Friday, November 2, 2007

Looking Back at D&D Miniatures


Miniatures in the Ancient Times of Role-Playing

by James M. Ward

The year 1974 was one of my luckiest times, because I met Gary Gygax and he kindly asked me over to his house to learn D&D. As a complete stranger, I was warmly welcomed. I sat on his side porch and Brian Blume, Gary's partner in the company, taught me how to roll up a character. I rolled a good Intelligence and Dexterity and made my first, magical character. We sat and played, without using any miniatures, yet I simply can't describe how much fun I had, and continued to have, as the weeks and months went by.

Miniatures filled Gary's house. He liked to play miniature games as well as role-playing ones, and all time periods were represented from ancients to WWII. The medieval wargame rules Chainmail had been published, and the fantasy version was being written and playtested. Miniatures for fantasy games weren't being made in 1974. Scruby wouldn't start his fantasy figures at 30mm until 1975. Ral Partha was just a gleam in Chuck Crane's and Jack Hesselbrock's eyes and wouldn't start until 1975 as well. Grenadier was also a start-up company in that year. All of these companies would end up making wonderful fantasy figures.

I'm not sure which came first, playing with figures in the Boot Hill western RPG or playing with figures in the D&D game. I do, however, have a distinct memory of miniatures in both games. In the D&D game, Gary put out the first bugbear figure. Naturally, as enthusiastic gamers, we all wanted to get in and strike at the monster. Before miniature figures, all six of us would have just swung away. Now that we had figures for our characters and the foes we faced, we realized the difficulty of fighting in close quarters. Our figures showed there wasn't room for all of those warrior and cleric bodies to crowd into the action. Imagine our horror and disgust when only three of us were able to chop at the bugbear. Suddenly, we had to think about tactics. The need to know who did the most damage changed how we played the game.

As a side note, in that early time (1974-75) when there were no commercially-available figures for wizards, dwarves, elves, and halflings, there were plenty of human warriors from historical games. It was possible to approximate dwarves and halflings with 15mm human figures. What there were, however, was lots of fun, plastic Western figures. We had cavalry, Indians, townsfolk, sheriffs, and Texas Rangers. I was just learning how to paint miniatures in those days, and it sure was enjoyable working on my player characters and other figures that I needed for the Boot Hill campaign. I was Don Diego Ward with two sirviente (servant ladies) following me all the time. No one knew until the bullets started flying that those two ladies were greased lightning shots who carried pistols in their clutch purses.

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1 comment:

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