Thursday, October 30, 2014

The soul of the Freeport Errata is reborn at last

Today's blog post will be very short, because my priority today was completing another project. I have now posted the errata pages for all the various parts and editions of the Freeport Trilogy to the new Tim's Errata Archive. I still have dozens of pages to go to complete the migration of the Freeport Errata to the new site, but I wanted to get this particular set posted early in that process. As I explained in my last post, the Freeport Trilogy is responsible for my first efforts in compiling fan errata, and based on that errata, I landed the job of updating those adventures to the new rules set. The Trilogy errata pages are the heart and soul and first-born of the T.E.A., just as the Trilogy is for the entire Freeport product line.

Thank you again, Chris and Nicole, for giving me a change to play in your sandbox. And thanks to the other Ronins and fans who have contributed their feedback to help me create and improve these errata pages.


P.S. I will continue to post here from time to time about the status of the T.E.A., but I have also started this thread at the Ronin Army forums to track my progress in more detail.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Errata Guy Strikes Again!

One of the titles I've collected over the years is Keeper of the Freeport Errata, and this is the story of how I earned that label.

When D&D Third Edition was released in 2000, I gave a good deal of thought to what kind of game to run as my first campaign using the new rules. I'm a world-builder at heart, so didn't want to use the same published settings everyone else did. I'm also a Lovecraft junkie, and owned quite a few Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks in spite of having only rarely played that system. I was considering using the Dreamlands, mixed with traditional D&D tropes, when I discovered Death in Freeport in my local game store. Serpent people and the Yellow Sign? It was exactly what I needed to start off my campaign! Terror and Madness followed, and the game quickly became much more about Freeport than the Dreamlands.

Much as I loved Green Ronin's Freeport setting, I started finding little, nitpicky things that bothered me: typos, mistakes in stat blocks, and the occasional confusing bit of text. I combed through the books to compile lists of these problems, and applied my writing skills and knowledge of the d20 rules to propose solutions. I shared this unofficial fan errata on Green Ronin's online forums, where they were well received by other fans and by the Ronins themselves. I continued to post more commentary there as I acquired more of the growing product line.

When I compiled errata for the Freeport: The City of Adventure setting book, Green Ronin issued a PDF of my work as a free download on their site. That file was reprinted in Tales of Freeport, where I received special thanks on the credits page as "Keeper of the Freeport Errata."

That's the origin of the title, but it was only the start of my career as a Freeport contributor.

When D&D v.3.5 was released in 2003, Green Ronin and every other third-party d20 publisher immediately switched to the new rules for all of their new releases from that point on. This left a large legacy of v.3.0 products, most of which were never updated to the new rules. Many Green Ronin fans, myself included, publicly expressed a desire for a v.3.5 update of the Freeport Trilogy. Nicole Lindroos, Green Ronin's business manager, explained on the forums that the company very much wanted to provide that to the fans--it was the product that put them on the d20 map, after all. However, there was one simple reason they had not been able to do so: New releases are the life blood of any publisher, and they couldn't afford to divert any of their limited manpower (only four full-time staff, at that time) for a project that probably wouldn't make money for the company.

I emailed Nicole, as well as Chris Pramas (president of Green Ronin and creator of Freeport) and made my pitch: I offered to update Death in Freeport, the first and shortest of the trilogy, to the v.3.5 rules. If they liked my work, I was willing to do the same for Terror and Madness. I received a prompt and enthusiastic approval, we settled on compensation, and I got to work. As I completed each update, Green Ronin released it in PDF form. Once the set was complete, The Freeport Trilogy: Five Year Anniversary Edition was released in print.

That initial gig led to more freelance proofreading and editing work for the company, and eventually to some original writing in web enhancements for Cults of Freeport and Buccaneers of Freeport. Throughout all of this time, I continued to compile unofficial errata for new Freeport products (including, ironically and inevitably, my own), and branched out into products by other d20 companies that I had acquired.

