Miniatures in D&D: a little historical perspective

Truth to tell, I have grown terribly weary of D&D “edition wars,” and hesitate to contribute thereto. I prefer a “game and let game” attitude: each gaming group should play whatever games it enjoys, and should not criticize other groups for holding different preferences. However, I also confess my status as basically a 4e fanboy, having been won over from my initial skepticism by the enormous fun I have playing this system. I therefore bristle when I hear or read certain criticisms of 4e, and often feel compelled to offer a corrective perspective. (Hey, that rhymed! Should I play a bard?) One of the claims that absolutely gets my goat goes something like this: “4e emphasizes miniatures so much more than earlier editions that it turns D&D combat into a tactical miniatures game.” The grain of truth contained within this claim belies the bigger picture: D&D rules as written have always encouraged strict tracking of tactical positioning and have always encouraged the use of miniatures for that purpose.

It should be immediately evident to anyone who knows both systems that 4e is no more of a tactical miniatures game than 3.5e was. Except for some difference in terminology and a simplified approach to zones (4e has only squares, in contrast to 3.5e’s circles and cones) and diagonal measurements, 3.5e and 4e are fundamentally the same with regard to tactical positioning. Creature size, movement, squeezing, flanking, line of sight, line of effect—all these concepts are basically the same in 4e as they were in 3.5e. For example, the positioning of the figures, lines, and corner in the line of sight diagram on p. 139 of the 3.5e PH are precisely the same as in the corresponding diagram on p. 274 of the 4e PH and p. 107 of the Rules Compendium. 4e does offer players and monsters a bit more control over their own positioning than 3.5e did (with all the shift, push, pull, and slide effects in powers), but the basic rules as such really aren’t that much different. So let’s aside 3.5 and go all the way back to the beginning.

In the original D&D booklets of 1974—which were already starting to become something of a collector’s item by the time I started playing with the blue box (Holmes edition, before there ever was a “red box”) in 1978, the very subtitle of the game was “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures.” This subtitle appeared on all three core booklets (Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures) as well as the first four supplements; supplement 5, Swords and Spells, bore the subtitle “Fantastic Miniatures Rules on a 1:10/1:1 Scale.” This edition of D&D assumed that you would be using Chainmail rules for melee combat.

Unfortunately, I don’t have easy access to a copy of the old blue rulebook by J. Eric Holmes from which I first learned to play in 1978, but we quickly moved on to AD&D anyway. My first purchase for AD&D was the Player’s Handbook; my second was a box of 20 official D&D miniatures manufactured by Grenadier. This sort of purchase was strongly encouraged by Gary Gygax in the AD&D rulebooks, after all, through an emphasis on tactical positioning:

Organize your party by showing which characters are where. Show marching order for a 10′ passage, a 20′ passage, door openings, etc. … Miniature figures are a great aid here. The DM will usually require a marching order to be drawn on a piece of paper if figures are not at hand.

— AD&D PH, p. 106

Assign formations for the group—10′ corridor, 20′ corridor, door opening, and any other formation which your party might commonly assume. It is always a wise idea to have the very short characters in the front rank, elves and dwarves to the flanks, and at least one sturdy fighter in the rear if the party is sufficiently large. Draw these formations out on paper (possibly your referee will require copies for reference), identifying each character carefully. The leader who is to make decisions and give directions for the party must be in the front rank, or in the second rank if he or she is tall compared to the characters before.

— AD&D PH, p. 109

The special figures cast for ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS add color to play and make refereeing far easier. each player might be required to furnish painted figures representing his or her player character and all henchmen and/or hirelings included in the game session. Such distinctively painted figures enable you to immediately recognize each individual involved. Figures can be placed so as to show their order of march, i.e., which characters are in the lead, which are in the middle, and which are bringing up the rear. Furthermore, players are more readily able to visualize their array and plan actions while seeing the reason for your restrictions on their actions. Monster figures are likewise most helpful, as many things become instantly apparent when a party is arrayed and their monster opponent(s) placed. Furnishing such monsters is probably best undertaken as a joint effort, the whole group contributing towards the purchase of such figurines on a regular basis. Be very careful to purchase castings which are in scale! Out of scale monsters are virtually worthless in many cases. As a rule of thumb, HO scale is 25 mm = 1 actual inch = 6′ in scale height or length or breadth. … While you may not find it convenient to actually use such figures and floor plans to handle routine dungeon movement, having sheets of squares for encounter area depiction will probably be quite helpful.

