The Dark Eye: Guildless – Session 0

Inspired by Alea Iactanda Est’s outstanding (but too short) solo adventure using the fifth edition Das Schwarze Auge rules, I picked up the English translation of The Dark Eye and decided to use it for my next solo game. To get started, I grabbed hardcover copies of The Dark Eye – Core Rules and the Aventuria Almanac, the base game and setting book for the game’s canonical rules.

A quick apology–this post is 3,200 words long (there are jump links below). Character creation in TDE is involved. After this PC, though, I’ll be mostly winging NPC skills and abilities using Mythic or estimated ranges.

Dark Eye rules

What is The Dark Eye?

First impressions: this is a lot of information, and most of it strange.

The setting book describes the Middenrealm, apparently the game’s most popular setting, as essentially the late medieval version of Germany that can be found in folk tales. The idea is intriguing–this isn’t the Tolkienesque or D&D pastiche of high fantasy, but rather a magical folk-tale realm of occasional monsters and demons and powerful churches. It reminds me a lot of Darklands, which I’m thinking may well have been inspired by the game.

Rules-wise, this is definitely the “crunchiest” RPG I’ve attempted to solo so far. The core mechanic is intuitive, if hard to explain–it basically boils down to a series of roll-under-attribute tests on a d20–but the amount of minutia involved in character creation can be quite high. It’s taken me the better part of a few hours to create the character below (I probably should have decided on a non-magic-user for my first PC).

Jump Links

Against, this post is super long, detailing every step of character creation for a Dark Eye mage. If you’re just interested in the final results, please use these jump links:

Mythic Background Generation

Final Character Sheet

Oracle System

You can skip this section if you don’t care which solo oracle I’m using. Character creation will begin below.

I’m going to be using a slightly modified version of Mythic for this session, inspired by a combination of AIE’s MSCV and Mythic GME and its Variations.

My custom rules will work like this: anytime I need to ask the oracle a question, I will roll 2d20 in different colors. One is the oracular die and the other is the chaos die.

The oracular die always needs to roll an 11+ to give a “yes” result, with the roll modified by a + or – based on likelihood of a “yes”. A natural 1 or natural 20 will result in a “no, and…” or “yes, and…” enhanced result. A MODIFIED result of 10 or 11 will result in a “no, but…” or “yes, but…” hedged result. This means that there will be a 20% chance on any roll of a non-standard answer (1, 20, modified 10, modified 11).

In the unlikely event that a 1 or 20 is rolled when there is a +9 or -9 modifier, I will roll an event to explain why the all-but-guaranteed outcome did not come to pass. Other than this case, the oracular die will not generate events.

The chaos die will be rolled at the same time as the oracular die, but it will only impact the game if a result equal to or less than the chaos factor is rolled. Chaos will begin at 3, giving a 15% chance of an event on any given roll (I haven’t decided the level that I’m looking for as a baseline yet).

Character Creation

Concept

When I started looking at the rules and available classes, I knew I was going to be playing a wandering magician, out to make his way in the world. Reading up on the character classes, I was able to narrow the class down to the guildless mage–I want the education and ability to cast sorceries, but Wilhelm will not be beholden to an entity as large as a guild.

Secondly, I will be creating an Ordinary level character. The Dark Eye does not have levels like the D&D tradition games; instead, PCs gain experience which they can spend on skill/attribute upgrades, and when they get enough they simply upgrade the name of their experience level, which doesn’t appear to affect anything other than maximum attribute/skill values. An Ordinary character starts with 1,000 Adventure Points (AP, basically experience), while an Experienced character–the recommended starting point–begins with 1,100. Most points go toward attributes and profession packages, with a few left over to customize skills and stuff.

Character Sheet

Name: Wilhelm Alflock
Race: Human (I rarely like playing demihumans, and never monsters)
Culture: Middenrealmer, Griffonsford
Profession: Guildless Mage
Experience: Ordinary

Attributes

As an Ordinary character, Wilhelm’s max attribute is 13 and he is allowed to have 98 total attribute points, with a single attribute allowed at 14 for his Human race bonus.

Courage: 13
Sagacity: 14
Intuition: 13
Charisma: 13
Dexterity: 11
Agility: 12
Constitution: 12
Strength: 10

Attributes will always be displayed in this order, so I’ll usually use a more Traveller/UPP style character sheet that reads like this when displaying stats for characters in the future.

CO 13 – SG 14 – IN 13 – CH 13 – DX 11 – AG 12 – CN 12 – ST 10

Attributes start at 8 and cost 15 AP per point (up to 14), so I spent 510 AP on this attribute package.