I created a Wikispaces site to archive and maintain "Tim's Errata & Notes." However, Wikispaces announced this summer that they would no longer be offering free hosting for non-educational wikis. That meant that I would need to find a new home for my errata site, as well as the other personal wikis that I had created to share material on my Freeport campaigns and other gaming projects.

I settled on Google Sites, and have already migrated most of the player information for my current Freeport campaign, Winds of Freeport, to that host. This month I started building the new Tim's Errata Archive, but have only scratched the surface so far. I've posted "The Freeport Library," a list of every Freeport product produced to date (by Green Ronin and other publishers) and posted my updated errata for the "Focus on Freeport" series of web enhancements. I will be adding to the site as I find the time to review and edit my old files, and to transcribe the backlog of new notes that I had not yet posted to the old archive. Because Freeport has always been the the first and greatest focus of my errata efforts, I'll be concentrating on restoring and improving those pages before continuing on to my commentaries on other products.

My other main incentive for relaunching T.E.A. at this time is the imminent release of the Pathfinder editions of Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure and Advanced Bestiary. I lacked the time to contribute as much as I would have liked to the forum discussions about errata for the initial drafts, so I anticipate having a good deal more to say once I have the physical books in my eager fanboy hands.

As you explore Winds and T.E.A., please share your feedback with me here, on Ronin Army: The Green Ronin Community, or over email!

--Tim Emrick

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Studded Plate #3: It's an Even Smaller World; Microfigures

[Originally written and posted at in September 2013]

In my last column, I mentioned one of the newest LEGO Games, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and the microfigures it contains, and promised to discuss the LEGO Heroica series of fantasy adventure games. First, though, I'd like to provide some background on LEGO Games in general.

The LEGO Games line offers games built using LEGO bricks and played using special LEGO Dice. These games are targeted towards young children (suggested ages range from 5+ to 8+), so game play is fairly simple. Each game includes some optional rules to spice things up, and encourages children to invent their own new rules once they master the basic game. These games include race games (Race 3000, City Chase), puzzle games (Pirate Code, Magickus), or augmented versions of classic boardgames (Monster 4 is tic-tac-toe with random elements added; Frog Rush is Chinese Checkers with a predatory stork thrown in). The most popular LEGO Game to date is Creationary, which is essentially Pictionary except that you build the subject with bricks instead of drawing it.

As an experienced boardgamer, I find that with most LEGO Games, the appeal of their parts far outlives the appeal of their simplistic rules. I own about a dozen LEGO Games, but have only kept about half of them built for play. The rest have been dismantled and sorted into my parts collection. Creationary is one of the longest survivors, as it avoids the limited playability trap better than the rest, and makes an excellent family game if everyone involved likes LEGO. The Heroica games are another exception, because they have a medieval fantasy theme and were favorites with my kids before they were old enough to be ready for RPGs. (More about those in a bit!)

LEGO dice are plastic cubes with soft rubber edges and 2x2 stud surfaces on each side that allow for customization by attaching different tiles as needed for each game. (In some games, the tiles are fixed; in others, they change during the game.) LEGO Dice can easily be adapted for use in other games and also make unique connectors in LEGO models. I've even used one to build a dreidel!

Most but not all LEGO Games include “microfigure” pawns. These special bricks look like tiny, armless minifigures, but each one is a single piece without moving parts. They fill the space of a 1x1x2 brick (i.e., one stud long and wide, and two bricks tall). A wide variety of microfigures (and micro-scale monsters built with small bricks) are available in various LEGO Games. They have also recently started appearing in regular LEGO models; for example, blank gray microfigures are used as statuary in the LOTR sets Attack on Weathertop and The Council of Elrond.

