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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 (90)
Discussions (74)
Customer avatar
Tiago M August 08, 2020 2:21 pm UTC
How's the softcover version? Does it look like it will hold, or will the pages come off very rapidly?
Customer avatar
David C June 04, 2020 9:02 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Maybe I'm just dumb but is the book lacking page numbers? Don't remember if the original rules cyclopedia had page numbers or not.
Customer avatar
Bruce H June 04, 2020 9:16 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Look at the bottom center of the pages, in the middle of the decorative leaves.
Customer avatar
David C June 09, 2020 5:50 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Thanks Bruce. Boy do I feel foolish
Customer avatar
Bruce H June 09, 2020 5:59 pm UTC
PURCHASER
LOL! You're not the first! Nor will you be the last. =)
Customer avatar
Ewan M June 04, 2020 7:38 pm UTC
Can anyone help do you need a players manual to start playing this or is it an actual all in one?
Customer avatar
Bruce H June 04, 2020 7:46 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Are you familiar with RPGs in general? If yes, then that book has all you need. If you do not know how to play Dungeon & Dragon, get the PDFs for the two books in the D&D Basic Set (D&D/BECMI), which will do a good job teaching you the game.
Customer avatar
Ewan M June 06, 2020 10:59 am UTC
Thank you Bruce that's a great help!
Customer avatar
George F May 15, 2020 4:19 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Please, release Wrath of the Immortals along with a hardcover PoD.
Customer avatar
Peter S March 12, 2020 7:36 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Bought this today and comparing the two files : The "Old Scan" and "New Scan" - the file labelled as the old scan (DDB-RulesCyclopedia.pdf) is better quality than the new one (RulesCyclopedia-Basic.pdf)
Customer avatar
Paul H April 14, 2020 5:15 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Agreed, the new scan file is much smaller but the contrast on the old scan file seems to be better. I test printed the Introduction page from both and although neither is perfect the old scan is definitely easier to read. I wonder which one they use for printed books?
Customer avatar
Peter S April 22, 2020 9:33 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I found mine kind of blurry so am assuming they went with the new one (that isn't as nice).
Customer avatar
Jorge R M August 11, 2020 6:34 am UTC
I purchased the POD hardcover version and it's very blurry. I feel myopic trying to read it. Very disappointed :(
Customer avatar
Sandra S February 26, 2020 1:16 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Softcover POD showed up today, it's great. Great version of D&D.
Customer avatar
tammir L February 03, 2020 5:06 am UTC
PURCHASER
great (printed) copy yet no page numbers...
Customer avatar
Sean C February 08, 2020 11:27 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I just received mine 2/9/2020. Page numbers are in the center of the decorated bottom border design. That is also how it showed in the original 1991 book.
Customer avatar
Joe C December 12, 2019 11:52 am UTC
PURCHASER
Looking forward to owning this at last.
Never had a copy back in the day.
It's great that this re-printed version is available.
Hope the Gazetteer's will all be made available as P.O.D. Books.
Customer avatar
Andrew L September 04, 2019 5:40 pm UTC
I still have my Original 91' copy plus all the modules etc All, Preserved in Vynil dust jacket's in Mint condition, I used them to play D&D With my sons as they were growing up, The ability to buy some cheap softcovers and give them to my Grandchildren is appealing :)
Customer avatar
Diego B July 20, 2019 1:28 pm UTC
Any upgrade on the print quality or still the same as the reviews say (blurry)?
Customer avatar
Amanda R December 28, 2019 9:00 am UTC
PURCHASER
I bought this book for my sons 15th birthday back in February and he loves it, I highly recommend it. Yes the text is little blurring on some pages, but I cant imagine waiting to have the perfect version. We use both the RC and the OSE {Old School Essentials} B/X Tome, which is much easier to learn, and the black box hardcover booklets. Additionally the advance class rules/spells converted from AD&D is super awesome.
Customer avatar
MARK A July 17, 2019 3:41 pm UTC
PURCHASER
i WANT TO MAKE SHURE i GOT THE HARD COVER BOOK
Customer avatar
JOHN F P June 24, 2019 3:46 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Hi, I just ordered this book, It was shipped today. Is this the original book in PDF or is it an expanded version? I do not remember "Talents" in the original. Also, are the rules updated for Errata? I am eager to get this :-)
Customer avatar
Glenn R July 10, 2019 9:53 pm UTC
PURCHASER
It's a reprint from the PDF of the original book. There are no corrections or additional material.
Customer avatar
Donovan R June 09, 2019 12:14 am UTC
PURCHASER
I received the hardcopy two days ago and it looks clear.
Customer avatar
W N V June 02, 2019 5:52 am UTC
PURCHASER
The PDF copies I have had for years are of poor resolution (even the one they call a "new" scan!) and the text is swarmed about with tons of greyish digital artefacting. Does the hardcopy employ these poor scans, or is it sharp and clear?
Customer avatar
Benjamin B June 02, 2019 5:34 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I only have one scan to compare it with and I think the hardcover is pretty darn good - not great, but certainly worth the cost. The text isn't what I would call "crisp" -- and it varies to some degree throughout the book. The only criticisms that I have -- and they are minor, imho -- is that there are occasional ink smudges, and the "hardcover" is just a perfect bound softcover glued into a hard jacket; and already I have seen some cracking in the binding (I used some book binding glue to do some minor repair). Considering the low cost, I think this is perfectly acceptable.
Customer avatar
Matt B May 24, 2019 7:15 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Great POD copy. Hardcover = awesome.
Customer avatar
Evan L April 26, 2019 5:44 pm UTC
Is Wrath of the Immortals coming out ever as a complement to the Rules Cyclopedia?
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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
Format
Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2013.