[minis +] Fixes for problems in Planning & Developing a Fantasy Minis Collection ?

A quick first note:
I do these as Minis+ threads. By that I mean, they're mostly meant for folks who would, given the opportunity and appropriateness to the game, use minis if they could. They aren't really meant for posts offering non-minis suggestions. I think at this point, almost every gamer who has been a gamer for a while knows how to play without minis or how to sub in small markers off different sorts in a pinch. While I focus on gaming minis, a bunch of this stuff, in modified form, could also apply to folks using things like LEGO, home built minis from other materials ( like polymer clay), and to a lesser degree paper minis.

A Quick Recap or two of earlier conversations in threads:

These threads are broadly about ways to use miniature gaming figures in an RPG context, which is a bit different from a war game context.

Philosophically, I view RPGs as games, but games that are closer to "play pretend" and "toy play" than Game-Games, even when we're getting pretty game-y in them. Certainly closer to those things than war games are, which are generally closer to Game-Games. This colors all of my thinking. OTOH, I very much consider this difference a net positive.

I'm also fairly partisan about the idea that the closer you can get minis to represent what is going on in the fiction, the better. Having said that, practicalities of time and budget mean that everyone does some sort of substitutions along the way. It's a sliding scale, but generally, I advocate for "closer is better".

At this stage, I've pretty much decided to just go with the idea that, in an RPG context, there is going to be one main player/participant who will end up taking the lead on building a minis collection for any game played with them, most often the GM or player most advocating for play of the game. So any suggestions or concepts are geared towards helping that player along and avoiding pitfalls.

Last, no collection of toys for gaming is built in a day. Even committed, experienced war gamers with lots of minis build their collections over time. While wargames give guidance to those people building collections, RPGs rarely do, and that partly contributes to the pitfall aspects of trying to build a collection of minis for RPGs, which then leads to frustrations, and a fair number of people trying out minis in gaming, only to decide it just isn't worth the effort. That's where the current couple of threads come from, an attempt to build advice for someone starting a project from Zero minis, getting started, then developing the collection over time, basically, how to build a plan for it.


  • edited November 2017
    Some basic advice that broadly applicable to many genres, before getting into the specific issues of building a fantasy minis collection

    For the collection builder starting out, here are the things to plan on including. get as many of these kinds of minis as is practical before even jumping into a game using them.

    1) Roughly a dozen minis representing the most likely PC types you'll have in your game.
    Players new to using minis will often grab the closest thing to their character concept and use that as Good Enough For Now. I recommend encouraging players to pick a mini first, then build a concept based on the mini, but that's a learning curve for most players to get used to if they haven't used minis before. Experience tells me that players eventually will seek out minis on their own later on that better match their character concept, or begin to build characters based on minis with more experience.

    For the GM, any unused minis from this part of the collection can later do double duty as NPCs, companions, and so on, or be available if a character gets killed and a player needs to create a new character.

    2) Get 10-20 non-combatant, civilian miniatures that represent the most likely sort of people your PCs will interact with in your setting. get some that are especially "generic" for crowd scenes, with some that are more specific and indicate profession or status.

    Frankly, war game thinking, rather than toy-collection thinking, tens to mean this category is almost always overlooked by people starting a collection. In RPGs, a fair amount of fun involves interactions with NPCs, and a lot of non-combat interaction. Don't skip this category, however you interpret it. If you're trying to figure out what to get in this category, start singing the Sesame Street "Who are he people in your neighborhood?" lyrics to yourself as inspiration. Who are the people the PCs are most likely to meet regularly (of interest)? Buy those minis first. Also, dependent upon genre/setting, you might be able to source some really generic people for crowd scenes. For fantasy settings, this usually will mean peasants or townsfolk.

    3) Get 8-20 key, group-type, recurring baddies

    Pick one key group baddie type based on our setting. These guys will come up again and again. They may end up being a specific group of baddies, but more likely they'll start out as generic baddies of a type. Get minis that have few different load outs of gear, and maybe a couple that look like leaders. officers, or specialists. Try to pick a baddie squad that can be as smart(ish) as the player characters, that maybe occasionally they can communicate with, but general purpose enough that they can be recycled as a "type". In fantasy, usually choose one type of humanoid baddie squad based on what you like: Orcs, Bandits, Skeletons/Zombies, Barbarians...you get the idea.