The LEGO Games that make the heaviest use of microfigures are the Heroica sets. This sub-theme is a series of fantasy adventure boardgames that can be played individually or combined into a larger board. In Heroica, each player chooses an archetype such as wizard, barbarian, druid, or rogue, represented by an appropriate pawn. Game play involves moving around a dungeon or similar complex built of modular rooms and corridors, many of them decorated with small details such as furniture, doors, columns, or walls. This approach allows you to rearrange the map as desired; most sets provides directions for two different configurations. Distance is measured in spaces represented by 2x2 jumper plates (i.e., 2x2 plates with a single central stud); when the pawn's movement end, it snaps onto the final space's stud. As the heroes explore the dungeon, they fight monsters, pick up treasure (gold and magic potions), and try to reach the mission's goal. The victory condition for all Heroica games to to be the first to enter a specific square at the end of the dungeon or to defeat the boss monster in that space. Characters lose health points when the monster wins the fight, but losing all your health merely renders you unconscious for a couple turns until you heal. (There are no player character deaths or TPKs in child-friendly Heroica!) Each adventurer has a unique special ability, such as a ranged attack, or moving after defeating a monster, that comes into play when you roll the shield tile on the LEGO Dice. Players can also use gold collected in the dungeon to buy weapons that grant similar abilities. The six different weapons included in each set are slightly smaller scale than similar minifigure accessories, but still fit those minis' hands. They add some nice variety to your arsenal, and have been included in at least one LEGO Lord of the Rings set (Mines of Moria) for just that reason. Each Heroica game also includes an artifact (helmet, scepter, etc.) that can give your hero even more powerful abilities if you play multiple missions in a row.

The simplest Heroica game is Draida, a two-player game where a barbarian and wizard must enter a cave to defeat the Goblin General. The game comes with those three microfigures and several goblins. (The barbarian appears in all four initial Heroica sets.)

Waldurk is a forest infested with spiders and werewolves, and is ruled by a ghostly Dark Druid. The heroes in this set include a barbarian, a druid, and a ranger. The forest also has two magic doors that can only be shifted if a hero moves onto an appropriate magic square. (These doors are built with translucent blue axe blades, which make nifty magic weapons for minifigures, too.) This set and the next two also include treasure chests, which might contain gold and/or a trap depending on your LEGO Dice result.

In the caverns of Nathuz, a barbarian, wizard, and thief must fight bats, golems, and the Golem Lord. This set introduces torches, which give a bonus to movement until the hero is defeated in a fight, then stop working (presumably because they were dropped and went out).

The largest Heroica set is Fortaan, the stronghold of the Goblin King. This game takes up to four players (barbarian, wizard, druid, and knight) and includes a small army of goblins of three different strengths (normal goblins, guardians, and the king). The castle includes doors which require heroes to collect keys to pass through them.

A year or so after these four sets were produced, the LEGO Group released a fifth Heroica set, Ilrion. In this game, the heroes (prince, wizard, and sage) must enter the catacombs to rescue the king, who has been captured by the Vampire Lord. Unlike previous sets, the two layouts provided with this game create a logical two-part adventure. In the first, the heroes fight the Vampire Lord and his bat and zombie minions to reach the imprisoned king. In the second, the heroes must escape the dungeon, but the Vampire Lord is replaced with a Giant Vampire Bat (built from bricks) which has its own health bar and requires multiple hits to defeat.

As mentioned above, the Heroica sets may be connected to play a campaign game, where victory is determined by who wins the most missions. This option allows for players to collect (and spend) more gold, use one set's artifact against another mission's foes, and so on. Combining sets is where this theme really shines, by providing longer play and more variety. Like other LEGO Games, the rules encourage players to invent their own rules, and with Heroica, this extends to creating your own dungeon scenarios with the parts provided. More creative players can expand the Heroica bestiary by importing microfigures and monsters from other LEGO Games (Ninjago's skeletons, the Rameses games' mummies, Minotaurus's Greek warriors and brick-built minotaur) as well as small creatures with a single-stud base from other themes (scorpions, crabs, starfish, frogs, cats, monkeys).

