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Old 01-11-2008, 04:58 PM
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The Tabletop Itself - Miniatures and Such
When I first started playing D&D, the new box sets were just coming out. Half the people I played with had the Basic Set with the Erol Otus cover but mine was the first one done by Larry Elmore.

We used graph paper and hex paper to map out dungeons, towns and the untamed wilderness, as was the style at the time. People had a few miniatures but they were almost never used in play- I think the only time minis were actually placed on the table during my first campaign was to represent commanders' locations during a war.

The same applied to most of the games I played in for the next decade or so. People collected miniatures and painted them, but they were rarely actually plunked down anywhere. I myself accumulated a selection of monsters, player character types, and a small poorly-painted army of skeletons.

In the early 90s I first employed miniatures on a regular basis. A short campaign I ran used them about half the time; one memorable solo session included a maze (represented with Jenga blocks) and a stealthy rogue who used line-of-sight to help conceal himself as he snuck past the guards. Another, later session involved a dragon; I made a goofy-looking representation of the beast with a plastic cup, paper feet and jaws, and thumbtack forelegs... and had a big paper triangle to unfold to show the area of its breath weapon.

Not long thereafter I stopped gaming for a while. Life got in the way, etc. I did drum up the occasional group for a short experimental mini-campaign, but I was more interested in testing simple systems (a branching skill arrangement for a "Sliders with a van" game, freeform attributes for "Tesla in the Old West," and so forth) than in props and maps.

Years passed. The new Third Edition books came out and I bought them, but all the people I might have gamed with at the time were at least 500 miles away. I read the rules and noted that combat was much more miniature-friendly (one could say it required a grid and a battlemap, but I wouldn't have said it then), and I wondered if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

After a chance meeting renewed my contact with some of the old crowd, I joined their regular gaming group. They were playing D&D 3rd Edition. I picked up a figure for Solvang, my pompous fighter, but never painted it. Later, when Solvang was replaced with a cleric, I selected a miniature from someone else's collection. Moving metal around on gridded paper felt good. Very good.

When I got my GMing feet wet again with the D&D 3.0 / Lo5R hybrid version of Oriental Adventures, everyone painted a miniature. I drew on my own old collection, located after almost ten years in storage, and those of the other members of the group. Large groups of enemies were often represented with glass beads, LEGO bricks, or pennies... but one time I made a bunch of ashigaru on fold-up paper triangles. Most battles were played out on one-inch graph paper, usually a single easel sheet, but occasionally expanding to take up the whole table. The final session of that campaign included a museum represented with a combination of miniatures, wooden blocks and drawn details on the grid.

When Tarinth ran his first AE campaign, I modified a very old Ral Partha golem into a lionlike litorian to represent my character. His mane, muzzle and claws were sculpted from paint and glue. His cloak was a piece of cloth soaked in paint. His crossbow was a few scraps of wood, crudely carved and glued together. I looked through my box of minis and modified another, larger golem into the party's giant; soon I'd made or at least painted figures for most of my fellow players. Everything was pretty crude- I'll never be a good painter- but it all looked good on the battlemap.

The next campaign our group played, also using Arcana Evolved rules, coincided with my first real purchase of miniatures in years and years. I played a jackal-like sibeccai and modified an Anubis-based Heroscape figure to represent him. Again, I modified figures for every PC. Along the way I stumbled onto methods of sculpting fire (for a flaming sword) and discovered that the new plastic Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures (DDM) were really easy to mess around with. No epoxy needed- an xacto knife and a drop of superglue was usally enough! I also made fold-up paper wagons for a caravan, glued piles of rocks to bases for rough terrain, and eventually made three-dimensional ship-shapes with masts, raised decks, and removable rear cabins. Toward the end of that campaign I was covering cardboard boxes with one-inch graph paper, and the GM used everything I made. Line of Sight and Area of Effect were more significant than ever before and this terrain- combined with the usual marker drawings on the graph paper surface beneath- added new and interesting dimensions to tactical play.

I'm running the group's current campaign. I've abandoned the usual d20 grid in favor of distance markers on pipe cleaners and the occasional tape measure, wargamer-style. I have learned a lot about making props and it's now become a bit of an obsession. It's so easy to get big lots of non-rare DDM figures on eBay that my collection is now unwieldy, and I've modified- and even created from scratch- specific miniatures for various major NPCs, important monsters, and of course some of the PCs. Nothing gets represented with glass beads anymore- when I needed twenty-eight kobolds, I had them ready to go. Paper foldup wagons have been replaced with actual wooden ones (though the wheels don't turn- next time, next time).

