When I spoke with Wizards of the Coast Brand Manger Kierin Chase earlier this year, he told me that one of the purposes for the Dungeons & Dragons Essentials line of products was to provide an entry point into the game for new players, as well as to consolidate some of the errata and revisions that had come to light in the two years since the release of the fourth edition of the world’s most popular role-playing game. Today I’d like to take a look at one of the first products in the Essentials line: the Rules Compendium.
The Rules Compendium collects most of the nuts and bolts rules you’ll need to run or play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, and does so in an organized, concise and no nonsense manner, complete with an easy to reference glossary that defines most of the terms you’ll come across in a typical play session. New gamers should find the Rules Compendium to be highly approachable, and old pros like me will enjoy it for its convenience. Even with a near complete set of fourth edition hardcovers at my disposal, I found myself reaching for the Rules Compendium for reference to this or that during the course of my most recent game. It’s a small softcover book that doesn’t take up much space at the gaming table and is perfect for passing around when questions about this or that rule inevitably arise.
However, I should mention that this isn’t a stand-alone product. There aren’t any details on classes and races, or monsters and treasure. While the Rules Compendium teaches you how to use these things in your game, someone else in your group will need to own the companion rule books: The Dungeon Master’s Kit, Monster Vault and either Heroes of the Fallen Lands or Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms. The best way to look at the Rules Compendium is as a reference book first and a key to unlocking the knowledge contained in these other volumes, second.
Ultimately, the Rules Compendium functions exactly as promised, updating certain facets of the game’s core mechanics while presenting the whole in a way that will ensure new players have a starting point that doesn’t leave them frustrated or buying products that they don’t need.