Miniatures, or ‘minis’, are a fantastic tool that can enhance any combat-based Dungeons & Dragons game. In theory, they’re almost necessary for the game, with long-time Dungeon Masters owning huge collections of monsters. In practice, however, it’s not always feasible to own a complete set. Aside from the limits of what’s available to buy, few Dungeon Masters have the pockets deep enough to buy every single miniature they are likely to need, and many forgo the use of minis entirely.
A quick Google suggests that a Medium sized creature costs about Â£1 (US$2) in inch square base form, a Small creature Â£0.50 (US$1), and a Large creature anything up to Â£10 (US$20). For larger minis, you’re looking at US$40 (Â£20) for a gargantuan black dragon (4 inch base) and $74.99 for the colossal red dragon (6 inch base). These are prices for the official D&D miniatures line, prepainted, and plastic - expect to pay more than this for metal miniatures. Warhammer miniatures are a ready source, but somewhat limited in variety, and more expensive (Â£15/$30 for ten orcs, Â£33/$66 for fifteen). In either case, generic miniatures are often cheaper, but come unpainted and the selection available can be unpredictable.
The only real issue with miniatures is the sheer number required. The RttToEE miniatures list suggests that the average campaign will need approximately 27 miniatures per level: that’s two per encounter, or 540 over the course of a twenty-level campaign. This isn’t even counting multiples: at an arbitrary estimate of double, you may need over one thousand miniatures to complete a twenty-level campaign, many of which will cost a premium and only be used once. Even then, many monsters (including those published in monster books) don’t even have minis available to buy. This brings us to the topic of miniature stand-ins.
Straightforwardly, a “stand-in” is anything you use in place of a miniature. It’s effectively impossible to always have the right miniatures, but there are a variety of options open to you depending on your budget, some of which can replace miniatures completely. Follow the link to after the jump, where I’m examining a list of options for quality and cost-effectiveness.