490 AP remaining.

Culture

Since I’m new to the setting I decide to make Wilhelm a Middenrealmer (basically the most bog-standard PC culture in the setting). This way I’ll be able to play without having to worry about different cultural norms between PC and NPCs, etc.

The Middenrealm cultural background package costs 12 AP–it’s fairly vague and allows me to spend more AP customizing my character. -12 AP.

This package included a variety of skills and abilities:

+Language: Garethi III (fluent)
+Area Knowledge: Griffonsford
+Skills: Animal Lore 1, Clothworking 1, Metalworking 1, Plant Lore 1, Woodworking 1

Most of the skills aren’t relevant to my character’s future, but they’re the kind of base knowledge a boy growing up in a small village is likely to pick up. Plus, the plant lore should help for alchemy and herbalism in the future.

478 AP remaining.

Profession

This was basically decided for me as part of the character concept. Since spellcasters fall into relatively few groups there isn’t quite the wiggle room for concept as there is in the mundane professions. I purchased the Guildless Mage profession package and then decided to modify it slightly to fit my concept. Refunds from spells I’m not taking will be listed later. -237 AP.

Wilhelm’s education as a sorcerer provided him with 12 AP worth of languages and literacy points, of which I only spent 10. +2 AP.

+Language: Bosporan III (fluent)
+Literacy: Imperial Signs, Kusliker Signs

The profession includes a wizard’s staff and the Binding of the Staff special ability, which grants Wilhelm an unbreakable, enchantable wizard’s staff (I purchased a long elmwood staff, which is a heavy 2-handed weapon).

+Combat: Polearms 10

The education provides a variety of book-learning skills that will be relevant for research and archaeology.

+Skills: Empathy 4, Etiquette 2, Willpower 4, Orienting 3, Geography 4, History 3, Magical Lore 5, Math 4, Myths and Legends 5, Religions 4, Sphere Lore 3, Alchemy 4

+Spells: Ventriloquism (Cantrip), Armatrutz 6, Fulminictus 5, Gaze into the Mind 5, Glow Sphere 4, Odem 4, Paralysis 6, Penetrizzel 4

243 AP remaining.

Advantages

Spellcasting is a required advantage and represents Wilhelm’s natural aptitude for magic. -25 AP.

Fox Sense gives Wilhelm an uncannily effective sixth sense. I can make a perception roll to find traps even when they’re invisible (a rune inside a chest, for example). This seems handy if he’s going to be surviving solo. –15 AP.

Improved Arcane Energy Regen I will allow Wilhelm to recover 1 extra AE per rest period. -10 AP.

Unremarkable Appearance means that Wilhelm is just another face in the crowd. Easy to escape into a city, hard to notice, hard to pinpoint as the person you saw before. -4 AP.

Improved Spirit boosts his Spirit derived attribute by 1 point. This is used for resisting magic. -25 AP.

164 AP remaining

Disadvantages

Disadvantages are personality flaws or weaknesses that can help provide color to the character and give you a few more AP to spend on other things. I loaded up on this, since they make the role playing more fun.

Negative Traits (curiosity and short temper) will affect Wilhelm during a variety of interactions, requiring rolls to overcome his natural tendencies. He’s a bit of a hothead. Hopefully he’s got the skills to actually back it up. +15 AP.

Personality Flaw (envy of power) means that Wilhelm is unwilling to accept that others may be stronger or smarter than him. +5 AP.

Obligation II (Magister Burkhardt) represents Wilhelm’s debt to his master and his feeling that he must use his powers–within reason–to aid the magister when he can. This is a good way to earn points and should provide good RP opportunities as well. +20 AP.

Unfortunately, Wilhelm was never the hardiest of children, having been afflicted by a particularly tenacious pox as a child. He has Weak LP Regeneration I, which means that he heals one fewer LP per rest period. +10 AP.

His brief stint as an indentured servant means that Wilhelm has a Stigma (Slave Brand) on the back of one of his hands. Although his status as a magician should overcome this stigma, it may cause disadvantages in social situations when dealing with haughty or classist elites (or slave traders). +10 AP.

Wilhelm grew up in the country and has a Fear of Water Travel. He is comfortable enough swimming or wading, but any travel by boat beyond swimming distance will be a tough sell. He won’t be able to sleep well if taking a long ferry or barge journey, for instance. +8 AP.

232 AP remaining.

Special Abilities

Wilhelm is required to take the Tradition (Guild mage) special ability to represent his education under the Magister. It provides no advantage but uses up a significant number of AP to represent, I assume, the advantages that a spellcaster would otherwise receive. -155 AP.

I add the Eternal Flame to my wizard’s staff. It’s a thought-activated special staff ability that allows it to burn with an actual torch’s flame without being consumed. It costs 1 AE per hour to maintain. -10 AP.