    4) Pick your 3 most important, cool starting baddie single figures

    I'm just going to take a stab here and say pick from these three concepts, translated as you will: 1 brute, 1 nemesis, 1 rogue.

    Brute: this one is about combat, and is a threat to characters that way.
    Nemesis: this could be about specialized non-combat powers, including stuff like magic, but also social stuff like a high social position making the character hard to take out head on.
    Rogue: Some talented type that walks the line between being a constant irritating enemy and possibly an ally under very specific circumstances.

    In all of the above, stick to human/humanoid, roughly normal sized miniatures. Broadly these will be the least expensive to buy. They'll also have the most recycling/re-use value.
    Civilian NPC types, especially generic ones easily substitute in for extra squad baddies when you really need a horde showing up, or can be used as hench people or spies/agents of bigger baddies. Unused PC types can be used with any of the other categories as specialist hench people and minions and so on.

    Expanding the collection
    Given the above outline plan, expanding the collection of this stuff is pretty straight forward.

    If you started out light in Category 2, People in your neighborhood, it's easy to add more stuff wherever and whenever something strikes you. Plus, that category has a lot of flexibility to re-use or to make the "characters" of minis more permanent as friends or minor rivals of the PCs. Expanding it may mean expanding the social parameters a bit. You start with something like Fantasy townsfolk, but then add more specialists ( hey, who doesn't want an alchemist, or weird hermit or whatever?) or other social classes ( howabout some nobility added in, or courtly characters?)

    Category 3, Squad baddies is mostly just a matter of adding new types of squads. You have bandits, now add orcs, then add skeletons. Since you can get some re-use, you can always buy just the "leadership" part first and re-use your main squad as type appropriate mooks until you feel like getting more specific. You can also expand into building Good Guy Squads ( the local militia, a band of friendly demi-humans) or a "pack animal" baddie squad or two (who doesn't want their PCs chased by a pack of ravenous wolves!?).

    Category 4 is really just about adding single individual minis as new "villains", adding cool specific hunches to pair with the other main baddies, or maybe pets for those baddies you already have. What villain doesn't want a bear or panther or something, right? Or a goon lieutenant for a mastermind/nemesis type, maybe even a skilled assassin.
    So there are the basics. Pretty easy, pretty broadly applicable across genres.

    Now lets go on and talk about the Fantasy Monster Dilemma, identify the issues, and brainstorm out fixes for that.

  • "So, what exactly is this "Fantasy Monster Dilemma" you're going on about, komradebob? I'm not seeing it. What does it have to do with minis at all. How is it different from any other genre?"

    Okay, I know no one actually asked that. Just play along, right?

    Mostly, this has to do with building a collection for D&D inspired fantasy gaming and the related pitfalls. I'm going to lay out the problems I see, then what I want are you folks to offer suggestions, and hopefully collectively we'll come up with a plan of action to point other people to when they're getting started.

    Here are the things I see:

    Players expect a lot of monster types in their diet

    I'm (mostly) talking about stuff beyond the human scale minis mentioned above for the core, developing collection. Old school dungeons became famous for having a whole slew of different monsters within each one, and the settings broadly having gobs of different monster types between locations.

    Problem #1
    You need a lot of types monsters for that old school, dungeon clearing, hex exploring feel.

    Monsters often appear in numbers

    Very often, you're talking about 2-6 monsters of a certain type appearing for an encounter. With humanoid/human baddies, we've already covered common re-use. With other monsters, we start to run up against the ideal of "closer is better" in terms of portrayal. Further, having one Rust Monster or Owl Bear mini is nice, but doesn't really fill the bill for a small den of them. Often a given company only makes one pose of a certain monster.

    Problem #2
    We often need multiples of a monster type, and in different poses to help differentiate them)

    The toys cost money and effort, and bigger monsters tend to cost more, and the bigger they get, the more they cost

    This tends to be more of a problem for fantasy, and to an extent SF, games than genres/settings closer to, or based on, real world settings, even though generally monsters are easier to get locally ( at your FLGS) for fantasy.

    Human/humanoid sized critters are common, all roughly close together in price, the least individually expensive ( generally), and have the most re-use ( being able to be either very specific characters or generic placeholders as needed).

