Decorated Bases vs. Blank or Clear bases

There’s a friendly debate floating around the miniature painting communities. It is the question of decorated bases vs. plain black, or even clear acrylic, bases that don’t clash with the map or environment the mini is being used in.

I like decorated bases. To me, every mini is a work of art, a tiny diorama in the palm of my hand. Black bases are dull and boring and do nothing to accentuate the work that went into painting miniature. A decorated base is a statement about the figure, an invitation to imagine the setting the figure is most commonly found it and better understand that character. The wizard is on shattered & scorched cobblestone. The ranger is stepping between tall grasses. The paladin stands proudly on a polished marble floor. The base tells part of the figure’s backstory.

I don’t fully understand the argument that states it is “immersion breaking” when the base doesn’t match the map. If it was about creating a sense of realism in the environment we could just create a bigger diorama if true immersion is what we wanted. I don’t have any trouble looking at a flocked base in a stone dungeon and imagining the scene at hand. I don’t get confused about whether or not the arid savannah is hot or cold because the dwarf fighter has snow on their base. My mind is limber and imaginative – I can overcome this dissonance in the same way I can look at a 1.5″ plastic blob with vague protrusions and suggestive features propped up on a 1″ gridded paper with scribbles randomly dispersed around it and convince myself that it accurately represents an alien, squid-headed, brain-eating monster standing in a dark limestone cavern dripping and echoing ominously.

Since most of my hand-painted miniatures are used by the players, to me it is also about the miniature being their avatar – a token to facilitate and remind them about their character’s abilities and motivations. I like seeing the leaf-littered red roof tile underneath my halfling rogue. I feel like using it reminds me every time that she comes from the streets. She’s a thug and a thief and she’s not putting up with this damp dungeon bullshit if she isn’t gettin’ paid!

I love others decorated bases too! A sculpt is a sculpt, and when it comes down to it will only end up being painted in so many ways, but the base is a blank canvas. The base is where you see that little extra personal touch from the painter. My rock elemental might be standing on magma, but yours is on cracked stone! We might have painted the mini in roughly the same way, but clearly our imaginations saw the same thing in different ways. I think that’s one of the reasons joining mini-painting communities and following other mini-painters is so stimulating. It’s not just about learning new techniques or pushing ourselves to improve – it’s seeing what another person sees when they look at an unpainted mini. For a moment, you are looking through their eyes, and that extends to how they decorate the base and that’s amazing!

So what’s your vote? You don’t have to be a mini-painter to weigh in. As DMs and Players, what you do like?

Bring Your Own Brush – Miniature Painting

It occurred to me that I should post on here about my miniature painting.

I don’t want my blog to become all about mini painting, but it is an aspect of D&D and something I enjoy immensely.

First a little background. In 2012 the owner of my local game store (Guardian Games!) received some demo materials – some paint and a couple of brushes and some color guides. She offered to let me use them, then dug out a couple of old Warhammer figures to let me paint. My first figures weren’t primed, and they were painted with a very limited selection of colors. Surprisingly, I think they turned out all right for someone who had never painted a miniature:

In the following months I discovered I really enjoyed painting. Despite bad eyes, shakey hands, and many a cramped wrist, I started getting pretty decent at it.

So I plan to post here occasionally about whatever I’m working on currently, like this samurai that I’m painting for a friend (Rich Ellis!)…

samurai_mini_wipor this goliath warrior with a greatsword for one of my players…


… or any of the many other miniatures I have in progress!

Edit: A quick mention… I paint every Thursday Friday night at 6:00pm at Guardian Games, so if you’re in Portland, drop by and try your hand at mini painting!

The Lost Crown of Neverwinter Session 10: Paper or Plastic?

Here there be Spoilers: Players wanting to be surprised when they play Encounters should steer away now and come back later!

In the upcoming Session 10: Kraken Tunnels, I noticed the encounter has kraken tentacles and slimes. If you use minis, you’re kinda limited on what kind of mini to use to represent those tentacles. Of course there’s tokens and I don’t know what the availability of tentacle tokens are but even so I imagine they’re not that plentiful. So I came up with two sets of tentacle minis!


I made my own set of amazing tentacle miniatures. Not only was it easy, but anyone could do it! Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of my construction process. Nonetheless, here’s a quick guide on how I hacked together these wiggly miniatures.

  1. Find and purchase a plastic or rubber octopus toy.  I found this exact same octopus toy while I was in Seattle (I’m probably going to buy another from this online store so I can have two sets). The spread of the tentacles without too much webbing proved perfect for making miniatures. Plus, every tentacle on this toy is shaped differently, so the result is 8 unique tentacle minis!
  2. Use a craft knife to carefully sever each tentacle. Note: You must account for the way the tentacle will stand on the base. Some cuts needed to be cut at sharp angles so the tentacles wouldn’t touch the table once they were mounted. You can experiment: cut close to the body and you’ll have lots of length to experiment with angles. Cut an angle, stand the tentacle and evaluate, cut again if needed until you have something that looks great.
  3. Save the head: You can mount the head on a large base for a complete set. (Head is not pictured)
  4. Purchase mini bases or washers to mount your tentacles on.
  5. Clue tentacles to their bases using a hot glue gun. You may need to experiment with glues if you’re using a different octopus than the one I linked. I tried three kinds of glue for the Large Pacific Octopus toy and they all failed miserably. The rubbery toy doesn’t hold well to just being glued flat, it needs something to secure it all the way around the base. Hot glue looks less neat than what I was hoping for but it’s still holding strong. Still, the dried hot glue has a neat effect you can see in my picture. I plan on painting the bases with some green to give it a slimey effect.



I put together these paper miniatures for any Encounters DM that would like to use them. They’re a lot faster and cheaper than the plastic toy tentacles. They also have the added bonus of two extra tentacles on the sheet (in case you need to scale up your encounter) and two slime minis!  Simply print, cut, and fold to use these at your table.

Download the PDF here!