67 AP remaining.

Spells

I remove the Glow Sphere spell. It isn’t cheaper than using Eternal Flame on my staff, and it is a little less evocative than carrying an ever-burning torch in hand. +5 AP.

I remove the Gaze into the Mind mind-reading spell. It is very expensive and difficult to role-play mind reading solo, so I’m just going to get rid of it. +18 AP.

As a country wizard, Magister Burkhardt was occasionally asked to heal others, and he taught his apprentice the same. Wilhelm knows the healing spell Balsam Salabunde 5. -12 AP.

Wilhelm learns the cantrip Snap, which is a short telekinetic burst that can move a small object. This is a 1 AE spell that can be cast trivially, so I suspect it may come in handy for hiding, causing distractions, checking for traps, etc. -1 AP.

77 AP remaining.

Skills

Wilhelm rounded out his education with a variety of skills to help him survive on the road and in towns.

+Skills: Survival 1, Persuasion 4, Fast Talk 3, Stealth 3, Perception 3, Body Control 3, Self Control 3. -65 AP.

12 AP remaining.

Wrapping Up AP

Since I have 12 AP remaining and a PC can’t leave character creation with more than 10, I need to spend at least 2 more AP. My goal was to leave character creation with the full 10 points so that Wilhelm could increase his COURAGE with just 5 more AP and get a boost to his combat rating, but I think that spending 4 AP here to get Trade Secret (Healing Potion) for Alchemy will come in handy. Having the ability to brew healing potions should be useful when he’s trying to preserve AE for battle. -4 AP.

8 AP remaining.

Equipment

PCs start with 750 silverthalers (sp), and the game follows the traditional 1:10 metal ratio of many other games, except that it’s on a silver standard. The coinage goes gold ducats (gp), silverthalers (sp), copper halers (cp), iron kreutzers (ip) in a 1:10:100:1000 ratio.

The Dark Eye has one of the most intricate equipment lists I’ve ever seen, with gear modeled down to individual belts, utensils, and underpants (!). It’s more detail than I like in my games, so I am going to mostly just ignore it and handwave mundane equipment away after spending 145 sp on the recommended starting clothing and traveling equipment pack. -145 sp.

Wilhelm also needs to spend sp on his elmwood mage’s staff, a backup dagger, and a sheathe. -130 sp.

Magicians can’t wear much armor, but he does buy a heavy leather cloak that provides 1 PRO worth of protection at the expense of -1 MOV and -1 INI while wearing it. He may just use it for protection from the elements, since I suspect that speed may be the greater asset in battle. -75 sp.

Finally, he buys a bound journal, ink, and quill set to draw maps, record notes, etc. He’s a scholar (plus I like mapping). -16 sp.

Finally, with 379 sp left, Wilhelm purchases a pair of golden rings for 55 sp each in order to reduce the amount of easily stealable coinage he carries on hand. -110 sp.

He then converts 150 sp into ducats to conceal on his person and breaks a silverthaler into smaller coins for general spending.

Final purse: 15 ducats, 118 silverthalers, 9 halers, 10 kreutzers.

Character Background

In order to fill out a PC who is better able to generate stories and whatnot by himself, I decided to use the background event creator in Mythic Variations to generate a backstory, threads, and NPCs for Wilhelm.

How many background events? d100: 96 — 6 background events

Event 1

New NPC – Kill Peace

Born in the rural north of Griffonsford, Wilhelm was destined to know a hard but plain life tilling cold fields–the life his father and his father’s father before him had known. That was, until his father was drafted into the army of Baron Adalwin Jonas and sent to fight another noble over a petty title squabble, from which he never returned.

His mother and siblings were forced to sell the farm, and eventually themselves, in order to make ends meet.

+NPC: Baron Adalwin Jonas

Event 2

New thread – Develop Death

Wilhelm did not labor long as a slave. Fortune or fate–he neither knows nor cares which–soon found him. Minor mysteries that surrounded the young slave soon drew the eye of Magister Burkhardt Weiss, a feared magician living not far from their small town. The Magister purchased his slave contract and brought him to his tower, where he slaved even harder than before–but was given the promise of power in return.

Wilhelm made a secret promise to himself that he would seek vengeance for the petty way his father’s life was thrown away–a secret hate that burns inside an otherwise ordinary young man.

+Thread: Seek revenge against Baron Adalwin
+NPC: Magister Burkhardt Weiss

Event 3

PC Positive – Release Allies

Wilhelm threw himself into his studies and surprised his master with his potential. It was not long before he became a favored pupil. Although still treated with an iron hand, the master showed what little kindness he could. He purchased the slave contracts of Wilhelm’s family and set them free, for which Wilhelm will be ever in his debt.

