Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Roleplaying in Germany: Das Schwarze Auge

Back in the early days of the hobby (the early 80s) there were not that many RPGs around in Germany. There had been a rather unsuccessful try to translate Tunnels and Trolls (Schwerter und Dämonen) that had sold badly, and before that there had been tries to create a German roleplaying game called Midgard (or rather Empires of Magira… it’s complicated), inspired by different games that had slowly seeped over the pond.

But at one point around 1983 people started to notice this trend coming over from US and UK. Even more: Executives in different big game companies started to notice that money could be made. And of course they tried to have it the easy way and get the license for Dungeons & Dragons as the first and most prolific RPG.

A young art teacher and roleplaying/fantasy affeccionado called Ulrich Kiesow translated the game, after already having done so with Tunnnels and Trolls, for Schmidt Spiele, back then one of the biggest game companies in Germany. Basically he was the biggest roleplaying nerd in Germany at this point, at one point I found an article about the state of fantasy in Germany in the Jahrbuch der Fantasy und Science Fiction 1983 (Science Fiction and Fantasy Annual 1983) in which he bemoaned that there STILL was no German version of D&D available. That article must have been written in 1981/2, before they even published Midgard in a halfway professional form.

Accounts differ to what exactly happened with the deal, but it seems like TSR was a bit too greedy/demanding and the executives of Schmidt Spiele a bit too cautious about this whole new game thingy, with no board and game pieces. So a competitor snatched away the license and went on to publish Kiesow’s translation, and, incidentally, bankrupt itself with it…

Schmidt Spiele, seeing the Spiel (the biggest European toy and game fair) coming up, had nothing. So they asked Kiesow for an alternative, and he sold them one: the house system that he had cobbled together for his own gaming group. A system he called “Aventurien”, after the place where it was set.

Schmidt Spiele took it, changed the name to something marketable (and economic, but I’ll explain that in another post), got together with a publishing house (Droemer-Knaur) and put it into most toy- and department stores of Germany. And it sold. Pretty decently even.

Something they never got rid of though was their bad feeling about selling a product that basically consisted of books with a few dice and no tangible elements at all. But I guess I’ll do that in another post.

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3 responses to “Roleplaying in Germany: Das Schwarze Auge

  1. Pingback: [DSA] Session I: Black Boar Inn « Stuffed Crocodile

  2. Pingback: [DSA] Executive Meddling: Mask of the Master « Stuffed Crocodile

  3. Pingback: Day 1: I had to do it all by myself godamnit! | Stuffed Crocodile

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