Alternatives to Minis?

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Sorry if this is the wrong forum, please feel free to move if so...

I'm currently looking for ideas for cheaper alternatives to using official minis. I'm not opposed to buying some official miinis, as I really like how they look, but for things that require a lot of smaller creatures, I am looking for some cheaper alternatives to use in addition to...

I'm looking for things that are 3d (we have a supply of the tokens you can get - but I want to use 3d minis of some sort)

I'm open to basically any suggestions people have - thanks!
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Paper minis are free/dirt cheap, and 3d; onemonk.com/
One-half of the tabletop gaming news podcast Going Last Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.
If you want to leave miniatures behind and go digital instead, I think www.rptools.net has an excellent but simple tool for running you games. The shadow setting and individual view points have really added a new dimension to dungeon exploration.
1. Spiders out of pipe cleaners. 
2. Giant snails with shells from the garden and a little modeling clay.
3. Raid the clearance isle at the craft store. I use the diorama trees and walls for added flavor. 
4. Buy cheap board games.  Zombies! comes with 4 heroes and about 50 zombie minis. I managed to hold onto my copy of hero quest from when I was a kid. It has a great selection of generic monsters.
5. Lego
6. Buy bits and pieces of expensive minis. If you can find someone wanting to dump their odds and ends you can super glue your creations together. 
7. Reaper just released their "Bones" collection. It's their models in plastic instead of metal. The selection is minimal at the moment but the price is right. 

 
1/72 plastic fantasy and historical wargaming miniatures are very cheap.  Typically, about US$10 will buy a box of 30-40 miniatures.  Look for Caesar Miniatures fantasy line, but there's lots of useful medieval, classical, rennaissance, and New World miniatures out there to choose from as well.  Fairly inexpensive plastic model kits in the same scale exist for castles, siege engines, vehicles, sailing ships, and more, if you don't mind that some assembly would be required.  This is a slightly smaller scale than D&D miniatures and the miniatures will generally be a head shorter and much skinnier than D&D miniatures, but if you don't lose sleep over that sort of thing, these are a fantastic option.


Paizo Publishing has started releasing a great alternative to Wizards of the Coast's round cardboard tokens, in the form of cardboard "pawns" that fit into plastic bases.  It's not fully 3D, but they are inexpensive and portable, look like what they are supposed to represent (they're for Paizo's Pathfinder extension of 3.5e D&D), and fit in well alongside plastic miniatures.


You might be able to find some good bargains on the three D&D "Adventure System" boardgames, "Castle Ravenloft", "Wrath of Ashardalon", and "Legend of Drizzt".  The games contain a great selection of unpainted versions of official D&D miniatures representing some of the most popular and useful D&D monsters.  The boardgames are fun in their own right, too.


Those Reaper "Bones" miniatures mentioned by GSX look like an excellent choice for a very small handful of common monsters - I think that's a nice line that deserves some support and expansion.


Check out dollar/thrift stores, craft stores, party stores, and toy stores, and garage sales for bargain-bin plastic toys and party favors.  You can probably find some cheasy but very cheap plastic dinosaurs, dragons, monsters, animals, aliens, bugs, spiders, skeletons, and more that way.  (This is a D&D tradition, actually.  Some packages of plastic dinosaur toys still contain the same sorts of goofy non-dinosaur monsters that have appeared in "dime-store" dinosaur sets since the 1970's, and which formed the inspiration for D&D's Bulette, Rust Monster, and more!)


Check out the bargain bins and clearance sales for online miniatures dealers.  You can often find some very cheap collectible-miniatures-game miniatures from defunct or unpopular lines for less than a dollar each that way.  From what I've seen, these sales rarely last long, and once supplies dry up, these cheap miniatures become hard to find.  I've seen some Star Wars, Dreamblade, Mageknight, HeroClix, and HorrorClix miniatures in such sales before that should fit right in with D&D miniatures with little or no modification, and I'm sure there will be some more where those came from for a little while yet.


Old boardgames can be some great sources of nice miniatures, if you are lucky enough to find them cheap in your attic, at local flea markets and garage sales, or on auction sites.  It seems to be harder than ever to find good bargains for 1980's classics like HeroQuest and Dungeon!, but you may be lucky enough to run across them anyway. 


Newer boardgames and collectible miniatures wargames can also contain some useful miniatures as well - as GSX mentioned, Zombies! has a LOT of zombies in it, and Arcane Legions sets of fantasy theme-park Chinese, Egyptian, and Greek miniatures and monsters can be found relatively cheaply here and there as well.


Wargames Factory produces some relatively inexpensive boxed sets of plastic miniatures in mostly-historical and mythical/fantasy lines that are roughly comparable to Warhammer's plastic miniatures boxed sets.  And, in fact, Games Workshop's Warhammer plastic miniatures themselves can be another possible way to obtain a bunch of plastic fantasy miniatures.  In either case, there will be "some" assembly required, though (read:  you'll end up spending hours gluing microscopic hands to tiny arms while wondering if it's really worth the trouble!)


If you have a printer and a cheap supply of ink and paper, and you are on a serious budget, then go with paper.  I've never cared much for paper miniatures (they are too delicate and easy to blow around), but it's hard to beat them for the bang-to-buck ratio.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Depending on how fast you need them:

3d Tokens
--- -S. My campaign wiki: http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/noble-house


D&D Home Page - What Monster Are You? - D&D Compendium

Depending on how fast you need them:

3d Tokens




Really, it's a great time to be an RPG player looking for gaming miniatures in any price-range - there's a fantastic variety of excellent miniatures and tokens out there even for those of us on a budget

I've seen Paizo's cardboard pawns that came with their Pathfinder Beginner's Box, and they are a very nice product and a great compromise between 3D miniatures and paper stand-ups or cardboard tokens.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
i'm printing out all the monsters and Characters i need and i built wooden feet to stick them in. Cost: Printer ink, a little of that self-sticking foil stuff you wrap school books in... sadly quite some time to make the feet.. (yes i've made a whole box up till gargantuan size)