Monday, November 2, 2015

Rules Cyclopedia Oddities Part 3

Been a while since I've done one of those and yet, it's a series I very often think about continuing. Well, there I was, looking for something entirely different, when I stumbled across one of those oddities I couldn't ignore ... So here's a little one about another Rules Cyclopedia Oddity!

I don't need to tell you all that the RC is huge, at times confusing huge, even. It's easy enough to navigate most of the time, but structure had never been it's greatest strength. So it's not that surprising to find some missing links between, say, monster entries and encounter tables (like rolling up a monster with one to find out there isn't an entry for it in another or at least not in the index). Stuff like that happens and given the nature of the project (coming around after the release of AD&D 1e and all that) it's a little miracle that it turned out as good as it actually did.

D&D Rules Cyclopedia, p. 155
Reflecting now about this, I think it's exactly those short comings that make it such a pleasure to read and re-read. It's those little oddities that make you stop and think about its contents and a good example for such a thing is this here entry on the right. It can be found in chapter 14: Monsters and is the last thing before they start with the monster entries.

The funny thing is that it's not a mistake. One would think that those tables belong into Chapter 7: Encounters (my first thought, at least), but no, those tables belong to the passage right before that, titled Humanoid (Giant Humanoid, Demihuman, Human) which closes with how complex human NPC characters are and what a DM can do about it (hence the tables as inspiration).

There is so much wrong with it that it's worth mentioning as an oddity. For one, it assumes that most (or even all!) human NPCs the characters encounter are one class or another. It's contrary to almost every other encounter entry in the book.

Or is it? One could argue that even a pirate or an alchemist could have some of the basic classes, right? The rest is tapestry ... Anyway, Human is not a Monster but a Monster Type. To make things even more suspicious, there are Monsters like the Headsman/Thug (RC, p. 184) which work like classes of their own right!*

I'll also mention the rather dubious alignment spread on that table: not one third each alignment, as one would expect, but in favor of lawful alignments! That's worth a debate I'm not ready for quite yet. The implications for a gaming world are .. interesting, to say the least. Let's not go into the missing random determination of the NPCs level.

That's just a cruel way to let a DM hanging in mid-air ...

So it's at least debatable if that first table has a right a exist as it does before one even could discuss if it belongs where it is in the book ... Which is a non-issue (in my opinion), since this really belongs into Chapter 7 with all the other Encounter Tables, Monster Reaction Tables and so on.

Same goes for the other table below that. The question is not only why it is there, but why the f*ck does it even exist, right? I mean, as far as I'm aware it's the only time in the whole book where things get as specific and finale as they do here: 8 (!) reasons for NPCs to appear. That's not much, but easy enough expanded on. It's not even the problem. There are some nice ideas here. Nothing special, but a nice table to have handy nonetheless ... 

And yet, it is strange. There's not even a sample dungeon in there (or the tables to build one, for that matter**). But here they go, giving you an incomplete list of specific ideas what that strangely disconnected NPC might do wherever he is encountered. And for those wondering, gender is a non-issue here, too, at least in those tables it is. It's all a bit lacking, really.

So that's my little post about another oddity I found in the Rules Cyclopedia. You are, as always, welcome to discuss it and share your observations and ideas in the comments below (or on g+).

The other oddities can be found here.

* You can count on a future post about that oddity. Just sayin' ...

** Also worth a future post, now that I think about it.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I'd never seen those tables before. The second one reminds me of some of the DM adventure advice/hooks found in the Mentzer Basic & Expert rulebooks.

    1. Yeah, they are completely out of context, in my opinion. It's like they had some free space and needed a filler ... The German translation just went with it, putting it just where it was in the original (while editing other passages for clarity ...).

  2. I just opened up the RC to a random page (232) and found "bug repellent" under the descriptions for potions...

    1. I love how that book is full of stuff like this. Just a random passage and the mind is off, wondering about the possibilities ... :-)


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