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  • Writer's pictureAlisdair Smith

Looking at the Mechanics #1

The Dark Eye is a pretty well rounded-game compared to many other TRPGs, particularly when compared to something like Dungeons & Dragons.

What do I mean by this?

Simple, if you look at how rules in D&D (and many other TRPGs, particularly the main d20 ones), they are primarily setup with heavy rules focus for combat, they then have very basic/simplified rules for essentially everything outside of combat. This is logical when you consider the fact that a lot of those games share the same roots, coming from the wargaming past of D&D.

That's not to say that those games don't support non-combat activities, they do and you can run a very successful campaign with not too much combat in them, but there are generally much better games (than any of the main d20 options) if you want to focus on things other than combat. Often going for rules-lite systems such as one based on FATE/Fudge dice works very well, or games like the World of Darkness line where the expectation of many of them is social roleplay primarily.

But coming back to the original point, what do I mean by "The Dark Eye is a pretty well rounded-game"? That's simple, the designers have made a great deal of effort to create a game where non-combat is well fleshed out, perhaps even more so than the combat rules themselves in fact. The Core Rulebook provides substantial details on activities from travel, to crafting and knowledge as well as a very good list of social skills and how to use them. This is in no small part because TDE is a skill based RPG, rather than a level-based RPG. The designers therefore put a lot of emphasis on these skills and giving them relevance.

TDE is setup (even expected) to be a game where activities other than combat are regularly the focus, with combat being an option but as likely to be occasional set pieces rather than a mainstay of a campaign. Unlike many games, combat can be very deadly, with a number of mechanics in place that make it always a risk; something I'll cover in a future post, this is far from unique to TDE, but it's rare that a game gives the level of detail across so many areas that TDE does.

This is particularly true if you start including supplements in the analysis, the Aventuria Compendium for example, adds in about 100 additional pages (nearly half the book) going into further details on skills, giving new uses, additional examples and a neat concept called "Focus Rules". We've discussed those a little here and here if you want to get an idea of what they are, but their inclusion really allows GMs to tailor the experience of the game to different playstyles adding depth in the areas that matter most to your group.

Next time, I will look more at combat, mostly because it's something many people that come from games like D&D will be interested to know what is similar and what is different.

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