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2013-08-22 Cyclopedia is Best

Remember Ode to Black Dougal and his series “B/X is my Favorite”? I linked to all the articles in my Ode to Ode to Black Dougal. Today I stumbled upon an old series on Greywulf’s site. I was reading on Rob Conley’s blog how his players had One Thousand Four Hundred and Fifty Orcs Slain and how he had used AD&D’s 1st ed. Battlesystem to do it. I googled for it and found Greywulf’s series talking about the War Machine rules. And then I started reading the entire series.

Let’s start with just the facts, ma’am. The D&D Rules Cyclopedia is a 300-page hardback book released in 1991 that collated the vast majority of the Classic D&D rules from the Basic, Expert, Companion and Master rules (and other supplements) into one single tome. Unlike 3rd Edition’s Rules Compendium, the Rules Cyclopedia contained everything you need to play – and when I say everything, I mean….. everything. From complete character generation for all levels of play from 1st to 36th (and beyond) to monster stat blocks, a complete game world (with colour hex maps) and more, the Rules Cyclopedia has the lot.

Basically, if it’s in D&D, it’s in this book. Want a Druid class? Paladins? Wandering Monster Tables? Planar Travel? Castle building? Seige combat? Naval combat? Manscorpions? Treasure tables? To get the equivalent content in 3rd Edition D&D you’d need all three Core Books and many other supplements to boot. By my reckoning, to equal the Rules Cyclopedia’s $24.95 value, you’d need to invest well over $200 in any other edition to even come close. Oh, and that $24.95 was the cover price back in 1991. Now, you can get all that goodness for around five bucks as a PDF from RPGNow. What’s not to love?

– Greywulf

His series made me return to role-playing games back in 2006. This caused me to discover the world of ebooks. These days, the D&D Rules Cyclopedia PDF costs $10.

Anyway, here’s what Greywulf wrote:

  1. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day One introduces the Cyclopedia and talks about race as class
  2. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day Two talks about classes
  3. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day Three talks about alignment, the planes and immortality
  4. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day Four talks about combat and attack tables and THAC0
  5. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day Five talks about mass combat (this is the blog post I mentioned above)
  6. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day Six talks about the setting, the Known World
  7. RPG Week: D&D Rules Cyclopedia Day Seven finishes with some pictures of muscle cars instead of talking about Weapon Mastery :)

Hehe, I just read my old review again. :)


Comments on 2013-08-22 Cyclopedia is Best

Thanks! :)

There’s currently a petition afoot for WoTC to reprint the Rules Cyclopedia. Definitely a good thing.

greywulf 2013-08-22 12:22 UTC

Hah, reminds me of Jeff Grubb’s A Game Divided Against Itself, where he argues that D&D has forever been about two editions being available (and fans arguing). I imagine D&D Next and the Rules Cyclopedia being at odds. :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-22 13:15 UTC

True, it’s a great value for the money, but, oh, god, who really needs those extra 16-22 levels and ascendancy paths? I wonder what percentage of gaming groups have actually played extensively beyond the scope of the Cook/Moldvay levels. Frankly, these days, players who want to play with characters that powerful are probably better off playing 3.x.

Still, the Rules Cyclopedia has some really great art, and if you love charts, it has charts in spades.

Cirsova 2013-08-22 18:23 UTC

Perhaps the dream of achieving immortality is part of the lure. I think it’s part of the game’s promise of ever changing gameplay. Did you see the reviews for the M1, M2, M3, M4 and M5 modules? The dangle in front of me like the damnedest lure!

Those quibbles aside, Talons of Night stands as a truly impressive adventure that stands head-and-shoulders above others in the same publishing line. I’d like it to serve as a model for what high-level and extra-planar D&D adventures should look like.

– Delta, in the review of M5

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-22 19:31 UTC

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2013-08-22 Qelong vs. Points of Light

When I heard people say online that Quelong by Kenneth Hite was a great module, I was interested. 48 pages of A5 is my kind of size.

Until now I kept saying that Rob Conley’s Points of Light (4 settings, 42 letter-sized pages, reviewed on Dragonsfoot) and Points of Light 2 (4 settings, 59 letter-sized pages, also reviewed on Dragonsfoot) were the perfect hexcrawl products. The size was right. That’s about 25 A5 pages per setting. Thus, Qelong is about twice the size of a Rob Conley setting. If you want to get a feel for the Rob Conley settings, take a look at the Southland PDF. It’s available for free.

How does Qelong compare to the top hexcrawl? Here’s what I think.

