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D&D General The Rules Cyclopedia - Unlearning Dnd Preconceptions from a 3e player

Stalker0

Legend
So I got a chance to borrow my friend's Rules Cyclopedia recently (which as far as I understand it is the collection of all of the Box sets back in the day, I believe before 2e came out). Though I played a little 2e, I never "looked under the hood" of the game before 3e....so it was really neat to see some of the early rules for the game. It was cool to see how some things evolved, and honestly....I found some rules that I thought were pretty good even today. So here are a few general notes and interesting things:

**I'm going to reference "back then" a lot in the post, just noting I am sure there were other flavors and versions out there, so know I am specifically referencing the Rules Cyclopedia.

1) Alignment: As much as we like to talk about the "9 alignments" as a sacred cow, it actually was just Law, Neutral, and Chaos back then. It seems that Law was "Big L, little g" and Chaos was "Big C, little e".

2) As we talk about bounded accuracy today, there are several places where I find it interesting how much more "bounded" the game was back then. Some examples:

a) Ability scores were more spread out. You had to get very higher scores just to get even a +2 or +3, and you didn't go above 18.
9-12 +0
13-15 +1
16-17 +2
18 +3

b) Many more things used static rolls instead of adding in ability scores. Several skills, initiative, surprise, even your saving throws were almost entirely dependent on level than on your ability scores.

c) Hitpoints were tighter. Fighters only had d8 hp, and you only gained a single HP at 9th and beyond.


3) Alignments actually had their own language back then! So lawful characters could talk to each other in "secret code". That's both weird and neat.

4) In our modern day of "6 saving throws", its neat to remember we actually started with 5 not 3.

5) The "Name" level at 9th actually reminds me a bit of the 4e paragon path. Though they are much less mechanical and more flavorful, there is still the notion that you are moving into a new direction as a character, and gaining a new suite of benefits and responsibilities. Its also pretty telling that the levels could go as high as 36 but often characters were expected to at least consider retirement at 9th.

6) The term avenger as a fighting class dates way back, I had thought that was a 4e invention.

7) The concept of being able to move and attack twice existed back in the day. I had assumed 3e's "move and get 1 attack only" had been the norm for some time.

8) Its no wonder that nature clerics and druids have overlap nowadays, as back then a druid was simply a "prestige class" for a cleric.

9) It was interesting to read the "Mystic" which is the original monk. The monk honestly hasn't changed nearly as much as I had expected, and many of its current abilities you can see traces of in the original class.

10) Later editions like 3rd played with very complicated "spell preparation time formulas", but back then it was a simple single hour to memorize spells.

11) There was a neat concept back then of "reversible" spells for clerics. So the "cure wounds/inflict wounds" or "light/darkness" were actually the same spell, and the cleric could use either version when casting (though lawful classes were supposed to use this ability only sparingly). Its often talked about how few spells a caster might have prepared back then, but the reversible spells meant they had a few extra ones than the numbers might let on.

12) Cure Light Wounds could actually cure paralysis back then, neat!

13) Wish really was a "10th level spell" back then. Though it was technically 9th, you had to be 36th level to use it! Aka the highest of the high, it was clear even back then that Wish was the pinnacle of magical casting.

14) Intelligence actually determined the duration of mental effects back then. Though a little cumbersome, it was a nice bit of benefit for Int.

15) Dispel Magic actually worked more like 5e's version....automatically dispelling any equal or weaker magic, but then providing a chance to dispel stronger magic. The main difference is back then the dispel check on higher level magic was MUCH harder, which is something I actually like.

16) Skills existed back then! I had known about Thief Skills but I didn't know that the more general list of skills we know today actually did exist back then, though it was a good bit bigger than today's list.

17) The Exploration Rules are actually pretty comprehensive and have a lot of simple but useful rules, I may steal some of it for my current game.

18) Initiative was very different back then. It was a simple d6 and done by each group. The ideas of adding dex to the roll and rolling it per person were actually optional variants at that time. So was surprise, there was again no perception check back then just a simple d6 done by both sides. I like the simplicity of it, but considering how deadly surprise can be its probably a good idea they changed it.

19) The Monster Reaction and Morale tables are actually very simple and yet I really like how they make encounters more organic. Monster reactions showcases things like animals that may not be hostile due to certain circumstances, and morale gives you reasonable "checkpoints" on when to consider if a monster should just leave a fight. Its very clear that back then, it was more common for monsters to leave the battlefield than to just get killed.