Now that we've covered the basics of LEGO Games, Heroica, and microfigures, it's time to discuss how to use these smaller figures as RPG miniatures. Microfigures can represent smaller humanoid creatures, such as goblins, halflings, gnomes, fey, kobolds (using Legend of Chima's crocodiles), and undead monsters created from those races. (In addition, even smaller humanoids can be represented by the trophy accessory found in some of the collectible Minifigures series.) The microfigures' small size and lack of hands prevents them from holding weapons or other accessories, though minifigure headgear will fit onto the head stud if you don't mind that part being grossly oversized. (See Pirate Plank's pirate captain for an example. There is also one microscale helmet available, in the Fortaan game.) Without a studded surface to snap onto, these microfigures will need a base for stability during play. A 2x2 jumper plate or radar dish works best here, and fits into a 1" square or hex on a battle map far more easily than a minifigure does.

A more radical approach is to exclusively use microfigures for miniatures rather than minifigures. This method has both advantages and drawbacks. The latter include the limited selection of microfigures (and the added difficulty of acquiring them once a given LEGO Game is retired, as most are by now, sadly), the fact that only the front is printed (making figures of the same color plastic difficult to distinguish from other angles), and the greater risk of dropping and losing a figure. On the other hand, many basic adventures can be run with only microfigures and small creature figures, as demonstrated by the Heroica games, and the smaller pawns require less storage space. (The LEGO Group briefly produced a carrying case for Heroica microfigures and other small game pieces.) By using only microfigures, the GM can assemble a dungeon out of Heroica-style modules, with each 2x2 jumper plate representing a 1" map square. This also removes the need for bases for each figure, because each one snaps securely onto its space's stud. (Alternately, the GM could cover a large baseplate with a checkerboard of jumper plates, then place 1x2 or 2x2 bricks on spaces occupied by solid walls.) In many game systems, you will still need to find a way to depict characters who occupy the same space due to grappling or other crowded conditions. The simplest solution is to stack those microfigures on top of each other. Another is to use normal 2x2 plates rather than jumper plates, which will give you more studs per space.

This Heroica-style mapping can be applied to dungeons for normal sized minifigures, too. A 1" square is approximately three studs across, but 3x3 plates have only very recently been produced, and are not easily available in bulk. Assuming you have enough bricks--and gaming space--you can replace 1" squares with 4x4 plates. This is an easy size to acquire and gives each minifigure a little more space for its arms and accessories than a 1" square does--as well as room for more than one minifigure per space if necessary. The fan-designed Brickquest adventure game uses this idea by covering each floor module in a checkerboard of 4x4 plates, which breaks up the space into easily distinguished squares for purposes of movement and combat. Most GMs will not have the bricks and time necessary to employ the full construction methods appearing on that site. However, covering a large baseplate with 4x4 plates is relatively simple and inexpensive, and normal bricks can be used to mark out walls and other features. As with my suggestions for Heroica-scale adventure maps, the studded plates make individual figure bases unnecessary. In some cases, though, a base can provide added stability, make a heavily accessorized minifigure easier to move intact, or show which squares a large creature occupies.

That brings us to the end of this column, but keep watching for more of my Legomaniacal rumblings! If you have any questions about the columns I've written so far, or have suggestions for topics that you would like me to cover in future installments, please let me know in the comments. Until then, leg godt!

Studded Plate #2: Return of the Ring

[Originally written and posted to in August 2013]

Welcome to the long overdue second installment of “Studded Plate”! This column is devoted to combining two of my favorite things: role-playing games and LEGO toys. My first column gave a brief overview of my technique of using LEGO minifigures as RPG miniatures, then reviewed the initial seven LEGO The Lord of the Rings sets from the perspective of their usefulness as a source of gaming minis.

Since then, the LEGO Group has released five sets in the new Hobbit theme, and five new Lord of the Rings sets. So without further ado, let’s take a look at these sets, starting with the Hobbit sets (released December 2012), in order of increasing price.

