Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Cheat (at Building) a Dragon

Sometimes the easiest way to build the LEGO model you need for your game is to find someone who's already built it and copy theirs. Here are a few examples of dragons that I've built for my own fantasy games, based on models from official sets that I never owned.

My daughter and son are huge Minecraft fans, so as soon as the LEGO Group started offering sets based on the game, they both started lusting after them in their precious little ABS hearts. My daughter's first acquisition was LEGO Minecraft The End (set 21107) as a gift last year. This set includes a micro-scale Ender Dragon, which measures about 3" long. This is the perfect size for a Large-sized d20 miniature, so I built a couple copies out of my own bricks:


If you look at the pictures of the original (see that set link above), you'll see that I omitted the printed eyes plate (which I lack) and changed the orientation of the mini-slopes to fit my own aesthetic preference. This is a simple, elegant little model that makes excellent use of the dragon wing elements at a more realistic scale.

More recently, when I was perusing the new holiday 2015 catalog, I noticed that several of the new Ninjago sets from the Airjutsu storyline include brick-built dragons. Two of these dragons are the focus of large sets with numerous pieces that I would have trouble copying. In addition, those dragons would be grossly oversized as RPG miniatures for all but the largest Colossal wyrms. (Most brick-built dragons from older Castle, Ninjago, and Hobbit sets have this same issue.) However, some of the other new Ninjago sets include much smaller dragons that would be suitable for d20 scale. The smallest of these creatures comes with the Blaster Bike (set 70733), and is not much bigger than the micro-scale Ender Dragon. I downloaded the building instructions from LEGO.com, and built my own version:


When copying this model, the rarest pieces needed are those A-shaped elements that form the wings, which have only recently been produced for the first time. However, I own Flinx's Ultimate Phoenix (set 70221, from the Legends of Chima line), which uses multiples of these pieces in its wings. Other than color, my only deviation from the instructions was the head crest; I only own the two-toothed plate in white, so decided to replace it with horns that better fit the new color scheme. This spiky model recently saw use in my Pathfinder campaign as a spire drake (Pathfinder Bestiary 4).

I also downloaded the building instructions for the next smallest Ninjago dragon, from Ronin R.E.X. (set 70735). The Ultimate Phoenix also supplied several parts for this model, most notably the flame-shaped wings and tail. My version has a couple of minor substitutions (part of a tail segment and the head crest):


This model provides a nice Far-Eastern alternate to the classic Castle dragon, and is approximately the same scale, suitable for a Huge or Gargantuan creature. You could also replace the head with a more avian one for use as a smaller phoenix than Flinx's full-sized model. (A Pathfinder phoenix is Gargantuan, while the firebird spell from the Freeport setting summons a Large creature.)

To find free PDF downloads of the building instructions for a LEGO set, go to the Customer Service section of the LEGO.com website, and click on Building Instructions. This page will let you search by set number, keyword, year, or theme. When I searched for "dragon," I discovered the following additional sets with small models suitable for RPG miniature scale:
  • Dragon Pod (set 4337) contains instructions for a small green dragon and a few other models. (This is the oldest set mentioned in this column, and also the only one of them that I own myself. It was a pleasant surprise to be reminded of it!)
  • The Lava Dragon LEGO Game (set 3838) includes a small dragon built with only 13 pieces--three less than the Ender Dragon!
  • Dragon Fight (set 30083, for Ninjago) was a polybag store exclusive containing a brick-built dragon and one ninja.
  • Set 40098 is a dragon from the monthly mini model build events held in LEGO Stores.
  • And finally, The Cowler Dragon (set 30294) is a yet-to-be-released 2015 polybag set for Ninjago.

Do you have a favorite model (dragon or otherwise) from an official LEGO set that you've used as-is, or in slightly modified form, as a miniature in your role-playing games? If so, please let me know in the comments! I'm always on the lookout for new ideas to expand my own repertoire.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the writeup. This is a good catalog of smaller dragon models.

    I have basically given up on accurate scale and accepted that things in my game will be cartoonishly large. This actually fits the minifigs. They will fit on a 1" grid, but on that scale they would be over eight feet tall. People instinctively scale things to the minifig and not the grid anyway, so that works out.

    I regularly use Mixels as Large sized creatures, even though they barely fit on two squares on the grid. If the main body of a figure fits on two squares, I will call it Large, even if it has limbs, wings, and/or a tail that will not fit. Here are two that will work for dragons, possibly with some minor changes like removing the eyes:
    http://brickset.com/sets/41511-1/Flurr
    http://brickset.com/sets/41550-1/Slusho

    In my game both the druid and the bard have discovered the joy of polymorphing a party member into a giant ape. I use the Hoogi Mixel (http://brickset.com/sets/41523-1/Hoogi) for this. The cartoonish goofiness is actually a feature, because it distinguishes the figure from the more realistic enemies and reminds everyone that it is a polymorphed party member.

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  2. Thanks for the comment!

    My family owns several Mixels sets, including Hoogi. (Scorpi, from the same tribe, was the first one I ever bought.) I agree that this theme is a great source of new creatures, as well as useful parts. Many of the joints I used for those dragon models came from Mixels. And I bought the Klinkers tribe specifically so I can have my players fight some cool clockwork constructs someday.

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