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A Beginner’s Guide to Pen-and-Paper RPG Miniatures

Nerds are sharp, they’re particular, and they know what they want. This is the reason nerds often take a deep dive into various collections. We don’t just accumulate stuff willy-nilly, we curate our nerdy collections very thoughtfully.

That works well if you already have a familiarity with the nerdy thing. But what if you want to get into something but don’t even know where to begin?

Well, if you want to get into collecting miniatures, consider this a beginner’s guide. Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying, “When art critics get together they talk about form and structure and meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine.”

This is the practical guide to buying that “cheap turpentine.” I’m not going to offer critique in any way, nor get into advanced stuff like painting miniatures (we already have a beginner’s guide there).

Here we go, our beginner’s guide to getting into miniatures.

A Beginner’s Guide to Tabletop RPG Minis

First, start with the pre-painted variety. Painting miniatures is indeed a wonderful hobby, but let’s keep the learning curve flat when we’re just looking for some sweet miniatures to represent our characters in our D&D or Pathfinder game.

There is far and away a #1 source when it comes to pre-painted D&D and Pathfinder tabletop miniatures and that is Wizkids, which makes minis in two sweet flavors:

  1. D&D Icons of the Realms. These minis come in “boosters” that contain 4 random miniatures, three standard size and one that is a little larger. You can grab a booster for about $15 bucks, meaning you pay about $4 per mini. You might get a classic monster like an orc or a bugbear, plus you are likely to get a mini that could work to represent your character, like an elven archer or human wizard or what have you.
  2. Pathfinder Battles. Even though both lines are made by Wizkids, the Pathfinder minis are almost always the sharper looking figures, as they take a more hands-on approach to art direction. Plus, Pathfinder Battles minis come in the same blind booster format and also feature a nice mix of monsters and player characters.

Seriously, the Wizkids minis are the best first step for giving miniatures a try. Buy a booster or two on the cheap from Amazon, just to try to see if they are for you. It’s worth it for the rush of opening up the pack to see what you get. Here are the D&D ones, and here is a sample of the Pathfinder Battle minis, which has a larger line.

If you like those, head to your friendly local game shop, which undoubtedly will carry the Wizkids minis.

Second, think about storage. Listen, these things are miniatures, so they are small by definition. But I’m convinced you’ll soon form the same irrational love of them that I have, meaning you’ll accumulate a truckload, only to then worry about how to store them.

There are lots of little Plano cases you can use and it’s an option to just swing by Michael’s to browse what they have. But I found a a great little drawer cabinet like you’d use to store washes and screws. It works perfectly, allowing me to have a drawer for bards, one for paladins, a large one for elementals, and so on. Here’s the link. Uh, I might have a million of these cabinets, so please don’t judge me.

Third, hit the black market. It’s actually the miniatures secondary market, but black market sound more bad-a.

Since the minis come in blind boosters, you’ll want to buy a few just for the fun of opening and to build a general collection. But you’ll likely want a particular figure or two and won’t want to buy booster after booster, praying to the god of skinny punks that you get that special one.

But websites like Miniatures Market and Cool Stuff Inc buy and sell the individual ones (here is a full tutorial on that). I personally use coolstuffinc,com and it’s been great. And they have all the singles from all the lines, including the old school Pathfinder Battles sets, meaning you are sure to be able to get a sculpt and look that you are excited about. Here are a few to browse.

Finally, go iconic if you’re frisky. Pathfinder also has some sets called “iconic” that feature especially detailed sculpts and paint jobs. They are nice figures. You’ll pay a bit more, but they aren’t blind boxes, so pick out a particular mini you like, then let that be your upcoming character. Here is a sample of those.

A Beginner’s Guide to Tabletop RPG Minis

The above are the simplest, most economical, most accessible, and best-looking miniatures to get started with. Between the D&D and the Pathfinder line, you are guaranteed that Wizkids makes a mini that you’d be thrilled to use in your game. I’m guessing you’ll be hooked and will want to build up your collection as well.

There are other minis of course. And then there is painting. But those are articles for other days.

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