Riddles for the Ring ($10) includes Bilbo and Gollum. It’s a good price for a pair of minifigures and a tiny model, but I passed it over because I already own Shelob Attacks (see my last column).

Escape from Mirkwood Spiders ($30) comes with Legolas, Tauriel (a new elf woman created for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and apparently the only significant female character from this new trilogy), two dwarves, two of the small, classic one-piece spiders, and two larger spiders built from bricks. The large spiders are well-made, and form a nice intermediate model between the tiny spiders and the larger monsters in older sets (Shelob and Aragog). It’s also worth pointing out here that all 13 dwarf characters are available, but are divided up between five sets. Because they’re based on the movie dwarves, who the production crew went to great lengths to differentiate, these minifigures provide a nicely diverse array of dwarf parts.

Barrel Escape ($40) includes Bilbo, two dwarves, and two elves. This set includes a bit more scenery, hence the higher price, but the props (barrels, weapons, stairs, etc.) are good ones for dungeon adventures.

Attack of the Wargs ($50) includes Thorin, Bifur, Yazneg (Thorin’s “white goblin” nemesis), two goblins, and two Wargs. I love the Wargs, which are modeled in a way that lets them serve equally well for the wolfish Hobbit Wargs and for the more hyena-like LOTR Wargs. This set also includes a very nicely designed, 7”-tall tree, with segments of the trunk that rotate to pose the boughs more naturally.

An Unexpected Gathering ($70) includes Gandalf, Bilbo, and four dwarves, and a very finely detailed model of Bag End. This set was so popular that the LEGO Group built a huge version of it, roughly 1/3-1/2 life size, for a touring exhibition.

The real showcase set is The Goblin King Battle ($100). This includes the Goblin King, three goblins (one with short legs), three dwarves, and Gandalf. One of the perks of working at the LEGO Store was that all the display models (other than the permanent installations) are built by the employees. I couldn’t really afford to buy any sets this size, but at least I got to enjoy building this one! The only Hobbit sets that I did buy were the Wargs and Spiders sets, pretty much entirely for the monsters.

Now we come to the new Lord of the Rings sets (released Summer 2013).

The Wizard Battle ($13) includes Saruman and Gandalf (naturally), with a small scene including Saruman’s throne and palantir. The latter is a transparent head piece, printed with Sauron’s eye, covered by a crystal ball piece. This and Saruman alone make the set worth the price!

The Council of Elrond ($30) includes Frodo, Elrond, Arwen, and Gimli. The scenery, while minimal, evokes Rivendell nicely, and the two elves are excellent minifigures. The set also includes one of the nifty glaive-like elf weapons that first appeared in Barrel Escape.

Battle at the Black Gate ($60) includes Aragorn, Gandalf, the Mouth of Sauron, two orcs, an eagle, and a horse. The eagle in his set (and Orthanc, below) is the perfect size for a D&D giant eagle. If you want an eagle that’s closer to the relative size of the movie eagles, I recommend the LEGO Creator set Fierce Flyer ($15), which fills approximately the space of a D&D 3.0/3.5 roc.

Pirate Ship Ambush ($100) includes Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, three Army of the Dead warriors, one corsair, and two orcs. This is LEGO’s first sailed ship since the Pirates of the Caribbean theme was retired, and it’s a pretty cool one. It has three triangular sails, two sizes of dragon wings in the railing details, and numerous shields, weapons, and other props. Once our finances recover from our very recent cross-country move, my wife and I plan to acquire this ship to add to our (admittedly small) fleet. (So far, the only new LOTR sets I own are the Wizards and Elrond sets.)

