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The Dark Eye - Gods of Aventuria Interview

The Dark Eye, the most popular RPG in the German-speaking world, is in its fifth edition in English and continuing to attract new fans. On GameOnTabletop, Ulisses Spiele, the publisher of The Dark Eye (TDE), is crowdfunding their latest sourcebook, Gods of Aventuria. Tajo Fittkau, The Dark Eye English language Line Developer, joins us to talk about the campaign, their special charity book, and to tease the next project after this, the English version of TDE starter set.
The Dark Eye - Gods of Aventuria T_K_Teaser.png

EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thank you for talking to me about the latest The Dark Eye crowdfunding project. What are you making through this GameOnTabletop campaign?
TAJO FITTKAU (TAJO)
: In this campaign, we create the English translation Gods of Aventuria book as well and the last three modules of the Theater Knights campaign. With both of them, we finish the first tiers of expansion rules and the first launched campaign in English. The Gods of Aventuria focuses on the different Blessed One (priest) professions, while the campaign lets you interact with the living history of Aventuria and take part in essential changes happening to that region.

EGG: For fans that are not familiar with The Dark Eye, can you tell us about the setting and system?
TAJO
: The Dark Eye is the largest fantasy RPG in the German-speaking world. It has been around for over 35 years now and is in its 5th Edition. It started very similar to the first edition of D&D, but from that point diverged greatly in mechanics and general feel of the system. The world of Aventuria is a fantasy world that is grounded more in the European Fairytales than a Tolkienesque world. Its history and rulesets have been continuously developed over the last 35 years. With its 5th edition in German, a lot of the systems have been streamlined from previous editions. It is still a very ‘crunchy’ system, but it plays very fluidly at the table. The general power level of characters is much lower than in systems like D&D or [Pathfinder], and even playing “mundane” characters are a lot of fun.

EGG: Gods of Aventuria has “150 new liturgies and ceremonies”. In game terms, what do they do?
TAJO
: Liturgies and ceremonies are the powers that are available to the Blessed Ones, the priests of the different gods. The world of Aventuria has 12 main Gods and several Demigods, as well as the main antagonist, the Nameless One. Each of these different traditions have access to their own liturgies and ceremonies that represent the power they grant to their follower. With this book, you can now play Blessed Ones from all 12 Gods and 5 of the most important Demigods. The GM, or in special situations maybe a player, can also generate NPCs/characters that are followers of the Nameless One. For these, there are also several new liturgies and ceremonies that the GM can use to give NPCs a more extensive toolbox and more depth.

EGG: This crowdfunding will complete the six-volume Theater Knights campaign, correct? What’s the plot of the campaign?
TAJO
: Yes, we will publish the last three chapters of the Theater Knights campaign. I don’t want to spoil the content of the campaign. But I can say that the heroes of the campaign travel to the northeast of Aventuria into the region called the Bornland. There they are confronted with a series of events that pull them deeper into a historic reveal around changes that are happening. They have to engage in warfare, diplomacy and encounter old and new threats that could endanger large parts of Aventuria. The results of the campaign will form this region for the coming years.

The Dark Eye - Gods of Aventuria Blitzruf.png

EGG: Let’s talk about some of the offerings. What’s in the slipcase?
TAJO
: Most of the additional offerings in this campaign focus on the intersection of the campaign and the Gods book. With the 16-page short adventure Three Colors of Snow, we provide another small module that fleshes out the Theater Knights campaign. It is a closed-room detective-style adventure, that plays in the north of the Bornland. The other book that is already partially funded through the stretch goals is the Kor VadeMeCum. Kor is one of the demigods in the Gods of Aventuria book and a significant player in the Theater Knights campaign. He is the Lord of Battle, Guardian of the bloody victory and patron of mercenaries. The book is a mostly in-game book that gives the Blessed Ones of this god a lot of background to the church, believes, and rites.

EGG: This campaign is run through GameOnTabletop, which allows you to offer a charity option. Can you tell us about the charity offering?
TAJO
: Yes, we are offering a special charity edition of the Gods of Aventuria book with a white leatherette cover during the crowdfunding as an add-on. 100% of all the money spent on this book will be donated to the Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) charity. Ulisses Spiele is covering the full costs for the production of this book.

EGG: That’s an amazing offer! Why do a product that benefits Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) instead of another charity? What made them the right fit?
TAJO
: Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is a long-standing and highly regarded charitable organization that is active all over the globe. In the current pandemic, their help is needed all around the world. Each of the books sold makes it able to provide six full PPE sets for healthcare workers across the globe. The charity edition is also a joint effort with the German RPG community as well. It was important to us that we are supporting a world-wide acting charity.

