Representing monsters. How do you guys do it?

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OK so we all need something to represent monsters om our battlegrids, and I have been Reading theese boards for long enough to notice that certain methods stand out. Personally I'm in the midle og choosing my own way. And here is the different methods I know of.

Using actuall minis to show whats what. This Vista not only money but storage. And you would need loads of them. And from certain producers quite random what you get.

Paper minies, cost less, takes up less space, but less durable. And cost increases for every print.

Tokens with pictures. Can be printer or bought. Usually handy and numbered. Dømt take up loads of space. Not as readily vissible as paper and plastic minis.

Tokens with only numbers on. Quote east to run as DM. Hi reusability and cost efficient if made by styret materials. Will either enhance or break imersion since none of them look like anything.

Random stuff you got laying about, dices candy etc. Cheap and reusable, han be a bit confusing whats what from time to time.

So that is the methods I know og, wich one do you guys use, why, and whats the upps and downs that you know of?
My advice to anyone that is starting out and doesn't have loads of cash to spend, is to use minis for the PCs and tokens for monsters.  I was initially pretty enthusiatic about using tokens for everything when the Essentials boxed sets with tokens came out (primarily because they reduced the amount of stuff I had to lug to a game), but we found that it was difficult to distinguish between the PCs on the basis of a portrait on a token (admittedly that would have gotten easier after a couple of sessions as we became familiar with who was using what).

So if you get your players to buy a mini for their character and you get hold of some tokens for the monsters you should be all set.  From there you can always buy the odd mini for important encounters and frequently-encountered monsters if you want to start building up a collection.
I use minis, but i don't use accurate minis. I have probably a hundred or so. I let the players all pick one for their PC, and from there just say "Ok these skeletal archers are the elven bow bandits, the storm troopers are actually elven warriors" and go from there. Its mostly about the visual representation of "Something" instead of being accurate. I try to keep ranged units regulated to ranged guys, melee guys as melee guys, light armored guys as light armored guys, and mages as mages. But within that, whatever. 

I've used tokens for gamma world and didn't think it was annoying. I might recomend that to people who don't own actual minis already. If I did this I'd recomend pewter minis for PCs and reoccuring NPCs. With the intention that eventually you get a solid backlog of decent pewter ones. 

I've also gotten solid use out of a box of d6. www.amazon.com/Chessex-Opaque-White-Blac... like that. I've got a clear yellow with white pip and an orange with black pip set. When fighting 14 goblins, they are represented with die. If using less than 6 foes for a fight, you can even mark them easily. "Goblin 2 has 2 pips" and track goblin 2's HP easily.  

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I have a handful of minis that I use, and reuse, which tend to cover the bases - so to speak - for what I need. My magma brute has been an immolith, a troll and a star spawn, for instance. I enjoy picking out minis that have a few traits of the creature, without actually being the creature, and sometimes I get lucky and it's spot on.

It's not really about immersion, because honestly what's immersive about a chunk of plastic? It's really about easy of identification on the board.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I've always had a lot of fun tracking down bargain miniatures.

But, over the last couple years I've really started warming up to inexpensive, portable alternatives.

One idea I thought was great was to use dollar-store chessboard pieces - a couple sets of those should provide a nice variety of tokens for monsters.  In fact, as long as you aren't looking for an exact replica of any given monster or character, a few bucks at a yard sale could probably buy you a couple of old board games with a handful useful pawns and tokens in them, and it's a great way to recycle parts from any old board games you might have gathering dust in the attic.

Forum member Dakaran has been creating some paper stand-ups in the "Order of the Stick" stick-figure style that I've really been enjoying (link) - they're a lot of fun, and the art style is just general enough that many of the same stand-ups can be repurposed for a variety of NPC mooks and so on.  These are about as free as printer ink and paper can be, and, as another very nice touch, Dakaran also provides black-and-white versions that would be even easier on your printer ink budget.

I think the Wizards of the Coast "Monster Vault" token set, and Paizo's competing "Bestiary Box" set of cardboard stand-ups are another excellent and fairly affordable way to represent a huge variety of monsters without buying thousands of expensive, bulky miniatures.

You can also track down some 1/72 (25mm) historical wargame miniatures - there's typically two or three dozen plastic miniatures to a box that costs about $10, more or less, and hobby stores that sell model railroad, aircraft, and ship kits typically have shelves full of them.  Vikings, Native Americans, Zulus, Greeks, Romans, Normans, Saxons, Ninjas, Pirates, Samurai, Musketeers, Gothic Barbarians, Mongols, and many other armies are represented in this hobby, and would all look right at home in D&D.  They are typically made in a soft plastic that's great for modding and "kit bashing", and the varying quality of work means that it can be fairly easy to find miniatures that are so badly sculpted and molded, that supposedly "real world" human miniatures can look more like Orcs and other monsters than fantasy miniatures do!  There are also model kits in the same scale for sailing ships, wagons, castles, siege engines, and so on that might make great props, if you don't mind getting carried away with it.
[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

little pieces of paper/flattened marbles/paper clips/odd colored dice/one occasion a trumpet case


Imagination plus what’s on hand

I have a gallon baggie full of old D&D minis, and it's usually PCs and recurring NPCs get their own mini, and anything else just gets whatever have the right size. I actually like this method because that army of 10 unnamed orcs becomes easier to fight if each one is obviously different as a mini ("Which orc do you attack?" "The Grimlock.")

Led to a humorous moment recently when the wagon full of captured humans (played by the DM's cell phone) started to ring mid combat, with the ominous tone of the Nyan Cat theme.
Well, I'm a miniture wargamer - warhammer, WWII, historical, LoTR, 40k, space ships, etc - as well as an RPG player.

