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D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)
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D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)

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Whether you're a player or a Dungeon Master, the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia is now the comprehensive sourcebook you need for the original fantasy roleplaying game! For ages 12 and up, the Cyclopedia contains the compete game system and hundreds of features, including the following:

  • All the rules from the D&D boxed set series, including Basic, Expert, Companion, and Masters
  • Guidelines to develop and play characters from levels 1-36
  • Comprehensive lists of weaponry and equipment
  • Expansion rules including optional skills and talents
  • An overview of the Known World and the HOLLOW WORLD game setting, the official D&D campaign world; and Rules to convert D&D games and characters into AD&D 2nd edition game statistics and back again

Fully compatible with the new DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Boxed Set, this volume allows players the full scope of fantasy role-playing from dungeons to the Outer Planes. Now, more than ever, the DUNGEON & DRAGONS game is ready and waiting for you.

*****

Product History

The Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991), compiled and developed by Aaron Allston was the triumphant finale to the BECMI edition of D&D (1983-85). It was published in November 1991.

The End of Basic D&D. By 1991, Basic D&D was TSR's longest running roleplaying line. TSR traced the history of the game back to the release of the original D&D (1974). Even if you don't count that, the first game labeled as Basic D&D - the J. Eric Holmes Basic Set (July 1977) - appeared five months prior to the release of AD&D's Monster Manual (December 1977). It had since undergone two major revisions: the Tom Moldvay D&D Basic Set (1981), which was part of the B/X release, and which kicked off Basic D&D in its modern form; and the the Frank Mentzer D&D Basic Rules Set (1983), which was the first book in the BECMI revision. 

Basic D&D had sold incredibly well at first, back in the late 70s and early 80s. Thanks in large part to the extensive publicity that D&D received from the James Egbert affair, new players were flocking to try out the game, and most of them went to TSR's introductory game - Basic D&D. That interest was in large part what led to the creation of the B/X and BECMI editions of the game, each of which expanded Basic D&D to allow for even more long-term play.

Unfortunately for Basic D&D, the pendulum began to swing toward AD&D as time went on. By the mid-80s, when popular books like Unearthed Arcana (1985) and Oriental Adventures (1985) were released, AD&D was clearly in ascendency, and Basic D&D was increasingly becoming the unwelcome relative who'd overstayed its welcome. The B-series ("Basic") adventures largely ended in 1985. The rest of the BECMI coded adventures finished up in 1987; other than the production of two final introductory adventures, B11: "King's Festival" (1989) and B12: "Queen's Harvest" (1989) a few years later. The "GAZ" line of Known World setting books then stumbled to a halt in 1991, with just one book published in each of the last years.

Although there were some new efforts like the "DDA" adventures (1990-91) and the Hollow World Setting (1990-92), it was clear that Basic D&D's flame was quickly fading.

A Black Box and a Hardcover Book. TSR tried to revive Basic D&D one last time in 1991 with a pair of new rules releases. The first was The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991), called alternatively the "Black Box edition," the "fifth edition," and "ten-seventy" (its product code, 1070) internally at TSR. It was a boxed D&D set that TSR described as "the first truly introductory version" of the game (as they had with every other "Basic" version of the game). The Black Box used cards to teach the game, something that had been advocated by Lorraine Williams based on the SRA reading programs (1957).

The Black Box is reported to have sold quickly and well. Approximately a half-million copies were purchased worldwide. It was also supplemented by a set of adventures that were almost boardgame-like with their colorful dungeon maps and figures. Unfortunately, the Black Box had one problem, the same problem that D&D "Basic" sets always had: it was limited in level, though it actually went up to 5th level, a bit higher than Basic's 3rd-level standard.

This limitation dovetailed nicely into TSR's other major plan for Basic D&D in 1991. Though the BECMI set of Basic D&D rules had always been well received, everyone thought it was quite troublesome to go through seven booklets totaling 368 pages when trying to track down a specific spell or magic item. Thus TSR decided to compile all of the rules into one hardcover book. The Rules Cyclopedia was the result - and it also offered somewhere for the Black Box players to go when they finished with fifth level.

Ironically, this was reportedly the exact same setup that Gygax had planned for the J. Eric Holmes Basic Set and also for AD&D, way back in 1977.

The Compilation. The Rules Cyclopedia is a compilation of the D&D Basic Rules Set (1983), the D&D Expert Rules Set (1983), the D&D Companion Rules (1984), and the D&D Master Rules (1985). It contains not only the rules from those boxed sets, but also the monsters, making the Cyclopedia one of two great sources for Basic D&D monsters, the other being the Creature Catalog (1986, 1993). Rules for skills and magic item creation from the "GAZ" Gazetteers (1987-91) are also included, making the Cyclopedia a truly massive compilation of about a decade's worth of Basic D&D rules.

The Immortals Rules (1986) are notably not included in the Cyclopedia, although it does contain seven pages from the Master Rules that include basic information for immortals, including rules on PCs ascending to those lofty ranks.