Both provide a handful of pages of background, history, the major factions, how to integrate it into your campaign. The usual stuff, but short. I like short. I also like to know what the author intended to convey with the setting so that I can read the rest with the right mind set. I like to know whether it’s “hellish southeast Asia” (Qelong) or “embattled forces struggling to establish a home” (The Golden Shore, in Points of Light 2).

One thing I noticed was that the Qelong introduction referred to more faction details: “Myrmidons deranged and misdirected chew through the land, laying eggs in the river dwellers to hatch out more warriors. (See p.28 or [sic] details on the myrmidons.)” The effect was that while I was reading the introduction, I already eagerly leafed through the book, looking up details. It introduced me to the factions and made curious for more. Well done.

The Qelong introduction also has a table of 50 rumors and lets each character start with a random rumor; spending a handful of coins will let players roll again. I like it.

The Qelong introduction also features elaborate disease and magic poisoning rules that require purify food and drink, cure disease and remove curse spells. I think it’s very atmospheric but I’m not sure how well these poisoning rules work in play. We don’t keep track of rations, how will we keep track of poison levels?

Both Points of Light and Qelong describe geographic features. These are entire areas instead of single hexes with a specific description. In Points of Light most of these areas have one paragraph each, which is short. Qelong has more. It starts with a bold paragraph that could be read aloud or just provide the “in game” view. This is followed by another paragraph of background information that you don’t need at the table but which helps the referee understand what’s going on. And then there’s what I love: each geographic feature comes with a bullet list of suggested encounters.

Last year I posted an example from my Caverns of Slime module (free PDF) which used the same format. Here are some examples of varying size from Qelong:

  • A sampan with its bottom staved in. A Tinkering roll could repair it.
  • A carnivorous fish lives underneath the lotus field. Armor 13, 2 Hit Dice, bite 1d6. Or a school (2d8) of them.
  • The characters’ boat approaches a sunken tree. Anyone actively searching for dangers in the  water will notice it in time to take evasive action; otherwise it tears out the bottom of the characters’ boat, doing 1d10 shp [sic]. If the Referee wants to be a jerk, there is an ambush party of 1d6 naga-kin at the bottom of the river under the tree, waiting  for their dinner.

In addition to that, Qelong has a different random encounter table for each hex type. This is excellent.

Qelong also comes with its own monster section to describe the various new creatures. This is also excellent.

Qelong comes with a table of names (family names, female and male first names). Very useful if you’re providing us with a new culture.

Quelong also comes with a small list of new ships and including required crew, sailing miles/day, rowing miles/day, cargo (tons) and ship hit points—these must be the shp mentioned in the encounter with the sunken tree in the list above. I like it.

Is there anything Qelong doesn’t come with?

Both Points of Light and Qelong come with a list of locations. In Points of Light, these are sorted by hex coordinates: “1604 Unicorn Pool”. There are a fair number of them. Southland, for example, comes with 38 hex descriptions. Each one consists of one to five paragraphs, many settlements come with a little overview map (to be copied and handed out to your players, perhaps?). Characters only have class and level indicated: “Lord Mayor Thomes White (Ftr3)”, monsters just have their hit dice noted: “Clak and Frull, hill giant (9HD) brothers”, and in Points of Light 2 they have some D&D 4E descriptors as well: “rust monsters (level 5 controller)”.

In Qelong, which is about twice the size of a single Points of Light setting, there are only ten encounter areas. Each has two to five paragraphs, some come with extra information about important non-player characters or unique monsters. If characters or monsters are described in more detail, any treasure they have is also listed. I like the detailed Qelong encounter areas and even if there are only ten of them, I think it works out because Qelong, unlike the Points of Light settings, has an optional end to it.

Wow! I really must recommend Qelong. I agree with Zak’s review: “So yeah, Qelong is fucking good and stuff.”

The only thing I would have liked is no watermark on each page. Points of Light also has it, but it’s lighter. The Qelong watermark is dense in the bottom quarter of the page and slows me down when reading it. That’s the sum total of all non-badass points I have. ok

star star star star star

I have yet to add it to my running campaigns and I have no idea of how to do it. It would seem like a major break from current events.

Addendum: A review by Save vs. Total Party Kill; a review by Dungeon of Signs. Qelong in Play.


Comments on 2013-08-22 Qelong vs. Points of Light

Same problem here - I have no idea, how to set Qelong into my campaign without giving up too much of it’s feel and spirit :)

Tarin 2013-08-23 14:56 UTC

I think I will need to use planar travel.

AlexSchroeder 2013-08-23 20:52 UTC

You can always put it into a dormant volcano, where it has been isolated from the rest of the world for centuries.

Belchion 2013-09-29 12:29 UTC

Starting coming Tuesday, my players will be looking for a passage to Qelong… :)

AlexSchroeder 2013-09-30 06:40 UTC

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