The Tower of Orthanc ($200) is the largest Middle-Earth set released to date, and it’s a lovely piece of work. The tower is over two feet tall and fully rendered on three sides. The back side is open to let you see the six highly-detailed levels inside, which include a dungeon, throne room, library, and trophy room. Except for one or two pieces, the lamps and throne are almost identical to the ones in The Wizards Battle, but the palantir here is a translucent ball with a light brick mounted beneath it. Orthanc comes with Saruman, Gandalf, Grima, an Uruk, an orc, and an eagle, as well as an Ent that stands 9” tall when built. Basically, this set is LEGO LOTR’s equivalent of the Death Star--a huge playset with numerous figures--but at half the price. Because of our impending move, I couldn’t justify buying this set, so I was ecstatic to be allowed to build it as my final display model before I had to leave the LEGO Store. Even better, the building instructions are available online at, so I can build my own Ent out of pieces I already have!

There is one other new set connected to Middle-Earth: a Hobbit boardgame ($35). As with other LEGO games, the board is constructed of bricks, and the pawns are microfigures. These pawns look like tiny, armless minifigures, but are a single piece; they have a 1x1 stud base and stand two bricks tall. The Hobbit game comes with Gandalf and three dwarves, but a wide variety of microfigures (and micro-scale monsters built with bricks) are available in other LEGO Games. These characters make useful miniatures for very small characters and creatures when put on a 2x2 jumper plate (plates with a single stud in the middle). In my next column, I will discuss microfigures and LEGO Games in more depth, with special attention given to the HEROICA series of fantasy adventures.

Until then, leg godt! That’s Danish for “play well,” and is the origin of the LEGO brand name. That sentiment applies equally well to role-playing games, don’t you think?

Throwback Thursday: The original "Studded Plate" columns, Part 1

A few years ago, I wrote three articles for, a website created by Matt Timmins to share his reviews of gaming products and editorials about his experiences as a GM and player. I recently discovered that, sadly, his site no longer exists. However, from the beginning, Matt had encouraged me to repost my articles to other sites if I started contributing to another review site or started my own blog. Now that I've decided to do exactly that, I'd like to share those original "Studded Plate" columns with you.