    Problem #3
    How do we get the most exciting use out of just a single monster mini for one encounter?

    Problem #4
    How do we get the most use out of a single monster mini over the course of longer play, like an adventure location, story arc, or campaign?

    Player Characters in Fantasy Games of the D&D variety tend to get much, much more powerful over the course of a campaign.

    More than any other style of adventure game I've played, D&D style PCs have the biggest power gain individually over the course of play, IME. Things that challenge those (often too fragile) low level characters are a joke to high level characters.

    Problem #5
    How can we make a collection building/evolving plan that copes with PC power increase over time?

  • So, once again, I'm over caffeinated on my day off and too talky.

    Here are the problems, as I see them again:

    Problem #1
    You need a lot of types monsters for that old school, dungeon clearing, hex exploring feel.

    Problem #2
    We often need multiples of a monster type, and in different poses to help differentiate them

    Problem #3
    How do we get the most exciting use out of just a single monster mini for one encounter?

    Problem #4
    How do we get the most use out of a single monster mini over the course of longer play, like an adventure location, story arc, or campaign?

    Problem #5
    How can we make a collection building/evolving plan that copes with PC power increase over time?

    They're all related.

    So, with that all in mind, take whatever stabs at the subject you'd like.

    You can mess with setting concepts ( like lumping all kinds of humanoid monsters together as a more generic group, one I like), talk about limiting or planning encounters in some fashion, make rules or campaign reasons for why critters re-appear a lot, make ways to make critters more durable but still defeatable, or, well, whatever.

    Take it and run with it.

    Thanks for playing,

  • It seems to me that the conundrum is essentially unsolvable: something in the premises has to give. Doesn't it become largely a matter of taste at that point, as to where one prefers to compromise?

    One compromise that I would find rather legit as D&D would be a "no monsters" game. Just outright have all enemies be humans, that'll cut down a lot on the range of different miniatures you'll need. Maybe add one type of monstrous humanoid or such too, for that added fantasy feel.

    A perhaps somewhat less substantial compromise would be to give up advancement: if owlbears never go out of style in the campaign, you'll get a lot more use out of them. This style of D&D doesn't even have to be dogmatically exotic - our old school game definitely has character advancement, it's just so difficult that in practice we're eternally stuck on levels 1-3 [grin].

    Or, one could compromise on how representative the miniatures are. If you decided that type VII demons look just like Owlbears, except they're green-tinted, you could just tint your owlbears green and that's that. Or, use something else instead of miniatures for the monsters, even while using minis for the player characters - that would be the big, fat compromise.

    Putting all those compromises aside, though, I've got one practical idea for how to achieve the perfect miniatures collection at a reasonable expense for D&D: you need to collectivize the collection among a gaming club. Seems reasonable enough to me: you get loaning privileges in the "miniatures library" by bringing in a one-time fee of money or minis you contribute to the collection. Perhaps the library board convenes annually to discuss expanding the collection, or the members just gift any appropriate new minis they get to the collection after their immediate need for them has passed. Doesn't work for a small town, but I see no reason why this wouldn't work in any place that has say 10 dedicated D&D GMs who are interested in using miniatures.
  • Yeah some kind of compromise or alteration would be desirable.

    Each of those, one way or another, certainly helps.

    If someone wants a more specific problem to gnaw on, try figuring out a way to deal with a real cool, big critter that would be expensive to buy and build, and talk about that.

    It's called Dungeons and Dragons, so tell me possible solutions to get the most out of one single dragon figure.
  • I'd say, this :
    - humanoid and ordinary types are re-usable because they are social.
    - monsters are particular and diverse, and they tend to be not durable. Make social monsters and empathy can begin to grow (eg Smaug).

    So I propose to rank minis according to material, like that :
    recurring NPCs, PCs = lead
    ordinary people, red shirts, hords = resin
    monsters = cardboard.
    cardboard = 2D printability, colour, size, foldability, cuttability.

    If 2D printability doesn't do it, find a 3D printer locally. The databases are bound to grow.
  • For me all these compromises on the creative content level smack of just that - compromising - but I suppose the trick becomes choosing the compromises you can live with.

