Advanced Search

D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)
Full‑size Preview

D&D Rules Cyclopedia (Basic)

Selected Option:
Watermarked PDF
Softcover, Standard Color Book
Hardcover, Standard Color Book
Watermarked PDF + Softcover, Standard Color Book
Watermarked PDF + Hardcover, Standard Color Book

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

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 (117)
Customer avatar
Christopher L July 30, 2022 5:48 am UTC
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
Customer avatar
mark A July 31, 2022 11:27 am UTC
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
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
Took delivery of my POD purchase today. As good as the original product.
Customer avatar
Lesley N July 14, 2022 2:10 am UTC
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
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
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
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
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
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 $57) - it looks and feels like the original, but as if I just got it from Barns & Nobles or say Walden Bookstore or B. Dalton Bookstore (LOL, like I just came back from the mall LOL).
Customer avatar
William V May 05, 2022 10:40 pm UTC
Many discussions here says it's very blurry. What do you think?
Customer avatar
Juan D May 07, 2022 3:16 pm UTC
I didn't buy Cyclopedia here. I found someone who printed 10 copies (they don't have anymore) on eBay. Again, my copy is high class, top-notch print.
Customer avatar
Alex F May 25, 2022 4:39 pm UTC
Juan, do you happen to know the ebay seller's name? Somebody listed a couple more for sale recently. Thanks in advance.
Customer avatar
Jesse Y June 30, 2022 5:22 pm UTC
Its not blurry it just isn't super sharp and crisp. Its perfectly legible though.
Customer avatar
Thibault M February 21, 2022 8:36 pm UTC
I'm not sure if it's this book or just DriveThruRPG, but the dimension of the hardback cover is way too big related the page dimension of the book.
Customer avatar
Jayce A February 09, 2022 10:26 pm UTC
Is it just me or does the new scan seem blurrier than the old scan? I blew up the size to 300% and put them side by side to compare and to my eyes the difference seems pretty significant - and not an improvement. :/
Customer avatar
Ross L November 29, 2021 1:24 am UTC
Does anyone know what happened to the hardback print on demand option? I remember it being here before but can't find the option for it now. I'm not interested in getting a paperback version and ended up picking an original 90's printing on eBay in the end.
Customer avatar
Martin C December 11, 2021 8:17 pm UTC
Looks like the option is back.
Customer avatar
Len L January 09, 2022 5:59 pm UTC
get it now on sale... 27$-ish
Customer avatar
Ray E November 23, 2021 7:51 pm UTC
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
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
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
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.
See 16 more
Browse Categories
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!

Product Information
Adamantine seller
Publisher Stock #
TSR 1071
File Size:
258.27 MB
Scanned image
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
March 21, 2018
This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2013.