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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.

 
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Reviews (71)
Discussions (62)
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.
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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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Alberto S April 17, 2019 5:15 am UTC
PURCHASER
have you improved your printing because i had bought a hardcover book a while ago and some the pages were smudged but the worst thing was that the binding of the book didn't even connect to the pages. so I want to buy one with better quality
Customer avatar
Bruce H April 17, 2019 11:34 am UTC
PURCHASER
Alberto, if the book you had purchased had defects, you should have contacted DTRPG's customer service about it. They would have replaced your book.
Customer avatar
Evan L May 05, 2019 6:09 pm UTC
FYI the printing is done by the website, not the writer, so you can contact DTRPG and RPGNOW, whichever you bought from, to see about a return maybe.
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kristiaan L March 29, 2019 7:22 pm UTC
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I had ordered the soft cover previously and was very impressed with it so i ordered the hard cover which showed up today. Scan is good but the binding (on my copy at least) is not good. Pages are are misaligned and some sections lay crooked when opened. Middle of the book has rips in the crease. I submitted a request and hoping they will look after it.
Customer avatar
Bruce H March 29, 2019 7:32 pm UTC
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You need to contact customer service and ask for a replacement. Make sure you send them pictures of the problem pages.
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kristiaan L March 30, 2019 7:12 am UTC
PURCHASER
Thank you Bruce. Yes, i did and they were very quick to respond with an apology and assured me they would send out a new copy asap!
Fantastic customer service as always.
Customer avatar
kristiaan L March 30, 2019 7:19 am UTC
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Ok, so that has to be the fastest and friendliest customer service i have ever received. I am Seriously impressed with the folks at Drive Thru RPG.
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January 27, 2019 2:52 am UTC
PURCHASER
This is a blast from the past and a fun walk down memory lane. I had these books when I was a kid, and never thought I'd see them again. As a single hardback they're great. A very different game than 5e, but a still fun.
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Richard V December 07, 2018 6:05 pm UTC
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First time ordering from the site and wanted a copy as my old books are little rough and the original boxes pretty much destroyed. I think i got a few of the old light blue dice semi chewed and part of that white crayon to colour them lol. The delivery to Canada was fast and the quality of the book was great. Now I hope to sit down and enjoy the classic read around the festive holiday season.
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Jason C November 22, 2018 9:49 am UTC
PURCHASER
Both the PDF and the Print I received were very blurry to the point of giving me a headache. I tried the "new scan" but cannot tell a big difference either. I really feel it was a waste of money - especially on the print version. I hope one day they get a better scan uploaded. There have to be better scans out there - I have no idea why they can't find a better copy to put up for us.
Customer avatar
Victor S November 14, 2018 5:15 am UTC
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Will Wrath of the Immortals ever be available here as well?
Customer avatar
albert R October 06, 2018 6:38 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Why isnt this being offered in premium paper? The standard feels like it will eventually smudge the ink with your fingers in due time.
Customer avatar
Bruce H October 06, 2018 6:41 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Probably because this is a 300 page book and premium might result in an over-thick spine. Just guessing.
Customer avatar
Eugene S June 11, 2018 8:52 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Did they fix the blurriness?
Customer avatar
Randall C July 23, 2018 2:14 am UTC
PURCHASER
I have a PoD copy and I'm rather happy with it. You can tell it is a copy of a copy but it is still an excellent copy of the original. The blurriness is very minimal and really only shows itself on the green tables. But it isn't so blurry that you can't read it.
Customer avatar
Glenn R June 09, 2018 1:15 am UTC
PURCHASER
I've got a printed book from mid last year I think that I was very happy with, but given the inconsistency between good and bad in the comments below, I wonder are they all printed at the same facility? Mine was printed in the UK. I wonder if that accounts for the differing opinions as well as different versions of the pdf available at different times?
Customer avatar
Ameer B May 11, 2018 12:11 am UTC
PURCHASER
The physical quality of the book is good however, the print quality is fairly mediocre. The resolution is way below 600 dpi (I would guess around 200 dpi) making the text appear somewhat blurry. It appears to also be printed with an ink-based color printer of some sort. Another factor is probably the low resolution of the particular scan they are printing from.

Despite the aforementioned issues, the book is usable and fairly well made.
Customer avatar
Scott P April 16, 2018 11:32 am UTC
PURCHASER
Just received my softcover version of this classic and I could not be happier! Very solid reproduction quality--colors, text, and overall book all look very solid. Thanks WotC and Drivethru for making this incredible book available again through PoD!
Customer avatar
Tony M April 16, 2018 10:40 am UTC
PURCHASER
My 'New Scan' PoD finally arrived (after a couple of Unearthed Arcana's) and I'm happy to report the text and tables appear to be an improvement over 'Old Scan', a PoD copy of which I bought in February.
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Product Information
Gold 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:
March 21, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2013.