Have you ever wished something in your imagination could become real? Like flying shoes, or a tree that grows pizza. Or, in the case of Dungeons & Dragons, a beloved character or terrifying boss monster.
D&D miniatures help you achieve exactly that, just on a smaller scale—most people don’t have room to store a full-size dragon figurine in their homes.
But for many new players and dungeon masters, it can be hard to know where to buy D&D miniatures, how to start building a collection, what the best materials are, and more. Recently, I chatted with D&D minis expert, Schuyler Finley of Ghost Forge (definitely using that name in a future game btw), to answers these questions for you.
Whether you want to bring your favorite character to life or build a collection of baddies to use in your next combat, read on for everything you need to know about D&D figurines of your own.
Benefits of D&D Miniatures
There are many ways to run combat in D&D and other tabletop RPGs, many of which don’t require minis. However, according to Schuyler, there are a number of benefits you get when you use tangible, tactile figurines in your games:
- Greater immersion
- Spacial awareness
- Better planning and strategy
- Visual reference for how characters look
- DM inspiration
He explains, “My players love it when I surprise them with custom-made, painted minis of their party…Minis can really inspire a DM as well. I can’t tell you how many times I needed to build an encounter and only decided on the creatures after I saw some cool monsters at the game store.”
Where To Buy D&D Miniatures
There are numerous options out there for buying D&D miniatures, both online and at your local game store, and for every budget.
If you’re looking for cheap D&D miniatures…
I get it. Not everyone has a chunk of change to drop on D&D minis (raises hand). To go budget-friendly, you should seek out figurines that are made of less expensive materials and are unpainted. If you don’t care about the colors, you can play with them unpainted; otherwise, you can take up a new hobby and learn to paint them yourself.
You may also consider buying a game that includes a set of miniatures. This route is more expensive upfront, but you end up with a game you can play and several multipurpose miniatures.
Schuyler has a few recommendations for what kinds of miniatures to look for in this price range:
- Reaper Bones
- Nolzur’s Marvelous Minis Unpainted
- Pathfinder Deep Cuts Unpainted
- Runewars Miniatures
- Games Workshop miniature sets (Nighvault, Shadespire, or “easy-to-build” sets are all good options)
- Shapeways custom 3D-printing service
- Department store toys sections
- 2D cardboard cutouts like the Pathfinder Pawns: Bestiary Box
If you’re looking to buy bulk D&D miniatures…
You need an army of skeletons and you need them now! Sometimes, bulk is the best way to go. Investing in a D&D board game or another game that comes with miniatures is a good option (plus, like I said above, you get another game you can play). Schuyler suggests the following:
- Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon
- Dungeons and Dragons: Castle Ravenloft Board Game
- Dungeons & Dragons: The Legend of Drizzt Board Game
If you’re looking for high-quality or custom D&D miniatures…
What dungeon master wouldn’t want a collection of unique, finely painted, or high quality figurines? Or how about terrain so your players can wander moss-covered ruins? If you have room in your budget and want the best of the best, you can check out these options:
- Dwarven Forge offers awesome terrain and scatter terrain.
- Games Workshop Age of Sigmar box sets come with a bunch of high-quality detailed minis; they’re perfect for hoards, main villains, or even characters.
- Hero Forge allows you to design and order your own 3D-printed character mini; while they offer less expensive print materials, the higher-quality material will look and feel best.
- Ghost Forge makes one-of-a-kind custom minis that are perfect for unique monsters, characters, and terrain—especially huge creatures. (Plus, they give deals to new customers and for bulk orders!)
The Best Materials for D&D Miniatures
You can purchase or print your own D&D minis in a variety of materials like resins and plastics. What’s the best? It ultimately depends on your preference, Schuyler explains.
“Some people like the bendy plastic of Reaper mins because they won’t break if they fall. Resins tend to be brittle and are my least favorite. Some people like the hard-injection molded plastic of Games Workshop because it can handle a great amount of small detail without losing quality,” he says.
While the Ghost Forge owner himself prefers harder plastics, he has experience working with all types of materials. He insists, “I work with a wide variety of materials when making custom orders, and they always turn out great. It doesn’t make a huge difference. What matters is that you find something that works for you.”
Essentials for Starting a D&D Miniatures Collection
Like I said before, starting a new minis collection can feel a bit daunting. The way I see it, if I’m going to spend the money, I want to get good mileage out of my figurines rather than a single combat encounter. So what are the best minis to start with?
Schuyler advises getting a set of undead enemies to start, like zombies or skeletons: “Some of my favorite undead are the Sepulchral Guard from Games Workshop. You’ll always use them and won’t leave them on the shelf for too long.” As a proud owner of a set of zombie figurines myself, I can attest to this—I use mine all the time.
He also suggests getting a dragon or two. After all, you’re bound to use them if you’re playing Dungeons & Dragons. “I’d just check on Amazon,” he says. “I’d also recommend looking at old board games on Ebay for some hidden gems.”
There you have it: everything you need to know about D&D miniatures. They can be a great way to add another level of immersion and excitement into your games, both as a player and as a dungeon master or game master. Plus, they’re pretty cool to just look at, don’t you think?
About Schuyler Finley
Schuyler started making miniatures in college for a 90’s board game called Dragon Strike (check it out on YouTube for a good chuckle). He modified the game so much that it essentially became a homebrew of Dungeons & Dragons. Later, he worked for a miniature-painting company called Blue Table Painting. Finally, he decided to start his own custom-miniature shop, Ghost Forge.