Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Rules Cyclopedia now available in print

Rules Cyclopedia options at DriveThruRPG

The Rules Cyclopedia is now available in print-on-demand!

RPGnow link: Rules Cyclopedia 
DriveThruRPG link: Rules Cyclopedia 

The links include this blog's affiliate #, which gives a store credit of 5% of the price.

Published in 1991 by TSR, the Rules Cyclopedia was the culmination of the Basic/Classic line developed from J. Eric Holmes' work in 1977. Holmes is thanked in the Acknowledgements, along with the many other editors and authors who worked on the line, as the "Cyclopedia has also been drawn from the works and benefitted from the input of the following people". 

The Cyclopedia incorporates the entire 36 character levels developed in the BECMI (Basic-Expert-Companion-Masters-Immortals) line by Frank Mentzer as well as some rules from the Gazetteer series into a single hardcover rulebook of approximately 300 pages. The price of original copies has steadily risen to near $100 in recent years, so the print-on-demand option is welcome for those that wish affordable copies for actual use in play.

The rules remain highly compatible with the Original D&D line, so this book could easily be used as an expansion to Holmes Basic if you wish to have 36 character levels. The major difference is the ability scores, which use the bell-curve of bonuses developed by Tom Moldvay in the 1981 Basic rulebook revision. The "Full-Size Preview" link (shown above) on the page shows off a few of the early pages, including the Table of Contents if you want to see the scope of the material in the book.

While this is great news from a legacy point-of-view, I'll use this moment to point out that they still don't have a Holmes Basic pdf or print-on-demand available. It's a gaping maw in their catalog!


  1. It is a huge hole in the catalog. And while I appreciate why they chose the Cyclopedia to be the POD representative of the "Basic D&D" line, it is one of my least favorite incarnations. Not because of the rules themselves, but because the art and layout are really hard on the eyes.

  2. I started role playing during the "Black Box" days. Class of '99. AD&D 2nd Ed. was new. At first, I was too young to understand the difference between D&D and AD&D, so I played with a mix of the rules, my first year ever playing being the summer between my 5th and 6th grades ('91-'92). I was the Dungeon Master and I had never even seen a game played before. However, I cut my teeth on the awesome HeroQuest board game, which is one of the most wonderful fantasy dungeon crawl products of all time, so with the Black Box's instructions, I did a fairly serviceable job. Well, for a 5th grader who never saw D&D played before, at least. Which is another way of saying I did a terrible job and that's why we promptly went back to HeroQuest until the following summer, when I started running AD&D 2nd Ed.

    This is a good forum for "Black Box" D&D:

    Here's the unofficial errata:

    1. Thank you for sharing your origin story. Black Box has some neat features, one being that it extended "Basic" up to 5th level. The Zanzer Tem dungeon is another neat "Sample Dungeon" in the tradition started by Holmes.

    2. The Black Box was neat. I never actually used it (already playing AD&D) but was pretty excited to get it. I still have it albeit a little warped from years in a couple basements. It sits in my bedroom now. I think I read it front to back when I originally bought it.

  3. Oops, I hit publish instead of preview.

    In addition to my last post, I wanted to say thanks for the heads up. I've been on the edge ready to buy a used copy for around $100 online.

    If I order this, I'll be sure to use your link!