I have a computer-y job in a department with other computer-y people. Given this, I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was when, as the department expanded during my decade-long tenure from 3 humans to 14, around half of the people in the department turned out to be nerds of various stripes. As a result, we do a bit of mild group nerdery within the department– mostly lunchtime boardgames and Magic, and regular conversations about video games, superhero movies, and so on.
During one of these departmental chats in July, one of the nerds mentioned Dungeons & Dragons, and his neighbour mentioned that he had never played it, but always wanted to try. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I ended up volunteering to run a few sessions of D&D after work to let any curious parties see what the game is like.
Because most of the players were brand new to D&D and I didn’t really relish the idea of starting the first session with a forty-minute lecture explaining the thirty-eight different character classes, I decided to try out an idea proposed by Matt Colville, who is a super thoughtful dude who posts DMing advice on YouTube: since I already owned a decent collection of painted miniatures, why not handle character creation by showing the players a variety of different minis, and then having each person pick the one that they find the coolest or most evocative.
I liked this idea for several reasons. First of all, instead of having to read through all of the classes in the game to decide what they wanted to play, each player just needs to consider the 2 or 3 classes that best match the mini they picked, which dramatically reduces the amount of complexity each of them needs to wade through. Also, on a more practical level, it allowed me to frontload any miniature painting before the campaign started instead of trying to paint minis and plan adventures at the same time.
I announced the proposal to my group (more on this later), and only then did I go home, open my D&D miniatures case, and come to two realizations:
- Realization #1: “I don’t have nearly as many D&D minis as I thought I did.”
- Realization #2: “Wait… do I have, like, ANY female miniatures?”
To cover the second point first: Yes! Yes I did.
Specifically, I had one. Plus, yaknow… an elf.
Note: Two of these minis– the female dwarf on the left, and the red-robed halfling at the front of the manpile– weren’t painted by me. They were painted by the talented Pat Gordon, and are in fact the only painted minis I have ever bought in my life, just cuz they were for sale in the display case at my store and I happened to like them. 🙂
My collection of characters minis were all made to the specifications of the people who played in my D&D groups over the years, and apparently the incredibly mature players at my store live in desperate terror of catching cooties through graph paper. Two of the players in my work game are women, though, and I was a bit humiliated at the prospect of letting them pick from a collection with only one and a half identifiable female miniatures (not that they would be pressured to play a female character– I just wanted the option to be there).
And back to the first point: wow, I have apparently lost a LOT of the minis I’ve made over the years. Even after spending most of a weekend tearing my apartment apart, I was unable to locate two full parties of character minis (which wouldn’t have done much to improve the gender representation, by the way– I think I’m missing one female mini and seven males).
So, okay, this isn’t great. I had committed to letting them pick from existing minis without checking whether that would be feasible or not, and I now considered myself on the hook to follow through on that commitment. In the following days, I dug through my existing bins of unpainted minis and the shelves at my local store and identified a handful of good female minis that both looked good and covered a reasonable spectrum of races and classes. Then, with the roster selected, I proceeded to paint up as many as I possibly could in the three weeks before the first session was scheduled to start.
The first mini I painted was Irabeth, a half-orc paladin from Reaper’s Pathfinder range. I’ve loved the visual design of this character since I first saw her on the cover of a Pathfinder adventure module, and I picked up the mini years ago with some vague idea that I would paint it up at an indeterminate point in the future. When I set out on this mad painting dash, Irabeth was the first model on my desk. 🙂
I usually like to change models from their studio colour schemes and invent something of my own, but in Irabeth’s case, I couldn’t think of any major improvements over the shining gold armour Wayne Reynolds (her designer, and Spud’s favourite artist <3 ) originally gave her. 🙂
Blink Berenwicket (Reaper)
Another mini I bought years ago, I had actually forgotten I owned this until I was digging around in my Reaper bin. I tried to use washes to give this model a weird multi-coloured sheen on her armour, but I had some trouble getting the washes to “stick” over the smooth silver metallic paint, so mostly she just came out kinda messy-looking. She still looks pretty great, though, and this actually ended up being one of the minis selected by a player in my work game. She would probably have been my choice as well. 😀
The third mini to come out of my Reaper minis bin, I… don’t actually remember ever buying this one. Confused potato.