— AD&D DMG, p. 10

Note that Gygax endorses DMs requiring players to supply painted miniatures for PCs, hirelings, and henchmen, and encourages the use of a common fund for buying monsters! Note too that the approach Gygyax suggests here is essentially the approach taken by Wizards of the Coast in 4e through their use of poster maps and encounter areas that DMs can easily build using Dungeon Tiles. Speaking of Dungeon Tiles and such, let’s turn the page:

Miniature figures used to represent characters and monsters add color and life to the game. They also make the task of refereeing action, particularly combat, easier too! In combination with a gridded surface, such as the DUNGEON FLOORPLANS (to be published by TSR in the near future), these miniatures will add a whole new dimension to your playing enjoyment. It is suggested that you urge your players to provide painted figures representing their characters, henchmen, and hirelings involved in play. The monsters can be furnished by you—possibly purchased through collection of small fees levied on each playing session. The OFFICIAL ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS miniature figures will be released by Grenadier Models, POB 305, Springfield, PA 19064, about November 1979. These figures are the only ones which comply in all respects to AD&D specifications and the AD&D MONSTER MANUAL. Contact Grenadier for an up-to-date listing of available figures. Other approved lines of fantasy figures APPROVED FOR USE WITH ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will be offered by select manufacturers. Always look for the name, ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and the TSR approval mark before purchasing figures for your campaign. … Again, a word of warning. Many products might purport to be satisfactory for use with ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, but only those noted as OFFICIAL or Authorized AD&D items should be accepted. Do not settle for substitutes or second-rate material in your campaign; ask for approved AD&D products only!

— AD&D DMG, p. 11

Not only does Gygax here instruct AD&D DMs to “urge” the use of miniature figures, he even encourages AD&D DMs to charge entry fees for the express purpose of buying more miniatures! And the DM shouldn’t buy just any old miniatures, but only TSR-approved miniatures. Did you catch the reference to Dungeon Floorplans, one of the TSR precursors to today’s Dungeon Tiles? The version that ended up being published by Games Workshop was similar to today’s Dungeon Tiles, except that you had to cut the sheets apart yourself into whatever shape you wanted. TSR also took a stab at preprinted cardstock miniatures and scenery with accessory AC 3, 3-D Dragon Tiles featuring The Revenge of Rusak, in 1985.

Folks, “old school” D&D does not mean “without miniatures.” D&D assumed the use of miniatures from the very beginning. AD&D offered some alternatives, and TSR occasionally took a stab at offering cheap alternatives in the form of preprinted cardstock standees (in my opinion, they did a better job of this with Marvel Super Heroes, but that’s neither here nor there). D&D 3.5e gave characters more ways to interact with the grid, and 4e provided even more options, but both stand squarely in the grand tradition of D&D stretching back over 35 years.

23 Comments on Miniatures in D&D: a little historical perspective

  1. Good article, but the point I made today on twitter (not sure if that’s what inspired this post or not) is that after 2e, which downplayed the measurements in inches, and references to miniature combat (until the black books at the system’s end which attempted to bring a grid system into play), 3e put a larger emphasis on tactical combat.

    My question was if this design decision was made on its own merit, or was there a synergy at play with the launch of plastic painted minis? Many boardroom decisions are made without anyone knowing, and whether designers talk to us or not on twitter, there’s things they can’t divulge publicly anyways.

    I just find that the transition from 2e (which minis were not a real part of) to 3e was a great tactical evolution. And while yes, 1e had measurements in inches and all that, I know that around these parts nobody was really playing like that, at least not at any table I gamed 1e at.

