Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia

Any exploration of OD&D inevitably leads me here. As you know by now, I cut my teeth on the LBBs + Supplements, and went from there to AD&D. I never played Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X. In fact I've never held a physical copy in my mitts to this very day. The Mentzer BECMI boxes, though, is another story.

I used to buy a lot of D&D stuff, always trying to recapture the wonder of those first adventures, the halcyon days of youth. This was one of those purchases, made during a time when I came to the conclusion that I needed two things in my gaming: 1) Completeness and 2) Simplicity. I had already learned from 2nd Edition that I didn't want a million splatbooks and rules spread across 12,000 pages. (I'm an option whore, so I always want all the class books, race books, whatever).

Anyway, this one book had it all, and it had it all for 36 levels. It also had a charming, almost naive simplicity to it. Before it is said, I know BECMI is not considered as simple as B/X. I'm not prepared to debate that in this post (maybe in the comments), but one thing I think we can all agree on is that BECMI is much simpler that AD&D 1st or 2nd Edition. I even liked the race-as-class, because sometimes I think I tend toward too many house rules and feel a need to return to the source from time to time.

Sad thing is, I never got to play it. My group had become geographically challenged in those days and we only got together once a month or so. It wasn't my turn on the DM carousel, either. Besides all that, I doubt my group at the time would have played with these rules anyway. They were too advanced for that. By advanced, I mean they were into a 1st/2nd edition hybrid, with a cornucopia of house rules, Dragon articles, and whatever whimsy overtook the DM during any given session.

As should be plain over these last few weeks, I am once again tilting at windmills of simplicity. Thus, I arrive once again on the shores of Mystara. Unfortunately, I gave away my copy of the Cyclopedia to the 13 year old son of a (then) friend. He was wanting to learn D&D, it was his birthday, and I could introduce my beloved hobby to him in a single book. Besides, I wasn't playing from it anyway.

A retro-clone of the Cyclopedia. I won't go into a review here (I'm not really qualified since I haven't played it), but I will say that this is a very cool game. Especially if, like me, you loved the Cyclopedia, but no longer have access. It is a free download here and come in three versions and two editions. All free. There are POD options, as well, costing no more than print cost plus shipping.

Since it is free, I feel comfortable recommending Dark Dungeons based on my simple read-thru. If you want a complete game, with a little more crunch than some titles, this won't disappoint.

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