D&D Miniatures
Introduction to Design
Making Miniatures Rules
by Matt Sernett

In this article, I want to enlist your help making up the rules for some hypothetical miniatures. Through the course of the article, I'll explain my process and do most of the basic work, and at the end I look forward to hearing from you.

When I sit down to design the rules for a miniature, I think about the creature in the context of several factors -- the set's theme, other creatures in the set, miniatures made in previous sets, and filling certain roles in the set. So to get help making some miniatures, we first have to start with the same assumptions about a set.

Our Hypothetical Set's Theme

Let's say our hypothetical set has a planar theme, and more specifically, it has a theme of law versus chaos. That theme doesn't really have enough easily graspable coolness in it for a real Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures set, but for our purposes it works fine. The broad idea makes room for interesting miniatures like fiends and angels, but particularly for things like slaad, formians, and inevitables. The set probably also has characters devoted to very lawful or chaotic deities, and maybe even an aspect or two.

Our Hypothetical Miniatures

For this article, I'll walk through the creation of the formians in the set because they're truly hypothetical. There was a Formian Warrior in Aberrations, and we're unlikely to do another one soon. Formian bodies require them to be in too many pieces to be common, and they're not terribly exciting as rares, but for the purposes of this article, let's assume we can make three in the set -- a common, uncommon, and rare.

Filling Roles

Each set needs a certain number of spellcasters or other "tricky" miniatures that are a little soft but can be used to great effect by a skillful player. A set should also have some beaters -- tough miniatures that can take or deal a heap of damage in melee. The remainder of the miniatures occupy the average to weak roles. In designing a set, I think of these in the terms of point-cost ranges and roles.

In a set with 60 miniatures, I aim for it to have the following mix:

  • 12 commons with a cost of 3 to 15 points -- 4 of them should be cheap, about 4 to 7 points, so that you can round out a warband with a cheap figure.
  • 24 uncommons with a cost around 10-40 -- 8 of them should be beaters with a cost of 35+, 8 should be tricky with a cost of 25-35, and the remainder can be any cost of 10+ but not higher than about 60.
  • 24 rares with a cost of around 30-100 but skewed more to the 40–60 range.

I have target numbers that help me to fit things within those ranges, but I don't worry about specific point costs. Steve Schubert and the development team figure that out after playtesting and making any necessary changes to the miniature.

For our purposes, let's assume the uncommon formian is a beater, the common is a weak miniature, and the rare is a commander.

The Common: Formian Worker

The first thing I need to do is figure out what faction these miniatures will be in. Making them cross-faction with LG and LE would fit their lawful neutral alignment in D&D, but it doesn't seem to add much to the game. They feel more lawful good to me because their ACs are so good, and adding some appropriate monsters to lawful good gives the player who likes playing lawful good warbands something to play with other than humanoids, constructs, and dragons. I could split them up with some in LG and some in LE, but I want the commander to work well with them, and making a warband-building ability just to pull in formians doesn't seem very interesting. The only thing that worries me is that formians tend to be very fast for LG warbands. I'll note that for the developers and move on.

Checking out the Formian Warrior from Aberrations, I see that it cost 16 points. That means my Formian Worker should cost much less to make it different. The formian worker in the Monster Manual is pretty weak (5 hit points and no DR), but its special qualities might push it up higher in cost. I won't worry too much about that. Instead I simply make note of it for the developers.

It's interesting to me that this mini is fast and has a cheap point cost, so it might be a victory-area grabber for LG warbands. Also, it would be nice if having a few of them is somehow beneficial -- so that you might be inclined to take a bunch rather than just one. It might be cool if you need several near one another to get the most use from them.

Here are the basic stats for the mini. I'd like your help figuring out what its other abilities are.

Formian Worker
Size: Small
Faction: LG
Level: 1
Speed: 8
AC: 17
HP: 5
Melee Attack: +3 (5)
Type: Outsider
Special Abilities:

  • Immune Cold, Poison
  • Resist 10 Electricity, Fire, Sonic

Design Intent: I want this mini to be weaker than the Formian Worker in Aberrations, and cheaper by 5 or more. Note that its speed is unusual for LG.

The Rare: Formian Queen

The Formian Queen makes an obvious choice for a commander of the formians, and as a rare, she could look pretty cool. She's a tough creature in D&D RPG terms, maybe even an epic miniature if we did a direct translation. However, I don't think epic stats are very interesting because she likely can't bring the other Formians to an epic skirmish and hope they can hold their own. Also, in a set with cool outsiders and aspects, an epic formian seems pretty dull.

So for her to work, we'll need to take a step away from her D&D stats. Clearly she should still be some kind of spellcaster due to her many spell-like abilities and sorcerer spells. Her commander ability might take advantage of the hivemind ability shared by formians, but maybe that's an ability on one of the other miniatures. Unfortunately, she can't move according to D&D rules, but that's no fun in minis, so I'll give the Formian Queen a slow speed appropriate to Lawful Good. The really strange thing is that she has no attacks in the RPG. That makes for a very strange mini, but perhaps not giving her attacks will lead to a more interesting miniature.

Her point cost should be no more than maybe 60 points so that you can put lots of the other formians in the warband. That gives me a particular range of numbers to aim for in creating her stats for the skirmish side of the card. You can also compare her target cost to other miniatures that cost around 60 points.

Here are the basic stats for the mini. I'd like your help figuring out what its other abilities are.

Formian Queen
Size: Large
Faction: LG
Level: 10
Speed: 4
AC: 23
HP: 80
Melee Attack: --
Type: Outsider
Special Abilities:

  • Immune Cold, Poison
  • Resist 10 Electricity, Fire, Sonic
  • Spell Resistance (May ignore spells unless the caster rolls 11+)
  • No Attacks: This creature has no reach and cannot make melee or ranged attacks.

Design Intent: This creature has no attacks on purpose. It's intended to be a great commander of other formians in the warband, and a decent commander if you have other creatures.

The Uncommon: What do you think?

There's another two formians in the Monster Manual: the taskmaster and myrmarch. The taskmaster is a little weak and would need some beefing up to be a beater, but maybe its dominate monster ability could become a cool ability. The myrmarch is Large and has a passel of spell-like abilities as well as poison.

Fiend Folio presents another three formians -- the armadon, observer, and winged warrior. The armadon has acid breath and deadly claws. The observer has spells, poison, and a strange evaluation ability that gives it a cumulative bonus to hit against foes each round that it can see them. The winged warrior can fly, has a ranged attack, and poison.

Which of these formians do you think would make the best beater and be the most interesting for the set? What special abilities should it have?

Tell Me What You Think

Help me make these miniatures by posting your ideas on the D&D Miniatures message boards. Tell me what you think the uncommon formian should be and what special abilities you think the three formian miniatures should have. Post by July 28 and then in my next article, I'll reveal the results of our work and why I think they're best. In the article that follows that one, Steve Schubert will develop our work and tell us more about how to cost our creations.

As always, if you have miniatures you want to see, email me your suggestions.

About the Author

Besides working on miniatures, Matthew Sernett was lead designer for Spell Compendium, Tome of Magic, Hellspike Prison, and the new Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game. He also contributed work to Tome of Battle, Player's Handbook II, Complete Mage, Complete Scoundrel, and a big project for Forgotten Realms that he can't talk about yet. Before that, Matthew did a fair amount of freelancing for Wizards of the Coast and was Editor in Chief of Dragon.

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