20) Weapon Speed did exist in a very simplified version: Ranged Attacks went first, then Spells, then melee weapons.

21) "Power Attack" actually existed back then, called the smash maneuver. And it was quite potent, for a -5 to attack you got to add your Strength Score (not modifier) as a bonus to your damage. So effectively the "-1 attack, +2 damage" math has existed for quite some time.

22) There was a concept that your attack bonus if high enough allowed you to deal extra damage. And I don't mean the attack roll, if your skill was simply high enough vs your opponent's AC, you straight up got bonus damage. Interesting idea!

23) THAC0 tables really are as nasty as I remember :)

24) "Point Blank Shot" actually existed as a standard part of missile attacks back then.

25) Until you got to high levels, Saving Throws against spells were very hard to make. This meant that spellcaster spells went into effect much more often than they do nowadays.

26) Grappling was stupidly complicated even then:)
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
The Rules Cyclopedia (1991) is an excellent product, one of the very best in D&D's history. I got it shortly after picking up one of the early 1990's introductory D&D boxed sets, and it kept me captivated for a very long time.

One thing to note is that it's in fact a compilation of the first four of the BECMI boxed sets. That is, Frank Mentzer's Basic (1983), Expert (1983), Companion (1984), and Master (1985) rules. It didn't, however, try to include the "I" part of the acronym: the Immortals (1986) set (that, instead, got its own redux release as the 1992 Wrath of the Immortals boxed set).

While those boxed sets easily predate AD&D 2E (1989), there were several iterations of the game that came out before them in turn. Strictly speaking, Tom Moldvay's Basic Set (1981) and Marsh and Cook's Expert Set (1981) both predate BECMI, for instance, even though most of the rules are identical. AD&D 1E was released across three years, with the Monster Manual coming out in 1977, followed by the Players Handbook in 1978, and finally the Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979. 1977 was also when the original Basic Set came out, written by Dr. J. Eric Holmes.

And of course, Original D&D came out in 1974.

With regard to the Rules Cyclopedia specifically, I haven't opened my copy in a long time, but I had several thoughts on the points you posted:

1) Alignment: As much as we like to talk about the "9 alignments" as a sacred cow, it actually was just Law, Neutral, and Chaos back then. It seems that Law was "Big L, little g" and Chaos was "Big C, little e".

As I recall, while even back then those were being presented as issues of personal disposition, the use of those three alone was an artifact of their presentations in the fiction of Michael Moorcock (who cribbed them from Poul Anderson, though Anderson didn't have a Neutral that I recall) where they were representations of cosmic forces; if you were Lawful, for instance, you were in the "camp" of the Lawful mode of the universe, which sort of helped to explain that whole "alignment tongue" thing...even if it still seemed like a silly idea (which, as I recall, actually made it into AD&D 1E for all nine alignments).

5) The "Name" level at 9th actually reminds me a bit of the 4e paragon path. Though they are much less mechanical and more flavorful, there is still the notion that you are moving into a new direction as a character, and gaining a new suite of benefits and responsibilities. Its also pretty telling that the levels could go as high as 36 but often characters were expected to at least consider retirement at 9th.

Starting with the Companion set, there was a shift toward rulership rather than just perpetual exploration and treasure-acquisition. That wasn't necessarily retirement, however; as much as you could call it D&D's endgame, there were still a lot of adventures to be had while practicing domain rulership. It was just that the setup, approach, and potential resolutions were different.

8) Its no wonder that nature clerics and druids have overlap nowadays, as back then a druid was simply a "prestige class" for a cleric.

A lot of those were from earlier editions of D&D (e.g. the monk and druid were in the AD&D 1E PHB), and BECMI saw them being fitted into a different framework to account for how "Basic D&D" had become its own thing by that point.

19) The Monster Reaction and Morale tables are actually very simple and yet I really like how they make encounters more organic. Monster reactions showcases things like animals that may not be hostile due to certain circumstances, and morale gives you reasonable "checkpoints" on when to consider if a monster should just leave a fight. Its very clear that back then, it was more common for monsters to leave the battlefield than to just get killed.

