Simple Reviews – Dungeons and Dragons Essentials: Rules Compendium

I’m not very good at reviews. It’s true that if you figure out the correct pseudo name and search for it on google you might come across a few published video game reviews in some more than well established publications. It’s true that for a while I tried my hand at arbitrarily rating games using a numerical system with no real defined criteria. But this was all back when the gaming industry and the publications that reported on it were very young and in need of voices. These days I doubt I could get even some of the more niche or maligned blogs to pick up my rantings. I have a bad taste in my mouth for reviews; placing numerical scores behind title of a product, be they stars points or thumbs, feels so false. Communicating need or desire which you should have for a product really feels like me telling you the reader what your emotional response to a product should be and telling you that if you feel differently that you are some how wrong and should really examine you self on a deeper level.

All this being said I’m going to review something, and from here on out I will most likely review many somethings for a great while to come over a great span of time. They will be short and sweet and they will end with the simple conclusion of “will or will not buy this product” and “I did or did not enjoy using this product” I will not rate anything, I will not tell you how much you need it. Each of these reviews will be full of my opinion and initial responses to the product in question but you the reader may be inclined to differ from these, feel free. My girlfriend has proven time and time again that I have a great capacity to be wrong and it is in no way diminishing with time. So lets give this a try.

The Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Rules Compendium is a book dedicated to nothing but the rules. Fluff, a term used for flavor text and narrative given in most role playing games, is not what you will find in this book. It is all rules all the time. If you buy your book mostly for inspiration and world design ideas you might want to skip this one. It does however have pretty much every published rule from Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition.

The Facts:

  • Soft bound
  • 319 pages including Table of contents a short glossary and index
  • Suggested price $19.99 U.S.
  • Dimensions 6″9″

The Pros:

  • Portable: it’s easy to pact along with you. It cuts out the need to carry multiple books just for rules.
  • Fully Indexed: Finding a rule or definition is quick and easy.
  • It’s not digital: Player with limited/no internet connection have access to all the rules.
  • It’s not very expensive.


  • Not digital: It’s going to be subject to the same errata obsolescent most other dead tree books are.
  • Might slow your game: It could insight more challenges to the DMs authority depending on who is using it.

Bane or boon: This product could be either to any DM or player. Some DMs enjoy running their games on the fly, and looking up rules when finished. Others enjoy making sure their game is adhering as closely as possible to the published rules. For those who don’t enjoy argument and pausing to clarify rules this might not make life any easier. When players know they have access to all the rules many often feel more empowered to stop the game when every they feel a rule is being misrepresented.  This might lead to more not fewer abrupt pauses in game play. For those who invite discussion about rules while playing this book could a tool like no other.

Save your Back: The size of this product and the price make it ideal for players and DMs who are not the host of their game. Any player or DM having to travel knows that hauling a collection of books from one venue to another can be a task. DMs who don’t host their game already face the challenge of moving minis, game mats, and other essential gear from place to place. Adding a small paperback book to your load instead of the four to six rule books one might need is a blessing to many. Any game with inconsistent/no internet connection or no DDi account may also benefit from this publication.

Dead Format: It’s a dead tree, and I love dead trees, a forest killed my father but that’s a story for another time; dead tree format (we will call them books from here on out) can not be updated with new errata or fixes. Wizards of the cost has shown a great amount of love for rules updates which could render this product less and less useful as time goes on. If it were re-released yearly with updated rules obsolescence could be less of a concern and more of a selling point.

Great for those who:

  • Want a handy reference tool with out having to go online for it, or don’t want to shell out for a DDi subscription.
  • Complete-ists wanting to perfect their collection. Rules lawyers who want to continue to defend their title as most annoying at the table.
  • And DMs who are tired of looking at printouts of the most recent erratas and updates.

Pass it up if you:

  • Don’t really bother much with the errata.
  • Use the online compendium with ease.
  • eco terrorist who hate killing those evil, evil trees.
  • Those who prefer digital constantly updated content.

Me: I will buy this product. Not out of sheer need but its ease of use and travel size makes it a very useful tool at most gaming tables. It’s also not something I fear to mark up. With my hardbound books I avoid writing in them and go to great lengths to make sure they are taken care of. This inexpensive soft bound book, for some reason, does not share the same protection. I’m gonna write all over this bad boy as soon as they update more rules.

I would also like to think I have enough common sense not to make it the bane of my DMs existence, and I know my players won’t do that to me.


Part idiot. Part old man. All geek. Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.

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About Thadeousc

Thadeous can't think of anything interesting about him self right now. Know this though if he could it would be creative and funny as well as thought provoking.
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