    (As I've described before, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and systematist, so creative compromises can be painful. I'd much rather use e.g. paper minis or anything else rather than place limits on a game that's supposed to be creatively entirely free.)

    How about this one for the big dragons: if the setting treated its big and perhaps even the not-so-big monsters the same way Gygaxian AD&D cosmology treats gods, you could potentially get quite a bit of reuse out of the monsters.

    What I mean is, the Gygaxian god appears as an avatar of itself by default: killing it may be meaningful in the immediate local context, but it doesn't kill the god itself - to do that you'll have to mount an expedition to their home plane and kill the god there. Otherwise you're just dealing with projected avatars.

    So apply that on a large scale to monsters, give them all the in-setting ability of projecting themselves. Maybe all the truly monstrous, supernatural big-deal critters in the setting are shadow reflections of their true selves down in the "deep dungeon kernels", ancient traps from which they project to cause terror and organize cults that attempt to free them.

    What this means in practice that you have your cool dragon miniature, and the adventurers get to kill the dragon, but then that very same dragon can just reappear in the next adventure. In fact, it makes perfect sense for the dragon to come up more and more frequently if the adventurers make a point of getting in its way again and again, as the dragon gets angry at these particular adventurers. The only practical way to stop the lethal cycle is to delve deep into the earth, discover the dragon's prison and kill the original (obviously statistically superior) specimen.

    You would presumably gift the dragon miniature to whomever finally kills the dragon permanently, as you wouldn't need it anymore in the campaign at that point.

    Lesser monsters in this setting scheme would presumably be divided into "mundane" ones that work as they always do, being flesh and bone, and ones that also have their deep dungeon kernels. Perhaps the latter act as sort of angel/demon figures in service of the truly big monsters. Perhaps you wouldn't make an owlbear into one of these, owlbears being sort of earthly and mundane, but I could see beholders and such freaky critters easily enough. The weaker the monster, the higher up in the ground their origins, of course, so it's easier to put an end to the 3 HD Nightgaunt (maybe its dungeon kernel is literally on the 3rd level of the dungeon) than the 20 HD dragon (which would presumably require an assault on the 20th level of the dungeon, then).

    In case all this would come to smack too much of GM fiat, you could establish some objective rules for where and how often and how powerful a given monster could project its shadow. Like, you kill the dragon cultists and that actually makes the shadow dragon weaker the next time you encounter it, except how strong it is also depends on how close to its kernel you are, so the lower you go in the dungeon the stronger the projections get. Maybe each monster simply gets to project one avatar per year per dungeon level, or something simple like that.
  • edited November 2017
    I like those ideas too.

    It gives a reason for re-using those baddies, upping their power in later adventures and I kinda like the Big Bads as Terrible Gods. Mwahahahaha.

    I also think it works better than trying to cobble together some kind of Super Villain, comic book style rules.
  • Re: Dragons - Rune Quest's Dream Dragons...

    While I didn't do it with miniatures, the Cold Iron system I ran in college a lot, most of the encounters were with humanoids that had levels (this was years before D&D 3.x....). I even gave animals levels (though they usually maxed out at level 4). So most monsters were goblins, orcs, or trolls, and normal animals which would have been easy to collect miniatures for. A few dragons, manticores, and other interesting creatures to round out the collection would have been quite easy to manage.
  • edited November 2017
    That brings up an interesting point:
    What about mid-range monsters?

    Now, if you've got sloooow advancement, that makes them more viable individually, which is what Eero suggests as a possibility.

    Are there other possibilities?

    By mid-range monsters, 'm thinking more of non-Human/Humanoid/tribal stuff, usually 3-7 HD range ( by my OS standards), often with some kind of cool abilities that you could potentially buff by various means. Also the kind of stuff that you'd almost want say 2-6 of to create nastier encounters as PC level goes up, if for no other reason to keep them on their toes.

    Is there some kind of process or plan to use for those things, with an eye towards budget? What sort of fiction justifies whatever we come up with?

    Also, what about that varied diet bit? How many different types of monsters does a dungeon need to be interesting? A multi-hex region on a hex crawl map?
  • edited November 2017
    Also, what about that varied diet bit? How many different types of monsters does a dungeon need to be interesting? A multi-hex region on a hex crawl map?
    If it weren't for the goal of being gygaxian-phantasmic aesthetically, I would be entirely willing to go with just humans myself. As Ffilz suggests, there's no reason why humans and animals can't have varied and interesting roles and abilities.

