Interview with Bernhard Hennen
Bernhard Hennen is a German fantasy novelist who helped create some of the first great stories of the world of Aventuria. Although his own books occupy much of his time these days, he remains an avid player and follower of The Dark Eye. The following interview has been translated from German by Daniel Mayer and edited by Kevin MacGregor.
What was your first experience with The Dark Eye and Aventuria?
I have been playing TDE since the beginning. As the first German role playing game, it caught my attention with a detailed newspaper article. I bought the game and have been enchanted by Aventuria for over 20 years. I loved the setting, and with time, I grew from being a player to being one of the creators of the game. I then had a chance to interview Ulrich Kiesow, the inventor of the game, after which I was given the chance to write the “Phileasson Sage,” a lengthy campaign for The Dark Eye. Several years later, I published my first novel, The Year of the Griffon.
What do you find most compelling about the setting?
TDE differs from other games in that players are part of a history that has been evolving for 30 years. I don’t think that there is another role playing game that offers this detail at the same level. The setting offers the perfect adventure for any taste. You can play small quests if you prefer your adventures to be straightforward, or take part in large campaigns that allow brave and persistent heroes to affect the fate of the entire world. Every gaming group can create their own saga.
Has The Dark Eye inspired your other work in any way?
Many years later I started work on The Elven, which takes place in my own setting. The books have been translated into 10 languages and regularly make the bestseller lists. Besides The Dark Eye, my books are influenced by my interest in Vikings (Thorwalers or Fjordlanders) and elves, which appeared in my early novels. If you are curious, The Elven has also been published in English.
Has the game’s artwork inspired your writing?
Since I started my career as a writer, I have been a big fan of the American artist Larry Elmore. I would have loved to have him paint the cover illustrations for my first TDE novels, but of course I couldn’t afford him. Then, through an American agency, I obtained the rights to some Elmore art that had not previously been published in the USA. I was overjoyed and wrote my first trilogy, The Year of the Griffon, to include scenes from those preexisting cover illustrations. Later, people often asked me how I had been able to convince Elmore to read the German (!) books and paint these perfect cover illustrations. 🙂
Much has changed since then. When I look at the cover illustrations and artwork being produced today for TDE adventures, I am deeply impressed. Its art direction can compete with any game in the world. The quaint flaws from the early days are long gone. Today’s cover illustrations even convince me to buy more adventures than I can ever play.
What do you think English-speaking players will like about The Dark Eye and Aventuria?
The setting is very deep, which makes it unique. It has the best material from 30 years of production—how many games can say that? The storytelling is a bit different from American games like D&D. The writers of TDE come from a land where you can still find towns with a strong medieval influence, a place with tall castles and dark forests. I think growing up in the country influences how you write. The stories seem more real and draw the players in.
What are your impressions of the latest edition of The Dark Eye?
The updated rules have a more modern feel. They allow for great game flow without being simplistic. In this new form, they are the perfect tool to carry your players to adventure on wings of fantasy.