March 30, 2011
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Posting about Elfenblut and it’s cover art got me thinking about why I actually started with roleplaying games in the first place. I can’t really claim there was much deep thought to be found behind it: I just always loved the covers of the boxes and modules for Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye) when I saw them in the toystores. And yes, even in the 90s it was still sold in German toystores pretty much everywhere.
I don’t mean the covers the line features now, those can be good sometimes, but even the they lack that certain something. Mostly I mean those of artist Ugurcan Yüce, a perennial favorite for the fans of DSA (mostly because he was the one who did most covers from the 80s to the 90s). His heroes most often are the epitome of true heroes with a distinctive germanic bent : barechested, wearing winged helmets and sporting awesome mustaches, or clad in chainmail and other armor barely hiding wonderfully female physique the protagonists of his cover art are just being so damn alive.
After seeing the picture on front and buying and then reading whatever it was that was written in the module, I often felt cheated out of a wonderful adventure. He sometimes took some creative license with the actual contents of the stuff he was illustrating there, but his illustrations so often were more interesting that anything the authors of the module came up with inside the book.Not all of them were masterpieces after all.
And yes, basically the only reason why I looked at those strange things in the store were those wonderful covers. When I actually was able to look into these books and see what they were about I was mystified: mostly text, a few illustrations of characters, plans of buildings. That was odd. At one point I had gotten to know Hero Quest because someone told me it was somehow similar, but it still was way too different from the boardgame. I guess the only reason why I desperately wanted to have the starter box for DSA was to see what the whole fuzz was about.
This particular cover comes from a classic of the line: Ein Stab aus Ulmeholz (A staff of elm wood), for many players that played mages THE first adventure. So many indeed that in later editions some references were dropped about that particular wood somewhere in the Middle Realm, where half the young wizards of the continent got their staffs and then slept with the lady in the nearby castle. Even the female ones. DSA was always rather open about sex and homosexuality. The story was rather simple: the player is a young mage who has to get his first staff. There is a forest somewhere where the elms produce perfect wood for staffs. And so he goes there to get some. (pun intended)
Soloadventures were of course choose-your-own-adventure books, set in the world of DSA and played with the rules of the game. For some reason the producers of the line managed to keep the format alive long after most books of that sort disappeared of the shelves everywhere else. Even nowadays the occasional Solo gets published and bought. For players it was a good way of giving the character some background story. Even if all the mages in the group had the same