Legends & Lore: Minis

Not pictured: the other sandwich
bags, plastic tubs, and assorted clutter
 on the bookshelves.
I have a lot of minis.

I'm pretty sure a looong time ago, I made a post talking about how much I like using minis in my D&D games. I've been using minis since I started out with Basic, which consisted of some solid-red plastic heroes and a bunch of cardstock stands for NPCs and monsters. As time and money allowed, I would gradually buy metal figures from Ral-Partha, up until Wizards launched their pre-painted minis, which were a godsend because now I didn't have to spend all my time painting a bunch of stuff that would invariably chip and break.

Why do I like minis?

The first reason is that they look cool as hell. Yeah, I can describe how big or freaky a monster is, but being able to let the player plainly see just how small they are can really put things in perspective. Plus, it's also nice when players get a better image of the monster and proclaim "what the fuck is that?" The other reason is tactical positioning, which falls into the second camp that Mike identifies, which are players that tend to use them to provide "hard and fast" rules, as opposed to relying on the DM's arbitration.

To elaborate, as a DM I like this because it answers many of the questions that I used to get, such as if the monster is close enough to hit with a ranged attack, is there an attack penalty, will allies be caught in an area effect spell, how close is the monster to a/an [insert hazard], will I get attacked if I do [insert action], and so on and so forth. Most of these answers were based on what I assumed the characters were doing, which often did no match up with what the players thought they were doing.

Basically, players can readily make their own informed decisions, which also ties in with why I like them as a player: I can look at the map and make my move without having to ask the DM, refer back to my abilities, ask more questions, and spend god-knows-how long trying to determine a satisfactory course of action. Remember how long it would take spellcasters to come to a conclusion? Now have most of the party doing a similar song-and-dance as they peruse their options.

I don't think that minis intrinsically detract from the imagination or description of the scene (I still use dice and tokens, even with my extensive collection). Some DM's might be lazy and just let the minis and effects of actions do the talking, but then that's really the DM's fault. When I move a monster, I don't sit there in stony silence like a chess-player, I let them know that the orc unleashes a bellowing roar as it rushes towards them, or that the ooze makes sick, slurping noises as it tries to envelope them. An axe doesn't deal 9 damage, it cuts a vicious gash in your arm, and the oozes slime causes your armor to hiss and smoke as it slowly dissolves. To me they're game aids, not the foundation of the game.


  1. Thank you! I recently had my group disband because they thought that 4E was just for MMO gamers and minis fiends. They went over to Pathfinder because they thought it supported a more story driven game and was better for RP. With the help you have given here and in other articles, I may be able to vocalize why it is not the system, but the people playing that make a good story.

  2. If you want, email me a list of their grievances and I'd be happy to address them. :-)

  3. I will start making a list of them now! I should have it all ready to go within a week. (Me be lazy) While I am here, is it wrong to call you the best independent 4E blog site on the interwebs? Only thing I could ask for is for you to do a podcast...(Shameless praise FTW.)

  4. I did one podcast in the past about the rust monster, and entertained the idea of doing more. How about this: gimme the list of stuff you got, and I'll do another one on that? :-)


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