Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), Pathfinder and many other Table Top Role Playing Games (TTRPGs) can see whole tables stuffed with gloriously painted miniature. Ranging from green orcs and gnarly trees, to glittering gold dragons and shadow monsters.
Importantly for starter or new Dungeon Masters, table top role-playing games don’t need any miniatures, it just happens that most people prefer using them.
TL;DR Jump down to our first recommended useful miniature to own – or add these Amazon purchases to your collection!
- Bestiary boxes of high-quality cardboard miniatures [Buy Now]
- 40 Skeleton strong horde [Buy Now]
- 12 Spiders, Rats and Bats [Buy Now]
- 24 Knights [Buy Now]
- Huge Dragon miniature [Buy Now]
Many players of these role-playing games forgo the use of physical tokens, miniatures or maps, opting for a more imaginative purely descriptive game.
I however have found that I love the visual nature of having physical items in front of me, which means I love RPG miniatures. Plus who doesn’t love painting up some top RPG miniatures 🙂
Where do you start your miniature monster collection?
Both Pathfinder and D&D have literally hundreds, if not thousands, of enemies the Dungeon Master could throw on the table.
If you’re a new DM, how do you know which miniatures to buy?
Very few people have the time or money to buy 100s of different miniatures, especially when they’re starting out in the hobby.
For this reason I thought I’d put together my top 12 most useful monster miniatures for D&D that a DM could buy.
Obviously this translates to other RPGs of the fantasy variety too, not just Dungeons and Dragons
The Most Useful Monsters Miniatures for RPGs
I’ve put together, in a rough order, my recommendation of the most useful miniatures that any DM or GM should have.
Please Note: I’m recommending the TYPE of miniature, not a specific manufacturer or cast or model. I.e. “you’ll need SKELETONS”, not “you’ll need Reaper Miniatures Bones Skeleton Archer TA30021”.
(The pictures and links are just to help if you don’t know where to start)
Some of the links, like those to Amazon, I will get a referral fee if you use them to buy your own miniatures… which means I can then buy some more too. How neat is that!
Skeletons and Wraiths
No campaign of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) or Pathfinder could ever be complete without at least one run-in with the undead.
Skeletons make up the bulk of the encounter miniatures you’ll need, with the occasional larger foe appearing in the form of wraiths, ghosts and wights etc.
Skeletons are also great miniatures to stand in for zombies, which can often appear frequently as well.
Definitely get yourself some skeleton miniatures, then get either a wraith or a ghost.
Goblins and Hobgoblins
Low level encounters are dominated with goblins, orcs and other green-skins. A mix of small goblins and larger greens such as orcs will tick off a lot of your miniature needs.
If you’re thinking of running the Dungeons and Dragons starter set or the Lost Mines of Phandelver campaign (in the starter set), you’ll need at least half a dozen goblins, as well as a bugbear.
Spiders and Rats
Adventurers will often find themselves in places of grime, darkness and decay.
You’ll need some generic fitting minis for those tombs, sewers, ruins and dens of despair.
For this reason, its often helpful for a Dungeon Master to have a small stock-pile of rodents and spiders they can throw out onto the table.
Spiders and rats can easily be added into random encounter table, so grab yourself a handful of these gorgeously creepy miniatures.
One of my personal favourites are the creepy centipede swarms from Paizo *gags* although they are hugely expensive
If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to buying some of these spiders and rats, take a look at this article by MasksOfMonsters about cheap DIY miniatures, loving those giant ants!
Thugs and Soldiers
A mix of both melee and ranged weapons on these. Thugs and soldier miniatures can stand-in for most bipedal or humanoid foes your PCs will face.
Even batch bought miniatures that are wearing the same material can be painted to look completely different, so no two soldier miniatures need to look the same.
Flying enemies have an obvious unique quality not shared by the majority of other foes.
A winged monsters may be out of reach for all your deadly melee characters.
They also can make a combat encounter even harder by ignoring environmental obstacles or hazards, such as slime, poisonous molds, creeping vines or perilous pits.
