Who would Gary send?

(Gary’s portrait on the 8001 insert)

Yeah, terrible half-pun. Anyway, I recently noticed that there is at least one set of minatures depicting a dungeon party designed by Gary Gygax — Grenadier’s old Action Art set 8001. (Insert & box images from the Lost Minis Wiki)

You can read the box insert below, and the painting guide more or less repeats this: “Also note that the figures in this box were designed by Gary Gygax, the ‘Dean of Dungeoneering,’ thus they form the perfect basic explorers party.” I’ve heard Gygax didn’t really use miniatures much himself for D&D (as opposed to Chainmail) although it sounds like he didn’t oppose their use.

So, What does Gary think a good party might include? The first thing you’ll notice is that the party is almost entirely human. EGG’s disdain for “demihumans” has been commented on elsewhere. Nothing surprising here. In all my years of gaming, though, D&D parties have tended to look much more like the Fellowship of the Ring than like this. From what I can tell most D&D parties are heavily non-human nowadays too. The WotC editions of D&D (3e-4e) seem to encourage specific demihumans depending on the class you choose, but 4e also makes humans more attractive than 3e, IMO.

Anyway what does Gary think a party needs? I’ll describe them in the order they are listed on the insert, and rely on the descriptions in the painting guide for what they “are.” This smaller image from the 1982 Grenadier catalog will serve as a reference too — I’ll add the letters below to each description.

There is a wizard, and he looks nothing like Gandalf (no staff, no oversized hat, no cloak). He is armed with a few darts on his belt (AD&D gave darts a rate of fire of 3, so they used to be pretty decent weapons!). This wizard would feature in many of Grenadier’s ads in The Dragon. (F)

Next up a lantern bearer, which you can also see in my Hirelings post. He has a spear and fairly heavy armor. (C)

Then there is a cleric, and while he has a helm, shield, and belted mace, he isn’t wearing any obvious armor. Maybe it is under his robe. He also has a staff in hand rather than a mace; interesting choice. (B)

The paladin is one of my favorites in this set and really one of my favorite paladin figures. He looks like the traditional knight, but with an open helm (for visibility in the dungeon?) and his armor and shield bear prominent Maltese crosses. So the implicit Christianity of D&D James M. noticed is confirmed here too. (I)

One of the two demihumans is a gnome. He looks like he might be a thief or fighter-thief. No armor, but wielding a sword and dagger. He looks competent but not too dangerous. (E)

The other demihuman is an elf fighter/magic-user. You’ll notice she is wearing a long mail shirt (no chainmail bikini!) and has her hand in the same pose as the wizard, so maybe they’re casting the same spell. Her weapons are a short composite bow and a dagger. A nice little figure. (A)

The thief is pretty interesting. He has a 10′ pole in hand, and a huge coil of rope on his belt. He has a sword and dagger too, but clearly he is there to check for traps, not the “striker” of later editions of D&D. (L)

The female fighter has a spear and torch, and I mistook her for a hireling for that reason, but clearly she is actually one of the party’s player characters. No chain mail bikini for her either. You’ll also notice that most of the fighters here don’t use a sword as their primary weapon. I’m a little disappointed not to see more exotic polearms, given EGG’s love of them. (D)

The cross bow man and javelin man I assume to be man-at-arms hirelings. Otherwise they’d be called fighters, right? So with the lantern bearer that means the party of nine character types has three hirelings, two of whom carry light sources and if the lantern bearer’s spear and hand axe are thrown, all of them use missile weapons (although all do have swords as backups). (K, J)

The ranger is very heavily armored (chain mail, arm and leg greaves, and a visored helmet) — I think we can call this “plate mail.” He also uses a hand axe and shield, although he has a sword and dagger as back up, as most of the fighters do. I will just notice that this ranger is nothing like the WotC edition rangers (lightly armored dual-weapon wielders or archers). (G)

Lastly another fighter with a spear about to be thrown, and bow in hand, not to mention a shield on his back and a double flail as a side arm. This guy means business! (H)

So there you have EGG’s ideal adventuring party. Heavy on the fighter types, and many use missiles, with just three spell casters.

I still have most of these guys, although the spears and swords mostly broke, and my thief is MIA. At some point I’ll photograph them once they are all painted.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 3:20 am  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hey Mike,

    Great looking set! I would love to play with some of those, even if my party (like yours) is generally far more diverse than that. Plus, we like axes more 😉


  2. Great set! Great find, stuff like this, that goes back to the early days, is so inspiring.

  3. Gah! I had that set! Crippling nostalgia GO!

  4. Man, great memories. I owned most of these figures at one time, and one or two still might be lurking at that bottom of my mini case/tackle box.

  5. The gnome could also be an illusionist/thief 😀


  6. […] recognize the cleric as the paladin figure from the Gygax dungeoneer set.  Nordi was a GW Gondorian, and Theoden is an old GW […]

  7. […] off at the hand). I NEEDED this figure badly, because it is damn cool and old-school and because my copy is lost. Similarly the Heritage barbarian woman in the lower right replaces my badly broken copy from the […]

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