I can't remember if the Rules Cyclopedia kept XP-for-treasure, but the loss of morale from later editions of D&D struck me as a net loss for the game. I understand why they did it; the shift to gaining XP from killing monsters meant that enemies that ran turned into a logic puzzle as to whether you got XP for monsters that you mostly beat but which survived and escaped (and if you then got XP again if you tracked them down and killed them later). Plus the whole issue of the impracticality of taking prisoners, the trustworthiness (or lack thereof) of monsters who offer to join you, etc. Even so, I still miss those rules.

23) THAC0 tables really are as nasty as I remember :)

Everyone hates THAC0, which always struck me as odd, because it was just a matter of "Your THAC0, minus the enemy's AC, equals the number (or higher) that you need to roll to hit them on a d20." It was certainly easier than pages of combat matrices like in AD&D 1E.

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pming

Legend
Hiya!

Nice to see someone find the sheer genius of the old "Basic D&D Rules".

As @Alzrius mentioned, the Rules Cyclopedia was from the "BECMI" '5-box set'.

If you want an AMAZING retro-clone of it... Dark Dungeons. Absolutely phenomenal retro-clone of the RC! I liked it so much I bought 7 softback PoD's and one deluxe colour hardback. I gave each of my 6 player one of the softbacks. We played it for about a year. And still do, although we use our original BECMI and RC books at that table too, as the rules are almost all exactly the same.

You can get the PDF's free, and I THINK you can still get the PoD's off of LuLu.com.

1) Alignment: As much as we like to talk about the "9 alignments" as a sacred cow, it actually was just Law, Neutral, and Chaos back then. It seems that Law was "Big L, little g" and Chaos was "Big C, little e".
Yes. Pretty much. We did the same thing and assumed the same thing, but we sort of emphesized the "Likes structure, laws, hierarchy and group orientation" for Law and the "Likes randomness, ultimate choice, individuality and unexpected things". In short, and in a 'story context', "Law is generally the good guys, and Chaos is generally the guys you don't like or trust".

3) Alignments actually had their own language back then! So lawful characters could talk to each other in "secret code". That's both weird and neat.
I've always assumed that when you are "speaking your alignment", you are still speaking a specific language...but you are using certain terms, colloquialisms, connotations, references, hand gestures, facial expressions, etc as you are doing it.

So...
Law: "That is great! [leans forward a bit and smiles, opening arms wide] Quite the accomplishment [nods head], we would say! How refreshing for such an edict to be orchestrated! [leans back while placing both palms on the table]"

Chaos: "That is effing great! [sits up straight] Very nice! [cocks head sideways with a single raised eyebrow] You pulled it off [points finger], I'd say! How satisfying to see someone make a good decision... for once...! [narrows brow a bit and slightly leans forward, placing one hand under the table and one above]".

That's how I run it.
5) The "Name" level at 9th actually reminds me a bit of the 4e paragon path. Though they are much less mechanical and more flavorful, there is still the notion that you are moving into a new direction as a character, and gaining a new suite of benefits and responsibilities. Its also pretty telling that the levels could go as high as 36 but often characters were expected to at least consider retirement at 9th.
When hitting 9th, it was actually expected for the PC to make a "decision" to either keep on keeping on as an adventure (re: wanderer), or to settle in an area and become a leader (re: a ruler of a domain). Each 'path' had plusses and minuses, and the Dominion section has all that information for building whatever the class can 'do' at that level (re: Fighters build a keep, Magic-Users can build a Tower, Thieves can build/obtain a Hidehout/Guild, etc). Great stuff all around!

Oh, and the "Warmachine" rules for mass combat? GENIUS! :)

9) It was interesting to read the "Mystic" which is the original monk. The monk honestly hasn't changed nearly as much as I had expected, and many of its current abilities you can see traces of in the original class.
Fun fact...the Mystic (and the Assassin... Headhunter) were originally just "monsters" in the... Companion book? Yeah, I think that was it. It wasn't until the RC when they were added as 'playable classes'. In other words, if you find the BECMI box sets, you will not see them as playable Classes or Players.

11) There was a neat concept back then of "reversible" spells for clerics.
Agreed! LOVE this concept and think it makes for a great feel. Because the Cleric prays for his/her spells and their Patron Immortal grants them...or chooses for them. The deliberate choice of the Cleric to 'cast the spell in reverse' is, effectively, the Cleric saying "Well, yeah, God/dess, I get that you gave me Cure Light Wounds...but I REALLY want to see this murderous pedophile suffer! Cause Light Wounds!". Think of it like a Cleric willfully choosing to 'blaspheme'. It's one of those little "connections" between the Player and the idea of his Cleric/Clerics Deity. It reinforces that Roleplaying aspect of the Class instead of simply neutering it under the guise of 'it's in the rules, so I can do it'.