It’s a really nice mini, though, and I took a lot more time with this one than any of the others in this set, as it quickly became obvious that her outfit and details would add up to a reasonably nice display piece if I put a bit of elbow grease into it. 🙂
I picked up Lini from a local store because I really like painting gnomes. 🙂 Lini is Paizo’s iconic Druid character, and the sculptor did an incredible job translating her design into mini form. However, he did a much less impressive job with her cat companion:
Like… that is not the same cat. The Pathfinder minis line generally does a really great job of mimicking Wayne Reynolds’ distorted and stylized art, but I’m pretty sure Mr. Schubert wasn’t even looking at the art at all when he sculpted that dopey-ass cat.
BOOO, Derek Schubert! BOOO!
All kind of irrelevant since I was only planning to paint the gnome, but whatever… I like complaining about bad sculpting, and didn’t want this one to go by UN-BITCHED-ABOUT. 😛
Cleric of Calistria (Reaper)
The minis above barely covered tanks and spellcasters, but I still needed to fill something in for the myriad of “leather classes” in D&D– rogues, rangers, and so on. Most leather-clad female minis are, to be blunt, a sexist embarassment, but I managed to find one that I could make work once I applied some putty to convert her barely-below-the-nipples crop top into an actual, yaknow… shirt.
Human Ranger (Wizkids D&D Unpainted)
This next one came from a set of minis that I first noticed about a year ago– it’s a line of officially-licensed player and monster minis produced by Wizkids (the folks who make HeroClix), which are provided assembled and primed white, but otherwise unpainted. They tend to be unspectacular in design and pose, but they offer a large variety of race and class options, with an approximately equal coverage of male and female minis.
I needed an archer-type for my roster; I didn’t like the bow-wielding minis in the line, but there was a solid crossbow option, so I went with that one. 🙂
Gnome Male Bard (Wizkids D&D Unpainted)
I also painted a second mini from the same line. This one was actually a mash-up of two different minis– a male gnome bard’s body, with a female halfling wizard’s head.
(Note that this mini doesn’t appear in the group shot below, as I finished her a bit later than the others, after I’d already taken the group pictures.)
Girl Druid (Wizkids Wardlings)
As I was digging through the racks at various stores to find decent female minis, I stumbled across something I hadn’t expected: a line of pre-painted minis that seems to be trying to straddle a middle ground between “small plastic toys for kids” and “viable D&D player character minis”. The line is called “Wardlings”, and while they’re all painted to have huge cartoony eyes, the actual sculpts aren’t that exaggerated at all, and to my eye they fit reasonably well among any other unpainted minis.
I picked two of them whose designs I liked. I figured that I would re-paint the faces if any of my players decided to actually use one of them. They didn’t, so that repainting hasn’t happened yet, but there’s a reasonable chance that I might opt to use one of them myself in the future since I quite like the costume design on the druid. 🙂
Girl Wizard (Wizkids Wardlings)
And that was… as far as I got in three weeks.
WHAT? I’m a slow painter! Two minis a week is incredibly quick for me! 😛
With six new minis painted by me and two painted by Taiwanese slave children, my available collection now stood at 10 female and 15 male, which is… better? I guess? It still wasn’t parity, but I felt slightly less embarassed about showing the minis in this state than what I’d had to begin with.
And then, with all of that done, the first session arrived! I laid out all of the minis you see here, and asked the players to look over them and pick something they liked. And that was when I made an unexpected discovery:
None of the players had read the document where I explained that we would be doing this. All but one of them had all arrived with character ideas they wanted to play, which weren’t covered at all by minis I had available.
OKAY THEN. Let’s head over to page 2 to see what kind of minis I ACTUALLY needed to build now! >:(