    I’m not knocking 4e, I play 4e, I’m just curious at the influences that marketing may have had in 3e’s design (and 4e’s) and it’s larger tactical nature at play vs. the former (2e) edition, and the very popular BECMI sets, which IIRC had no miniature expectations for combat.

  2. newbie, the “trigger” for my post actually came from somewhere else. I hadn’t even looked at Twitter today before posting. But the BECMI sets did not disregard miniatures either:

    “If miniature figures are used to represent the characters, the players should choose figures which look like their characters, and should make sure that the DM knows which miniatures represent which characters. The miniature figures should be lined up in the same order as the marching order. When special situations occur, the players should change the position of their figures as they desire. File cards with names on them, pawns, and other markers may be used instead of miniatures, or the marching order may simply be written on a piece of paper.” — 1981 Basic rulebook, p. B19

    “Miniature figures are useful during combat for both the DM and the players, so that they may ‘see’ what is happening. If miniatures are not being used, the DM should draw on a piece of paper, or use something (dice work nicely) to represent the characters in place of miniature figures.” — p. B26

    “D&D adventures are more interesting to play when figures are used. Metal miniatures (about 15 to 25 millimeters high) are often used, for they can be easily painted to look like real dungeon adventurers. Many excellent figures are designed specifically for fantasy role playing games. These are available from TSR or from local hobby stores. If metal miniatures cost more than the players want to spend, many companies make inexpensive packs of plastic figures. These are not specifically made for fantasy role playing, but can easily be adapted for it. Inexpensive plastic monsters of many sizes are also available in local stores.” — p. B61

    “If the DM keeps track of monster and PC locations by memory alone, errors may sometimes occur. Miniature figures or other items to represent the opponents are useful for visualization and are best used on a gridded playing surface to indicate distances. A surface that can be further marked to indicate walls, furniture, etc. is ideal. ¶ If miniature figures are not available, try making abstract playing aids to represent monsters. These can be as simple as scraps of paper with numbers on them, dice, or pieces of round wooden dowel, each about an inch high and marked with a color and a number. With only 4 colors and single-digit numbers, an accurate account can be kept of up to 36 monsters. Players can identify their opponents by number and color (‘I hit red spectre #7 for 12 points!’), and the DM can use the same identification in private records. — 1985 Master rulebook, p. M21

    The Basic rulebook did not push minis quite as strongly as AD&D, but indicated that you had to use something to indicate marching order and tactical positioning. The Master rulebook went so far as to recommend do-it-yourself tokens (a topic dear to your heart, newbie?) made of wooden dowels, because you needed something to show position and distance. The Immortals rulebook practically assumed you were using miniatures, and suggested ways to represent 3D movement with minis. Also, AC[cessory] 3: 3-D Dragon Tiles featuring The Revenge of Rusak was a BECMI product, not an AD&D product.

    In sum, the BECMI rules and associated products encouraged the use of miniatures, and practically insisted that you had to have some kind of visible substitute if you weren’t using minis.

  3. You hear that?
    That’s the sound of me standing corrected…
    But I still believe that 1e, 2e, and BECMI weren’t as miniature-dependent as 3e+ are. Yes, they encouraged a “representation”of your character because they wanted to move pewter. :) It is a business after all.

  4. Do remember, though, that TSR didn’t get into manufacturing minis or selling them under the TSR brand name for quite some time. In the early years of AD&D, the official AD&D miniatures were produced and sold by Grenadier, perhaps a little bit like the official accessories produced by Gale Force 9 today.

  5. It is entirely possible that WotC purposely included a heavier focus on miniatures to help sell miniatures. But I don’t think the argument is very likely because of the timing of things.

    Let’s start with the black book: Players Option: Combat and Tactics which actually (re)introduced tactical grid-style combat to AD&D 2nd edition. This was published in 1995 and written primarily by Skip Williams and Rich Baker. It introduced a number of concepts that would eventually find their way (in a more streamlined way) into 3rd edition. But TSR didn’t sell miniatures and was already suffering from too many financial problems to consider expanding into the market. We know this because, two years later, the company was saved from bankruptcy by Wizards of the Coast.