Rules on jousting in tournaments and on artifacts were also left out of the Cyclopedia.

Not an Introductory Book! Unlike every other iteration of Basic D&D, this one was not intended to be an introductory roleplaying book. It was instead a reference for Basic D&D play, which matched TSR's thinking about the AD&D 2e rules.

Expanding the Known World. The Cyclopedia doesn't expand the Known World in any notable way, but it does include a rather impressive atlas, featuring 16 full color maps, including the maps from the Gazetteers and the world maps from the Master Rules and the Hollow World Campaign Set (1990).

Future History. The Black Box rules and the Rules Cyclopedia got some joint support in the form of the "Thunder Rift" series of low-level adventures (1992-93). The Rules Cyclopedia also was supplemented with a few boxed releases, the most notable of which was Wrath of the Immortals (1992), a new set of immortals rules.

However, after the Black Box was revised one more time as The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game (1994), all support for the line ended. After 22 years (or 19 if you prefer), Basic D&D was finally dead.

About the Creators. Though lots of people worked on the Rules Cyclopedia, the two most notable creators are Frank Mentzer, who wrote all the original boxes, and Aaron Allston, who led the Cyclopedia project. Mentzer had left TSR for New Infinities back in 1986, which was likely why he wasn't directly involved in this project. Allston didn't work for TSR at all, but instead had been a freelance RPG writer since 1983. Though he only tended to write one or two books for TSR each year, by the early 90s he was writing the biggest releases for Basic D&D, including the Hollow World Campaign Setting, the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and Wrath of the Immortals.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 
 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (111)
Discussions (113)
Customer avatar
Chris D June 16, 2022 1:47 pm UTC
Any chance they're going to put out a better scan? I don't really want to get a headache from reading fuzzy text every time I crack this open.
Customer avatar
Ernesto V June 14, 2022 2:44 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I ordered the hardback print on demand, and it is very good. The text is clear and crisp, and the maps colors are bright. It is, of course, a copy of the original text, so not as sharp as the original, but for the price it is very good. I recommend it.
Customer avatar
Bruce H May 31, 2022 4:51 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Check this out about the Rules Cyclopedia: tardiscaptain(.)com /2022/05/31/drivethrurpg-print-on-demand-review
Customer avatar
Antonio C May 27, 2022 10:38 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I was going to order a POD version, but the new scan really seems worse than the old scan. I'll probably wait for some update before getting a POD. Did anyone order a POD version recently and has any feedback about it?
Customer avatar
Jeremy H May 31, 2022 5:05 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I'm in Asia, generally speaking it's easy to find fairly high-end print shops. I took my PDF of this to a shop and they apologized at the result once done. They said the scan was too poor for a decent print. I've lived over here for nearly two decades and have had many, many books printed.
Many aspects of my printshop edition are blurry, especially the Weapon Mastery charts. If the PDF they provide to their in-house PODs is the same, I wouldn't buy it.

In my opinion (stated below in Discussion) this title deserves a proper re-master, WOTC definitely has the funds and if they didn't they could probably crowdfund it and build much clout with those who still buy this oldskool content. If they do this, I suggest they pull the scrollwork that obscures the page numbers.
Customer avatar
Juan D April 15, 2022 6:42 am UTC
Got the hardcover book (reprint, eBay $57) - it looks and feels like the original, but as if I just got it from Barns & Nobles or say Walden Bookstore or B. Dalton Bookstore (LOL, like I just came back from the mall LOL).
Customer avatar
William V May 05, 2022 10:40 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Many discussions here says it's very blurry. What do you think?
Customer avatar
Juan D May 07, 2022 3:16 pm UTC
I didn't buy Cyclopedia here. I found someone who printed 10 copies (they don't have anymore) on eBay. Again, my copy is high class, top-notch print.
Customer avatar
Alex F May 25, 2022 4:39 pm UTC
Juan, do you happen to know the ebay seller's name? Somebody listed a couple more for sale recently. Thanks in advance.
Customer avatar
Jesse Y June 30, 2022 5:22 pm UTC
Its not blurry it just isn't super sharp and crisp. Its perfectly legible though.
Customer avatar
Thibault M February 21, 2022 8:36 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I'm not sure if it's this book or just DriveThruRPG, but the dimension of the hardback cover is way too big related the page dimension of the book.
Customer avatar
Jayce A February 09, 2022 10:26 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Is it just me or does the new scan seem blurrier than the old scan? I blew up the size to 300% and put them side by side to compare and to my eyes the difference seems pretty significant - and not an improvement. :/
Customer avatar
Ross L November 29, 2021 1:24 am UTC
PURCHASER
Does anyone know what happened to the hardback print on demand option? I remember it being here before but can't find the option for it now. I'm not interested in getting a paperback version and ended up picking an original 90's printing on eBay in the end.
Customer avatar
Martin C December 11, 2021 8:17 pm UTC
Looks like the option is back.
Customer avatar
Len L January 09, 2022 5:59 pm UTC
PURCHASER
get it now on sale... 27$-ish
Customer avatar
Ray E November 23, 2021 7:51 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Why can we not get the hardcover anymore? Please give that option back to us for the holidays!! Thnx
Customer avatar
felipe M November 16, 2021 9:24 pm UTC
PURCHASER
ordered the standard hardcover a few weeks ago and came back to reorder for one of my players and it's gone.