16) Skills existed back then! I had known about Thief Skills but I didn't know that the more general list of skills we know today actually did exist back then, though it was a good bit bigger than today's list.
Interesting fact...when I first picked up the 5e Starter Set when it was released, my thought on how they handled/explained Skills, had me immediately thinking "Oh, so kinda like BECMI's Skills....cool". :) The "skills" are actually more of an "Ability Check with specific knowledge/application. The BECMI/RC skills are each under an Ability. That Ability is what you need to roll equal or under to succeed. It was easy enough to sub-out an Ability for another when attempting some 'Skill'. For example, I've had Players use Int in stead of Str when trying to force open some unusually shaped and weighted door ("correct application of force in a specific location and direction", in stead of "just smash it!").

19) The Monster Reaction and Morale tables are actually very simple and yet I really like how they make encounters more organic.
Yup. In fact, I STILL use these BECMI rules for virtually all my fantasy RPG'ing.... D&D flavour or not. They are quick, simple, and open to interpretation; thus allowing me to "go with the flow" of the game to make believable monster/NPC choices.
Another GENIUS rule! :)

20) Weapon Speed did exist in a very simplified version: Ranged Attacks went first, then Spells, then melee weapons.
...and Melee further down to 1-handed vs 2-handed; 2-handed weapons, like the Battle Axe, Two-Handed Sword, Pole-Arms always go last! (unless you're fighting Zombies, iirc).

BECMI/RC is, imnsho, the most perfect fantasy RPG ever created. Period. No other RPG has such a perfect balance of "stuff" that is used throughout. There's a reason why BX/BECMI/RC has been in my top 3 favourite game systems over these 40'ish years of my RPG'ing career.

Enjoy your new found joy, likely for decades to come! :D

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Voadam

Legend
A couple points of friendly commentary on your observations.
a) Ability scores were more spread out. You had to get very higher scores just to get even a +2 or +3, and you didn't go above 18.
9-12 +0
13-15 +1
16-17 +2
18 +3
AD&D had a more bell curve set of bonuses that varied by stat but usually started at +1 for 15 and went to ~+4 at 18. AD&D generally did not go above 18 either. There was no stat bump from levels either, just rare magic like a wish. Usually your stats were there for good.

4) In our modern day of "6 saving throws", its neat to remember we actually started with 5 not 3.
They were generally by category so classes were matched up to things to be thematically appropriately good at resisting, wand rays were things you dodged so thieves were good at those saves, breath weapons were either dodged or blocked by shields so fighters were good here, petrification and polymorph affected your physical body so fighters were good here too, general magic was the magic user specialty, Clerics had the blessing of supernatural forces for things like resisting death magic, poisons, and paralysis, etc.
8) Its no wonder that nature clerics and druids have overlap nowadays, as back then a druid was simply a "prestige class" for a cleric.

9) It was interesting to read the "Mystic" which is the original monk. The monk honestly hasn't changed nearly as much as I had expected, and many of its current abilities you can see traces of in the original class.
These were both BECMI adaptations of AD&D core classes which were originally from Oe supplements.

10) Later editions like 3rd played with very complicated "spell preparation time formulas", but back then it was a simple single hour to memorize spells.
AD&D had the spell prep times per spell level that could take more than a day to prepare a full high level magic-users spell complement.
13) Wish really was a "10th level spell" back then. Though it was technically 9th, you had to be 36th level to use it! Aka the highest of the high, it was clear even back then that Wish was the pinnacle of magical casting.
In AD&D it was a normal 9th level spell.
16) Skills existed back then! I had known about Thief Skills but I didn't know that the more general list of skills we know today actually did exist back then, though it was a good bit bigger than today's list.
These were not there in the B/X set, they came about later in the Gazetteer series and (I believe) in BECMI.

20) Weapon Speed did exist in a very simplified version: Ranged Attacks went first, then Spells, then melee weapons.
AD&D had different versions of this as well that were also different between 1e and 2e.
25) Until you got to high levels, Saving Throws against spells were very hard to make. This meant that spellcaster spells went into effect much more often than they do nowadays.
Fighters got good at saves at a fairly quick pace. This also meant high level characters were more likely to save in the game, but the expected power for magic was that the one shot in the early levels would usually be powerful for that context.
 