    My historical fantasy campaigns in late years have been moderate in their monster ecology, I would say - I play everything and the kitchen sink if somebody's placed them into a dungeon module, but I rarely add weird monsters myself on top of whatever modules I've run, and given the choice I will generally do a call-back to something in the monster ecology rather than invent an entirely new weird one-use critter. Thinking back to the last 50 sessions of play, these are roughly the monster types that have come up:

    Strategically central hordes:
    Elves (dark, light, wild)

    Singular spotlight appearances:
    Sea Trolls
    Animated weapons
    Dire Wolves
    Mock Dragon (a drake of sorts)

    Random encounter cruft:
    Giant Rats
    Giant Spiders (of various sorts)
    Angry Boar
    Other low-level standbys

    There's probably a bit of other riff-raff as well that escapes my attention right now, but it's something like that - we've been playing low-level module stuff, a mix of new OSR and old TSR adventures. There's been more creatures available in the whole total of the adventure material I've fielded at the table, but the players have never encountered e.g. the minotaur in the Caves of Chaos, and so forth, so I'm not listing those.

    As I said above, I'd characterize the campaign to be moderate in its monster-prolificacy - neither minimalist nor maximalist, and thus perhaps interesting as a look at what D&D might look like before having any concerns about miniatures weighting it down. I would expect anybody who runs publicly available modules (and for some reason never levels up much) to have a similar monster mix.

    Looking at the list, I'll note that if I had to, I could just as well combine the goblin, orcs and kobolds into one "species" that used one set of miniatures. In the campaign fiction they were two distinct species (goblins and orcs were "trolls" in the Nordic folklore sense, of two distinct tribes, while kobolds were "gnomes" in the same cultural context), but they might just as well have been two castes of a joint culture, using shared miniatures. Elves and troglodytes would have needed to remain conceptually distinct, but the different elven alignments might as well be represented with the same miniatures. Undead are a bit special in that you could use the same set of minis for quite a variety of different creatures.

    In summation, it seems that I would probably need about three or four monster tribes (plus human minis), a half dozen specialty mid-range monsters, plus the standard low-level "ye olde Monster Manual standbys" to do our most recent campaign arc with miniatures. I suspect that in practice the list of specialty figures would be higher - maybe a dozen different ones or so - if I was attempting to be as sandbox-y as the play really was; there were a lot of monsters that existed conceptually in the setting, yet were never encountered because the players chose to go a different way.

    Those "standard standbys" deserve a special look, one basically has to decide what to do about them: they form more than half of the distinct monster types that one needs to do the traditional D&D experience as outlined above. They're always the same monsters (they're all in the oldest monster manuals, pretty much), and they tend to show up repeatedly scattered in every dungeon. With the exception of the undead, they don't really showcase alone - there's usually no "spider dungeon" or "green slime dungeon" in the same way there are "goblin dungeons". My list of the standbys above isn't even complete, not even in terms of what we've encountered during the last arc, I think: a reasonably full list would probably be something like 30-ish critters (and even that would ignore giant shrews and other such reasonably redundant variations on a theme).

    It seems that a miniatures game will want to drop this entire approach of gumming up dungeons with variety monsters like this: their role is not critical to most types of fantasy adventure rpg, and they're precisely the monster category that adds up into a huge collection. Mostly the point of their existence is to provide a standard dungeon ecology on top of which the specific dungeon theme is built: whatever this particular dungeon's theme is, there's giant rats in there, too, because it's a dungeon and they all got giant rats. That's something one can live without as well, I think. If you really need to have something on the ceiling that can drop on top of adventurers, maybe handle that grey slime or giant spider as a trap that doesn't have its own separate miniature - or outright replace it with a rockfall trap in the fiction, it's really the same thing in the final tally.

    When you drop the standbys from the game, it all actually becomes much cleaner: a given dungeon will now feature one "horde" plus a low number of specialty items. (Say 1-3 specialty items per dungeon level, whatever that means.) The horde has internal variations (bigger and smaller, more and less magical members), but they can all use the same set of miniatures. One dungeon can be goblins with wolves, for example, and that's that.

