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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

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (66)
Discussions (55)
Customer avatar
Richard V December 07, 2018 6:05 pm UTC
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.
Customer avatar
Jason C November 22, 2018 9:49 am UTC
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
Will Wrath of the Immortals ever be available here as well?
Customer avatar
albert R October 06, 2018 6:38 pm UTC
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
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
Did they fix the blurriness?
Customer avatar
Randall C July 23, 2018 2:14 am UTC
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
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
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
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
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.
Customer avatar
Mark J April 14, 2018 2:43 pm UTC
Did they update the file with the known errata?
Customer avatar
david W April 11, 2018 7:07 pm UTC
After getting two UAs I got mine today, and the print quality is crisp and clear. Yay!!
Customer avatar
Michael B April 15, 2018 5:09 pm UTC
Sounds good! I guess I'll grab a print copy after all!
Customer avatar
Blake F April 05, 2018 4:19 pm UTC
Seems like they're still sending Ultimate Arcana copies. At least the Ultimate Arcana copy is of good quality....
Customer avatar
Justin S March 31, 2018 4:40 pm UTC
So is this worth getting pod at this point in time? Its really confusing that some are saying its good, then a "new" pdf is uploaded and now its worse. What is the return policy of a pod book if the text is slightly blurry?
Customer avatar
Tony M April 02, 2018 9:19 am UTC
I bought the PoD at the end of February and as of now I have 5 different pdfs on my HD.

To my eyes the pdf I got at the end of February is still the best, but I'm still waiting on a second PoD copy, presumably based on one of the other pdfs, but I won't know which until I see it.

I should have received the second PoD copy by now, but I too received a copy of Unearthed Arcana instead.

Sounds like some WoTC intern has misnamed the files and One Book Shelf / Lightning Source are just pumping out the books regardless.

I'll update as I when I get a second Unearthed Arcana (which is what I'm expecting) or a second Rules Cyclopedia, which I can then compare to my first PoD copy.

In the meantime folks, caveat emptor.
Customer avatar
Tony M April 03, 2018 11:44 am UTC
As anticipated, second Unearthed Arcana arrived today...
Customer avatar
David S March 30, 2018 2:33 am UTC
So after I was mistakenly sent two copies of Unearthed Arcana a week ago, I now have my replacement order with the correct books, right? WRONG! THEY SENT ME TWO MORE COPIES OF UNEARTHED ARCANA! I still have not received my correct order! I think they are playing some sort of practical joke on me. Please just send me my order!
Customer avatar
Alec S March 30, 2018 2:39 am UTC
Haha. If you're giving away your extras, I've got dibs on one. I'll pay shipping! :)
Customer avatar
Michael M March 23, 2018 9:41 pm UTC
Man, something fishy is going on. Looks like I'm not the only one to have ordered a D&D Rules Cyclopedia and instead received a copy of Unearthed Arcana (which I have an original copy of and didn't need).

Customer avatar
black F March 23, 2018 7:00 am UTC
New PDF ... New blur.
I think i'll pass for the physical version. Too bad :(
Customer avatar
Bruce H March 23, 2018 10:29 am UTC
The printed book is fine. It's the new PDF that seems a bit blurry.
Customer avatar
Christopher S March 23, 2018 2:50 pm UTC
My hardcover, which I ordered on the 12th, looks pretty solid. I had emailed DTRPG support about the PDF uproar and they told me that mine was printed from the 3/13 file that has since been replaced.

The print is a bit fuzzy - as though each letter bled a little bit - but I don't find it unreadable by any means. Think I have to agree with Bruce: the print copy is solid - especially for a scanned book. I don't have the PDF, so I can't speak to its current quality.
Customer avatar
Brian S March 28, 2018 9:33 pm UTC
> "(...) they told me that mine was printed from the 3/13 file that has since been replaced."

does "replaced" suggest they are no longer printing from that file? i wonder if they are still printing from that source.
Customer avatar
black F March 29, 2018 6:34 am UTC
Many thanks for your testimonies Bruce, Christopher and Brian.
Nonetheless your good news, i will wait until the Unearthed Arcana POD switch is officially resolved.
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