8) Its no wonder that nature clerics and druids have overlap nowadays, as back then a druid was simply a "prestige class" for a cleric.

9) It was interesting to read the "Mystic" which is the original monk. The monk honestly hasn't changed nearly as much as I had expected, and many of its current abilities you can see traces of in the original class.

10) Later editions like 3rd played with very complicated "spell preparation time formulas", but back then it was a simple single hour to memorize spells.

11) There was a neat concept back then of "reversible" spells for clerics. So the "cure wounds/inflict wounds" or "light/darkness" were actually the same spell, and the cleric could use either version when casting (though lawful classes were supposed to use this ability only sparingly). Its often talked about how few spells a caster might have prepared back then, but the reversible spells meant they had a few extra ones than the numbers might let on.

12) Cure Light Wounds could actually cure paralysis back then, neat!

13) Wish really was a "10th level spell" back then. Though it was technically 9th, you had to be 36th level to use it! Aka the highest of the high, it was clear even back then that Wish was the pinnacle of magical casting.

14) Intelligence actually determined the duration of mental effects back then. Though a little cumbersome, it was a nice bit of benefit for Int.

15) Dispel Magic actually worked more like 5e's version....automatically dispelling any equal or weaker magic, but then providing a chance to dispel stronger magic. The main difference is back then the dispel check on higher level magic was MUCH harder, which is something I actually like.

16) Skills existed back then! I had known about Thief Skills but I didn't know that the more general list of skills we know today actually did exist back then, though it was a good bit bigger than today's list.

17) The Exploration Rules are actually pretty comprehensive and have a lot of simple but useful rules, I may steal some of it for my current game.

18) Initiative was very different back then. It was a simple d6 and done by each group. The ideas of adding dex to the roll and rolling it per person were actually optional variants at that time. So was surprise, there was again no perception check back then just a simple d6 done by both sides. I like the simplicity of it, but considering how deadly surprise can be its probably a good idea they changed it.

19) The Monster Reaction and Morale tables are actually very simple and yet I really like how they make encounters more organic. Monster reactions showcases things like animals that may not be hostile due to certain circumstances, and morale gives you reasonable "checkpoints" on when to consider if a monster should just leave a fight. Its very clear that back then, it was more common for monsters to leave the battlefield than to just get killed.

20) Weapon Speed did exist in a very simplified version: Ranged Attacks went first, then Spells, then melee weapons.

21) "Power Attack" actually existed back then, called the smash maneuver. And it was quite potent, for a -5 to attack you got to add your Strength Score (not modifier) as a bonus to your damage. So effectively the "-1 attack, +2 damage" math has existed for quite some time.

22) There was a concept that your attack bonus if high enough allowed you to deal extra damage. And I don't mean the attack roll, if your skill was simply high enough vs your opponent's AC, you straight up got bonus damage. Interesting idea!

23) THAC0 tables really are as nasty as I remember :)

24) "Point Blank Shot" actually existed as a standard part of missile attacks back then.

25) Until you got to high levels, Saving Throws against spells were very hard to make. This meant that spellcaster spells went into effect much more often than they do nowadays.

26) Grappling was stupidly complicated even then:)

8 & 9) The "prestige" druid and the mystic class were actually pretty late innovations, coming from the '83 Companion Set and '84 Master Set respectively. The original druid (from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry) and monk (from Supplement II: Blackmoor) were both cleric sub-classes that you could start in from level one, and they're very similar to the AD&D 1e versions. And it is true that the original Blackmoor monk, the AD&D 1st edition monk (and 2nd edition Scarlet Brotherhood monk), and the Master Set/Rules Cyclopedia mystic actually didn't change all that much, even as they progressed into the 3.0/3.5 monk class. It's kind of astonishing when you compare them all side-by-side.

10) The one-hour spell prep time is something Basic shares with 3rd. In 1st and 2nd edition, magic-users required 10 minutes per spell level for each separate spell that they memorized!

12) Having cure light wounds alternatively cure paralysis was something Tom Moldvay added to the Basic Set rules in '81 so that the spell list was kept short (eight spells per spell level for clerics). Dr Holmes, author of the '77 blue-cover Basic Set, didn't like that change and thought it made things too easy on the players!

13) You needed to be both 36th level and have an 18 Int (for a mage) or WIs (for a cleric)!

