When the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) game was originally published, the rules of the game assumed that game play would occur entirely in the heads of the players and that no form of visual representation was necessary. In part, this design existed to differentiate D&D from miniature based war games. Despite the intended play style of the game, many D&D players felt the need to represent characters and monsters in some visual medium.
At first, most D&D players used dice, coins, beads, or other small knick knacks to represent characters. Eventually, the need for character representation blossomed into a cottage industry of small unpainted metal miniatures. This solution worked well for many years, but when the 3rd edition of D&D was released, the game was designed around the use of miniatures.
Conveniently, Wizards of the Coast (WotC), the publisher of 3rd edition D&D, also produced a line of pre-painted plastic D&D Miniatures (DDM). Similar to WotC’s popular Magic: The Gathering line, DDM was sold in randomly seeded booster packs, making the miniature line a collector set as well as a D&D accessory. As the number of sets grew, so did the number of miniatures that existed, and sorting a collection grew increasingly difficult. The following advice will help a DDM collector sort a large set of D&D Miniatures, no matter what purpose they are being collected for.
Playing D&D – If your purpose for collecting DDM is to use the miniatures to play a game of D&D, then you will want to organize the miniatures in a way that you can easily find specific miniatures quickly. The best way to do this is to purchase some clear plastic boxes from any hardware store and separate your miniatures based on creature type. You will probably find that there are roughly 15-20 different creature types, depending on how you organize. Furthermore, for human miniatures, due to the large number that exist, you will probably want to further separate them based on what class they look like. Your categories don’t have to be too specific. For example, all monstrous humanoids should probably go in the same box, without further being broken into minotaurs, gnolls, and lizardmen, for example.
Playing the Miniatures Game – In addition to being sold as a D&D accessory, DDM was also marketed as a stand-alone miniatures game. While WotC is no longer supporting the game, it can still be played with the original pieces and is still popular in parts of the world. If you want to organize for miniatures play, you should organize based on faction and further organize either based on rarity or point cost. As before, clear plastic boxes are probably your best choice here. For miniatures that are generally acknowledged by the DDM community as some of the best, you will probably want a separate box as well.
Collecting – Like any collectible merchandise, some people collect almost entirely for the purpose of owning the collection and showcasing it. If you are primarily interested in collecting, you will want to get shelf space for your miniatures. Since few miniatures are more than 4″ tall and most are only about 2″ – 3″ tall, you should get shelves designed for storing soft cover books. When organizing your collection, if at all possible, put one set of miniatures on each shelf and then order them either by collector number or alphabetically. Like any collector item, you will need to maintain your miniatures, which means you need to dust them off every month or so.
If you collect for multiple purposes, you will probably have to determine which is most important. Unlike trading cards, it is difficult to cross reference miniatures easily, even using the cards that come with the miniatures from the earlier sets. To some degree, you can combine the suggestions. For example, if you collect and play D&D, you can organize the miniatures based on set and then organize them by creature type on each shelf. Similarly, if you can afford the extra boxes and space, you can organize by faction and then organize each faction by creature type in order to make your collection accessible for both playing D&D and playing the miniature game. No matter how you choose to collect, keep in mind that the collection will use a lot of space and plan accordingly.