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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

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Reviews (57)
Discussions (35)
Customer avatar
Michael F March 18, 2018 1:35 pm UTC
The price was halved a few days after I ordered it and I received a copy with blurred text. Who do I contact about a refund of that 50%? Also, the pages aren't numbered. How am I supposed to find anything in a 300 page book without the pages numbered?
Customer avatar
Bruce H March 18, 2018 1:41 pm UTC
The pages should be numbered, like in the original book (since this is a scan of the original). Look at the center of the graphic element at the bottom of the page. Contact DTRPG Customer Service for support at Cheers!
Customer avatar
Michael F March 18, 2018 1:47 pm UTC
Ok, they are there. Talk about camouflaged. Can't fault them for an original design error.
Customer avatar
Petterson C March 18, 2018 6:06 am UTC
Scan is 1 star below than my previous download.

Can you guys use Photoshop to sharpen out the contents? PDF and Photoshop are compatible, and if you are making a profit out of the sales here, why not improve it to make the buyers happier?

Just my straight to the point and honest views.
Customer avatar
Rob B March 16, 2018 3:08 pm UTC
My eyes may be going bad but I think the latest scan made things worse?

A thought - why not offer two scans? For instance, a 300dpi print-friendly scan and a higher dpi (say 1200 or better) for those that want a sharper scan.
Customer avatar
Scott S March 15, 2018 5:07 am UTC
Another new PDF still worse than the one I DLd prior toMar13
Customer avatar
joshua E March 15, 2018 3:24 am UTC
Very poor quality scan. Can't recommend this pdf.
Customer avatar
Ricardo M March 14, 2018 11:51 pm UTC
The very same thing happened with the Fiend Folio and they have yet to fix that; what use is updating the files for the worse, do they plan to sell "premium" pdfs later on so that we double dip?
Customer avatar
Michael S March 14, 2018 7:02 pm UTC
Got the new one updated PDF and it's still worse than the one I got a few weeks ago. The new one is much fuzzier and harder to read.
Customer avatar
Rodger D March 15, 2018 1:06 am UTC
Is that the new one from the 15th. Yes, its still poor compared to my 2016 PDF but better then the 13th update. Seems they've also scan a different book.
Customer avatar
Tony M March 14, 2018 11:39 am UTC
This is all very confusing. Two weeks ago I ordered the PoD version (#13972482) and paid 21.48 sterling for the privilege, now the price has dropped to 12.95 sterling but consensus suggests my PoD copy may be superior to what is currently being offered...

An explanation for the price drop and the PDF 'update' would be appreciated, either from WotC, OBS, or both.
Customer avatar
Joshua G March 14, 2018 10:43 am UTC
Wow, the "updated" pdf really sucks compared to the previous one, so blurry and washed-out looking. Why is the price reduced so much for PoD? Makes me VERY suspicious of purchasing this in print format now. I know mistakes happen, but this is really awful.
Customer avatar
Scott S March 14, 2018 6:54 am UTC
The new PDF is awful and blurry, the older one (pre Mar 13) is fine and also good as PoD - don't get as PoD until it's confirmed fixed IMO.
Customer avatar
Christopher S March 13, 2018 11:18 pm UTC
I put in an order for a hardcover copy of this yesterday afternoon, only to get up this morning and find out that the PDF has been changed and the price has dropped 50% in the last 24hrs...still excited to get the book, but that hurts.
Customer avatar
Richard T March 13, 2018 9:10 pm UTC
The new scan released this week is very blurry compared to the old one. I'm glad I still have my original download. Didn't they look at it before releasing it???
Customer avatar
Rodger D March 13, 2018 11:21 pm UTC
Yer its very bad. The worst I've seen. They need to redo it or put an older one back up.
Customer avatar
Rodger D March 13, 2018 11:27 pm UTC
My August 2016 download is way way better then this one. So much sharper.
Customer avatar
Jeff E March 14, 2018 2:42 am UTC
Also, it's flat. That is, there is no text, just a static image. You can't highlight and copy a portion of text, as you could before.
Customer avatar
Michael S March 13, 2018 7:24 pm UTC
yeah, I just downloaded the new one and it's horribly dithered and shows all sort of compression artifacts.
Customer avatar
Lloyd M March 13, 2018 5:15 pm UTC
BLURRY print on my copy as well. Headache inducing, even if I do enjoy the content of RC.
Customer avatar
March 13, 2018 4:33 pm UTC
The PDF was updated today. Apparently "The book has been rescanned and page references in the book have been linked." However, there are two different versions downloadable, neither of them with linked page references and neither of them the same file size as the last version I downloaded. Which one is the current version?
Customer avatar
Jeff M March 13, 2018 5:44 pm UTC
I have the original download from Feb 15 and the size is 164.3MB and has an outline that I can click to different areas (D&D_Rules_Cyclopedia_(Basic).pdf

The DDB_RulesCyclopedia.pdf & RulesCyclopedia-Basic.pdf doesn't have an outline. The DDB* is 163.6MB while the RulesCyclopedia-Basic.pdf is 96.8MB.

Something changed and just recently the DDB* and Rulescyclopedia have been removed and D&D_Rules_Cyclopedia_(Basic).pdf has been put in place but 94.5MB in size.

just fyi.
Customer avatar
Jeff M March 13, 2018 5:53 pm UTC
The new D&D_Rules_Cyclopedia_(Basic).pdf from today looks like the RulesCyclopedia-Basic.pdf. not the same as the Feb15 downloaded file that is sharp and not blurry with an Outline.
Customer avatar
Chris L March 12, 2018 5:04 pm UTC
Got my copy in today. No damage to the book from shipping, although it shipped in just a folded cardboard container. However, I got a 5E paperback adventure shipped with it, which may have protected it some.

For those saying it was very blurry, I must disagree. The text is small, but very legible. From flipping through, I have found nothing that was very blurry or difficult to read. Some of the chart lines are a bit wavy instead of ruler straight, but this in no way affects the content therein. For a scanned reprint, this is more than acceptable.

Now, just waiting for the DM Guide for 1E to be available for POD so I can order print on demand for all the first edition core books for my bookshelf collection.
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This title was added to our catalog on July 02, 2013.