In high school, I hung out with a lot of the foreign exchange students. (I was odd like that) My senior year, one of the Germans happened to be a gamer as well, and we spent many hours playing Vampire and Shadowrun with him. However, he always spoke very fondly of his favorite role playing game, Das Schwarze Auge. (Literally, "The Black Eye") In fact, many were the occasions where he told me that if he knew he was going to befriend American gamers, he'd have brought it over and run a campaign for us.
A few years ago, when I was in college, my German friend sent me a CD with PDFs of the DSA books, as well as a program that converts PDFs into an editable document format and a program to translate German e-documents to English. Unfortunately, the translated wasn't so hot with the German grammar conventions translating to English, so I could get only the faintest gist of what the books said, certainly not enough to play.
Around that time, a gaming company (I now forget which) published the core book of DSA in English, as "The Dark Eye." I told my German friend about it, and he lamented that it was an inferior edition that the fans hotly contested (sound familiar?) and that I shouldn't waste my money. I do remember flipping through it at the LGS and not finding it very much to my liking. Also, from what I understand, the American official translation of DSA is dead in the water, with almost no support forthcoming.
I recently found out about an Australian fellow named Jason Hutchings, who created an unofficial English translation of the first edition of DSA and put it up on his website at www.apolitical.info
DSA is a charming little game. It takes a lot of cues from early D&D, but has plenty of eccentricities all it's own. For instance, elves have a "strong sense of smell" (no mechanical advantage is described except that they can sense dragons) and they cannot fight dragons in melee. The player of a magician or elf must speak pre-written magical words in order to cast a spell, and they cannot look the magic words up if their character is under duress. (In combat, for instance) Character actions are sometimes "assumed" according to the rules (you don't have a weapon drawn while exploring unless you say you are drawing your weapon, you can't attack an opponent you wounded last round unless you are only fighting one opponent, the party and monsters automatically group off as evenly as possible, etc.) This game bears almost no resemblance to what my friend described to me, so I am assuming he must have played a later edition.
An interesting thing to note about DSA: There are no thieves, and there are no priests. I understand these were added later (whether in a supplement or new edition I am not sure), but in the beginning of the game, character abilities tended to fall into the realm of magic or combat, with a simple task resolution system based entirely on ability checks used for literally everything else.
What we have here is a simple game just begging to be tinkered with. (And from what I understand, editions following the first were vastly different) If you hop on over the site I mentioned, you can read and learn DSA in probably thirty minutes or less.
...you know, now that I think about it, DSA seems to take more cues from Tunnels & Trolls than D&D. (It feels more like T&T upon further reading)
I hope that someone, someday, provides a translation of other editions of the game, though I understand this is unlikely. Then again, there's something very charming about the simplicity of this system. My inner tinker says fie on that. Ah, if only I had as much free time as I had back in high school or college.