Role-playing games (RPGs) are everywhere you look. Sure, some prefer to join an online collaboration and team up to defeat enemy teams.
But true die-hard RPGers still love to gather around a table, use their maps and miniatures, and roll the d20 (20-sided die) to determine the fate of the world they have created.
What size are D&D miniatures? Officially, an adult human miniature is 25 millimeters high. Because there are multiple manufacturers in the marketplace, the answer to this question varies based on the miniature’s manufacturer.
In most cases, an adult human is between 25 – 28 millimeters. All other gaming pieces are created to scale established by the baseline of the initial adult human piece.
So if an adult 6′ tall human is around 25-28 millimeters, an adult dragon will be much larger than 28mm. An umber hulk will be larger. An imp will be smaller. You get the idea. They all scale off of the 6′ height = 25mm.
Whether you’re just learning to play D&D (find my Getting Started Guide here) or are big fan already, at some point you’ll want to paint your own figures for a custom look.
To save you the time and frustration of trying to figure out what you need to get started, I put together a comprehensive guidebook packed with information and recommendations.
The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide walks you through all of the essentials for getting started, then introduces you to more advanced gear and techniques so you won’t be stuck in the beginner phase forever.
It’s everything you need to know, all in one place – truly the only guide you’ll need to become a pro in no time.
Maybe now your dreaming of your future creations or wondering about the best place to get your D&D miniatures, but for now, let’s take a deeper look at why the size of these pieces matters.
What Does 25 – 28 Millimeter Scale Mean in D&D Miniatures?
When you become involved in a role-playing game, one of the key components is that the playing field is consistent.
Because of this, an expectation has developed regarding the standard sizes of various pieces.
When we talk about a 25 – 28 mm scale, it generally refers to the overall height of the piece from top to bottom – or in the case of an adult human, from head to toe.
Be sure to also read “Miniature Scales: The Complete Guide” for a closer look at scaling in general and an explanation of the different types of proportions, such as Hero, Realistic, Chibi, and Top-down.
Because miniatures are not a regulated industry, there tend to be some minor variances in how different manufacturers define these sizes.
Fortunately, a 3 mm difference is not enough to make an obvious difference on a gaming board, so overall, the expected standard is still in place.
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Two Manufacturers to Consider for D&D Miniatures
Although there are several companies that claim to make scale miniatures for Dungeons and Dragons, let’s look at two in particular.
WizKids is considered to be the gold standard and the “official” manufacturer of role-playing game miniatures.
It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of NECA (National Entertainment Collectibles Association) and has been producing its products since it was founded in 2000.
WizKids’ collectibles are true to scale and are 25mm for the baseline product. Child characters will be smaller, and Giants will be larger than the baseline.
Although their pre-painted miniatures are fantastic (like this Icons of the Realm Starter Set), they also carry a full line of unpainted miniatures that you can custom paint yourself.
For instance, check out this pack of townspeople and accessories.
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Check it out for yourself, but be warned – once you get started with the hobby, you may never buy a prepainted mini again.
If you’re not quite ready to dive into painting, then once you’re done here, head over to my games page for interesting and informative articles on tabletop RPGs
Although Reaper miniatures state that they are 25 mm high, they tend to run slightly larger – thus the range of 25 – 28 mm.
Even though they run slightly larger than the standard, they are generally close enough to work well for table gaming fun.
Personally, I love Reaper products, especially their Learn to Paint kits, like this one:
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This set comes with three Bones Miniatures, brushes, and 11 paints – everything you need to learn basic painting skills, like applying a base coat, washing, and dry brushing.
The included instructions are easy to follow, and you wind up with three hand-painted miniatures you can be proud of.
At Least You Have Options
The nice thing about knowing that the scale is close enough to work well between these two manufacturers is that if you need to get a particular piece for your adventure, you know it will be compatible.
It’s important to know that the size is reasonably comparable. When using the 1” grid size for play and battles, you want to know that one character is not going to overlap into another grid.
The miniatures help the visual of the role play allowing other players to get a better grasp on what the entire group “looks” like.