Making D&D terrain has become my new hobby, often taking up more of the week than the preparation and running of the actual game. I've recently joined some other local gaming groups and I'm slowly making terrain for their GMs, too. I typed all this while waiting for the basecoat to dry on one side of a set of dungeon walls, in fact. I dare say I've gone a little bit nuts for styrofoam, wooden craft sticks, hot glue and steel wire over the last eight months. Oh, and lava rocks. You can never have too many lava rocks.

So... how about the rest of you? Do you use miniatures and terrain? Do you LOVE miniatures and terrain? Sound off and let me know I'm not alone in my burgeoning obsession!
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Old 01-11-2008, 08:58 PM
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My old GM was very into minitures and terrain after 3ed was released. In 2e play, we had minitures but rarely used them. It does bring a visual aspect to the "hack 'n slash" side of play that for me makes it more enjoyable.
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Old 01-11-2008, 11:36 PM
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3E is PERFECT for miniature usage and I loved using them in combat. I have a ton of Mage Knight figures I collected from a Hobby Store that acquired another store's inventory, and managed to get them cheap by the bulk. I also have a ton of the dungeon tiles, and I would just set up a base board and move the walls accordingly for the encounters.

Sometimes it gets ludicrous...especially if you're using miniatures of different scale...Mage Knight minis are actually kinda clumsy with their dial bases vs D&D minis...hence I used their dungeon tiles for the static square dimensions.

We have a bunch of pewter stuff collected from different wargames like LOTR and Warhammer that we painted up...sometimes I think it's just fan to have the massive armies of monsters to throw out on the table and scare the players
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Old 01-12-2008, 05:55 PM
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As a demonstration of what happens when you combine "I like making things" with "too much time on my hands," I present some photos, mostly from game sessions.

In other words, I can has pictures. My obsession, let me show you it.


























Very little of what I've made is of professional quality, but the portions are big enough to choke three or four horses.
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:01 PM
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Damnthing Damnthing is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rev_lazaro View Post
I have a ton of Mage Knight figures I collected from a Hobby Store that acquired another store's inventory, and managed to get them cheap by the bulk.
Most- but not all- Mage Knight figures can be removed from their bases with a quick yank or an easy slice with a hobby knife. Others are less simple. I've obtained a large supply of them myself. They're especially useful for making new PC and villain figures- I feel no regret cutting up two or three elven bannermen for parts when I have dozens of them and never plan to play the actual Mage Knight game.
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Old 01-12-2008, 06:56 PM
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Yeah but the collector in me screams when you say that lol.

I actually still play from time to time
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Old 01-12-2008, 07:27 PM
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For me, its Warhammer Fantasy Battle and WH 40k.
Empire and Space marines (Dark Angels respectively). I'm actually just starting up playing Fantasy Battle after a long abcense (My high elf army got nicked at a games day), and am building up a Nuln Gunnery Train. A pretty good force when going up against Chaos army w. deamons, or Skaven taking 50% clan rats. As luck would have it, i'll be mostly facing Skaven and Chaos, as no-one has the time to build and paint an undead, lizardman, or bretonnian force before i turn forty. I'm only 28 now.
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Old 01-12-2008, 08:06 PM
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WOW now I see why all of you hate me, I just want to say sorry lol
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Old 01-12-2008, 08:45 PM
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revlazaro revlazaro is offline
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Hate is too strong of a word;
slightly annoyed in the past is probably the best term.

But if you have anything positive to add to the conversation, or just want to learn more, feel free to pull up a chair and gab
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Getting back on topic:

I really liked your idea Damnthing for using the pipe cleaners. If I ever run the epic and huge D&D games like I used to, I'll probably resort to that.

One thing for us types with a budget, and being broke and not having time to set things up....my brother actually had a great idea using checkered-flag colored table cloth to present the grid. They were big enough for Mage Knight minis if we used them, contrasted enough that we could figure distances easily....and all we had to do was throw it over the gaming table.

Of course we've used such low-budget mini concepts such as spray painting pennies different colors to represent different monsters in a pinch "Greens are gobling, reds are Orcs for this encounter k guys?"
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Old 01-13-2008, 12:59 AM
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Wow Damnthing!!! The photos are great.

I love playing with miniatures when I can. The quality of miniatures are pretty good and I like to make my own characters. I think it really adds more substance to the game.
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