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View Full Version : To mini or not to mini, that is the question



PaladinChris
2011-02-13, 12:50 AM
My gaming group is currently on the fence on this one. We have a battle map, but currently we just use either dice or the plastic caps off of coke bottles. However, some of us (myself included) would like to start using minis. But, as we are all poor, broke college students, we don't have the cash. Assuming we do have the cash, we wouldn't know the first bit about getting any.

So tips? Arguments? What (if anything) do you use for player/monster markers? I just really want to know what kind of options we have. Thanks!

AslanCross
2011-02-13, 01:03 AM
If you're intending on using official D&D minis, I remember hearing from these boards that the line has already been cancelled. I know Reaper miniatures are much cheaper and come highly recommended.

There's also the option of using OOTS-style comic cutouts that you can tape or glue to pennies so that they can stand firm and don't get blown away. Not sure how to do the same with larger creatures, but I'm sure the same principle applies.

rayne_dragon
2011-02-13, 01:04 AM
The best place to find them are gaming/modeling stores. Wizards has a series of D&D minis, but there are all sorts of companies that make minitures on that scale. I often like to grab minis from boardgames, although they tend to be more expensive, you get a game along with them too. I recently grabbed Drakkon for the minis. Heroquest was awesome because it came with a great host of monster minis, four heroes and furniture. Games workshop or anywhere that sells wargame minis will have a huge stock to choose from.

A cheaper option for certain things is finding a dollar store that sells small plactic critters. You can stock up on hoards of insects, spiders, scorpions, fish, and dinosaurs for a small price. Hopefully you like fighting those sort of things. Legos can also be useful.

I would suggest starting with finding models for the heroes and common monsters first. Then using any kind of generic markers for stuff you don't have. Poker chips, balls of paper, chips, dice, anything you have at hand really. One of the best things I've seen done is to have paper standees with a picture of the character or monster drawn on it. There used to be D&D sets that had these paper cutout pieces with images printed on them. Some of them were designed to stand up by folding into a triangle, others were just tokens that could be flipped over to show that the creature was wounded. They're easy enough to make on your own if anyone has artisitic talent and even if they don't. You could even make them all OotS style if you wanted to.

Ozreth
2011-02-13, 01:19 AM
I spend a lot of time contemplating this, and here is my two cents:

If you are going to use ANYTHING to represent characters on the table, you might as well be using miniatures. To me there are two facets of play: with or without play mat and minis.

Some people play without anything at all in order to help players imagine things more creatively and realistically. If the DM says "A GIGANTIC dragon swoops down upon you" in the players minds they will be imagining some insanely epic 10 story dragon breathing fire roaring at them, just like in the movies.

But if you plop a dragon miniature down they think "ok so he is THAT much bigger than the characters, his face looks like this, and his has two heads".

The same goes if you put a soda cap down. They will think of the dragon in terms of a soda cap, aka small. In other words, if you are scaling the game down to the size of the things on your tabletop, they might as well look cool!

I personally do use miniatures. We enjoy painting character miniatures and finding cool ones to represent the monsters. It's like a whole other angle to the hobby. That being said, I would love to play some mini-less games as well.

You can pick up hoards of miniatures for cheap on ebay and similar sites as well as at game stores. I find that picking up a good warhammer box is a good start because it allows you to get a massive amount of miniatures that you usually need a lot of (goblins, skeletons etc).

I of course often use beads/tokens/whatever for miniatures I don't have, and it works fine, but I try to pick up miniatures here and there when I've got the spare change. They add up and if you buy strategically you can reuse a lot of them for different monsters etc.

Ason
2011-02-13, 01:49 AM
There's a great essay by NewbieDM (http://newbiedm.com/2008/11/22/newbiedm-tutorial-counters-tokens-or-pogs/) that teaches you how to make your own tokens to use in gaming for a relatively cheap price. It seems complicated at first, but I think you can get the hang of it fairly quickly. If you are unable to buy minis in bulk, this provides a way to great customize your game, as each PC can send you a picture of what he wants for his face and have EXACTLY that end up on his token. When I am hopefully DM-ing this summer, that's the method I plan on using at least.

RTGoodman
2011-02-13, 01:57 AM
There's a great essay by NewbieDM (http://newbiedm.com/2008/11/22/newbiedm-tutorial-counters-tokens-or-pogs/) that teaches you how to make your own tokens to use in gaming for a relatively cheap price.

I was going to suggest that EXACT thing, if you can't get minis.


As others mentioned, WotC is getting out of the randomized, pre-painted plastic miniatures thing for D&D and a couple other lines. So if you want minis, get 'em while you can. Check out some of the various online retailers for singles, since that'll guarantee you don't end up (like me) with 10 Hyenas or something. Miniature Market is a good place for them, but most retailers will be about the same selection and price. If you can't afford many, I suggest at least getting one for each PC (and maybe the BBEG), and then go with tokens for the rest of your monsters. Having a mini, I think, helps players feel special, but it's not necessary for every little monster.

(Also, if you play 4E, I suggest checking out the Monster Vault - it has a ton of tokens included with it.)

