Character Creation Challenge: Rules Cyclopedia

Previously in this character creation challenge I explored 1977 Basic D&D via Blueholme, and 1981 Basic D&D via Labyrinth Lord. I now chose to make a character using the 1983 Basic D&D via the Rules Cyclopedia (a 1991 consolidation and revision of the Basic, Expert, Companion, and Master box sets that were released from 1983-1985). The 1983 Basic red box set was my very first D&D game product, so these rules are quite special for me, since those rules along with the art by Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley defined D&D for me and set me off on my RPG journey. By the time the Rules Cyclopedia came out in 1991 I had already switched to AD&D 1st edition and it was in 1992 that I began AD&D 2nd edition and a Forgotten Realms campaign that would last until 2018 (when I left behind the Forgotten Realms and D&D for my homebrew world using Castles & Crusades), so except for admiring the incredible Jeff Easley cover, I never used the the Rules Cyclopedia.

The Rules Cyclopedia, a consolidation of most of the BECMI D&D.

Character creation is pretty simple. I rolled 3d6 six times and distributed them the way I wanted. Unlike my Labyrinth Lord character, who had attributes that were 10, 15, 11, 5, 7, and 8, I rolled much better for this character: 14, 12, 13, 12, 13, 9. Since I chose to make a dwarf, I put my best numbers in Strength and Constitution. The high numbers ensured that Thrafith would get a +5% experience point bonus. I rolled for starting gold (3d6 x 10) and only got 70gp, so he was not going to be purchasing a lot! After buying basic adventuring materials such as rations, hammer, iron spikes, rope, tinderbox, and some clothes, I decided he would be happy with just a battle axe, shield and leather armor. He had 14gp left over. This rules set only has three alignments – lawful, chaotic, and neutral – and I made him lawful. Thrafith’s dwarven abilities are as you would expect: infravision, detection of stone traps, sliding walls, sloping corridors, and new construction. Finally, I filled in the “To Hit” chart and my Saving Throws (both could be found in tables found much later in the Rules Cyclopedia, however, the page numbers are conveniently listed in the character creation chapter at the beginning of the book).

The first page of my character sheet using the Rules Cyclopedia

If you want to run a Basic D&D campaign from 1st until 36th levels, this is the book. It has everything for players, and with a monster manual and rules advice, it has everything a Dungeon Master needs as well (the book is 304 pages, but keep in mind the format is three columns, with a small font and narrow spacing, so it is quite packed with information). Well, that is it for this character creation post, coming up I will cover Basic FantasyOld School EssentialsAdventures Dark and DeepSwords & Wizardry, and Low Fantasy Gaming.

The 1983 Basic D&D Box set (sadly, not my original box).

Castles & Crusades: Barrowmaze, Session 48.

The Army of the Light battle a Skeletal Naga that would’ve wiped half the group if not for the lucky intervention of the gods!

Skeletal Naga

Game Diary:
After the last adventure the Army of the Light relaxed in the town of Helix as Balthazar the wizard and Cyron the cleric spent 3 weeks and 1 week, respectively recovering from the rot pudding that nearly killed them. With a swapping of a couple characters, the Army of the Light – 11 characters for this evening of adventure – headed back to the Barrowmaze to work on completing their exploration of the northwest corner of the labyrinthine underground complex.

With Arthur, the oathsworn constantly detecting evil, Kyra, the elven cleric detecting undead, and Gnoosh, the gnome rogue illusionist using his robe of eyes, helm of telepathy, and compass of treasure finding to cover many of the other bases, this particular group makeup made it very difficult for any danger to sneak up on them! In this case the compass of treasure finding pointed in a direction indicating where large sums of treasure could be found, and unsurprisingly the detection of evil and undead was also strong in that same direction! Nothing will stop the Army of the Light, and they moved forward. Moving down the corridor where their senses told them there would be evil, undead, and treasure, they came upon a large curtain which blocked the 10 foot wide passage in front of them. It was embroidered in silver thread and displayed a skeletal serpentine creature with a human skull for a head. The legend lore of Belden, the gnome bard, told him that this was probably a depiction of a skeletal naga, an intelligent and powerful guardian creature. Directly behind the curtain was a heavy iron portcullis, which was no problem when you’ve got half-orc barbarians and berserkers in your group!

After passing through the portcullis they made their way through the crypt of a long dead painter and from their they arrived at a secret door. In front of it was a pit trap, which Gnoosh disarmed. As the secret door was sliding over two zombie-like arms reached out. One grabbed Gnoosh and pulled him into the darkness within. There the undead wrapped its other hand around his throat and began squeezing. Once the door was open group members swung their weapons and Kyra used her special magic item – the Gauntlet of Palantis – and shot out a beam of holy light that seared the flesh of the undead. They went down quickly after that.

The group knew they were close to the treasure and the greater evil and undead and there was now only one door left to open before they arrived at it. Open it they did, and as they did so they saw the skeletal naga swaying back and forth as the air began humming with electrical energy, their hair stood up on end an immense lightning bolt was about to launch itself towards them all. The players did have a card they could use from the Deck of Dirty Tricks (I randomly draw cards from this deck each game session and allow players to use them as a way of representing “the Gods working in mysterious ways”), the card read: “opponent loses one action.” I was rolling damage and told them all to roll Dexterity saving throws. They did so but some players also said they wanted to use the card to prevent the spell from going off. They were very lucky indeed! Just as the lightning bolt was about envelop them all, it sparked out of existence. The players were curious as to what would’ve happened if they had not had the card, or had not used it. I told them that I had rolled 35 damage for those that failed their save (18 damage for those that passed). Six characters out of the eleven would’ve been outright killed, or brought down to negative hit points lingering at death’s door! The use of that card saved half the group! With a new round of initiative and a new found appreciation of life, the group began moving into the room and attacked it. Although it was able to brush off some of their spells, good blows were being laid upon it from the group’s magical weapons. It did manage to cover half the group in a web so as to reduce the number of attacks it was receiving and allow it to focus its attacks on a more manageable number of adventurers. But in the end this was futile – it’s fate was sealed. The next round the group destroyed the guardian creature and the treasure it was guarding was now theirs – thousands of gold pieces worth of gems and jewelry!