Thursday, March 1, 2018

RPG Review: The Dark Eye

The Dark Eye RPG
We are taking a brief look at the English edition, portable document format (PDF) of The Dark Eye role playing game (RPG), published by Ulisses Spiele. Many gamers from across the pond boast this RPG as the Dungeons and Dragons of Germany (some say even Europe), while here in that states, gamers have been begging for an English translation to find its way to market. No doubt, those wishes have been answered via Kickstarter and while technically this is the second time this has occurred, it is also a revamped edition. The Dark Eye (and the second English translation) was funded just shy of $150k internet bucks on Kickstarter.

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The Dark Eye RPG is full color and is a behemoth at 418 pages cover to cover. By page count, the game is by far the largest (single volume) I’ve reviewed for Indy Game Scene (column, at the time). Hopefully that will be the last time I note that… I have no plans to review RPGs bigger than this.

The Dark Eye is a fantasy setting in the world of Aventuria. As far as setting elements go, Aventuria seems to have all the bells and whistles of a typical Tolkien inspired RPG, which many will be familiar with, dwarves, elves, orcs and the like. There is an interesting chapter that distinguishes the many dwarven, elven and human cultures, rather than jamming them all under individual race descriptions, which rounds out the setting nicely. The Dark Eye offers a fantasy realm of gods (and churches) for the characters to worship and magic to wield. The magic is toned down a bit from your usual fantasy RPG, and medieval elements are a bit better detailed than the usual fair. Included with the setting elements is very healthy amount of art, the quality of which is top notch.

I had my concerns (and would understand anyone else’s for that matter) knowing that this product was a translation, but I’m happy to report that my concerns were unfounded. Point of fact the writing really impressed me. While it would seem that 478 Kickstarters backers likely received a thief’s bounty for a mere $20 pledge before we get into the review itself let’s talk about what is, “The Dark Eye,” or the main premise of this RPG.

 “The game is named after the most intriguing magical artifacts it has to offer—the Dark Eyes, extremely powerful orbs that are very rare and hard to find. Wizards of eras long gone used them to look at far distant places, even other worlds, or to glimpse scenes from the distant past. Creating such an artifact calls for very powerful magic and a huge quantity of meteoritic iron. When fashioned into a Dark Eye, the iron takes on the form of an orb or, in very exceptional cases, an eye, hence the name.” (PG 6)

Rolling up a hero in The Dark Eye involves a fifteen step process. The game utilizes a variable point buy system which allows the players to start at a level which best suits the group. There is a lot of detail to character creation and the system allows a campaign that can be built from humble beginnings or one that is epic from the start. There is a fair amount of flexibility throughout the system and in regards to the sort of game/campaign you want to run, but the rules a very thoroughly written. Certainly an RPG cannot be written to cover every possible situation, but I'm confident the writing didn't miss anything for the purpose of gaming it at your table. Beyond character creation the system is well defined. Running a few numbers. the Arcane and clerical magic systems are thoughtfully balanced.

(Note: This review is property of Kenzer and Company and republished here with permission and the format may have been slightly modified from what originally published)

Crunch wise The Dark Eye is a heavy rule set. Though, I would say that some of the crunch will be reduced with familiarity. There are a number of features that differentiate it from other RPGs of the fantasy thread, such as D&D etc. and while good deal of the mechanics will be familiar, the terminology used will require a bit of adjustment. For instance, among these is that in rolling checks -a natural 20 (D20) is a botch or bad result and the use of more than one D20, between 1d20-3d20, for most checks. The ruleset itself is meticulously detailed. If this puts you off just remember your first delves into this wonderful hobby. Thank fully there is good deal of charts, sidebars and tables to help speed comprehension.

Overall, I am very impressed with The Dark Eye RPG. There are plenty of nuggets for a gamer to appreciate. The magic system is well balanced (not unwieldy powerful) and the detail of the system should appeal to most gamers who prefer medium to heavy crunch. About the only criticism I have is that the Bestiary is a little light; however as an introduction to the game everything in this product is beyond adequate. The terminology which is exclusive to this RPG pulls my mind back to middle school when I was first embarking on this wonderful hobby. It was a nice reminder. If you’re in the market for a fantasy RPG you might consider giving The Dark Eye RPG a closer look.