In an ideal world, we’d all be Matthew Mercer. By that I mean, aside from the obvious, we’d receive gorgeously crafted and painted miniatures every other week from loving and devoted fans. Alas, there can be only one Matthew Mercer.
The rest of us mere mortals must settle for the standard methods of tabletop miniature acquisition, the often painstaking process of picking out suitable figurines for our D&D campaigns. You can purchase pre-made individual minis or packages, which can be rather costly, or customize your own with services such as Hero Forge. For those of us who want to try out some alternatives to minis, here are five ways to turn everyday items and resources into vessels for your roleplaying magic:
Yes, that’s right. Those neglected pieces of LEGO scattered around your room that you keep stepping on CAN be used for something! If you do happen to have a solid collection of figurines, you can use these as player characters or particularly prominent NPCs who get involved in combat. For disposable enemies and elements of the environment, the smaller LEGO blocks can be fixed together into whatever size and shape you desire. Also, your players can take pleasure in violently dismantling the blocks once the enemy has been defeated.
Newbie DM has a tutorial on how to create custom miniatures out of metal washers. These tokens are easy to come by, weighted, and easily customized. With Photoshop and TokenTool, a free token-making software, you can use any image off the internet to create your character’s portrait on the token. While one side of the token is the standard portrait, the other can be bloodied using Newbie DM’s “blood file” (not as creepy as it sounds) to represent a wounded or unconscious character. Once both sides of the portrait are created, you print them out and glue them onto the washer. The names and images are clear, and you can easily number monsters as well.
There are several other ways to implement printed images into your game that are a bit more 3D than tokens. Multiple online sources, including Brave Adventures, Printable Heroes and Zen Paper Miniatures, have a wide (and free!) selection of avatars with a front and back side that you can print out, fold together, and glue in place. Most of these options mold together in such a way that a base is included, and they stay standing relatively well. Similar to the effect of the LEGOs, your players can dramatically squish multiple paper enemies at once. Hopefully they’ll have actually lowered their HP first.
For the more utilitarian gamer, user Valora Bloodborn on RPG Stack Exchange suggests using simple tiles. You can buy a pack of tiles from any old home goods or craft store, but no one there has to know that you’re not actually going to be laying down a mosaic in your bathroom. Glass tiles work well for gaming purposes, but you can experiment with other materials. Once you’ve broken up the pack, individual tiles have the advantage of being adequately sized for a table, as well as basically behaving like multiple mini whiteboards. You can write or draw on them with markers and erase when the monster is slain.
Can you think of some other alternatives to tabletop miniatures? How would you make it fun for your players? Let us know in the comments!