('astral energy'). Apart from the 'funny' names and puns, it wasn't different from any generic magic system. It wasn't very detailed.
It changed a LOT over time though. The magic system of DSA 4 is probably one of the most complex mechanics I've ever seen in any RPG, although the current rule system is built with three types of rule-crunchiness for the player to chose (and the encouragement for house-rules and mixing the 'difficulty levels' to suit the players' taste). There's a core rule system made of "basic" rules, then "optional" rules that offer one way to deal with detailed issues, and "expert" rules that add another layer of complexity and answer a lot of typical questions, but at the expense of being a lot more... well, complex, obviously. Generally, it's up to the players to chose how far they want to go.
Using the basic rules only, magic doesn't get THAT much more complex. You still have spells, you cast them, and that costs you astral energy. If you go into the more detailed rules, there's tons of them for every tiny detail you could imagine. To be frank, I haven't read half of them, and I don't really need to, not even as GM. Those rules are usually very specific. One example would be 'reality density' - a way to measure the realness of dreams, illusions and such. Some prefer to use it, others simply ignore these detailed numbers and describe the illusion/dream to the player and grant them a perception check with an estimated difficulty to notice the flaws in the illusion. It's not just that though, if you take it to the most complex levels tha 'reality density' rules cover a lot of questions one might have about how illusions work, how to interact with them, what they are capable of, whether they can become physical objects or just optical illusions, how free they are to change appearance and so on. One of the most complex topics is probably alchemy and artifacts - there's a rule for everything, but noone needs to know these rules at all times. I only look them up when I know that an artifact will appear in the adventure I prepare, and note down the relevant details. A player playing a mage specialized on artifact creation probably should memorize them, though...
Anyway, the core of the magic system is that it's very closely bound to the game world. Especially in a forum about the original D&D, I suppose a system like that is relatively... far from what you see as ideal, but I personally am quite fond of it. The game world is very explicitly described. You'll never be in a town with a name quickly made up by the game master when playing TDE, because every single one is described in detail, most with exact plans of all important locations, names and characterizations of local nobles and notable persons - on the large scale, GM creativity is limited because of that. That has its obvious drawbacks, but comes with a lot of advantages as well that might not seem as clear without thinking it through. I'm LARPing as well, and the massive advantage of LARPs in this setting is that there will never be two players who have completely different experiences with the setting and will contradict eachother. No matter how many players there are, they'll all either know nothing about a town, or everything, depending on whether they ever looked it up or not. That means if I meet someone whose character happens to come from the same place, we immediately know what place we are talking about, can make jokes about the local ruler, can both independently tell someone who asks us about the local magical academy and both name it the same way - it makes a lot of things easier when players who never met eachother come together.
It also influences the rules. Rule and background can not easily be seperated - it's more easy to use the background with different rules, but the rules make no sense without the background. To come back to the magical rules (excuse the deviation from the question, I felt that it'd be easier to understand the way the magical rules work when that was made clear first):
A lot of things are so strictly connected to the world that you can, for example, not just create a mage and make up a story about what academy he came from, how that place was, who his teachers were, and what spells are being taught there. Either you had a personal master (whom you can make up as you please, but that comes at a disadvantage compared to academies as a personal teacher has restricted access to libraries and as such limited amounts of spells available, and at a higher experience point cost, even during (point buy system) character creation) or you learned at one of the dozens of well described academies in the game world. That influences your skill set and the rules that apply to you, too. A drastical example is comparing spell casting of elves with a regular academy mage.
The spell casts 'intuitively'. For once, that means a different attribute has major relevance; intuition instead of intelligence. They have a harder time learning spells, too. Also, the way they cast their spells largely depends on the circumstances. If the spell violates the natural flow of things rather than supporting it, it suddenly gets a lot harder to cast. Even if it's the very same spell. An elf trying to use an invisibility spell to sneak inside a house and steal a document is having a lot more trouble doing so than a mage would; it's much easier for him to use the same spell to hide in a bush, for instance. That's just one of the more obvious examples of course, but an important element of the TDE magic system these days is the differences in the magical traditions down to which individual school you visited, and they allow or prevent you from using certain rule mechanics. Many are very tightly connected to the in-world religions as well; not to mention actual priest powers that are an entirely different mechanic.
Overall, a spell these days works like this. Your character (assuming it is a mage who learned at a regular academy of the grey guild) rolls a check on three individual attributes. These vary from spell to spell. The goal is to roll lower or exactly as high as the attribute, never higher. (Two 20s in one check are a critical failure, three 20s are a horrible accident - especially magic can backfire massively then). Each spell is an own skill, and the skill points make up a pool from which you can draw points to balance attribute checks that were too high. Say, you need to roll on "intelligence", "intuition" and "charisma" for one check. You have 12 points in each of these attributes. You roll 12, 13, 18. 12 was low enough, 13 was one too high (you need to take one point from the pool), 18 was 6 too high (you need to take 6 more points from the skill point pool). If you still have skill points left, they define the quality of the success. Say in this example we have a skill of 8, we have 1 point left. That's a success, but the quality is very low - this means the results of the spell won't be too impressive, but at least it worked. I won't even mention the ways of modifying the effects of a spell before rolling the check by taking additional difficulty (which is taken away from the skill point pool) to increase certain aspects of the spell, like duration, range, target type etc.
But that's the complex system we have now. DSA 1 was so simple and straightforward, it had none of those things. Just a regular d20 roll, saying a silly formula, and voila, the spell worked.
As I said, I personally don't dislike the current system, but it does of course deviate greatly from the simple original system that the forum-goers here would probably see as superior.