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).

4 thoughts on “Character Creation Challenge: Rules Cyclopedia

  1. See, that is a perfectly viable character when played the way the game started. By the time he drinks from a fountain here, and touches a column there, and reads a book or two, by the time he is 5th or 6th level, his attributes will have grown with him. Look at some of the opportunities available in the early campaigns to improve your attributes, and you will understand why average starting scores really were not that bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. In fact, in the game system I run – Castles & Crusades – my players rolling 3d6 six times and distribute the way they like for their characters, so they begin with lower attribute characters than what they are used to in D&D 5E (when they either roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, or use point-buy). However, in my C&C games every time a player gains a level they can try and raise an attribute if they want. They take some time off (there level x2 in weeks) and then roll a straight d20 with no modifiers, if they can match or exceed their current attribute number, then it goes up by one. This makes it easier to increase low attributes, but more difficult to raise high attributes, but it does show character growth.


  2. Pingback: Character Creation Challenge: Old School Essentials | The World of PhilosopherZeus

  3. Pingback: Character Creation Challenge: Swords & Wizardry | The World of PhilosopherZeus

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