EGG: Again, thank you for doing that. Why did Ulisses Spiele choose to run this on GameOnTabletop as opposed to Kickstarter?
TAJO
: Ulisses Spiele in Germany has run most of its crowdfundings through the GameOnTabletop platform. The platform has a build-in pledge manager, and we work closely with GameOnTabletop to be able to integrate it with our systems. For backers, it also allows them to select add-ons and see the shipping costs when they enter their pledge, and they do not need to come back later to finish up their pledge. While Kickstarter has the advantage to be ‘discovered’ by more people, this rarely happens, especially for things like an expansion to an existing RPG.

The Dark Eye - Gods of Aventuria RewardLevel_ComboNormal.png

EGG: This RPG is the most successful tabletop RPG in Germany, correct? What about it allowed the game to take a bigger marketshare than D&D?
TAJO
: Yes, The Dark Eye is and has been the most played fantasy RPG in Germany for over 35 years now. It was created by one of the larger boardgame companies as a direct competitor to D&D in 1984. And they were able to keep D&D out of the market in the first years. Most of the players who started in the 80th or 90th started with The Dark Eye as their first tabletop RPG. And even today, every RPG player in Germany knows it, and most of them have played it at least a little. It is an excellent system with a strong lore background. I have to say, most of the people I was able to bring The Dark Eye closer at conventions here in the US enjoyed the system and the world a lot. While it is a crunchy system, its play is much more focused on experiencing the world, than to kill its inhabitants.

EGG: Beyond The Dark Eye, what other projects are you working on?
TAJO
: My work is solely focused on the world of Aventuria and the success of The Dark Eye on the international stage. The next project we announced is the RPG Beginners Box for The Dark Eye. It not only brings you into The Dark Eye, but it is built to bring a non-RPG player easily into the great world of RPGs. It is already out in Germany and, I think it is the best RPG starter box that is currently on the market. You can take this box and break it open and play with up to 4 friends without any preparation or prior knowledge. It also provides a campaign that can keep you engaged for up to 60 hours or more. I am very excited to bring that to the English market next.

EGG: Thank you for talking with me. Where can fans learn more about your work?
TAJO
: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you. You can find updates around The Dark Eye and our other product lines at our website. People can find me on Twitter @vendolis or on our Ulisses Discord Server. I also frequent the Facebook “Aventuria - The Dark Eye (english)” group, where there are also a lot of long-playing TDE fans that help out others with their questions.

THE DARK EYE - GODS OF AVENTURIA (ENG) from Ulisses Spiele
  • END DATE: 08/11/2020 19:00 (GMT-4)
  • NOTE: This project is available through GameOnTabletop
  • “Now, more than ever, Aventuria needs the help of the Demigods and the blessings of all Twelve Gods… Gods of Aventuria gives you lore details about Church Customs around the everyday work of a Blessed One.”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG and Amazon.
 
Egg Embry

Comments



jedijon

Explorer
I’m presuming the Drakensang video game (2008 release) uses the rules pretty darn close to printed material’s rule set.


If so, this Wikipedia article contains about everything I could want to know to learn more about how this game works.

There’s 8 attributes, you have different stats in each weapon, every spell is it’s own skill, there’s even some info about action resolution. Seems that “crunchy” is right—appears there was an easy enough translation of that into a video game engine, moreso even than Neverwinter Nights. And people rag 4E for the idea that somehow playing it is tantamount to playing a video game and or the designers took too much “influence from” them...

One thing that’s always touted as desirable in an RPG is when capabilities diminish as characters push farther. D&D of course generally lacks this—full HP and 1 HP see your character function just the same. Exhaustion can be brought into play. It’s not very finely granular, but it is there to say “you’ve been doing a lot...and it’s catching up to you”. In this game, a failed check sees you taking stat damage to compensate. It’d be neat if that was optional. Optional in the sense that I could roll—and choose to fail rather than taking stat burn. Or not. As the situation warranted. I suspect not though—RPGs always struggle with the “well, just try again” problem and burning 3 pts of a skill addressed that.

Combat though looks like a book-keeping mess. You’ve got to procedurally calculate initiative order based on each persons choices, results of their rolls, and then generate damage, apply it to stats, and track each one of those many factors down through the remainder of the turn’s unresolved actions. And of course we all know that diminishing capability—while awesome at simulating a certain realism—is just like spell slots, HP, and uses of Rage/Day...it’s an abstraction whose practical outcome is to tell the players “it’s time to take a long rest now”.