Studded Plate #1: LEGO Minifigures as RPG Miniatures

[Originally written and posted to in November 2012]
I was introduced to D&D in middle school 30 years ago, and have been playing RPGs regularly ever since. I’ve never had an abundance of disposable income, so I’ve had to make some hard choices about how to invest in my hobbies—which games to buy, how many supplements to buy, whether to buy more miniatures or dice, and so on. At one point, I had the opportunity to purchase a friend’s metal miniatures collection for a fraction of its value, and did so. But I never had the patience to sit and paint (or repaint) them, in spite of having a lifelong passion for art (and an art degree). I’d much rather spend that time playing the games, or making some original art in other media. Likewise, I’d rather spend my money on game books or my other interests than try to accumulate a meaningful collection of expensive minis.
One of those other interests is LEGO toys. I received my first set of blocks when I was five, and have never stopped collecting them and building my own creations (or MOCs, as fans call them). My passion for these toys has even led me to take a part-time job in the local LEGO Store. But the reason that I’m mentioning this other hobby in a column for a gaming site is my discovery that LEGO minifigures are a perfectly satisfactory substitute for traditional wargaming miniatures—or, in my case, a vastly superior one.
The birth of this idea occurred over a decade ago, when I shared an apartment with three friends who were all avid gamers. One of them, the DM for our D&D group, constantly struggled with his lack of miniatures. He made do with a handful of traditional minis and whatever small plastic toys and pawns he could scrounge. We players had difficulty keeping track of which marker represented which PC or NPC, so I decided to do something about it. I had the collection of metal minis that I mentioned above, but they wouldn’t solve the problem unless I painted them. However, I did have my LEGO collection, which heavily favored the Castle and Star Wars themes. I assembled minifigures to represent the party, and attached them to small plates (2x2 or 2x3 studs) to keep them upright. They were only vague approximations of what our heroes looked like, but with appropriate weapons, armor, cloaks, and headgear, we had no problems telling apart the wizard, paladin, druid, and so on.
My solution went over well with the group, so I refined the party minis as the campaign continued. Before long, I started using minifigures for the PCs in the games that I ran, and as my collection grew, I expanded the idea to include many of the NPCs and monsters the PCs encountered. In the years since that first game, other GMs I’ve played with have adopted the idea, too.
By using minifigures, I could make one of my expensive hobbies do double duty, and I eventually sold off all of my metal miniatures. Since then, I have purchased a small selection of prepainted plastic D&D Miniatures, but only cheap, common, used ones that I knew I would use in my games. I also have a large collection of plastic animals and monsters, cardboard counters, and other markers, but as much as possible, I use LEGO minifigures, or minifigure-scale models that I’ve built from scratch.
In the past several years, the variety of minifigures available has increased dramatically, with the Harry Potter, Pharaoh’s Quest, and Ninjago themes becoming some of the best sources for fantasy creatures, characters, and accessories. The Castle/Kingdoms theme introduced dwarf minifigures and “trolls” that look like D&D orcs or goblins. More recently, the collectible Minifigures series provided us with our first Tolkien-esque elf. This summer, the new LEGO Lord of the Rings sets delved into one of the sources that directly inspired Dungeons & Dragons, providing elves, dwarves, and hobbits, as well as orcs and other monsters. The Hobbit sets coming out this month [November 2012] will further expand this selection of characters and creatures.
So which LEGO sets provide the best bang for the buck when it comes to potential D&D miniatures? There are too many LEGO themes to discuss in just one short column, so I’ll just focus on The Lord of the Rings sets here, in order of increasing size and cost.
Gandalf Arrives ($13) contains two minifigures (Gandalf and Frodo) and a horse. Unless you want Gandalf (who is also available as a key-chain) and one of the new horses (which have posable back legs so that they can rear), this set has limited interest as a source of RPG minis.
Shelob Attacks ($20) includes Frodo, Sam, Gollum, and Shelob herself. I consider this set a must-have for Shelob alone, who is the largest and most impressive giant spider the LEGO Group has yet produced. (Both versions of Harry Potter’s Aragog pale in comparison, and the arachnids in the upcoming Escape from Mirkwood Spiders set are much smaller.) Even if you don’t need a giant spider miniature, the three minifigures are excellent, and Shelob’s body contains a good supply of hinges, claws, and other pieces for building your own articulated creatures.
Uruk-Hai Army ($30) includes Eomer and his horse, a Rohan soldier, and four Uruk-Hai. Of the seven sets in this theme, this one offers the most minifigures for its size, and is thus an ideal set for DMs who want orc figures.
The Orc Forge ($40) contains an Uruk-Hai, Lurtz (the Uruk commander), and two Mordor orcs. This set provides more variety among its orcs than the Uruk-Hai army does. However, this is the point at which these sets begin to include larger scenes to build, which make them rather expensive if all you want is minifigures. I acquired the previous three sets as soon as they were released, and the Orc Forge sometime later when I decided I needed a better selection of orcs.
Attack on Weathertop ($60) includes Aragorn, Frodo, Merry, and two Ringwraiths, one of which is mounted. I don’t yet own this set myself, but the Ringwraiths are ideal minis for any number of shadowy undead villains.
The Mines of Moria ($80) contains six minifigures (Pippin, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, and two Moria orcs) as well as a Cave Troll. I purchased this set primarily for the characters, particularly Legolas, the orcs, and the troll, but the set itself is a well-designed bit of dungeon scenery for any DMs who wish to use LEGO elements to build more than just character miniatures. It also includes a generous assortment of minifigure accessories—weapons, tools, and treasure.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep ($130) is the largest set, with eight minifigures (Gimli, Theoden, Aragorn, Haldir, and four Uruks), a horse, and a large castle scene. This set is beautiful, but is well out of my price range at the moment.
For DMs who simply want the minifigures without any other LEGO elements, I heartily recommend checking out This site is not affiliated with the LEGO Group, but is a place for fans and collectors to buy and sell LEGO products. Complete sets as well as individual parts and minifigures are available at reasonable prices, without the blatant gouging of auction sites like eBay. Naturally, you’ll pay more for a rare set or piece, or for a minifigure that was only released as part of a large set. For example, you can buy Frodo (from Gandalf Arrives) for just over $2, while Haldir (from Helm’s Deep) starts at $11. (For a price comparison, retail prices for the collectible Minifigures series are $3 each, and Build-A-Mini packs are $10 for 3 figures.)
As you can see, there are many options available even just within one theme. Add in some more past and present themes, and the variety of potential miniatures increases rapidly. I hope my discussion here inspires some of you to try experimenting with LEGO RPG miniatures as I have!
If our distinguished editor feels that there is enough interest, I may do a similar review of The Hobbit sets after I’ve acquired and built a few of them myself. I may also delve further into my experiences as a builder of LEGO miniatures and the techniques I’ve used.
Footnote: I maintain a gallery at ( ) which contains photos of the hundreds of minifigures and minifigure-scale models I’ve collected or built for use as RPG miniatures. The following folders provide the most relevant examples: Corasgrove, Freeport, and the Misc-Monsters subfolder of Miscellaneous. One warning, though: The site is moderated, so whenever I add more pictures to my gallery, those updated folders unfortunately become unavailable to the public until they pass review. If you come across such a message, please check back in a few days, and I apologize for any inconvenience.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Welcome to Studded Plate!

