04 March 2013

Fixing the Rules Cyclopedia

Over at the RPGsite the following question recently was asked: "If you had to rewrite one TSR-era D&D book, which one would it be, and how would you change it?"

Here is my answer:

Rules Cyclopedia:

1. Let PCs be druids, paladins, or avengers from level 1. Let knights be a 'prestige class' for fighters of any alignment at level 9. Add illusionists.

2. Fix thieves. Seriously, they are a horrible class in the RC. (Perhaps treat thief skills like the other 'optional' skills, and let any character class pick them? Or let thieves assign skill points and receive Dex bonuses, as in 2e AD&D?)

3. Downplay the higher-level stuff. Make it clear that levels 1-12 are the focus of most campaigns, and that higher-level characters (NPCs and PCs) are extremely rare. (No council of 1000 36th level archmages running Alphatia! Ugh!)

4. Eliminate 'attack ranks' for demi-humans (elfs, dwarfs, halflings). Fix the 'optional' 36-level progression charts for those classes, and just make those official.

5. Keep 'race classes', but include multiple versions (dwarf clerics, dwarf thieves, elf druids, etc.). (Essentially, expand upon what was done in some of the Gazetteers.)

6. Ascending ACs.

7. Change all the art. Hell, just recycle the art from the Moldvay/Cook B/X books (especially the Otus stuff).

I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of other fixes...

I probably should've added: "simplify the weapon specialization rules."

I'm not sure how well the rules for running dominions work, so perhaps those need some fixing as well.

Since I've been reading OSRIC (the 1e AD&D clone) lately on my ipad mini (helps make sitting on a bus more tolerable), I also have some thoughts on how to 'fix' AD&D.  I'll try to post those in the relatively near future...


  1. I quite like the art in the RC. This was the first version of D&D I played and was always confused by the way that AC worked.

    1. I'm genuinely pleased that someone likes the art in the RC. There are a few pieces that I like myself, but the lack of variety and overall tone compel me to give it a 'thumbs down'.

  2. Yeah, the dominion rules were overhauled in Dragon magazine (issues 187 and 189-191) to make them work for general use. The rules in the Cyclopedia were designed to force players to adventure in addition to running a dominion, by making it so that a dominion can't pay for itself.

  3. Those fixes would be fantastic. That would be a B/X D&D I'd play in a heartbeat, because every change you mention is to something which I disliked in the original Rules Cyclopedia.

    1. I'd second that, Tori. Though I've played a lot of BE[CMI] and RC D&D, I think a lot of the problems a the result of the insane 1-36 level spread. This makes Thieves incompetent, fills the world with (or implies a game world filled with) improbably powerful NPCs, creates a motivation to do away with demi-human level limits (E10 v MU36?, D12 v F36, and H8 v... well, anyone?], and treats (in the rules as a whole, if not in actual play) the great accomplishment of reaching 'name' level as a minor, early game achievement.

      And yes, the fixes do end up sounding like ACKS (and I'm partial to LotFP for a 'fixed' Thief, powerful Fighters and a great Halfling class).

  4. Sounds rather like ACK. I happen to agree with out, mostly. There are some art pieces I rather like from the RC. My favorite has to be the adventurers interviewing the hirelings.

    1. Agreed on it sounding rather like ACKS. Several of the points on this list are exactly the reasons I selected ACKS as my old-school rules-set of choice.

  5. Hmm... I'll have to take a closer look at ACK at some point...

    1. ACKS is awesome, an excellent version of BX/BECMI/Cyclopedia.

      Its economics are especially tightly written, and make a great deal of sense. The downside to that is that it is difficult to change anything in the game (I had a long discussion with the writers about changing the cargo tonnage of ships, and they agreed that the follow-on effects would be extensive). On the other hand, players can get deeply involved in running merchant enterprises - ships, caravans, whatever. Anyone who thinks that caravans and ships don't make for high adventure never saw a pirate movie. Not that merchant enterprises is the only way for players to go, it's just one more well-rendered choice available to them.

      If I weren't going to be running AD&D, I'd probably go with ACKS. As it stands, I'll be pulling ideas from it.


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who divides his time between Milwaukee and Toronto.