    The specialty items will still make a long list if one does traditional D&D content, but I think that it would not be ruinously restrictive to have a bit less variety than we're used to. If you're the sort of GM who breathes life into the specialty critters and has a lot of interesting nuance to their social conditions and whatnot, the chances are that you can run quite a few encounters with the same specialty before it becomes repetitive. If I had to put a number to it, I'd say that I could get by with a starter set of about 10 specialty concepts in our kind of old school D&D, adding roughly one more for novelty's sake per 10 game sessions. It would sort of be like if every "big monster" in our last 50 sessions was a manticore, which I think wouldn't make that great of a difference ultimately; I would presumably choose something a bit more narratively flexible than the manticore, and although the critter was the same, it would show up in a variety of situations.

    So yeah, that's my answer for what you'd need to try for a low-level D&D sandbox with miniatures:
    * Adventurers, henchmen, civilians
    * The human "horde" - rogues, soldiers, outlaws
    * 2-3 different "horde" monster types
    * 10 specialty items, most of which are individual minis, while others are sets of a few critters

    This all assumes that it's a kind of D&D that doesn't do environmental hazards, or if it does, it doesn't need to miniatyrize them. If you need to have a miniature to represent a pit trap, then that's a whole another kettle of fish. This also assumes a moderate amount of adaptation of pre-existing dungeon material: basically one needs to assign every horde monster in an adventure into one of the tribes you're using, and do the same for every specialty monster, and remove all the standard dungeon dressing monsters (perhaps replacing them with something - depends on what specific type of D&D you're doing).
  • That brings up an interesting point:
    What about mid-range monsters?
    Yeah, I get the mid-range concept, monster-wise. At low-levels they're centerpiece monsters for a dungeon, with iconic abilities, but they also work as groups at middle and high levels. The ghoul is probably just about the lowest level of these - it's a viable 1st level "boss monster" (just look at the Temple of the Ghoul), but it starts featuring in hunting packs almost immediately, too.

    If you'll look at what I wrote above about my own recent D&D experiences, I treat the mid-range monster essentially as a "specialty item". That's due to the constant low level of play, pretty much. They're not quite boss monsters, much of the time, but they certainly are something that makes a player wake up and pay attention, because they present tactical threat and opportunity compared to the ordinary goblin encounter.

    However, if the game were to advance in levels, one would indeed have to decide what to do about the shifting role of the mid-range monster. Should one treat it as a role evolution? Something like this, maybe:

    1st stage: You get one ghoul and use it to run something like the Temple of the Ghoul. the ghoul is a specialty item on its own (and in fact the only monster in this particular adventure). You can maybe do this a few times in the campaign with this single ghoul figure, depending on what sort of D&D it is precisely that you're doing. It's always going to be a concern for 1st-level characters, being hard-hitting enough to kill with one attack routine (and paralyze the heavily-armored ones).

    2nd stage: Once the party gets to 2nd level, you obtain a couple more ghouls, so now they hunt in packs. Something like 3-5 ghouls. You introduce a bit of social hierarchy to them, maybe one of the ghoul pack is always the boss ghoul or whatever. The ghouls remain a very viable threat thanks to their paralysis attack for many levels yet.

    3rd stage: Once the party gets to solid mid-levels, like 5th+, the hunting ghoul pack has become more of a nuisance than a threat, so it's time to up the stakes once again: now the ghoul becomes a horde monster, you get like ten miniatures more for them, and start treating them like goblins used to be used. Give them levels or caste variations or dark cults they worship, too, so they get a bit of variety in their powers. Like other horde monsters, the ghoul now moves from a specialty encounter into a dungeon back-bone: there are entire dungeons full of ghouls.

    The singular advantage of doing something like this is that you get actual change in the toy mix as the game advances, which may be something valuable. When we come down to it, the alternative is pretty much to just stick to those goblin minis for the entire campaign - just make them super-goblins of some sort later on. If one wants to move on from the goblins, then an evolution of this sort has the advantage of meaningfully reusing pre-existing miniatures: instead of putting the ghouls aside as they are sidelined by stronger monsters, you just get more of them.