    WotC first started discussing a 3rd Edition in 1997, even though it wasn’t officially released until 2000. The game included tactical, grid based combat that had some superficial similarities to the Combat and Tactics system. This probably isn’t surprising because Skip Williams was one of the three authors of the 3rd Edition PHB, DMG, and MM.

    Its entirely possible that some of the TSR folks (many of whom ended up at WotC) had already been testing ideas for a new edition to combat a fractured market and flagging sales, much like Book of Nine Swords and Star Wars Saga Edition provided testing grounds for a variety of 4E design concepts. Skip Williams and Rich Baker developed the Combat and Tactics system which provided the framework for 3E combat.

    It is also possible that WotC encouraged the mini focus because they wanted to sell minis. But the first forays into the mini line didn’t come until 2002 and 2003, first with the failed Chainmail game and then with the D&D Minis Game. Considering the tactical, mini-focussed combat first appeared in 1995 under the management of a different company that was struggling to revive its primary product lines, I don’t think that’s very likely though.

    I think the more likely scenario is that D&D 2nd Edition was trying to win back fans who had been leaving the market. They added the Options line to freshen the product line (and perhaps as a precursor to their own new edition), but they also probably started to wax nostalgiac about the old days and include more calls to nostalgia. At the time, table-top war games (like MechWarrior, Warhammer, and various Games Workshop offerings) were enjoying a resurgence in popularity, if I remember correctly, and that probably prompted them to bring more tactical wargame into D&D like the old days.

    I think when WotC tapped the designers to produce 3E, they included the Combat and Tactics style combat because it was a solid system that was brought down primarily by the kludgey, inconsistent subsystems of 2E and could be made workable under the streamlined game. And, once they had that out the door and 3E was doing very well (it did very well), they saw an opportunity to mass produce cheap, prepainted minis, which was something the market didn’t offer at the time. They capitalized on the opportunity and, of course, expanded it to draw in some of the collectible gamers and the wargamers as well.

    I can’t prove any of this (except things like release dates and author names and stuff), but given the timing of the releases, that would be my guess.

  6. Just to correct myself: TSR did produce miniatures, but they discontinued their line in 1984 and sold the line that eventually ended up with Citadel/Games Workshop.

  7. To expand upon something that Angry said, perhaps the real question in why did 2E de-emphasize miniatures so much? Our group in ’78/79 started with counters (that came with Metagaming’s Melee and Wizard) and moved into miniatures almost immediately. Collecting and painting and playing them was part of the hobby. At the earliest cons I went to in Ohio, there were *always* minis at the table. I drifted away from the hobby in the mid-80s, and was surprised when I came back to see how many people were so against mixing miniatures and RPing. At the time I wrote it off to a new infusion of gamers brought to the hobby by Vampire, but that’s probably an oversimplification and a coincidence. Nevertheless, as long as I’ve been buying games, there have been miniatures for almost every genre available, usually in the same section of the store.

  8. It’s important to point out: When 3rd edition first came out? There were no such D&D Miniatures. Everyone had to rediscover them at that point- Jonathan Tweet was running his demos with a jug full of plastic dinosaurs.

    They did put out a line of metal miniatures for the Chainmail game in 2001. And then they canceled it. The D&D Miniatures skirmish game came out a year later or so.

  9. One point I think needs mentioning here is not the reliance of the GAME MECHANICS on miniatures but the inspiration of the game itself from miniature based combat. In all previous editions of the game miniatures were used to represent what was happening in a tactile visual format. In 4e actual powers were derived whole cloth FROM miniatures (shift, push, pull, and slide effects in powers).

    I think that’s the main complaint about 4e and miniatures that the actual flavor comes from what a miniature does on a grid while in previous editions the miniatures where mainly used to referee the flavor for the players.

    Pre 4E: “I cast Fireball at the goblins.” (Uses miniatures to figure who and what is effected).

