Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Recaps & Roundups part 55: The Minifigs D&D miniature line

Issue #6 of The Dragon featured an article on the debut of the Minifigs line of miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons.  Minifigs was founded in 1964 in Southampton, England. They mostly specialised in historical figures, but in 1975 they started making some fantasy figures, and later secured the D&D license.  This was the first official line of D&D minis.

The article from The Dragon actually covers the bulk of what was released for the line.  It's mostly a selection of dwarves, elves, orcs, goblins, and other humanoids.  Later on some sets of trolls, ogres and ogre magi would be released, as well as a selection of demons that included minis for Orcus and Demogorgon.

Here's the first ad below:

Click to get a better look

I won't go through and look at every miniature listed there, but I'll put up an example of each type of humanoid represented.

Dwarf King

The High Elf King and the Wood Elf King

Gnome with spear (painted)

Hobbit with sword (painted)

As far as the PC races go there's nothing out of the ordinary (although I suppose gnomes don't become a PC race until the Player's Handbook, which is about a year away).  The main thing to note is the difference between High Elves and Wood Elves: the former are armoured in fine regalia, while the latter are much more lightly armed and rustically dressed.

Gnoll Chieftain

The gnoll shown here definitely has the beginnings of the hyena-headed look that will be firmly established when the Monster Manual is released. 

Goblin with sling

Hobgoblin with partisan

The goblins aren't particularly memorable, but the hobgoblins have the distinctive style of armour and helmets that they'll be depicted with through much of 1st edition AD&D.

Kobold with axe (painted)

Now that's a classic dog-faced D&D kobold if I ever saw one.

Orc with kris-headed spear

Finally, the orc is pig-faced, and very much looks like the kind in Dave Sutherland's art, as already seen in Swords & Spells and the revised cover of the original D&D boxed set.

All of the above images are courtesy of DNDLead.com, which is a great site with what looks to be a pretty comprehensive look at the history of official D&D miniatures.

Despite the lack of sculpting detail in the figures above, it's immediately apparent when you look at them as a whole that they're from D&D.  Several of the humanoid figures look like Dave Sutherland drawings, and each type resembles its counterpart from the Monster Manual.  The release of that book is just a few months away, so I suspect that Minifigs either had access to its illustrations or was given a style guide of sorts with Sutherland's art.  Regardless, what we're seeing is another step towards the consolidation of D&D's visual identity.

I haven't covered the ogres, trolls and demons yet; I'll get to those when their ads pop up in The Dragon.  I also see that Minifigs did some World of Greyhawk minis circa 1980, so I'll cover those when the time comes as well.

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