This blog will primarily cover two of my favorite things: role-playing games and LEGO toys--and frequently, both at the same time. In fact, the title of this blog, "Studded Plate," is taken from a trio of articles that I wrote a few years back for Matt Timmons' Big Blue Die website. In those columns, I discussed my own use of LEGO minifigures in place of traditional RPG miniatures, with suggestions for players looking to adopt the same idea. With Matt's permission, I'll be republishing those articles here soon. One of my goals in establishing this blog is to continue that series, and expand into related topics.

My love for LEGO bricks dates back to the first set I ever received, at age 5 (almost 40 years ago). I've been an avid collector ever since, with most of my collection consisting of the Castle, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Ninjas, Pirates, Lord of the Rings, Chima, and Creator themes, and above all, minifigures of all kinds. From 2012-2013, I worked at the South Shore LEGO Store in Braintree, MA, a position that I only very reluctantly left when my family relocated to Kentucky. I miss those days of getting paid for selling my favorite brand of toy, and receiving a significant employee discount when buying them for myself!

I've been playing and GMing RPGs for over 30 years. Most of that experience has focused on D&D and the d20 System, but I've also played and/or run long campaigns in GURPS, BESM, Earthdawn, Buffy/Angel, and other games. I've published a handful of articles in Pyramid and d20 Weekly, but most of my published writing credits belong to Green Ronin's Freeport: The City of Adventure product line. That work started with updating the Freeport Trilogy for the v.3.5 rules set, a project I landed based on my well-received fan errata for the setting. Since then I have proofread and edited other titles for the company, and written and co-written web supplements for Cults of Freeport and Buccaneers of Freeport.

In a way, I'll be coming full circle when I migrate my fan errata archive to GoogleSites over the next several months. The new site will include errata pages I've compiled for new acquisitions from the past year or two, as well as long-needed updates to earlier commentaries. I will be sure to post about that project's progress in this blog.

I will also be sharing news about my current RPG campaigns from time to time. I am currently running a Freeport game using Pathfinder (which now has a GoogleSites page, which I'll share in a future post). I am also developing a homebrew setting for my next Pathfinder campaign, which will begin sometime next year.

I hope you enjoy my blog, and I welcome feedback from my readers. If you have any suggestions for topics you would like to see me cover, please let me know!