    4E: “I use my “Inexorable Shift” to move this goblin left one space.”

  10. I have to disagree strongly. Early versions of D&D allowed for the use of miniatures, but they were not required or even really needed for combat. Most players did not use miniatures except, perhaps, to display their party’s marching order. I wrote a fairly detailed commentary on this issue in the Retroroleplaying blog back in June of 2008: “Early Versions of D&D were NOT Tactical Combat Minis Games

  11. Randall, I don’t think you’re wrong, but I don’t see anyone here claiming that the game was a “Tactical Combat Minis Game” or that early version required miniatures. Nevertheless, miniatures and a grid and even tactics were a part of the game in the late 70s for some of us (we drew heavily on Metagaming’s Melee for inspiration). Like many other things, the game text itself encouraged us to do so, as shown here. You can’t deny miniatures were being released, bought and used, and the variety of figures available certainly went beyond showing marching order for just the party.

  12. RandallS: As quoted above, D&D, AD&D, and BECMI D&D did not just “allow for” the use of miniatures. The rules written by Gygax urged the use of miniatures, and the BECMI rules essentially stated that if you don’t have miniatures, you need to get something else to substitute for miniatures. I stand by my thesis statement: “D&D rules as written have always encouraged strict tracking of tactical positioning and have always encouraged the use of miniatures for that purpose.” In AD&D (1e), area of effect measurements and ranges for spells (for example) were given in inches and presupposed a grid composed of 25mm squares or hexes—just like 4e. To adjudicate spells like detect magic as they are written in the AD&D PH, you not only need to keep track of where the caster is standing, but also which direction s/he is facing and where s/he turns (within the limits imposed by the spell) during the spell’s duration. You can do all this without minis, but not without attention to position, facing, distance, and so on—not if you’re playing with RAW.

    cibet: While it’s true that 4e leverages the grid to give players a lot more control over their own and especially their enemies’ positions, these elements were not entirely absent from earlier editions. Clearly, such effects are more frequent in 4e, but comparing a pre-4e fireball to 4e’s inexorable shift is a little bit like comparing apples and oranges. Why not instead compare AD&D’s gust of wind: “It will force back small flying creatures 1" to 6" and cause man-sized ones to be held motionless if attempting to move into its force, and similarly slow large flying creatures by 50% for 1 round.” Or fear: “Creatures affected by fear flee at their fastest rate for the number of melee rounds equal to the level of experience of the spell caster” (in 4e, this would be represented by a push effect). In AD&D, ice storm had an 8" diameter area of effect, in which it slowed movement by 50% and made it 50% probable that that a moving creature would slip and fall when trying to move; in 4e, this would be expressed as a burst 3 or 4 zone of difficult terrain, and the prone condition would be worked in there somehow. The AD&D telekinesis spell could move creatures, as could Bigby’s forceful hand and repulsion. Again, I freely admit that 4e makes much more use of forced movement, but at least since 1979, such effects have been part of D&D’s standard repertoire.

    It’s also worth noting that movement options in AD&D and BECMI were extremely limited during combat. During AD&D melee combat, you could attack, parry, fall back, or flee—and not much else. Naturally, the more freely characters can move around the battlefield, the more you need a way to keep track of where they are. This is only a change in degree, though, not a change in the fundamental attitude toward tactical positioning.

  13. Does the original intent of the creators of the game really matter all that much? I would think that every group should simply make use of miniatures as much or as little as they enjoy. It’s obvious at this point that Wizards of the Coast are emphasizing the sale of miniatures because it is a great way for them to make money, but you can choose to use whatever rule system, and whatever modification of that system that you want.

    Lets remember that the post started off espousing a “game and let game” attitude

    • Joseph, Wizards of the Coast has never done very well making money from miniatures sales. Neither did TSR before them.

      I agree, as I stated at the beginning, that players should play what and how they enjoy. My point here is the history of the game, not to tell people how or what to play.

