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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.

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Reviews (124)
Discussions (127)
Customer avatar
Andrew P July 15, 2023 9:33 pm UTC
PURCHASER
What is the difference between the two PDFs provided in this purchase.

(D&D Rules Cyclopedia [Basic] - New Scan)
(D&D Rules Cyclopedia [Basic] - Old Scan)

Why was it rescanned?
Reply
Customer avatar
Bruce H July 15, 2023 9:45 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Possibly the quality of the scan.
Customer avatar
JOHN S May 26, 2023 7:22 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Possibility of bringing this Classis D&D content over to Roll20?
Customer avatar
Michael C April 15, 2023 4:48 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Back in the Days of TSR, before WotC, miss those days...
Reply
Customer avatar
Patrick G July 09, 2023 6:05 am UTC
Before the dark times. Before the Empire.
Customer avatar
William A February 19, 2023 11:31 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I own both the PDF and POD. The printing is clear and easy to read. However, while there is both a detailed Table of Contents and Indices, they are completely useless as the pages aren't numbered.
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Customer avatar
Alec S February 19, 2023 11:44 pm UTC
PURCHASER
The pages are numbered, they are just really hard to see because they are hidden in the scrollwork at the bottom of the page.
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Customer avatar
William A February 21, 2023 11:18 am UTC
PURCHASER
Thank you, my 65 year old eyes had missed them. A case of design aesthetic over practically. I have index tabbed the book now so it's not a problem.
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Customer avatar
Eric R March 06, 2023 3:56 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I've known this since 1990 or so, and I STILL forget now and then.
Customer avatar
Travis W January 28, 2023 10:27 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Looking to purchase the POD hardbound, but after seeing some of the comments, I am a little leary. How clear is the printing? Have any changes been made to the paper since 2021? I need to know because this will be joining the Special edition Reprints of the AD&D 1st Ed Rulebooks (PH, DMG, MM, UA, and the Collected edition A0-A4, and S1-s4) and AD&D 2nd Ed Rulebooks (PH, DMG, & MM). Will it be grossly out of place?
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Customer avatar
gary M March 28, 2023 12:58 am UTC
Kind of what I'm wondering too. I would be very disappointed to get this and the scan is bad.
Reply
Customer avatar
Jeremy H March 28, 2023 2:09 am UTC
PURCHASER
I think it's a fairly bad scan. I bought the PDF and had it printed at a local shop. They had to apologize for the finished product, pointing out the scan was bad. Most of the body text is legible but a bit fuzzy. The Weapon Mastery tables and maps are pretty bad. Perhaps my local shops printers aren't as good as OBS, but they do handle premium and professional projects regularly. I've also gotten better results from PDFs of books from the same era that I've had printed (Palladium books for example). I'm of the opinion that WotC makes more than enough money to completely re-master it and remove that annoying scrollwork that obscures the page numbers at the bottom of the pages to boot.
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Customer avatar
Björn H August 27, 2023 2:48 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I received my copy from the UK, and the print quality is fine. Some miniscule artifacts and some slight fuzziness in some tables, but fully legible. Unless they have goofed, I suggest an appointment with your friendly neighborhood optometrist. ;)

(Disclaimer: I'm an optometrist. Pretty friendly, too, but probably not in your neighborhood.)
Customer avatar
David S December 16, 2022 5:35 pm UTC
Are monster stat blocks part of the Cyclopedia?
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Customer avatar
Bruce H December 16, 2022 6:09 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Yes.
Reply
Customer avatar
David S December 16, 2022 6:38 pm UTC
Nice! Thanks, Bruce.
Customer avatar
Justin P November 20, 2022 8:17 pm UTC
PURCHASER
After having the book for a while now, I have had to reference it several times for a BECMI game online. I have the PDF and POD product. I run into the same issue with both. To be fair I am farsighted. The fact that the letters are minutely out of focus on the page (which I had to confirm with numerous others) really causes a lot of eye strain. While I doubt the WotC is going to redo the RC, I am pretty disappointed with the product in that I just can't read through it for any real length of time without getting a headache.
Customer avatar
Steven R October 05, 2022 10:12 pm UTC
I have the original book, I wanted to buy some more to have at my table, the hardback. Would I be able to tell the difference? So I don't confuse myself of If I give away the reprints to my players I don't confuse it with my original. BTW got mine at the used bookstore half coverprice and it still looks mint!
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Customer avatar
Bruce H October 05, 2022 10:44 pm UTC
PURCHASER
The reprint is thicker than the original due to the different paper stock.
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Customer avatar
Francis T December 12, 2022 9:37 am UTC
PURCHASER
then it's not a reprint but a scan
Reply
Customer avatar
Eric R March 06, 2023 4:00 pm UTC
PURCHASER
It's a reprint. A scan is a digital product.
I have worked as a printer for a long time. The original wouldn't have a digital file compatible with anything today, if it even had a digital copy to begin with. Scanning a document to get a digital copy for reprint, does not stop a copy from being a reprint.