LansXero
2011-02-13, 02:50 AM
http://www.artesaniamanualidades.com/2010/08/ceramica-al-frio-enano-guerrero-dwarf.html

make them? While it probably wont look anywhere remotely close to professionaly made ones, you can make cold ceramic (sorry, not sure on the translation from spanish) with common kitchen stuff. So they are almost free, and you can actually make them represent whatever your players are supposed to be playing, including details and gear if you feel like it. An alternative to painting I sort of like is making the gear out of plastiline. heh.

FelixG
2011-02-13, 06:15 AM
Minis are a waste of money.

You can use simpler things to better effect, use your imagination for critters, not some plastic toy :smallbiggrin:

AslanCross
2011-02-13, 06:28 AM
Minis are a waste of money.

You can use simpler things to better effect, use your imagination for critters, not some plastic toy :smallbiggrin:

I've found that minis and imagination are not mutually exclusive. My players have always remarked about how awesome something is based on the mental image given, not on how cool the minis look. We simply use the minis for bookkeeping tactical movement.

(I'll grant that they're often prohibitively expensive.)

Koury
2011-02-13, 06:40 AM
My group uses Starburst as bad guys. Kill the dude, get some candy. Especially effective as my whole group likes the pink ones so the stronger monsters are almost always pinks. :smallbiggrin:

FelixG
2011-02-13, 06:43 AM
My group uses Starburst as bad guys. Kill the dude, get some candy. Especially effective as my whole group likes the pink ones so the stronger monsters are almost always pinks. :smallbiggrin:

I...love this idea!

If your going to spend the money on minis anyway why not make them edible to boot! :smallbiggrin:

Koury
2011-02-13, 06:46 AM
I...love this idea!

If your going to spend the money on minis anyway why not make them edible to boot! :smallbiggrin:

*points to Keld Denar as the originator of the idea for our group*

Jarian
2011-02-13, 06:49 AM
My group uses Starburst as bad guys. Kill the dude, get some candy. Especially effective as my whole group likes the pink ones so the stronger monsters are almost always pinks. :smallbiggrin:

That's absolutely brilliant.

dsmiles
2011-02-13, 06:52 AM
I exclusively use minis. Unless I don't have the right one for the situation, then it's dice.

"Why," you might ask, "do you use minis?"

Simple: Painting minis is more of a hobby for me than DnD is. We get together for some casual DnD, but painting minis is almost an obsession.

casper
2011-02-13, 08:22 AM
You'll never have minis that look exactly like each character or monster you ever met, even if you'll buy them all. Miniatures won't really help you imagine your characters or their enemies, just because they look different. Well, probably you can create miniature for any single monster yourself, bu for our gaming group that was never a hobby... On other hand, having miniature for each player and maybe a bit more for major NPCs is pretty fun, because it somehow, i don't know, make them more significant. :-)
So if you can somehow cut down expenses on lunches, then club together and buy one set of random minis in your gaming store, or just some really common and thus cheap minis, that can really be just enough for the first time. By the timeyou get really tired of the same miniatures each time, you may become rich or just tired of roleplaying games at all.

+1 to those who liked the idea of candies as enemies. Though the downside is that players become biased and would unlikely negotiate with tasty opponent :-)

Hadessniper
2011-02-13, 08:49 AM
At your local hardware store you can get a bunch of one inch washers for like two bucks. Then you can print out a bunch of pictures of monsters and your characters then glue them to the washers. Voila heavy duty personalized tokens that look amazing and cost next to nothing.

Erom
2011-02-13, 09:10 AM
I use minis, because my group really likes the tactical board game that is 4e combat. That said, I use almost exclusive paper minis. This solves the "they are expensive" problem, since all you need is a color printer, some white glue, a penny, and 10 minutes of your time.

I use flat images for Large or smaller creatures - things bigger than Large get a little bit of paper craft to be slightly 3D. I get many of my minis from http://onemonk.com/Home.html, check the forums especially there are some amazing contributions.

It also solves the "kind of generic" problem: one of the best things about paper minis is their customizability. Want a soldier with a warhammer instead of a longsword? It only takes a few minutes with your image editor of choice (photoshop/gimp/paint.net are all great options).

I actually draw all of my player characters from scratch. That takes longer, but you end up with truly one of a kind minis for players that are really memorable.

You can also use monsters from video games really easily. The WoW model viewer lets you rotate and zoom around basically any enemy in World of Warcraft, and then it only takes 30 seconds to plop the image on a base and scale it to print it out. Boom, that's a huge library of potential minis, not even counting all the old games that used sprite based graphics, which are even easier to use.

Really, the hardest part is often choosing which of the bazillion options you have to use.

Kurald Galain
2011-02-13, 09:14 AM
+1 vote for legos!