  14. Well researched article

    Cibet has hit the nail on the head “the flavour comes from what a miniature does on a grid”. In all previous versions before 3 movement was expressed in inches, spell effects had radii, movement along a diagonal was the same as movement orthogonally. The emphasis was on representative combat not tactical miniatures combat, that’s a boardgame!.

    Yes, we’ve all been using grids since the early days, but in a much less formal way than this. I’m guessing that these grid rules were heavily influenced by heroclix and the other collectible miniatures games but it turns D&D into a mechanical game, and a slow one at that.

    4e builds on this and my heart goes out to the new kids seeing it at organised play events (thankfully something we don’t get much of in the UK) and thinking that this IS D&D a miniatures combat game.

  15. Icosahedrophilia: I see your point but I’m not sure I explained myself well enough for you to see mine. It’s not the control over enemy positions or any other specific power where 4E differs, it’s the inspiration for the powers where 4E goes in a different direction than previous editions of the game.

    It seems to me the 4E designers looked at a grid with miniatures on it and starting designing powers, abilities, and frankly a game system based on it. The 4E designers looked at a grid and said “We need a power that allows a PC to move enemies into melee range.” or “It would be cool if my guy could push away these guys and keep out of melee.”

    While in previous editions of the game the designers said “You know that fireblast thing Gandalf did to those orcs? How do you think we can emulate that in this game?” or for later editions “We have to figure out a way to make this game more uniform so that players everywhere are playing the same game when they do that cool fireblast thing Gandalf did to those orcs.”

    I think this is what many people mean when they say 4E is a tactical miniatures game while previous editions are more role playing games. The “trunk” of the 4E tree is a game system and the branches and leaves are the out of game inspirations. In previous editions of the game the “trunk” is the out of game inspirations while the branches and leaves are the rules of the game. They are just different philosophies that look similar from a distance but when you get up close you can see how different they are.

  16. I’ve played 4e with and without minis, so I know that it is completely possible to play it just like any other edition. You don’t have to play with minis. The game works without them.
    However, I do have to agree with cibet. While older editions have rules and options that allow/encourage the use of minis, 4e does seem to be designed under the assumption that minis will be used.
    I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that or that you should/shouldn’t use minis. While I may not prefer 4e, I do not deny that it is a solid game that does what it is designed to to well. Play what you like, how you like and if you have an extra spot at the table I’ll even join in.

  17. It appears that there are two concurrent debates on this topic. One, regarding how much of an emphasis the RULES placed upon miniature use, supported by accessory products such as minis & battlemats having existed pretty much from day one. Two, how much of an emphasis on using miniatures there was amongst the players and the rpg community as a whole. It is in this second area that there appears to be the most variation, with different groups in different areas and eras adhering less to the rules-based recommendations for miniatures use than other groups. This divergence of the players from the rules seems to have been the most prominent during the AD&D 2ed era, so much so that TSR/WoTC had to reinvest into bringing players’ perspectives back into alignment with a miniatures-centric focus with 3E.

  18. Chris, first off, I have no interest in 4E, and I do believe it is too tactical, but I still have not missed an episode of your podcast! While the game mechanics often cause me to shout at my iPod while driving, your story is great.

    Having presented my bias, I will disagree with the basic tenet of your post. While miniatures were often discussed, and definitely encouraged in the pre-3 editions, their use was absolutely unnecessary whereas with 3E and up, I will argue that they are not optional. (and minis can mean counters or what have you).

    I started gaming with AD&D and I played a LOT from 1980 to about 1995. I cannot remember a single game where minis were used extensively in each combat. They were usually used to indicate marching order, and then battlemats or sheets of paper were used during combat. I recall how each battle would result in a mess of X’s, O’s, lines indicating movement, and the like.

    When I got back into gaming, with 3E, the need for minis was apparent, given the rules for attack of opportunity, flanking, etc. When I listen to your podcast, I hear many of the same types of comments that were common in my 3E experience. In addition, with the introduction of powers, the grid is now mandatory in order to determine effects of almost every action in combat. It is rare to hear one of your players simply swing a sword!