I love skill check mechanics. In a lot of ways the simplified skill list and lower granularity of skill rank make them inherently harder to use in 5E. So I’m always on the lookout for new wrinkles and I’ll take a look at this for that purpose.

That said, I suspect I’d be as likely to pick this up as to dust off my old copy of Cadwallon. Neat to know that in the German region D&D is second fiddle. I wouldn’t have guessed. Ich bin beeindruckt.
 

vendolis

Villager
Epic
I’m presuming the Drakensang video game (2008 release) uses the rules pretty darn close to printed material’s rule set.

If so, this Wikipedia article contains about everything I could want to know to learn more about how this game works.
Drakensang is a very old game that took 2nd or 3rd Edition rules and adjusted them for the computer. I don’t remember the exact rules in it, but it is not comparable to the TTRPG version.
The TTRPG is still very focused on skills. Since the effects of combat are longer lasting than in other systems, people will try to find solutions that are avoiding combat until there is no other way. To recover from an average sword hit takes you more than one rest period and super-natural healing is not as available and has similar limitations.

Combat though looks like a book-keeping mess. You’ve got to procedurally calculate initiative order...
This is very different due to it being a computer RPG. In the TTRPG it is one die roll for initiative. If you get damaged to a certain degree you might lose initiative points for the rest of the combat, but that is it.

One thing that’s always touted as desirable in an RPG is when capabilities diminish as characters push farther.
This is the case, you skill rolls as well as attack and parry get harder when you gain condition levels like pain, stupor, or similar. And when you hit 5HP you go unconscious, which is very helpful since there is no resurrection in this game.

I would rather suggest to look at the free quickstart rules on DTRPG. They are a very reduced set of rules but give you a good feeling for the general game. The system is very modular and there are a lot of optional rules where you can reside how complex you want to make your game. This goes down to the level that some player might want to use a special rule when hunting (because they are a hunter and have special abilities for it and it’s their spotlight), but another prefers to use the simpler base rules for it.
You want to play with zone armor and zone hit points (e.g. how many hits can your arm take before it is incapacitated or hacked off) ... we’ll be my guest, but it gets complicated there and I have not used that rule yet. But I might pull it out if there is an epic fight that might benefit from this granularity.

The system has it’s flaws (fights with large numbers, scaling at higher “levels”, for beginners hard character generation), but the combination of the setting and the rules make for a very enjoyable.
 

I’m presuming the Drakensang video game (2008 release) uses the rules pretty darn close to printed material’s rule set.
Yes and no.
Drakensang was back in the times of the revised forth edition, called 4.1 in Germany.

In 2015 the current 5th edition was released. It has streamlined a lot of things from 4th Edition and brought the systems used in line.

Most notably the abilities cost the same whether bought at character creation or later added with XP making characters a lot easier to compare and new characters to be added at a certain level.

Skills, magic spells and religious miracles now use exactly the same system so you don't have to learn different rules for different classes/builds.

Lastly and maybe most importantly the core rules have all the rules you need. There are more detailed Focus rules which can go into more depth BUT you don't have to use them. In fact some PCs in your group could use them and others not.

For example take hunting. By the basic rules you can make a single test of Wilderness Lore and dependingon roll you hunt more or less food.

You could go focus level one, where you might role a tracking roll to find your pray, a stealth roll to sneak up and an attack or trap setting roll to make the kill.

You could also go focus level 2 where your animal lore let's you identify the type of prey available and from there play out the entire hunt in detail.

Now if hunting is important, either because it's one of character's stick or because it's plot relevant you can use the level of focus you desire. The hunter of the group might always use focus 1 and when someone else hunts or it's just to deal with the journey to the next adventure you use the basic rules.

Overall it's an amazing rule set and I love playing it. Also it's the edition which came to English and we are lucky to have these amazing looking and feeling books.
 


I first looked at DSA when the english translated books were offered on a Bundle of Holding and was intrigued by what felt like an alternate reality version of D&D. It's kind of hard to explain that The Dark Eye feels like an old pedigree game introduced afresh to a new crowd. The feeling of "how are you supposed to play this thing?" is pretty strong, not because of any lack of clarity or writing, but because of the cultural subtext of the translated books. It is a 5th edition books for players who have probably played it or been around fellow players who have played it in the German Language. At first blush, the american player might approach it like D&D or even Warhammer Fantasy, but both would be off. (Indeed, reading through the adventures and getting to know it just kind of makes me feel like a blood-thirsty american, used to slaying too many monsters and grabbing their stuff. Whereas DSA is more like "Hey, maybe we should talk to these orcs and help them solve this problem."
I guess I would summarize the theme differences as some type of euro-humane, less-violent, brighter version of D&D. Like WHFRP Low-end power but less gritty and grim. More fantastic than Harnmaster. Detailed characters like GURPS, but welded to a very EXACT campaign world.

