Scale creep!

Miniatures enthusiasts sometimes talk about “scale creep” — the tendency over time for bigger and bigger figures to be produced in the same notional scale. D&D figures (and fantasy figures in general for other RPGs and fantasy war gaming lines) have usually been marketed as “25mm” scale, but scale creep was evident from at least the 1980s. Beginning in the later 1990s or early 2000s some companies began to admit this was going on and stopped calling their figures “25mm” and started describing them as “heroic scale,” “28mm,” “30mm,” and even “32mm.”

Believe it or not, there was a time when 25mm was considered “close enough” to use with HO (that’s actually ‘half o’) scale models, which are about 1/76 scale.   Simple math will tell you that if 25mm = the height of a man, and humans are presumed to be 6′ in fantasy land, this is 1/72 scale. 1/72 and 1/76 are fairly close, but 1/72 is still somewhat puny next to 25mm.  Smallish 25mm like early Tom Meier Ral Parthas are very close to 1/72.  The metal figures, being sculpted at actual size, still have somewhat less realistic proportions, but most people don’t really notice this unless it is pointed out to them. (Metal minis are molded directly from the master sculpts, which are placed in unvulcanized rubber or silicone. Plastics are more typically sculpted in a larger scale and then molds made with a “pantograph” machine that traces and reduces them as it cuts the steel mold. This is why 1/72 plastics — especially the soft wargamer/modeller plastics — tend to be very delicately proportioned. The cartoonishness of metals is partly due to aesthetics but partly practical.)

Some fighting men.  The first is Ral Partha from about 1980 or maybe the late 1970s.  Next a Grenadier figure, about 1980 too.  Grenadier was already larger than RP, even back in the day.  Next is a Citadel barbarian from the late 1980s, and finally a Reaper figure from the 2000s.

Because the Grenadier figure was somewhat large even for the line, they mostly look OK together, but the Ral Partha fighter went from being a fairly badass knight to being a dwarf!

Speaking of dwarves.  Ral Partha (1976 or so), Grenadier (1980), Ral Partha (1986 or so), Grenadier (1989), Citadel (late 1980s).

The discrepancy is most apparent between the Citadel dwarf and the RP dwarf.  The former’s fist is literally as big as the latter’s head.

Here are some mounted figures.  For much of the 70s and 80s, cavalry figures had undersized mounts just because the amount of metal needed for a full sized horse would have pushed up prices, or so it is said.  Games Workshop was very proud when they began releasing plastic warhorses that were suitable massive for the scale.  Anyway we see here a Ral Partha fighter (1976 or so); a Citadel plastic LOTR Rohan rider (this line is uncharacteristically well-proportioned and actually pretty close to 25mm rather than 28-30 which we see in their Warhammer line); amd a knight from the company called “Enigma” which I think was Canadian, and specialized in what I always thought looked like Warhammer knock-offs.  The Enigma knights are huge.

If you were picking a figure for your PC, would you even consider the RP knight?  He now passes for a dwarf on a pony in my games.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I like how the once mighty knight is now a little man on a pony. Poor knight!

  2. The preslottas would actually look even a bit shorter without having their bases on top of other bases “How the mighty have fallen!” lol – indeed.

    • That’s true. I always add square bases to pre-slotta minis for stability anyway. I use a supply of scrap matte board I got from a framing shop for my basing and I have found myself using extra layers of that for the bases of smaller minis. For example the Bugbear leader from an old Grenadier set looks a little puny next to his more modern minions, so he’s on 3 layers of matte board.

      I have also sawn of the bases of some really big Reaper townsfolk so they don’t look like Brobdingnagians next to the mix of older figures I use. The link goes to a post with the bar staff, all the ladies had their metal bases removed so they can have square matte board bases.

  3. Nice post. I was hoping you’d throw one up about this insidious evil threatening the happy realms of miniatures.

    I never found a good explanation of this… is there some facet of the molding process that offers better quality at 28mm as opposed to 25mm? Are there any structural integrity differences in the different scales that matter?

    I remember running into this back in the day and it was always… weird.

    • I think it’s a constellation of causes.
      1) It’s easier to sculpt bigger minis (all metal minis I know of are sculpted “actual size” rather than pantographed down like most plastic models).
      2) Marketing – they look more impressive next to the smaller ones.
      3) Marketing – newer lines are incompatible with older ones so you’ll buy new Orcs to go with your new Warhamster Imperials.
      There are probably other causes too, but those spring to mind.

  4. Great post! Thanks for the nice pictures!

    I have been pretty annoyed by scale creep. My gaming group likes to use hirst arts and dwarven forge pieces, and all these huge “minis” start to become pretty annoying when you want to fit figures in a 10′ hallway. In this respect I also kind of like the small bases on the old RP minis.

    • Thanks!
      I still base my RP etc. on squares just to keep them from falling over. I have a LOT of flat-faced old Grenadier and RP minis from before I put them on bases…
      I just use a battlemat, but the 3d dungeons look incredibly cool.

  5. […] drawer, neglected because they are broken, covered in thick coating of gunky paint, or pygmied by scale creep, drop me a line. The Galloway Memorial Home is […]

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