An edited version of this post appears on Old School Jump. But on my home turf, Maximum Verbosity, baby!
Scottsz asked me before about possibly contributing to the Old School Rant, now Old School Jump, on miniatures. But the sad fact is I am pretty out of touch with the miniatures ends of the the blogosphere. As I have whined publicly before, I can’t keep up with the OSR, let alone another whole domain like minis. But miniatures are certainly central to my love of RPGs generally and D&D specifically. I mean, just look at these awesome figures. (This link is to a comprehensive site with pretty much every licensed metal D&D figure!)
The fact is, if it weren’t for the minis I probably wouldn’t still be playing RPGs. When I roll up a character, the first thing I think about isn’t writing up a brief background or figuring out how to make the character “effective.” I think about which figure I’ll use for my character.
I love the “Old School” revival or renaissance or whatever the R in OSR stands for, but I found it by way of my often lonely love of old school minis. A lot of miniatures people turn their noses up at old Grenadier and Heritage and Minifigs figures. I will grant that many modern figures, which take advantage of sculpting and molding techniques unavailable to the original manufacturers (and an aesthetic sharpened by the intervening years of fantasy illustration, comics, etc.) are often quite impressive. The level of animation, and the overall quality are amazing. The crisp detail, and the fact the pieces fit perfectly make them a joy to assemble and paint. But I still love the old school minis too. They often have a gritty realism modern figures just lack.
Heritage Models has a number of sites and yahoo groups devoted to it. There’s Dungeon Dwellers info, a great site for all things Dungeon Dwellers. If you didn’t know, this line would have been their “Dungeons & Dragons” line, but the license agreement never got signed and instead Grenadier would get the license for AD&D miniatures. There are several Heritage Yahoo groups, devoted to collecting the figures, providing documentation, and so on. Disciples of Heritage and the Heritage Models Reference groups are worth checking out. The collectors Yahoo groups for Ral Partha and Grenadier are sweet too.
I love and hate Games Workshop/Citadel figures. They are certainly nice looking. The only things not to like are the scale creep and cost. Citadel minis, back in the late 1980s, were the first figures I had that just didn’t quite fit with my Grenadier, Ral Partha, and Heritage stuff. Ral Partha was always a slight bit smaller than the others, but with Citadel I could tell the scale was actually shifting. Of course nowadays, almost all modern figures are a little bigger than before. “28mm”, “30mm”, “heroic 28mm scale”, even “32mm” are bandied about, whereas in the olden days everyone claimed to be making 25mm figures, whether that 25mm was toes-to-eyes, toes-to-tip of head, or just 25mm=6′. Some of my newer Reaper and Kenzer Co. figures absolutely tower over my old figures. And that is too bad, because no-one chooses a Ral Partha figure any more for their PC in the games I’ve been playing. They just look too runty. In fact we’ve been using a Ral Partha mounted fighter as a Dwarf on a pony, and I’m probably the only one who realizes the figure was “meant” to be a human! Still, when Citadel was making RPG minis instead of exclusively Warhammer/Warhammer 40k/other branded IP minis, they made some seriously awesome figures. And they made so many that there is a whole wiki just for Citadel, which rivals the Lost Minis Wiki! But readers of this blog may be more interested in another site that just focuses on Citadel’s old AD&D/D&D lines.
The Lost Minis Wiki was created last year with the explicit intention of covering all the out-of-production lines and models, and I can kill hours there. The Lost Minis Wiki has vast amounts of unpainted lead, but we really want to see the painted stuff, right?
Stuff of Legends hasn’t been updated much lately, but as far as I know it was the first site devoted to classic minis. Another great site is the Blue Mule, which showcases well-loved and well-painted old figures. Silverblade’s Suitcase has a collection of very nice looking figures too, many of them very old. There is even one site devoted just to dwarves!
Anyway I found a legal copy of the Armory’s Buying Guide to Fantasy Miniatures at the Mega Minis Magazine site. There is a stunning array of old catalogs there to drool over, with images of miniatures that you can only hope to scrounge up at a convention or eBay. But if you love classic minis, the good news is that there are both new lines that are inspired by older lines, and a few companies still casting the classic figures.
Center Stage is still getting off the ground but I have high hopes for their Swords & Wizardry line. Update: Center Stage had a disastrous and possibly fraudulent Kick Starter campaign that did the company in, but good news, the minis are being cast be Pacesetter Games.
You’d have to be living under a rock not to know about Otherworld Miniatures, which is creating minis directly inspired by the classic illustrations of Sutherland, Trampier, etc.
Classic Miniatures is recasting many Heritage models, and also has a number of interesting things in the pipeline, including “Unreleased figures by Dave Sutherland III.” Update: Link broken; some classic Heritage and Archive recasts are available; check out the Disciples of Heritage yahoo group for info.
Games Figures Inc. is producing some Minifigs, some Heritage Models not owned by Classic Miniatures, and a few other ranges. Update: link broken; GFI apparently out of business. 😦
Thunderbolt Mountain, Tom Meier’s company, is producing figures similar to his Ral Partha classics, but in a more “modern” 28mm scale.
Mirliton, an Italian company, is producing some of the latest Grenadier lines, but sadly not the old Wizzards & Warriors/AD&D lines.
Mega Minis produces original figures as well as an extensive array of older lines. They are providing a great service but I wish they didn’t cancel lines after short runs. Update: Mega Minis, sadly, is out of business. Their molds may have been picked up by other companies. Their original stuff is now at Johnnyborg Castings. These seem to be Kick Starters so caveat emptor.
Viking Forge is producing classic Asgard minis … the ones illustrated in the Armory ads in old Dragon Magazines!