TinselCat
2011-02-13, 09:20 AM
I use legos, too. This of course assumes that you, like me, have a ton of them. Everyone in the party gets a customized character, the monsters can be cobbled together from other little pieces (although if I have something better that isn't a lego, I use that as well) and they fit well within a 1" square. The were-critter in the party can even take his character and fold it over so it goes on all fours to visually reflect the transformation. Overall, they're very flexible and versatile tools. I make the characters put their primary weapon in their hand so they don't scrabble around wondering which one they're attacking with this time. It's economical for me since I already have so many, but could get expensive if you don't have any yourself.

mint
2011-02-13, 09:37 AM
I like papercrafting minis. It gets reallt meta when the group is fighting paper golems. If you make them 2d you just need a printer some hard paper and foot to fit them into.

PaladinChris
2011-02-13, 02:29 PM
Thanks everyone! I'll check out the websites and see what we like.

Also, the starburst idea is brilliant!

PanNarrans
2011-02-13, 04:04 PM
I like the Famous Familiars and More Famous Familiars sets from Games Workshop.

Hazzardevil
2011-02-13, 04:46 PM
Because 2 of the 3 friends I occasionally play dnd with have a large selection of warhammer minis we often use bits of paper with the name written down on or goblins for the stuff that comes in groups. It helps a lot and also we often use the human warhammer minis for our charecters seeing as they dualweild and such.

AshDesert
2011-02-13, 05:18 PM
Another Lego user here, although I use papercraft for stuff that I don't have Legos of (like goblins, my players apparently don't like killing legions of Yoda) or if I run out of people. I like how customizable Legos are when compared to minis. Characters' appearances change over time in almost every game I've ever played, but this is almost never reflected if you're using store-bought minis (unless you buy another one that has your updated equipment, which just adds to the expensive problem). Everything Large and bigger can be made from normal Legos, too (and building dragons from Legos is just plain fun). I actually build all of my environments out of Legos, since it's much more fun to actually see environmental hazards and cover than to just draw it on a piece of graph paper.

Self-made tokens and papercraft is also cool (I've played in games using OotS style paper minis that were pretty cool). I just think that minis are too expensive and non-customizable to be worth it when there are so many ways your can make your own representations for much less that are much more customizable.

Ozreth
2011-02-13, 05:55 PM
I just think that minis are too expensive and non-customizable to be worth it when there are so many ways your can make your own representations for much less that are much more customizable.

True, but for things like goblins, skeles, and kobolds this isn't a problem as they always look the same and players will always imagine them looking just the way the miniature most likely does. Same goes with a lot of the more unique monsters, you can often find them in mini form.

As for character, yeah this can be a problem. It sucks when your character changes into some cool gear but you are stuck imagining what the mini is wearing. Oh well, you win some you lose some.

I think the idea is to keep on using whatever form of character representation you are using and SLOWLY starting picking up cool minis when you see them and can afford them. Don't worry about translating your whole game to miniature use. Before you know it you will have a treasure chest full : )

dsmiles
2011-02-13, 06:05 PM
Don't worry about translating your whole game to miniature use. Before you know it you will have a treasure chest full : )Or two 6' tall x 1' deep x 1' wide display cases with four shelves apiece...:smalleek:

Katana_Geldar
2011-02-13, 06:08 PM
I think the idea is to keep on using whatever form of character representation you are using and SLOWLY starting picking up cool minis when you see them and can afford them. Don't worry about translating your whole game to miniature use. Before you know it you will have a treasure chest full : )

This is what I did, I started with counters and pieces of paper. Now I am the one with the D&D minis. I have lots and more on the way.

dsmiles
2011-02-13, 06:16 PM
Hmm...I've never had any official DnD minis. I buy unpainted minis and paint them myself. Besides, the DnD minis are of questionable (at best) quality. I prefer mine a little more "detailed" and a little less "crappily painted lumps of plastic." :smalltongue:

Katana_Geldar
2011-02-13, 06:17 PM
I can't paint minis, so pre-painted it is for me.

dsmiles
2011-02-13, 06:24 PM
If you lived closer, I'd paint them for you. Like I said earlier, it's kind of an obsession for me. :smalltongue:

DisgruntledDM
2011-02-13, 06:24 PM
I've got some reapers, and they're very nice. Also, if you buy $25 worth of stuff from their site, the shipping is free. In your situation, I'd recommend getting reapers for the PCs and important NPCs and using paper minis for monsters.

If you look around at flea markets, you might just get lucky. Recently I bought 172 minis for about $17.

Katana_Geldar
2011-02-13, 06:28 PM
Compared to Reaper, D&D minis are cheaper. I pay about $5-$12 for the unpainted reaper ones when D&D singles begin at less than a dollar. Yes, some of the super-rare ones can fetch about $25-$40 but I don't get those, and if I want a chance at getting them I get the boosters which are $10-$20 dollars.

kyoryu
2011-02-13, 09:49 PM
I was going to suggest that EXACT thing, if you can't get minis.

I wholeheartedly third the recommendation. It's what I use when I run, and when I showed them to my group, who hate tokens, they were all really impressed with how nice they felt/looked.

Edit: Here's a previous post on them, and a picture of some of my tokens. They end up with a nice weight, much, much nicer than the cardboard ones.

Monster Vault is also a pretty good way to get a good selection of tokens to start, and they're not bad for cardboard. I find tokens to be a good compromise between looking neat like minis, and being easy to manipulate like dice/coins/etc.