16) General skills were added to Basic D&D in the late 80s in the Mystara Gazetteers, and they're based directly on non-weapon proficiencies, which come from the late 1st edition AD&D books from '85 and '86 (Oriental Adventures, Dungeoneers Survival Guide, Wilderness Survival Guide). They were always optional, even into 2nd edition, and their use pretty drastically changes how the game plays. You can play a Rules Cyclopedia game with or without skills, and it works either way, but the experience is going to differ.

17) Basic D&D's exploration rules are the best. They still work even if you port them into 3rd or 5th edition.

25) But at high levels, the opposite is true—high-level characters almost always make saves, and this didn't change until 3rd edition borked the saving throw math for ever afterward. And you'll notice that dwarves and halflings hit those good save numbers way sooner than everybody else, followed by fighters next—fighters being able to make most saving throws is one of their hidden bits of awesomeness (along with their use of magic swords) that makes a "plain" looking class actually rock the house in Basic when played rules-as-written! (Even if you don't use Weapon Mastery!)
 

3) Alignments actually had their own language back then! So lawful characters could talk to each other in "secret code". That's both weird and neat.

Alignment Languages still existed in 1e AD&D. P. 34 of the 1st edition Player's Handbook.

It was quietly dropped in AD&D 2e, probably because nobody ever really used them.
 


Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Or because nobody could figure out what was supposed to happen if you changed alignments.
I vaguely recall that this was actually addressed in AD&D 1E, and that it had you instantly forgetting your old alignment language while simultaneously learning the new one. Spoony discusses this at one point in this video (at 20:37):

 



Gorg

Explorer
Never got the RC- not even sure why, as it seems like it'd be right up my alley. (just ask the shelves groaning under the weight of all the D&D related books I own...)

I began with B/X, and instantly loved it! Some things I did find irritating (racial limits), but that's true of any game. And we just houseruled that stuff away, anyhow. We never moved on to BECMI, because we were playing AD&D by then. I even ported over my B/X characters, so I could keep playing them.

Still have both boxed sets, though the dice that came with them are long lost. Lots of fond memories of playing that game!! I should take them down and read through them again! It was amazing how they were able to pack THAT much information (an entire RPG!!) into one reasonable sized booklet like that. All you needed to play was in that boxed set- rules, dice, and a module. Just had to supply a pencil and paper.

I always looked back fondly on those days- when hauling around a 2' tall stack of AD&D stuff to all the games...

3E got rid of pretty much all of the obnoxious arbitrary limits we'd long houseruled- and it's hard to look back.

I hadn't thought about how 5E was similar to the early editions of D&D- but it does seem strangely familiar. The much streamlined combat rules DO remind me of earlier, simpler times, when fights and such just seemed to flow better. And while I do miss all the extra choices for spells in 2nd and 3rd ed, I do NOT miss trying to keep them all strait. And I definitely don't miss having to flip through half a dozen hardcovers, softcovers, Dragon Mags etc etc etc to find them when I needed it, lol.
 



For the life of me I don't know why anyone would need a retroclone of the Rules Cyclopedia. It's complete accessible.

It didn't used to be, before WotC put up a print version on DriveThru. If you didn't want to drop a mint plus shipping on Ebay, the only way to get your hands on an RC was to get really lucky at a game shop or a secondhand bookstore.

Also, what @Alzrius said. If you write an adventure module "for use with Dark Dungeons," that's a bit more marketable than "for use with the fourth revision, circa 1991, of the basic version of the world's first and most popular fantasy RPG."
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I love the Rules Cyclopedia, and my main game is a modified version of that rule set.

Dark Dungeons, for all its praise, does one thing horribly and irredeemably wrong: it ditches the THAC0 combat system but replaces it with a different, still ridiculously counterintuitive combat system. Instead of a simple attack bonus and armor bonus, as most modern games use, it has funky math - evidently on the assumption that OSR gamers still want an asinine combat system, they just dislike the specific application of THAC0.

It's a pity, because otherwise it's a pretty solid book. Unless you want the Mystara specific setting info, which of course it lacks.

For my part, pencilled-in conversions of AC and to-hit bonuses in my Rules Cyclopedia does the trick, though I also imported the 5e (dis)advantage mechanic.
 

Reynard

Legend
Because it makes it easier for publishers to write compatible material under the OGL?
No, I get why it exists as a publisher resource. I just don't get why there's a commercial product.

