As I find/paint/photograph my small collection of TSR-produced minis, I’ll post them in this series.
From what I can piece together, TSR was somewhat dastardly in its dealings with miniatures manufacturers. First Minifigs got a brief deal (in 1977) to produce D&D and Greyhawk figures, but this was taken away and Heritage Models was offered a deal in 1979…only to have that fall apart after they’d designed a rather large line, which would become their Dungeon Dwellers. (This is basically he said she said type stuff, though. Apparently Heritage had terrible management too!) Next Grenadier got the AD&D license in 1980, and this lasted only a few years. Among the issues, apparently, was TSR’s unilateral decision to let MPC create plastic versions of many Grenadier without permission, attribution, or royalties. But again this is partly hearsay. In 1983 TSR started making their own line of D&D, AD&D, Gama World, Marvel Superheroes, and Star Frontiers figures. (Grenadier had also made figures for other TSR games like Gama World and Boot Hill, as well as other company’s games like Traveller, Champions, and Call of Cthulhu…I wonder if this antagonized TSR?) TSR would give Citadel the D&D rights in 1985, but with limitations that made it impossible or at least impractical to sell their figures here in the US (that could have something to do with Citadel’s contracts with Ral Partha, though). The legend is that TSR intentionally kept D&D figures off the market in this way to give Ral Partha a big advantage when they finally got the license to make to make AD&D figures in 1987, but that seems unlikely to me. I am probably not in the minority when I say TSR’s line of D&D figures the worst of the lot, but they do deserve some credit for making some figures that painted up nicely and actually putting out some good sets. The main problems were lack of skill and or experience on the part of their sculptors, too many boring characters and not enough interesting monsters. Why did they release orcs, goblins, the elementals pictured below, and so on, when there were so many D&D critters that had never been made into figures?
Here’s a pair of elementals I picked up super cheap at Origins a few years back:
This little guy (an Azer?) was already in an earlier post about some little devils: