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Dungeons & Dragons can be played in any number of ways. One way that a lot of dungeon masters elect to play is with a battle board and miniatures. These small plastic figures help give D&D combat a bit more tactical feel than using just your imagination.
The problem with miniatures is that they can be expensive, especially if you want the good ones that are licensed by Wizards of the Coast.
So what’s a DM on a budget to do? Fear not, because we’ll show you some low-cost alternatives to traditional miniatures that’ll offer a similar visual experience but at a much more reasonable price.
The Almost-Free Options
1. Candy Pieces
You probably already have some candy in your home. And if you don’t, you can almost certainly run out to your local store and snag some without spending too much. Some candies that are the perfect size are Starbursts and Hershey Kisses. And best of all, you can eat the monsters after you kill them.
2. Extra Dice
Dice are one of those things that seem to reproduce on their own. As you play D&D, you just seem to accumulate more and more dice, which makes them the perfect stand-in for minis. You can use the numbers on the dice to represent different monsters, PCs, and NPCs, so you can remember who is who.
I don’t know about you, but I have a jar of coins sitting around my house that I keep adding to but never using. Grab a handful of these and turn them into pieces for your D&D game. Each coin can represent two different creatures (heads and tails), so you can get some good mileage out of them. If you have some foreign currency, you can get even more.
The Super Cheap Options
These little cardboard pieces perfectly fit in the one-inch squares of battle mats. They’re really cheap and easy to write on, so you can identify which chit represents which player, monster, or NPC.
Wooden Meeples are crazy cheap. While they’re not as flexible as cardboard pieces since they’re not easy to write on, they do offer the 3D feel provided by actual tabletop minis.
These standup board game pieces provide the perfect mix of customization and 3D feel. They’re cardboard so you can draw characters and write names on them, but the bases allow them to stand tall, giving them a feel that’s closer to miniatures.
The Moderately Priced Options
Arcknight offers flat plastic miniatures that feature gorgeous art that’ll look just as good as miniatures. They’re not super cheap, with the DM started set selling for $70, but that set includes 167 pieces (and 42 plastic bases), so you can set up just about any sort of battle you can imagine. There are larger and smaller packs as well, so you can round out your game with what you need.
LEGO Minifigures make for a fantastic alternative to D&D minis. They’re fairly cheap, though getting a ton of them will add up pretty quickly. You can swap parts, which offers a level of customization that you can’t get from other options. Plus, you might already have some of these hanging around the house, which makes them an even cheaper option.
Pathfinder Pawns are similar to the Arcknight Flat Plastic minis, but they’re cardboard instead. They’re quite a bit cheaper, though, so they’re a great option to use as stand-ins for traditional minis. They’re not designed for D&D, but they are designed for fantasy, so they fit in perfectly with any D&D campaign.