    Your post was very timely for me, as I have been reading my AD&D PHB and DMG over the last couple of weeks, in detail, for the first time in probably 20 years. Many of the passages you quoted jumped out at me as I thought that it must have been Gygax trying to gear up sales of official minis! I’m reading these old books as I have convinced my gaming group that we should go back to AD&D!

  19. Icosahedrophilia, from everything I’ve read above from the earlier books (and I played 1st edition AD&D) while those earlier editions may have suggested/urged the use of grid maps and minis, it clearly was more as a convenience and less integrated into the way the game works. Compare the 1st edition AD&D Fireball spell to the 4e Fireball power (apples to apples).


    Range: 10 yds. + 10 yds./level Components: V,S,M
    Casting Time: 3 Segment(s) Duration: Instantaneous
    Area of Effect: 20-ft radius Saving Throw: 1/2

    Description: A fireball is an explosive burst of flame, which detonates with a low roar and delivers damage proportional to the level of the wizard who cast it–1d6 points of damage for each level of experience of the spellcaster (up to a maximum of 10d6). The burst of the fireball creates little pressure and generally conforms to the shape of the area in which it occurs. The fireball fills an area equal to its normal spherical volume (roughly 33,000 cubic feet–thirty-three 10-foot x 10-foot x 10-foot cubes). Besides causing damage to creatures, the fireball ignites all combustible materials within its burst radius, and the heat of the fireball melts soft metals such as gold, copper, silver, etc. Exposed items require saving throws vs. magical fire to determine if they are affected, but items in the possession of a creature that rolls a successful saving throw are unaffected by the fireball.

    The wizard points his finger and speaks the range (distance and height) at which the fireball is to burst. A streak flashes from the pointing digit and, unless it impacts upon a material body or solid barrier prior to attaining the prescribed range, blossoms into the fireball (an early impact results in an early detonation). Creatures failing their saving throws each suffer full damage from the blast. Those who roll successful saving throws manage to dodge, fall flat, or roll aside, each receiving half damage (the DM rolls the damage and each affected creature suffers either full damage or half damage [round fractions down], depending on whether the creature saved or not).

    The material component of this spell is a tiny ball of bat guano and sulphur.


    A globe of orange flame coalesces in your hand. You hurl it at your enemies, and it explodes on impact.

    Daily Arcane, Evocation, Fire, Implement
    Standard Action Area burst 3 within 20 squares

    Target: Each creature in the burst

    Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex

    Hit: 4d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.

    Miss: Half damage.

    The AD&D spell has a range of yards and a radius of feet, whereas the 4e spell has a range and radius of squares. This clearly has a different feel to it. That’s not to say that 4e is bad or even not as good at earlier versions. But it does have a very different feel.

    By the way, I very much enjoyed playing with you and your son at Orccon this past weekend.

    • Gimper, you were at OrcCon? I’m sure we enjoyed playing with you too, although I can’t identify you from your screen name. :-)

      As for fireball, my 1st edition AD&D PH from 1978 gives the range as 10" + 1"/level and the area of effect as a 2" radius sphere. In AD&D, an inch had different meanings above ground (1" = 10 yards) and below ground (1" = 10 feet). I wonder why our Player’s Handbooks read differently.

      At any rate, I’m by no means claiming that the editions were identical with regard to miniatures, only that they are not as different as I sometimes hear. Note that 10" in AD&D, while in a dungeon, is the same distance as 20 squares in D&D 4e, and a burst 3 (7 x 7 squares, or 35 x 35 feet) is about as close as 4e can get to an AD&D 2" radius (40 feet across at the greatest extent). At the very least, the 4e designers and developers have done a lot to keep much of the flavor of AD&D and even earlier forms intact.

  20. Icosahedrophilia, I was the guy in the wheelchair (hence my screen name) who played Thaddeus the human Thief. We played the Friday afternoon slot (Good Intentions?) and the Sunday morning slot (Secret Crypts, Hidden Dangers?) together.

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