There’s a wide range of pre-designed DnD miniatures you can use to represent characters and creatures in your campaign. But should you splash out on a pre-built final boss, or are you better off with a custom creation? After using Eldritch Foundry to create my own version of Strahd von Zarovich, I’m leaning towards the latter.
Sites like Eldritch Foundry, Hero Forge, and TitanCraft make it easier than ever to create a custom DnD miniature. It’s common to use these for player-characters, and the platforms are filled with options to best represent your favorite DnD classes and DnD races. But no need to stop there – a custom DnD monster mini can be far superior to any official product.
To test this theory, I turned to Eldritch Foundry (who kindly provided a coupon for the experiment) to recreate one of Dungeons and Dragons’ most infamous villains (who also happens to star in my current DnD campaign), Strahd von Zarovich.
I attempted to best the quality of Gale Force Nine’s takes on Strahd von Zarovich, as these are the most widely available licensed official figures for the character. Here we see Strahd poised for battle and atop his fiery steed Bucephalus.
The first pro of a custom Strahd mini was immediately obvious to me – accuracy. While Strahd von Zarovich has an extensive military history, there is no mention of a sword in his official stat block. Considering Strahd is unlikely to lift a DnD weapon in-game, it feels wrong to have him wielding swords in two separate minis.
Beyond accuracy, total control of your mini allows you to customize it for your campaign. You may have added your own flair to a pre-written creature, or perhaps you have a final boss who’s entirely DnD homebrew. However much is your own work, you can craft a mini that feels like it’s yours.
(For me, this manifested as long periods spent agonizing over Strahd’s exact expression. As well as how big to make his behind – because these are the kinds of questions you need to ask as a Dungeon Master.)
You will, of course, have to paint your creation yourself. For many, that’s par for the course, as many pre-made minis (Gale Force Nine’s Strahd included) come un-painted. Besides, it makes the mini feel even more like a personal project when you get to decide the paint job.
If you lack the confidence or passion for painting miniatures, however, this might chalk up as a con rather than a pro. I myself had never painted a mini before, so please be gentle when you see how I’ve massacred the most famous DnD vampire.
There are other cons to the custom experience too. While Eldritch Foundry’s customization options are broad, they aren’t unlimited. You can see this with my version of Bucephalus – Eldritch Foundry only offer a single model for a steed, so I couldn’t recreate the dynamic posing of Gale Force Nine’s mini.
You’re also in a tight spot if you want to create a creature that isn’t humanoid. The biggest custom mini sites have very limited options beyond the bipedal, and Eldritch Foundry suffers this same problem. I can build a delightfully detailed Strahd mini, but I can’t create my own DnD Beholder.
Plus, there’s the price to think about. Gale Force Nine offers both its Strahd minis for $25 (£20.60), while that’s the cost of a single miniature from Eldritch Foundry. If you want both Strahd standing and Strahd on his steed, that’s going to be $64 plus shipping.
(Admittedly, I think Eldritch Foundry’s shipping is pretty reasonable. And as a UK resident, I was impressed with how quick the delivery time was.)
A custom mini can feel like a luxury item next to its pre-made sibling. But hey, at least you’ll never have to worry about your mini going out of print (looking at you, Wizkids Strahd).
When asking yourself if a custom mini is the better option for you, the answer is going to be a very un-sexy “It depends”. It depends on how many arms, legs, and heads your main monster has. It depends on whether you love or loathe mini painting. And it depends on how tight your budget is.
But I will say this – I’d choose my custom Strahd over any pre-designed alternative.
If you’re looking to get into miniatures, here are the best miniature paintbrushes, the best paints for miniatures, and the best 3D printers to create minis from home. And, if you’re planning a Ravenloft campaign like me, here’s plenty of horror miniatures that come recommended by our resident Warhammer 40k expert.