    Obviously one wouldn't need to treat all specialty pieces in this way. Maybe the minotaurs in your campaign start at 1st stage (singular monster) and advance to 2nd stage (pack monster), but never become a horde monster. After all, you don't really need more than say 2-4 hordes at any given time in the campaign, so not every specialty item can advance to become a horde. Some will have to be left behind when the adventurers advance to loftier heights. (Or, I guess you could just drown in miniatures by purchasing 20 of every monster in the manual. That's a solution, too, become the crazy cat lady of plastic and resin.)
  • edited November 2017
    For a guy not into minis, you're doing a great job at tackling this problem, Eero.

    Your last couple of posts reminded me of a miniatures game that I keep hearing about but passed on buying into, called Frostgrave. Big specialty critters ( like dragons) aside, it works very much like what you've suggested above with a slightly different mix of critters, but in the same broad categories).

    I thought your comments about traps & monsters, and switching between them was also insightful. Thinking more on old dungeons, it does strike me that a number of critters are essentially more traps than anything else. They're effectively animals, stay in one area (usually, although sometimes appearing on a wandering monster table), and have some kind of weird effect that unlucky/unprepared players may wander into, but they aren't very interesting beyond their surprise effect. Tactically, I can't see them doing much either, to really challenge the players. How much of a tactical challenge ( on the map, with minis) does a Rust Monster really represent (or a Roper, or any other number of weirdo monsters that dead wizards had apparently been keeping as pets before their dungeon became a ruin) ?
    Looking at the list, I'll note that if I had to, I could just as well combine the goblin, orcs and kobolds into one "species" that used one set of miniatures. In the campaign fiction they were two distinct species (goblins and orcs were "trolls" in the Nordic folklore sense, of two distinct tribes, while kobolds were "gnomes" in the same cultural context), but they might just as well have been two castes of a joint culture, using shared miniatures. Elves and troglodytes would have needed to remain conceptually distinct, but the different elven alignments might as well be represented with the same miniatures. Undead are a bit special in that you could use the same set of minis for quite a variety of different creatures.
    Something along these lines was one of the first things that struck me as a concept for cutting down on the sheer number of starting creatures one might want minis for in a campaign.

    If starting entirely from zero, but with an ability to buy in any direction, cut down the number of Horde types to just a couple. As always,3 is a good solid number. Then one can always by singles of other groups that exist "off-screen" that can be added in later, if it turns out it matters or there's a change in direction of the campaign.
  • Also, I tend to really think that the big change in capability from 1st level to whatever high level you choose to stop at decidedly impacts the collection dilemma.

    I suspect I have slightly different tastes than Eero does regarding power levels for PCs and advancement rates. To me, PC levels 3,4,5,6 with old school games are the sweet spot for adventuring and challenge, especially if players aren't planning to use a whole lot of hired help and/or become established warlords ( enter higher level, domain play).

    If I was designing or modifying a D&D-alike using minis, I might just center the game on those levels, and use everything else as variants, which might help some of the minis issues. Pair that concept with slow progression and some of the techniques Eero suggest for re-use, and I think you'd be doin pretty well.
  • This thread is also making me think a whole lot more about "dungeon" design.

    Not just critters to use in the dungeon, but also how it all fits together, and further how dungeons fit into a bigger "hex crawl" environment. I'm thinking almost more "Points of Darkness" than Points of Light, to steal from D&D 4e.

    Dungeons: Do they become more Indiana Jones-like affairs, with more traps and dangerous terrain, all unknown until carefully explored? A bit less monster filled, room by room, than in old modules, but more home-turf guerilla warfare environments for the hostile inhabitants?

    I know that some older random dungeon generating tables had much more empty space and unguarded treasure than I classically think of modules having. I guess that gets a bit into the logistics side of things, where it really does become more about looting than fighting.

    It also makes me think a bit more about some of the stuff D&D 4e was doing, despite the fact that I really didn't take to 4e. Upgrading monsters is part of it, as well as advice to make battle areas more interesting through terrain issues.

    I'm also a bit intrigued by Eero's concepts about re-use of mid range monsters as time goes by. It almost makes me want to write up monster opposition scenarios by monster type, based on making them as mean as possible, based on a combo of these factors:

    As a single monster
    As a small group
    In a lair
    In the wilderness
    In a city/town ( if applicable)
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