The books and production is beautifully done and well written. For new players, I would recommend getting the core book and an adventure to see how it plays and then the Almanac. The pocket books are great. I think Ulisses Spiele North America has their work cut out in trying to introduced an established thing into a new market. I have been picking up the books on discount and backing the Kickstarters. But a lot of the material is showing up in clearance and bargain areas of FLGS. Having the HC core book around would be good to keep interest going.
 

jeremypowell

Explorer
I guess I would summarize the theme differences as some type of euro-humane, less-violent, brighter version of D&D. Like WHFRP Low-end power but less gritty and grim. More fantastic than Harnmaster. Detailed characters like GURPS, but welded to a very EXACT campaign world.
That’s a great way of putting it.

And I think you’re right that Ulisses has their work cut out for them making this game succeed. I get the impression they realize they’ll never achieve Pathfinder levels of success, but I do suspect the game needs to find a somewhat larger player base in English in order to continue publishing the translations. But their current crowdfunding campaign has raised about $50k from just 250 backers and still has a few days to go, so it’s possible they can continue at those levels for the time being even if the game doesn’t become more popular. But also, the next crowdfunding campaign is for a translated starter box and revised core rules, so if they can pitch it well then that campaign might bring in new players.
 

ibenny

Villager
That’s a great way of putting it.

And I think you’re right that Ulisses has their work cut out for them making this game succeed. I get the impression they realize they’ll never achieve Pathfinder levels of success, but I do suspect the game needs to find a somewhat larger player base in English in order to continue publishing the translations. But their current crowdfunding campaign has raised about $50k from just 250 backers and still has a few days to go, so it’s possible they can continue at those levels for the time being even if the game doesn’t become more popular. But also, the next crowdfunding campaign is for a translated starter box and revised core rules, so if they can pitch it well then that campaign might bring in new players.
Where is the information on the revised core book from? I’ve seen Tajo’s presentation about the plans but I can’t remember this. I’d be just curious, don’t get me wrong. :)
 

jeremypowell

Explorer
Where is the information on the revised core book from? I’ve seen Tajo’s presentation about the plans but I can’t remember this. I’d be just curious, don’t get me wrong. :)
It’s in Tajo’s presentation, starting around 5:40 time stamp.
 


Windjammer

Adventurer
It's a very good RPG and a very good line of books. Having a new release is a huge plus. That's where the positives end for me, however.

Unlike the German parent company, Ulysses North America is a mess. Follow their online release schedule and their online presence (forums, blog, webstore) for the past 2 years: you'll see an abundance of mis-management of the product line, ill-timed and sparse releases, and some incredibly poor choices in translators who'd leave entire sentences/paragraphs untranslated from the German originals (I own and can read both).
There's a reason why you can pick up Dark Eye 5th edition stuff for a few dollars on Ebay: it's abandonware.

I'm glad to see new product, but having invested in the product line only to see the publisher ghost its customers for prolonged periods, I'm firmly in the 'wait and see' group on this one. I wish Ulysses North America all the best on a fresh start, and I hope they can successfully re-build customer good will that they've gambled away.
 

Ulisses_Tajo

Line Manager - The Dark Eye
Publisher
It's a very good RPG and a very good line of books. Having a new release is a huge plus. That's where the positives end for me, however.
Thank you Windjammer. I started as the line manager for TDE about a year ago, before the release of Magic of Aventuria. We see that there were mistakes made in the translation and editing of previous books. And we are trying to fix them in the new books and with errata of the old books.

Unlike the German parent company, Ulysses North America is a mess. Follow their online release schedule and their online presence (forums, blog, webstore) for the past 2 years: you'll see an abundance of mis-management of the product line, ill-timed and sparse releases, and some incredibly poor choices in translators who'd leave entire sentences/paragraphs untranslated from the German originals (I own and can read both).
I understand your frustration around the management of the communication around our product lines. We are striving to improve on all of these ends. Some people are very upset that we don't have official forums, since some laws in Germany make it very hard to manage forums as a small company (UIisses Germany and Ulisses International are one company with two branches - this was different before, but changed a little over a year ago). Our means of communication are now based on the official Ulisses Discord as well as our pages on Facebook. We know this might not be optimal for all communication, but I also try to look at the Aventuria/The Dark Eye Facebook group. But yes, the team that works on the English translation is very small so it might take some days until we get to answer a message.

