D&D miniatures are a set of collectible miniatures inspired by characters of the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons.
The original game was based on a single player and did not include the same concepts as that of a tabletop wargame, such as the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game.
Similar to all miniatures used in tabletop wargaming, D&D miniatures are also categorized according to a specific scale.
What scale are D&D miniatures? D&D miniatures are typically measured in relative or absolute scale and usually run between 25mm and 28mm in scale. Their scales are said to align with a larger scale of about 30mm. However, exact measurements tend to vary.
D&D miniatures are based on characters and monsters portrayed in Dungeons and Dragons (get your D&D Essentials Kit here).
The scale they follow is in accordance with how they measure compared to the human form in the metric scale.
Granted, monsters and other unworldly creatures are not exactly humans, but they are closest to human form as far as their height goes.
At some point, you’re bound to want to paint your miniatures to use in gameplay. I’ve been there and done that, and I never looked back. Painting your own miniatures is awesome!
But, you’ll need the basic supplies and some pointers to get started on the right foot.
To save you the time and frustration of figuring out what you’ll need to begin, I’ve crammed all the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years into one comprehensive, easy-to-read book, The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide.
Inside, I walk you through every step and show you exactly what you need to get started. Here’s what you learn:
- Essential items to get you to a starting point and advanced gear as your skills improve.
- Advice on what to do to improve immediately.
- How to fix mistakes.
- Whom you should be watching on social media.
- How to move from beginner techniques to more advanced methods.
- And so much more!
If you’re even thinking about painting miniatures eventually or if you’re still in the beginner phase, this is the one book you need to move to the next level, make your friends stand in awe, and begin painting like a pro.
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What Is Scale?
Miniatures used in tabletop wargaming are categorized by scale. Scale is used to measure a miniature either by how it compares to the real-life object it represents or to human form.
Scales can be divided into fractional and metric, commonly known as relative and absolute scale.
Scale also refers to the proportion of a miniature and whether it compares accurately to the object it is modeled after.
Overall, scales vary from designer to designer, as do miniatures. As a result, no two miniatures are alike, and some miniatures belonging to specific wargames adhere to a certain scale.
(Looking for the perfect miniatures to add to your gaming collection? Learn where to find the best here.)
What Is Relative Scale in Miniatures?
The fractional or relative scale of miniatures refers to how they measure in comparison to the real objects they represent in the game.
These objects can include cannons, weapons, ships, tanks, and other real-world objects.
The range of scale can also be used accordingly with the historical time period or genre the wargame at hand depicts.
For example, some objects used in time-specific wars have certain scales for miniatures.
It is sometimes required that length measurement of the real-world object is used in order to determine its scale.
Relative scale ranges from 1/72 to 1/6,000, and different ranges are used in reference to land, aviation, and naval (aquatic) objects.
Relative Scales and the Objects They Represent:
- Land objects — measured on a scale of about 1/72 to 1/300 and can include buildings, cars, trains, and other appropriate land objects and equipment.
- Aviation objects — measured on a scale of about 1/287 to 1/1,250 and can include planes, helicopters, and other forms of aircraft.
- Naval (Marine or aquatic) objects — measured on a scale of about 1/700 to 1/6,000 and can include ships, tanks, submarines, and other marine equipment.
The relative scale is representative of the ratio of the miniature’s size to that of the real-world object.
For example, a miniature with a scale of 1/48 means that it is 48 times smaller than the real-world object it represents.
Looking to join a D&D group to immerse yourself in hours of RPG fun? Find out where to find D&D groups here.
What is Absolute Scale in Miniatures?
The absolute or metric scale of a miniature refers to how it measures in comparison to human form.
Human form does not always refer to the size of an actual human, but rather an already established absolute scale size used for comparison in measurement.
Absolute scale typically ranges from as little as 6mm to a larger 30mm.
Given that the established absolute scale size can vary, the absolute scale of a miniature is dependent upon the model that was used to measure it.
Check out the various sizes of the minis included in this booster pack below to see how scale affects size.
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Differences in absolute scale can also be attributed to the fact that designers may use different measuring scales when creating miniature models.
Some designers chose to measure their models at different starting points and heights while others may or may not take into consideration the height of the base their miniature model occupies.
The point that the designer chooses as the top height at which to start measuring the miniature is commonly referred to as the “reference point.” The reference point may be:
- The absolute top of the miniature including hats, helmets, etc.
- The top of the head, not including head gear.
- The eyes.
Absolute “Relative” Scale
Absolute relative scale is used to determine how a miniature measures in comparison to human form, actual human form this time!
This scale uses the size of an average human as a model for determining the measurement of a miniature.
Absolute relative scale ranges from 160cm to 180cm in absolute height and 1/32 to 1/61 in relative scale.
According to Alkony:
“Some manufacturers use absolute scale references that refer to an average size of an average human, instead of calculating the exact relative scale. However these miniatures differ in size, lower models have smaller miniatures, while larger ones are higher.”
“Most of the “28mm scale” or “32mm scale” models out there are actually 1:56 scale ones. 28mm scale in this case refers to the eyeline of the miniature, while 32mm refers to the top of their heads.”
Side note: Differing scales can affect how your game setup appears on the table. Having some really cool D&D dice and an awesome tray to corral them (these are my favorites) can detract from any scale variances in your figures!
What Scale Are Warhammer Miniatures?
According to Games Workshop, a leading designer and producer of miniatures, Warhammer miniatures are estimated to have a scale of about 28mm in heroic proportion.
This means that the miniature appears larger in proportion in comparison to the model it represents.
It is important to take note that Warhammer miniatures tend to vary in scale as they are measured using a heroic scale and have exaggerated features.
Thus, they appear larger than that of a “normal” 28mm scale.
(You can learn more about Warhammer and how to get started here.)
What Are Realistic and Heroic Proportion in Miniatures?
Proportion in miniatures refers to how much they compare in proportion to the original model they represent.
Proportions in miniatures are separated into realistic and heroic. Both determine how closely the appearance and size of the miniature compare to the figure it was modeled after.
Realistic proportion refers to how similar the miniature appears in comparison to the model it represents.
In simpler terms, it refers to how realistically alike the miniature and its model are in appearance. A realistic miniature basically appears to be a smaller version of the model it represents.
Heroic proportion refers to how closely the appearance of the miniature compares to the model it represents; however, the appearance is embellished.
For example, the miniature may be quite similar to the model it represents in appearance, but it may not compare in size.
The proportion of certain body parts may appear larger than those of its original model.
Where to Find the Scale of Miniatures
Most scales of miniatures range from 15mm to 28mm, but it’s important to take into consideration that certain miniature scales vary depending on their designer and the absolute scale used to measure them.
Depending on the D&D character miniature you purchase, it can range in scale between 25mm and 28mm.
Scales of D&D and other wargame miniatures can be found in store or on the website from which they are purchased.
Most miniature manufacturers, like Games Workshop and Reaper Miniatures, provide the scale of the miniatures on their website.
For example, the Reaper Bones collection is clearly identified on the Reaper Miniature’s website as being 25mm heroic scale.
Popular D&D Miniatures
One of my favorite pre-painted starter packs is by WizKids. These miniatures are 28 mm scale, ready for play straight out of the box, and come with fantastic reviews.
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For those of you who prefer to custom paint your own miniatures and are looking for a bigger boost to kick-start your epic campaign at an affordable price, try Newcombie’s 28 mm miniatures pack of 18.
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Hungry for more? You’ll find a ton of useful information, product recommendations, and practical advice about D&D, other RPGs, and miniature painting right here.