Thursday, May 12, 2016

Building the Bestiary #5: Tiny Creatures

Dragon crests from Castle knights'
helmets, mounted on radar dishes.
The D&D Monster Manual and Pathfinder Bestiary both include large numbers of creatures of size Small, Tiny, or even smaller. In a typical campaign, these smaller monsters tend to fall into a few broad categories: familiars; vermin; swarms; and fey.

Small creatures take up a 5-foot space, which is a 1-inch square on the battle map. Creatures of this size can be placed on the same 2x2 or 2x3 plate bases as Small and Medium humanoids.

Tiny creatures have a space of 2-1/2 feet, or 1/2 inch on the map, while smaller sizes take up even less space. Figures this small need a base mostly to prevent the miniature from getting lost or accidentally knocked or blown across the board. There is no plate that is the perfect size (1-1/2 studs) for Tiny creatures, so I usually use a 2x2 plate, jumper plate, or radar dish.

Familiars

Tiny animals rarely pose any serious threat, even to a 1st-level party. Because of this, individual animals rarely need a stat block or a miniature unless they appear as a spellcaster's familiar. In fact, the Pathfinder Bestiary collects these small, weak creatures under the "Familiars" heading for this very reason.

The LEGO Group has produced a vast number of animal pieces, most of which--especially the smaller ones--are a single part. The Friends theme has expanded upon this selection more than almost any other theme, both by adding cutesy versions of existing animals (like dogs, cats, and parrots) and by offering all-new creatures (such as hedgehogs, squirrels, and penguins).

LEGO animals exist for the following standard choices for familiars: bat, cat, monkey (chimpanzee), owl, rat, viper (snake), and toad (frog). For hawks, use the classic bird figure; for ravens, use that bird or the newer crow (from the Tonto and scarecrow minifigures).

For a lizard, you can use Pascal (the chameleon from Tangled), a baby T-Rex (from old dinosaur sets), or a dragon crest (from Castle knight helmets). Lacking those options, the photo below shows one example of a built lizard, using a 1x4 plate, two 1x2 jumper plates, and a 1x1 slope plate.  

For a weasel, you can use a rat or a skunk, but neither is ideal. The ferret in the photo above is built with two 1x2 and one 1x1 plates, a 1x1 round brick, and a small antenna.

For other small animals, you'll need to get creative. Just a few well-chosen pieces can evoke a specific animal, like the rabbit, squirrel, and turtle shown below.


Vermin

Spiders and scorpions are common parts available in many LEGO sets; these animals can be used to represent almost any vermin of Small size or smaller. Ants are also available, but harder to find because they appeared in very few sets (most recently, the Marvel Ant-Man set).

The Pharaoh's Quest theme introduced shields shaped like scarabs, which make excellent miniatures for beetles. More recently, the Friends theme introduced special 1x1 pieces shapes like ladybugs and butterflies, which can be used for smaller beetles and flying insects, respectively. (These parts are small enough that you'll definitely want to mount them on bases.) Sets with a seaside theme may contain crabs or clams, both of which are classified as vermin in d20.

A few examples of brick-built vermin are shown below, using a variety of small parts.

Two scorpions, a spider, and a leech

Swarms

In d20 games, a swarm has a space of 10 feet, but those four 5-foot squares can be moved around into any shape as long as the swarm stays contiguous. For this reason, the best way to represent a swarm is with separate miniatures for each square. LEGO animals for the most common swarms (bats, rats, and spiders) are almost always in production, so the easiest method is to use one animal figure per square. Bases are optional for rats and spiders, but the bats will need them to stay upright. If you need more than one swarm for an encounter, use different-colored animals or bases for each separate swarm.

For other swarms, use the suggestions under Familiars and Vermin above to build miniatures for each square.

Fey

For mostly humanoid fey of Small and Medium size, you can use regular minifigures to build the miniatures. The Minifigures theme has included leprechauns, winged fairies, gnomes, and fauns, and similar fey can be built using dwarves, elves,  or hobbits as a starting point. The LEGO Elves theme, with its slender minidolls and colorful hair, can be a useful source of parts for nature spirits such as nymphs, dryads, and sylphs.

Smaller races require other methods. Microfigures from LEGO Games such as Heroica, Minotaurus, Ninjago, or The Hobbit work well as tiny fey, as do the trophy bricks that resemble miniature minifigures. Both of these types of part will need bases for stability.

You can also build small humanoid races using bricks and plates. The simplest Tiny miniature uses one or two 1x1 bricks or cylinders for a body, with a 1x1 round brick or plate for a head. A travis brick (a 1x1 brick with studs on four sides) allows the addition of arms (using small plates) or wings (using feather accessories). Insert a plate with a clip to allow the miniature to hold a small weapon. The photos below show examples of these techniques.


That's all for this column. Please take the time to give me some feedback about this series in the comments. Let me know what you like about these articles, where you think they need more work, and what kinds of monsters you want to see me cover in future installments.

3 comments:

  1. Building the Bestuary is a great feature, and this installment is the best one yet. I really like the Vermin and Fey builds you demonstrated. You have a special talent for the smaller builds, so I'd like to see more examples of the Tiny to Medium creatures you have built, the ones that fit into a single square.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! And thanks for the link from your latest blog post!

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  2. I built a raccoon but it is too big unless it is a dire raccoon or something. Interesting builds you've made

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