I understand OSRIC and B/X Essentials because those sources, while also available, are kind of a mess. But Alston's RC is a pretty much perfect book from an organizational standpoint.

I guess maybe this: if the RC PDF isn't searchable I can see wanting something that is.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
I love the Rules Cyclopedia, and my main game is a modified version of that rule set.

Dark Dungeons, for all its praise, does one thing horribly and irredeemably wrong: it ditches the THAC0 combat system but replaces it with a different, still ridiculously counterintuitive combat system. Instead of a simple attack bonus and armor bonus, as most modern games use, it has funky math - evidently on the assumption that OSR gamers still want an asinine combat system, they just dislike the specific application of THAC0.

It's a pity, because otherwise it's a pretty solid book. Unless you want the Mystara specific setting info, which of course it lacks.

For my part, pencilled-in conversions of AC and to-hit bonuses in my Rules Cyclopedia does the trick, though I also imported the 5e (dis)advantage mechanic.
Wow. Talk about different strokes and all that! Personally I consider the slightly modified DD combat "To Hit" determination to be one of it's better modifications!

For those that don't know, here's how you figure if you hit or not:

1d20 + Adjustments + Opponents AC >= 20, then you Hit

Example
: You swing your sword. You roll 1d20 and get 14. You have a +2 for Strength, so 16. You are also a 4th level Fighter, so you have a "Base Attack Bonus" of +2, so you are at 18 now. Your opponents AC is 4, so you have 22. You hit. ... ... ... in other words, if your opponents AC was 1 or better, you'd miss.

That said, you could always just use the Attack Charts from the BX/BECMI/RC books in stead and ignore the BAB for the DD classes. Wouldn't change a thing.

For those that want a physical copy of the Rules Cyclopedia...well, hope you have deep pockets, because the typical price for even a "Fair" condition is a bit lower than $200. So...yeah. PoD of DD will be $15 ($26 for Hardback; $90 for Hardback, full colour on premium paper...which, I must say, is of VERY high quality! :) ).

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

teitan

Legend
i don’t know if I am alone but to me, skill systems kind of ruined D&D/AD&D. It was all exciting at first to pick them but the way they conflicted with thief abilities was unfair to thieves, extrapolating the thief system just made it a mess like Palladium. Just using the secondary skill system was broad enough to imply a series of broad base skills for a PC to work from in down time and could also help adjudicate in adventuring environments with enough granularity to keep a game flowing without turning social encounters into dice chucking affairs rather than role playing opportunities.

the alignment expansion I think is where a sea change occurred. While Law and Chaos were more cosmic forces than hard moralities before, tacking on good and evil kind of encoded a morality into it as opposed to the more cosmic conflict it seemed to represent in the Gygaxian dialect. The alignment languages also made sense as Law, Chaos because they were more like what we would call Celestial or Abyssal and the like. This is why Neutrality was so hard to wrap your head around because it represented a cosmic balance because alignments were a specific choice with good or evil being more indicative of morality. So the Lawful Good Paladin was one, choosing to side with the cosmic forces represented by Law and then was morally good. It really shouldn’t have anything to do with observing the “law of the land” that seems a common interpretation extrapolated from later materials. Law vs Chaos was a literal cosmic conflict and the Neutral forces were choosing to keep both in check. It’s grainy when the good and evil axis are juxtaposed on the morality axis with neutrality where Chaotic Neutral and Lawful Neutral just seem out of place.
 
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So I got a chance to borrow my friend's Rules Cyclopedia recently (which as far as I understand it is the collection of all of the Box sets back in the day, I believe before 2e came out). Though I played a little 2e, I never "looked under the hood" of the game before 3e....so it was really neat to see some of the early rules for the game. It was cool to see how some things evolved, and honestly....I found some rules that I thought were pretty good even today. So here are a few general notes and interesting things:

**I'm going to reference "back then" a lot in the post, just noting I am sure there were other flavors and versions out there, so know I am specifically referencing the Rules Cyclopedia.

1) Alignment: As much as we like to talk about the "9 alignments" as a sacred cow, it actually was just Law, Neutral, and Chaos back then. It seems that Law was "Big L, little g" and Chaos was "Big C, little e".

