Tuesday, September 4, 2018

OSR Commentary - Beyond Eleven The Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia By Frank Mentzer Edited & Collected By Aaron Allston

Sure it came out in Nineteen Ninety One but the D&D Rules Cyclopedia is the version of the grand game that I'd have with me if I was stuck on a desert island with a group of players. It has everything that was in
the Frank Mentzer D&D Basic Rules Set (1983), & opens it up by a factor of ten.

The D&D Rule Cyclopedia is a one book tool kit for handling all of the classic modules & adventures plus being able to run a whole gauntlet's worth of old school play.
With Dungeons & Dragons adventures like  'WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun' with its combat scores of norkers, ogres, hill giants, ettins, & mountain giants the Rule Cyclopedia could handle it with little problem. This is not a beginner book at all but a book that collects almost all of the information that came out in the various sets of  Frank Mentzer's box sets. I love the Cyclopedia due to the fact that it is an 'all in one' book. Can it do everything from urban adventuring to full on dungeon crawling. Here are some of my favorite highlights of  the Rule Cyclopedia:

  • The Stronghold creation rules are very nicely done. 
  • The Mystic class which to me is a great  version of the Dungeons & Dragons Monk class
  • The whole paradigm of Immortals instead of Gods helps to flavor the flavor of Mystara's mythology into the Known World setting. 
  • All of the Basic D&D rules are here with most of the character classes so its a one stop for Basic gaming
  • The whole book is one old school Dungeons & Dragons Swiss army knife of an adventure construction tool kit. 
  •  Treasure, Spells, Monsters, Maps of Mystara (a campaign setting), Alternate Rules, etc. are all within easy reach of the players & dungeon master. 
Beyond merely kicking the wheels off of the PC's the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia takes the PC's into higher society with each level. They go from being the lowly peasants to the full elite of society. This book takes this very fact into account as hirelings & minions can not only be hired by the PC's but fully fleshed out. The adventurer's system rules are really fleshed out.
This means that the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia can easily handle everything from quasi historical fantasy to straight up science fantasy with a horror twist with the rules presented. There is a very good break down of the differences between classic  Mentzer BECM D&D and Allston Rules Cyclopedia D&D.

The simple style & no nonsense school of design here lends itself to the type of hard knocks that old school players are used to from the Expert Dungeons & Dragons blue book. But the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia takes things in a different direction with the player's PC's dealing in the realities of dungeon delving & adventuring.

There seems to be a take no prisoners attitude when it comes to the design & writing of
the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. The reader it seems to be assumed knows what he or she is doing. The rules here do not suffer fools gladly. The lethality of the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia rules are something I've always admired in this book. I really admire how the whole package overall fits in the narrative of the Dungeons & Dragons set up in the line. The fact is that the Rules Cyclopedia is meant for experienced D&D players, Mentzer D&D is the easier pick up and go play game.

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