I would probably say bats are the most common flyers you’ll need (exception being a dragon, maybe).
Bat miniatures can also double for eagles or giant owls, at a stretch.
Nasty feral beasts, these guys can lurk in anything from forests and plains, to accessible tombs and dungeons. They’re great stand in miniatures for large dogs such as mastiffs, as well as other canine and feline foes such as lions.
Although smaller than wargs, wolf or dog miniatures can easily stand in for them.
This can be beneficial to a DM as goblins (low-level, often encountered) enemies are sometimes backed up by wargs.
So many adventures are centered around a wizard, sorcerer or cleric going a bit stir-crazy and bewitching the local towns folk.
Although you could use any miniature to be your wizard, if they’re the main antagonist of the story you could make the final encounter pop by using a special magical miniature.
Wizards and sorcerers miniatures are usually cloaked figures wielding a staff or wand. Occasionally you’ll find a miniature with lightning bolts or fireballs burst forth from their hands, but those are usually custom ones you’d find on Etsy etc
Last but not least… Dragon miniatures – now we’re talking.
Gigantic winged miniatures looming over those puny tiny squishable player characters.
The Dungeons and Dragons 5 Edition Monster Manual has at least 40 dragons in, with a further dozen monsters that could easily use a dragon miniature in its place.
Similar to the wizard models, a dragon is likely to be what your adventures are building up to. Slay the dragon. Steal the gold. Maybe even rescue the dragon?
It definitely deserves a large miniature.
This will probably be one of the most expensive miniature you’ll buy, especially if you buy a pre-painted one.
Your players however, will love the finale of confronting such a gorgeously made miniature on the tabletop.
Most Importantly, have lots of…
Most importantly the best miniatures to have in an RPG are… dice, generic tokens and coins!
This was the overwhelming response I got from asking people on Twitter what they thought was the most important miniature to have in an RPG.
Dice, tokens and coins free up the DM to use them for anything they like; hordes of zombies, swarms of fire beetles, dragon eggs, water spirits etc.
They’re cheap and easily obtained; most people would have them already anyway.
So if you’re really strapped for cash, or just want to try an RPG without paying for any miniatures – don’t.
Use bottle caps, coins, poker chips, paper cutouts, pebbles… just about anything in fact.
What about RPG pawns?
I wanted this article to focus on the best types of miniatures you can buy, to encompass as many scenarios as possible.
This way it’ll save the DM both money and time.
However I don’t think this article can end without mentioning RPG pawns.
What are RPG pawns?
Pawns are basically 2D pre-cut, double-sided, cardboard miniatures. They come with small plastic stands, similar to these:
Paizo (Produces of Pathfinder RPG) have produced about a dozen of these amazing boxes, most with a few HUNDRED monsters in each!
The main downside to buying boxes of cardboard RPG pawns is that you’ll end up with a large number of monsters you may never use.
Obviously if you’re creative you probably can introduce your party to a large selection of different monsters.
Another downside of the Bestiary boxes, although not limited to the Paizo brand, is that its hard to form hoards of the same enemy with them. You may get 3 skeleton pawns in a box, which is good for low-level encounters. If however you’re looking at throwing 15-20 zombies at a party, you’re going to really struggle!
Which Pathfinder Bestiary box to buy?
For value of money though, I don’t think you can beat the Pathfinder Bestiary boxes of cardboard pawns.
I think for starters, the best box of cardboard miniatures, aka pawns, would have to be the Pathfinder original Bestiary box.
First off it has over 300 cardboard pawns inside.
Secondly, of the categories mentioned above, it has:
- Goblins and even goblin dogs,
- Skeletons, ghosts and wraith,
- Wargs, dogs and boars,
- Dragons, both adult and young (various types of each)
- (and many many more)
I hope this article has helped.
Obviously everyone has different opinions on what monsters they think art critical to playing various TTRPGs.
Please comment below and share what you think are the most useful miniatures to have for D&D / Pathfinder.