It also helps all players understand the strengths and weaknesses that are represented at the table.
If you’re looking for a quick jumpstart to your collection, I recommend this 28-pack of unique fantasy figures.
It comes with prepainted Goblins, Orcs, Bandits, Gnolls, Kobolds, Skeletons, and Zombies ready for immediate gameplay. I found my set on Amazon.
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Different Roles in the Game
Dungeons and Dragons is not a game that can be played in an hour before the Monday night football game starts.
This is an ongoing commitment to your group – usually once a week for at least four hours, but sometimes once per month for eight to 12 hours.
When group members don’t participate in a session, it throws off the dynamic of the adventure and the overall gaming experience.
How do you find a D&D group? You’ll learn the easiest way here.
DM (Dungeon Master)
The person who controls the direction of the game and provides pertinent information to the various players is the Dungeon Master.
This person is responsible for the initial set up of the fantasy environment. They may decide to use one of the pre-formatted games outlined in the Dungeon Master guide.
However, if the DM is experienced, they may decide to create their own adventure for the group.
PCs (Personal Characters)
The personal characters are the individuals that each player creates to represent him or herself.
There are various character creation sheets that walk a player through the various attributes, strengths, weaknesses, race, class, and alignments associated with their character.
Each individual player controls their character to the extent the Dungeon Master provides clarity of where they’re going and what they can or can’t see.
NPCs (Non Personal Characters)
The non-personal characters are controlled by the Dungeon Master. These are the characters that add to the interest of the adventure.
Just as the personal characters have to define attributes, so do the NPCs. The more NPCs the group brings together, the richer the role playing can be.
Some of the original non-personal characters have been discontinued and are no longer being manufactured. This makes them collectibles, and some go in excess of $500.
5 Rare Collectible NPCs
The following can be very hard to find, but a diligent individual with deep pockets, at times, can find them on eBay or other collectible sites.
1. Huge Gold Dragon
This character is known for its alignment with lawful good. It is graceful, majestic (meaning it is larger than 25 mm), strong, and wise.
Its primary goal in the adventure is victory over bad but will try to do it diplomatically as fighting is its very last option.
This one is the least expensive on our list – at last check collectors were paying about $65 for this miniature.
2. Spiked Nog War Devil
This character is no nice guy, as he is known for his bad alignment. He was part of a limited holiday edition in 2008 which added spikes to the traditional war devil and is hard to find.
3. Snow Angel
Also, part of a limited holiday seasonal run, although this one was in 2009.
The Snow Angel is known to be able to disguise itself as a snow angel that a child would make while playing in the snow, thereby allowing it to sneak up on unsuspecting prey.
4. Winter Umber Hulk
This 2010 limited holiday release is larger than life (interpret that as larger than the 25mm baseline).
This character is not kind and is ready to devour any unfortunate character that crosses its path.
He doesn’t care if he’s simply eating his evening meal or if he’s making sport out of the kill and looking for personal amusement – he’s not one you want to seek out while gaming.
5. Colossal Red Dragon
This fire-breathing character is impulsive and readily aligned with “chaotic bad” motivations.
If you want to search for a character that is confident, cruel, selfish, and vain, this monster would be the one to find. At last check, this oversized miniature was going for about $650.
That’s A Wrap!
Although Dungeons and Dragons has been around since the 1970s, it has gained traction and an entirely new generation of gamers thanks to popular television pop culture shows like Big Bang Theory.
With its resurgence over the past decade, several conferences have been created specifically for role-playing gamers who want to spend time with others with similar interests.
These conferences are also the perfect place to find some quality miniatures.
If, however, you don’t want to wait until you can get to a conference, we have shown you two reputable manufacturers of gaming miniatures.
Either WizKids or Reaper is likely to have both the personal characters and the non-personal characters you want.
With their inventory, you should be able to create a robust and exciting adventure you and the rest of your group crave.
If you’re even thinking about learning to paint your own miniatures for gaming, grab your copy of The Miniature Painting Level Up Guide today to be sure you have everything you need to start your new hobby the right way – not by trial and error!
Image Credit: Cory Doctorow