There's a reason why you can pick up Dark Eye 5th edition stuff for a few dollars on Ebay: it's abandonware.
I hope with the revision of the Core Rule book (inclusion of the errata and fix of any discrepancies between German and English) and the announced translation of the Beginners Box we will be able to convince people that we are not abandoning the system.

I'm glad to see new product, but having invested in the product line only to see the publisher ghost its customers for prolonged periods, I'm firmly in the 'wait and see' group on this one. I wish Ulysses North America all the best on a fresh start, and I hope they can successfully re-build customer good will that they've gambled away.
We won't expect that the system shows up on shelfs in general RPG stores soon, but we are working on getting products out that bring new people in to try out The Dark Eye. The following in the English area is too small at this point, so we will have to rely on crowdfundings to bring out our products.

If you are interested in our plans for the releases I suggest to look at the video above where I go over the different planed crowdfundings.

If you would like to send me a PM about the parts where you see translated text missing, please do so. I am collecting this data to be able to provide comprehensive errata for books that are already printed. (Due to time constraints I was not able to do that to anything but the Core Rules yet.)

Thanks a lot for your opinon,

Tajo Fittkau
Line Manager, The Dark Eye
 

Windjammer

Adventurer
If you would like to send me a PM about the parts where you see translated text missing, please do so. I am collecting this data to be able to provide comprehensive errata for books that are already printed. (Due to time constraints I was not able to do that to anything but the Core Rules yet.)
Hi Tajo, thanks for your thorough and courteous response, which I greatly appreciate. As I said, I certainly wish you and your team all the best on the new start and will follow new releases closely.
As far as I am aware, some of us did email Ulysses Germany back in the day with the translation concerns; these emails should be on file with the DSA editorial core team, e.g. Michael Mingers. Other translation feedback would be preserved on the Ulysses forums (NA and Germany), and to a lesser extent, on major German fora like Tanelorn or DSA-specific ones. Good luck!
 


I don't want to stir any criticisms of a pretty good text, but what is the gist of the translation concerns?

I played through at the table as GM through the first published adventure with my home group and didnt run into any confusion. Just an errata issue? (I picked up a couple pocket books to sling at the table :)
 

Ulisses_Tajo

Line Manager - The Dark Eye
Publisher
I don't want to stir any criticisms of a pretty good text, but what is the gist of the translation concerns?
With some of the early books, some decisions were made that caused some confusion around the wording. You will notice when you compare the German and English texts. Will you have an enjoyable time playing the English version as it is, I am pretty sure, but some rules might be used differently. For consistency sake, we are trying to solve these issues and make the English and the German version as close as possible. j

I intentionally leave out calling anything "wrong" here since this is no competitive game. Nearly everyone I know plays every RPG system with some house rules, meaning different from others.

So there are some obviously wrong translations (Almanac, page 8, the iron edge is 32000 feet high and not 9000 feet), things that got mixed up in layout (e.g., Almanac p. 22, the travel distance table the labels of the first column has moved one down and "Days ride" was lost). But there were also some parts where a paragraph is edited "away" since the things in it seemed redundant, but in detail were not.

We are looking at these things and improving them in the books that are released now. We now include all known errata of the German books in the English version, so we hope to have an even better product in the end. As an example, in Magic of Aventuria, we fixed about 100 errata of the German book. In the Gods of Aventuria, it was about the same. A bunch of those are also clarifications where things are harder to understand then they should be. In other cases, they were factually wrong, but only people with attention to detail would notice them. One example is improving the chance of success by 5%, which is different from adding 5 percentage points to the probability of success (in the first example 20% would go to 21%, in the second to 25%). I think everyone would do the right thing since you roll a d20, and each increase by one is 5 percentage points, but factually it would be wrong to write "the chance of success increases by 5%".

Sorry, this was a long text, in the end, we are striving to bring great products to the English speaking community :cool:
 


Dioltach

Adventurer
Speaking as a translator, I sympathise - with you and with the translators. Translation isn't an exact science, and if you ask 10 translators to translate the same text you'll get at least 10 different translations. That said, with any project that involves multiple translators, and/or multiple texts, your quality control is going to be vital: a professional proofreader/editor who reads everything and makes sure that the translation isn't just accurate and complete, but also clear and consistent.

(This is true whether you're paying for professionals or getting amateur volunteers. My wife and I have 40 years' combined experience, and we still make sure our work is reviewed.)
 

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