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If my defense of rules lawyers should imply anything, it's that I approach TRPGs as games. Roleplaying is certainly a part of them, but they’re still games, and there are still rules that should be followed by all parties, at least to some degree.
I don't like to think of them as dichotomous, though. In fact, without the fluffy parts like setting and character motivation and development, the rules can sometimes seem like little more than just mathematical problems and rolling dice to get excited over how high the numbers go.
With all that said, since I've already discussed some interesting mechanics of The Dark Eye, let's take a look at some of these fluffier parts, shall we?
1) Once Upon A Time, In A Land Much Like Our Own
The description of Aventuria, the continent upon which The Dark Eye takes place, is described only in passing in the Core Rulebook. They dedicate only a few pages to naming the various regions, and from then on only allude to them as needed (such as in the cultures section).
Enter the Aventurian Almanac: a book dedicated to detailing the specifics of the continent. Every region is expounded upon in brief and in detail, usually including some real world or fictional equivalent. As an example, The City States of Thulamydes was inspired by The Thousand and One Nights, while the Southern Sea is meant to be reminiscent of the 1700’s Caribbean. (The heart of what is known as “The Golden Age of Piracy!”)
This is a very helpful inclusion that serves many purposes. It quickly establishes the intended theme and mood a given area is meant to evoke, in addition to giving a resource for further reading and possible inspiration.
2) It's Magic, Like I Never Got Hit!
A very common debate amongst fans of D&D and other games is the nature of hit points. Are they a numerical representation of plot armor or how much meat and blood you can safely lose before dying?
Games that follow this second school of thought in the name of realism, such as World of Darkness, usually wind up with some wonky end results: an ordinary mortal can feasibly be healed from being shot several times in a matter of days. In the real world (that this game is based on) this feat would take weeks, if one could even recover from such a traumatic event.
The Dark Eye acknowledges this possibility of these unrealistic traumas and recoveries, such as being able to heal broken bones in a matter of weeks or even days. As it turns out, their retort is that magic saturates the world, and thus wounds heal much faster and with less scarring.
It’s as campy as it is cliche, but it doubles as a justification for a GM altering the healing rates if they feel so inclined. If ambient magic can improve a person’s natural healing, it can just as easily obstruct it. Magic could instead begin to dissipate from the world, causing other problems in addition to wounds healing slower.
3) Different Cultures Use Different Weapons
The Dark Eye has all your standard fantasy weapons: swords, shields and spears of varying size, and daggers and axes with various uses; weapons that are all generic enough that you could reasonably see them everywhere. It also has some more unusual weapons; exotic weapons, if you will. Weapons of almost every type that are distinctly better in some way.
There’s an important caveat, however. Most of these superior weapons are only available to members of the culture that produce such weapons. For example, there are many special weapons made by dwarves, such as the Dragon Tooth, Wyvern Beater, and Iron Forest Crossbow. These are better than daggers, hand axes, and heavy crossbows, respectively, but can only be acquired by Dwarves.
Accepting this kind of limitation can lead to some interesting world building. Is it a protected secret of the people, simply not able to be mass produced? Or did nobody think to trade these items with outside cultures yet? Intriguing questions for a GM (assuming these questions aren’t already answered in a splatbook or excerpt I haven’t read yet).
This list of exotic and exclusive weaponry also includes implements used by the various churches of Aventuria; holy weapons and blessed weapons entrusted to their priests. Weapons such as the Sun Scepter used by Blessed Ones of Praios, Rhondra’s Crest by none other than the Blessed One’s of Rhondra, and my personal favorite: The Raven’s Beak.
The Raven’s Beak is a weapon used by the priests of the Boron, the God of Rest, Dreams, and Death. Among the duties of these priests is to ensure that the dead are properly interred. Should the dead rise, the priests must return them to rest, forcefully if need be, and possibly with the aid of their Raven’s Beak.
...which looks like a decorative claw hammer.
Real world inspiration, justification for a lack of realism, and a variety of weapons are just the beginning of what The Dark Eye has to offer/ After all, Aventuria includes analogs of most, if not all, of the known world, and even places where hell literally came to earth. There’s no way a thousand word long article can explain thousands of pages of setting, though, so think of this as a “Your mileage may vary” opinion piece.
Aaron der Schaedel is a GM of many different games, but because of the wide variety of games he can run, he’s not used to diving deep into the lore of games. If you find him on YouTube, he’ll probably have some videos up about The Dark Eye by now.
Picture Reference: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1216685848/aventuria-almanac-the-dark-eye-rpg
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.