2) As we talk about bounded accuracy today, there are several places where I find it interesting how much more "bounded" the game was back then. Some examples:

a) Ability scores were more spread out. You had to get very higher scores just to get even a +2 or +3, and you didn't go above 18.
9-12 +0
13-15 +1
16-17 +2
18 +3

b) Many more things used static rolls instead of adding in ability scores. Several skills, initiative, surprise, even your saving throws were almost entirely dependent on level than on your ability scores.

c) Hitpoints were tighter. Fighters only had d8 hp, and you only gained a single HP at 9th and beyond.


3) Alignments actually had their own language back then! So lawful characters could talk to each other in "secret code". That's both weird and neat.

4) In our modern day of "6 saving throws", its neat to remember we actually started with 5 not 3.

5) The "Name" level at 9th actually reminds me a bit of the 4e paragon path. Though they are much less mechanical and more flavorful, there is still the notion that you are moving into a new direction as a character, and gaining a new suite of benefits and responsibilities. Its also pretty telling that the levels could go as high as 36 but often characters were expected to at least consider retirement at 9th.

6) The term avenger as a fighting class dates way back, I had thought that was a 4e invention.

7) The concept of being able to move and attack twice existed back in the day. I had assumed 3e's "move and get 1 attack only" had been the norm for some time.

8) Its no wonder that nature clerics and druids have overlap nowadays, as back then a druid was simply a "prestige class" for a cleric.

9) It was interesting to read the "Mystic" which is the original monk. The monk honestly hasn't changed nearly as much as I had expected, and many of its current abilities you can see traces of in the original class.

10) Later editions like 3rd played with very complicated "spell preparation time formulas", but back then it was a simple single hour to memorize spells.

11) There was a neat concept back then of "reversible" spells for clerics. So the "cure wounds/inflict wounds" or "light/darkness" were actually the same spell, and the cleric could use either version when casting (though lawful classes were supposed to use this ability only sparingly). Its often talked about how few spells a caster might have prepared back then, but the reversible spells meant they had a few extra ones than the numbers might let on.

12) Cure Light Wounds could actually cure paralysis back then, neat!

13) Wish really was a "10th level spell" back then. Though it was technically 9th, you had to be 36th level to use it! Aka the highest of the high, it was clear even back then that Wish was the pinnacle of magical casting.

14) Intelligence actually determined the duration of mental effects back then. Though a little cumbersome, it was a nice bit of benefit for Int.

15) Dispel Magic actually worked more like 5e's version....automatically dispelling any equal or weaker magic, but then providing a chance to dispel stronger magic. The main difference is back then the dispel check on higher level magic was MUCH harder, which is something I actually like.

16) Skills existed back then! I had known about Thief Skills but I didn't know that the more general list of skills we know today actually did exist back then, though it was a good bit bigger than today's list.

17) The Exploration Rules are actually pretty comprehensive and have a lot of simple but useful rules, I may steal some of it for my current game.

18) Initiative was very different back then. It was a simple d6 and done by each group. The ideas of adding dex to the roll and rolling it per person were actually optional variants at that time. So was surprise, there was again no perception check back then just a simple d6 done by both sides. I like the simplicity of it, but considering how deadly surprise can be its probably a good idea they changed it.

19) The Monster Reaction and Morale tables are actually very simple and yet I really like how they make encounters more organic. Monster reactions showcases things like animals that may not be hostile due to certain circumstances, and morale gives you reasonable "checkpoints" on when to consider if a monster should just leave a fight. Its very clear that back then, it was more common for monsters to leave the battlefield than to just get killed.

20) Weapon Speed did exist in a very simplified version: Ranged Attacks went first, then Spells, then melee weapons.

21) "Power Attack" actually existed back then, called the smash maneuver. And it was quite potent, for a -5 to attack you got to add your Strength Score (not modifier) as a bonus to your damage. So effectively the "-1 attack, +2 damage" math has existed for quite some time.

22) There was a concept that your attack bonus if high enough allowed you to deal extra damage. And I don't mean the attack roll, if your skill was simply high enough vs your opponent's AC, you straight up got bonus damage. Interesting idea!

23) THAC0 tables really are as nasty as I remember :)

24) "Point Blank Shot" actually existed as a standard part of missile attacks back then.

25) Until you got to high levels, Saving Throws against spells were very hard to make. This meant that spellcaster spells went into effect much more often than they do nowadays.

26) Grappling was stupidly complicated even then:)

The Mystic wasnt the original Monk, the Monk was.

It debuted in AD&D years prior (after first appearing in Dragon) and was further refined in Oriental Adventures (with unique Martial arts styles).
 

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