what gives?
Customer avatar
Adam J November 09, 2021 3:47 am UTC
PURCHASER
I have had the hardcover since they began offering it via POD, I even got a replacement copy when the first one end up being very blurry. My question is, has the print quality improved since then? My copy is still a little blurry in places due to bad scanning and I’d like to purchase a better one. Thanks!

Btw - where’s the hardcover POD?
Customer avatar
Jeremy H November 05, 2021 3:55 pm UTC
PURCHASER
WOTC! Please fix the blurry text! Palladium has clean PDFs of books from the same era. There is no reason a company like yourself couldn't afford to pay a small crew to fix this and give us a high resolution re-typed(?) PDF and not an OCR'd scan. How about you run a Kickstarter for it even? I would gladly purchase the PDF again just to get clear Weapon Mastery tables. And, you could also fix the problem with the page numbers hiding in the scrollwork(?) at the bottom of the page. Just do it! Come on! You'd make a lot of oldskool players very happy... heck they might even care about 6e if you threw them some love on this Cyclopedia. Perhaps that's just my two cents though.
Customer avatar
john S November 05, 2021 12:18 am UTC
PURCHASER
Bought the hardcover. Love it. Brings back so many memories. One thing though. THERE ARE NO PAGE NUMBERS PRINTED IN THE BOOK.

There’s a dynamite Table of Contents, but no page numbers on the subsequent pages. Needless to say that’s ridiculous and I’m sure a dealbreaker for many. It’s a BIG book for not having page numbers.
Customer avatar
Bruce H November 05, 2021 12:26 am UTC
PURCHASER
Page Numbers: Look at the center of the graphic border at the bottom of the pages. ;)
Customer avatar
john S November 05, 2021 3:27 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Aaaa! I’m an idiot. Thanks Bruce. I’ll see about getting this post deleted. LOVE THIS PRODUCT.
Customer avatar
Gorgar W May 07, 2022 7:33 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I'm glad this was asked and answered, because I was going to reee about the same thing.
Customer avatar
Adam H October 28, 2021 5:06 pm UTC
PURCHASER
It took 26 days to arrive which I don't think is bad considering they made me a hardback book. Given the size of the book and how much content is in there, the cost is more than fair. The scan/print is much better than I was expecting from previous reviews. Really, I think it looks great. The print is small but that was true of the original too. I am very happy with the quality and value of this print. This is the first book that I've had printed from DTRPG and it certainly won't be the last.
Customer avatar
Ben A September 17, 2021 5:43 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I already own a copy of Old School Essentials including the advanced books. If I were to get this as well would I get anything new out of it or would it just be curiosity for the sake of curiosity?
Customer avatar
Alec S September 17, 2021 6:03 pm UTC
PURCHASER
My understanding is that the Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy Rules Tomes gives you the B & E (basic and expert) slices of the BECMI pie. My further understanding is that the Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Tomes are mostly inspired by 1st edition AD&D and follow additions from that line. So theoretically this would give you the C & M (companion and masters) and partial I (immortals) pieces of the BECMI pie that are contained in this volume. I know OSE classic fantasy rules are fully compatible with B&E stuff, but I'm not sure what direction they took with the advanced, if the rules would deviate too far. That being said, there is probably some good material in here to glean if you care to go through it, or if you wanted to extend your OSE classic fantasy game further but didn't like the advanced stuff, you could use this as a vector of progression instead.
Customer avatar
Duane M October 13, 2021 8:26 pm UTC
PURCHASER
They're definitely not the same product. This is based (with some tweaks) on Mentzer's BECM (with very little I), not Moldvay and Cook's B/X (which is what OSE is based on). There are several differences in the two products, but they're generally compatible.

Do you *need* it if you have OSE? No, but you'll probably still appreciate having a copy, even if the thief is an absolute mess. I legit regret selling my original copy, even for the ridiculous amount I sold it for, but at least now an affordable POD is an option.
Customer avatar
Walter C September 05, 2021 10:09 pm UTC
Has anyone purchased the hardcover pod recently? I know there were problems with the binding in the past. Have they been addressed, or is the softcover better?
Customer avatar
Travis V October 08, 2021 5:20 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I have and its outstanding. I had the original in the 90s and this is just as good. I have been 50/50 on a lot of POD products I have ordered but the Cyclopedia and Gazetteers are top notch.
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Product Information
Adamantine seller
Rules Edition(s)
Pages
304
Edition
1.0
ISBN
1-56076-085-0
Publisher Stock #
TSR 1071
File Size:
258.27 MB
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Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2013.