So I've got lots of minis.  Especially fantasy based ones.....

With fantasy stuff you really don't need that many for D&D purposes.
About;
10 orcs,
10 goblins, 
10 skeletons,
10 kobolds,
10 drow,
etc
a couple of dragons of different sizes - doesn't matter what colors.
1 griffon, basilisk, 1 beholder, etc
Some nights, some wizard types....

And then a handfull of poker chips or similar tokens - to become extra orcs or whatever as needed.

Personally I reccommend the unit boxes for Warhammer Fantasy as far as orcs etc go.  Yes, they're more expensive, unpainted plastics, & require some assembly.  But they're very nice models & you'll use them for YEARS.
So it's not like you won't get your $s worth out of them.
Otherwise?  Look online for single D&D minis.  Look at Troll&Toad, Strikezoneonline, Miniture Market, etc.  It's cheaper to buy 10 kobolds or whatever that way than buying blind booster after blind booster hoping to pull enough of them. 
Back when I did tabletop, I used starburst.  If you got the kill, you got the starburst.  They fit the squares, and were color coded for role.

Part of the reason why I asked is because well I wanted to find some place to land. I got a bunch of minis, mostly the most common ones, zombies, skeletons, orcs, humans mostly from warhammer. Thing is that I'm placed in norway, and norway is an exspensive country to buy minis in, since we are not even registring on anyones consumer radar, except games workshop for some strange reason. And if you buy from over seas or from europe even, shipping and taxes usually double the price of the minis... To get stuff from paizo costs me around 30$ +++

But I have reached a conclusion, I will use what minis I got, and then substitute with paper minis wich I print out on thicker paper and thus makes them reusable.
OK so we all need something to represent monsters om our battlegrids, and I have been Reading theese boards for long enough to notice that certain methods stand out. Personally I'm in the midle og choosing my own way. And here is the different methods I know of. Using actuall minis to show whats what. This Vista not only money but storage. And you would need loads of them. And from certain producers quite random what you get. Paper minies, cost less, takes up less space, but less durable. And cost increases for every print. Tokens with pictures. Can be printer or bought. Usually handy and numbered. Dømt take up loads of space. Not as readily vissible as paper and plastic minis. Tokens with only numbers on. Quote east to run as DM. Hi reusability and cost efficient if made by styret materials. Will either enhance or break imersion since none of them look like anything. Random stuff you got laying about, dices candy etc. Cheap and reusable, han be a bit confusing whats what from time to time. So that is the methods I know og, wich one do you guys use, why, and whats the upps and downs that you know of?



I myself looked over ebay and picked up every box of mixed old miniatures, hade some brilliant things in there, both Grenadier, Ral Partha and ancient GW's.

I've got almost 20 different skeletons alone, heck i even have a camel and a fat balding inkeeper in the pile.
Auggies Games for D&D minis.
Reaper prepainted.
Monster Vault for lots of tokens.

Cry Havoc!  And let slip the hogs of war!

Part of the reason why I asked is because well I wanted to find some place to land. I got a bunch of minis, mostly the most common ones, zombies, skeletons, orcs, humans mostly from warhammer. Thing is that I'm placed in norway, and norway is an exspensive country to buy minis in, since we are not even registring on anyones consumer radar, except games workshop for some strange reason. And if you buy from over seas or from europe even, shipping and taxes usually double the price of the minis... To get stuff from paizo costs me around 30$ +++

But I have reached a conclusion, I will use what minis I got, and then substitute with paper minis wich I print out on thicker paper and thus makes them reusable.



Ah!  It sounds like you've got a great selection of minis, and the paper will work just fine.

I don't know if they are available in Norway at a reasonable price, but Wizards of the Coast does publish a board-game series that contain a lot of excellent unpainted D&D miniatures.  Look for Castle Ravenloft, Wrath of Ashardalon, and Legend of Drizzt - the miniatures selection is great, and the other components (such as the map tiles) would come in handy, too.  If these are available, I think they are the best way to get a great selection of the most useful official D&D miniatures.

I don't know what shopping in Norway is like, but here in the U.S., we have "dollar stores" that sell a lot of cheap stuff, including cheap plastic toys which might also come in handy, such as dinosaurs, dragons, insects, and so on.  Mostly, they're imported from places like Japan, China, Taiwan, and Singapore.  Such toys were the original fantasy gaming miniatures back in the 1970s, and should work just as well today, if you can find them. 

Inexpensive chess game sets can also supply a lot of useful game pieces that are roughly the same size as D&D miniatures, and I think they would work very well for representing a variety of different types of NPCs and maybe even some monsters.

Good luck to you, let us know if you come across any ideas that we didn't think of
[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
Yeah we got YronimosW  we have the boardgames in norway as well. I already have Lords of Ashradalon. Fun game. We do have comic book stores as well, but they are in the really big cities (not that a norwegian big city is that big). And mine is not big enough to have a one of the cain ones.

I did some calculations, and it seems that for a booster pack the price per mini is 18 nok (norwegian kroner) thats about 3$ and a warhammer unpainted in a 10 or 20 is 14 nok or about 2$ But then with the new minis line from WotC I also can use them with WoA and I get more tiles both terain and dungeon. So at least here in norway thats so far the cheapest minis I can get... Not cheap, but still the best value I have found so far.

We dont really have that many dolar stores in norway, we got pleanty of we are cheaper than all of you stores, but they tend to focus more on household itims than toys.

Oh and Diakos I have been looking on Ebay as well, but I'm moving in 4 days, and well there is no chance I can get them to this adress in time. But then again, i will  looking again once I'm in a more permanent ressidence.

And thanks for all the answers, keep them comming.
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