Miniatures in Dungeons & Dragons, and not meeting expectations

Way back in High School, when I first started playing Dungeons & Dragons, I loved most of the fantasy figures that I saw and was pleased to be able to collect a few. I had figures for all the characters in my main campaign during University, but they weren’t used for much more than decoration, or with tokens in a few major adventure finales. Speed, position and things like flanking weren’t important in early editions.

It wasn’t until 3rd edition and d20 that my D&D games went much beyond drawing a general map for the players to show where they were going. I started using altered copies of the DM maps (easy access to printers and photocopiers never hurt) and marked pins to aid our games. Then about 2008, I discovered the Wizards of the Coast range of minis and started making card floor plans and collecting figures. I’d already been into Warhammer Quest in a big way and had plenty of figures for that, so I already had a good set of basic humanoid monsters and some undead to use as well.

I now have over 500 monster figures – that’s not counting PC or NPC figures. They are primarily Wizards (some Paizo/WizKids) plastics and whatever figures I’d previously collected from various sources. Some of my early figures look great, but weren’t to any proper scale. The best thing about the Wizards DDM figures to me was scale – both a specific base size (1″ = medium, 2″ = large, etc) and a figure height that was mostly accurate to the creature descriptions in rule books. Occasionally a mini doesn’t come with a great paint job, but if it really bothers me then I can touch up the figure or repaint it.

With so many years of producing minis (2003-2011 for the original DDM) it is such a disappointment when a mini comes out that just doesn’t look right for some reason.

  1. Here’s a lesser example: the Celestial Giant Owl from Unhallowed.

Giant Owl 2


This figure has outstanding detail and comes on a 2″ large base. I have a blog post before when I said I didn’t actually expect the Owl to be this large. My problem with this figure is that it’s mounted on a very short post. The stock image used all over the internet (above) looks nice, but on my figure the owl’s tail hit the base and pushed the whole figure forward. There was no way my mini was going to “stand” straight without clipping the tail feathers and trying to straighten the column. I solved this by cutting off the base and column, drilling a small hole and fixing a metal rod to the owl and a new base. (The thread on the rod is obvious in the photo but not so obvious when looking at the mini on a table/shelf.) My owl is now tilted slightly forward and much higher off the ground which I think looks so much better!


Celestial Giant Owl v2

2. Large Blue Dragon, Deathknell.

Blue Dragon 3

This is meant to be a “large” dragon, which means a 2″ (50mm) base. The size of the figure itself is correct and I like the sculpt and colours. For some strange reason, this mini is produced on a 40mm base. It makes the dragon look a bit bigger – until you put it next to something else, but why the smaller base?? Every other large figure I’ve bought is on the proper 2″ base! This has bothered me since I bought the mini – I’m slightly OCD. Over my January break I took the large base from the Giant Owl and glued the two together, then added some more rocks, sand, etc and repainted it. I could still tidy it up a little before varnish. Like my Dracolich, I think the larger base with extra detail is a great improvement over the original.


3. Gnoll Sergeant, Giants of Legend.

Worst saved for last! I have two other Gnoll minis (in multiples) and this sole figure was bought to add some variety and be a leader for the others. I’ve laughed over it many times and since my group use Paizo’s gamemastery cards for criticals and fumble, I maintain that this Gnoll has just fumbled his flail attack. It’s a nice sculpt, colours are okay, but the chain of his flail goes over the shoulder, flat across his back and takes a right angle to stick out at his waist. WtF? What happened to quality control? Surely this isn’t the approved concept that went to the factory for production!



One of my next projects is likely to be this guy. I want to cut off the chain and flail head, and either give him an entirely new weapon, or attach a new chain to the haft and flail head and let that hang loose or glue it in an arc over the shoulder.