+NPC: family

Event 4

New thread – Judge Plans

Within a few years, Wilhelm had been granted access to his master’s library. The young man was a voracious reader and autodidact, and he soon learned what he could from the small library. He craved more, however, and his master fed the desire, and soon sent him out into the world to find or purchase additions to their library.

+Thread: Obtain books of sorcery

Event 5

PC Positive – Extravagance Adversities

Within a few years of Wilhelm’s apprenticeship, Magister Burkhardt’s fortunes began to improve. With the young man’s help, the master was able to take some time from his studies to assist the local rulers and gradually take on a larger role in their small region. The townsfolk took to calling upon him for help, and they paid when they were able for his assistance. The magister poured what coin he could into his own library and laboratory, and Wilhelm benefited from the extra resources for his education.

Event 6

New NPC – Violate Danger

A few months ago, banditry and night violence began to increase in Griffonsford, and the authorities have been unable to determine why. Merchant caravans began to increase their guards and townsfolk stayed closer to their villages. Armed men and women became more common, and none know whether they are the cause of the violence or there to stop it–or both. One such adventurer, Josephine Hopfer, came to the Magister’s tower to seek information about a nearby forest. She disappeared for a few days, but when she returned she had blood on her blade and a satchel of treasure in her pack. She lingered a while longer before leaving, but not before inviting Wilhelm along on her next expedition, saying that she would always welcome the assistance of a magician.

+NPC: Josephine Hopfer, adventurer

Summary

NPCs: Baron Adalwin Jonas, Magister Burkhardt Weiss, Josephine Hopfer, family

Threads: Seek revenge against Baron Adalwin, obtain books of sorcery

That’s a lot of background story for my young mage, and I think I’ve got quite a few story threads here. He’s a bit of a hothead, but it seems clear that he’s generally well-meaning, if a bit selfish. I suspect that he’s too young and ambitious to settle in to the role of a country wizard, but his affection for the Magister and his family probably mean that he’ll never allow himself to leave Griffonsford for good.

His desire to revenge himself against the Baron whose pettiness destroyed his family does a lot for developing the reasons behind his short temper and envy of power flaws. I’ll be curious to see what he actually does. I’m excited to start Wilhelm’s adventure in my next post!

Final Character Sheet

Name: Wilhelm Alflock
Race: Human
Culture: Middenrealmer (Griffonsford)
Profession: Guildless Mage
Experience: Ordinary (992/1000 AP), 20 years old
Attributes: CO 13 – SG 14 – IN 13 – CH 13 – DX 11 – AG 12 – CN 12 – ST 10
Stats: LP 29/29 – AE 34/34 – SP 2 – TO 1 – DG 6 – INI 12/13 – MV 7/8

Purse: 15 gp, 118 sp, 9 cp, 10 ip
Equipment (7/10): Elmwood staff, dagger, torch (1), rations (3), clothing and jacket, writing supplies, 30′ rope and grapple
Incidentals (no limit): traveler’s kit, gold ring fashioned as an ouroboros (55 sp), gold ring fashioned as a twisting vine (55 sp)

Combat Skills: Polearms 10, Dagger 6.
Combat Gear: Staff (d6+2 dmg, AT 10, PA 8, long), Dagger
Armor: heavy leather coat (1 PRO, -1 MOV, -1 INI)

Spells: Ventriloquism (cantrip), Snap (cantrip), Armatrutz 6, Fulminictus 5, Balsam Salabunde 5, Odem 4, Paralysis 6, Penetrizzel 4

Skills: Empathy 4, Etiquette 2, Willpower 4, Orienting 3, Geography 4, History 3, Magical Lore 5, Math 4, Myths and Legends 5, Religions 4, Sphere Lore 3, Alchemy 4 (healing potion), Animal Lore 1, Clothworking 1, Metalworking 1, Plant Lore 1, Woodworking 1, Survival 1, Persuasion 4, Fast Talk 3, Stealth 3, Perception 3, Body Control 3, Self Control 3

Languages: Garethi III (literate), Bosporan III (literate), Kusliker and Imperial Signs

Abilities and Advantages: Area Knowledge (Griffonsford), Fox Sense, Strong AE Regen I, Unremarkable Appearance, Spellcaster, Tradition (Guild Mage), Improved Spirit, Binding of the Staff, Eternal Flame (Staff)

Disadvantages: Weak LP Regen I, Curious, Short Temper, Envies Power, Afraid of Water Travel, Obligation II (Magister Burkhardt)

NPCs: Baron Adalwin Jonas, Magister Burkhardt Weiss, Josephine Hopfer, family

Threads: Seek revenge against Baron Adalwin, obtain books of sorcery

One thought on “The Dark Eye: Guildless – Session 0

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