If you're troubled because they didn't use an offset printing press, with remastered plates, on heat set paper then I have some news for you about most reprints.
Customer avatar
Pierre P September 17, 2022 4:48 am UTC
PURCHASER
This may be a stupid question but is there any plan to release « Wrath of the Immortals »? Digitally or on POD?
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Customer avatar
Sean M September 27, 2022 1:20 am UTC
PURCHASER
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/284479/Wrath-of-the-Immortals?term=Wrath+of+the+Immortals?affiliate_id=1608046
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Customer avatar
Pierre P October 02, 2022 9:23 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Many thanks Sean
Customer avatar
Justin C September 10, 2022 7:37 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Received the hardcover print, very satisfied with it. Much more convenient than having the pdf version, even if the text is not as crisp as the original or on a computer screen. For the cost, I am very satisfied when compared to the alternatives.
Customer avatar
Christopher L July 30, 2022 5:48 am UTC
PURCHASER
I like the option for POD, but the execution, if this is any indication, is not of the quality that I would've liked.

The print quality is not at issue, for me; I knew what I would be getting, and purchased anyway. The things that *are* at issue for me are as follows:

A: The quality of the paper
- The paper looks and feels about on par with standard printer paper, maybe just *slightly* heavier.
B: The haste of the job in affixing the cover to the text block
- The front cover binding is torn, as if the page after it had been glued to the cover, then hastily pulled away in the hopes that it wouldn't tear. The succeeding page is torn, and there is a spot in the next page, the one with the B&W print of the cover art.
C: The warp in the text block
- The text block is warped, as one would find in a product on which the binder had either used too much glue, or removed from the press with the glue still slightly wet.
D: The glue used, and the rushing...See more
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Customer avatar
mark A July 31, 2022 11:27 am UTC
PURCHASER
my experience w/DTRPG customer service is that they're very quick to replace botched books if you reach out to them directly.
Customer avatar
Lesley N July 14, 2022 5:31 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Just an opinion here.
I own copies if not pdfs of I think an incredible array of role game designs.
I have in the end, chosen to focus on D&D/AD&D because, in the end, it's hard to pick better than the best in any topic.
If you want a cliche fantasy genre, it's this one.
Over the years, D&D has been reinvented so many times, just to sell you books. Are you a cash cow?

This book is a well made item. In hardcover it is hard to beat.
Add the DMG and you really are set. Add some classic adventure products and you need little else.

So many clones of D&D/AD&D. All they are doing is pretending to be this.

The only really significant fantasy genre product I have seen in 40 years is D100 Dungeon.
Because sometimes you just can't find a role gaming group and don't want to play a video game.

There ARE some good alternatives.
Warhammer FRP 4th edition.
Forbidden Lands
High-quality manuals, minimum...See more
Customer avatar
Lesley N July 14, 2022 2:08 am UTC
PURCHASER
Took delivery of my POD purchase today. As good as the original product.
Reply
Customer avatar
Lesley N July 14, 2022 2:10 am UTC
PURCHASER
Took delivery of my hardcover POD purchase today. As good as the original product.
Customer avatar
Lesley N July 05, 2022 4:25 pm UTC
PURCHASER
One of the truly great one manual needed rolegames. I am biased, I think it is the best D&D product of all the editions.
Combine with a few 1st edition AD&D manuals for the perfect experience. I suggest DMG, Wilderness and Dungeoneers Survival Guides and Unearthed Arcana. So many great adventure modules. Pity I didn't have the hindsight to keep my original manuals from the 80s.
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.
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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
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File Last Updated:
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This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2013.