RPGs: Metal or Plastic?

I’ve always enjoyed painting pewter figures over their plastic counterparts.  The heft makes them easier to handle and they feel like they just take paint better (a trick of the mind, I’m sure).  Plastic models are far easier to customize and modifty, but pewter makes for a more solid figure that I prefer for some intangible reason. Lately though, I’ve found my opinion switched when it comes to using figures for role-playing games. The pewter is still preferable for painting, but plastics seem more beneficial at the table.

Wayne's character "in the belly of the beast"

I think that this is primarily due to the resilience of plastic. Dropping (or even just knocking over) a pewter figure can result in damage.  Beast case scenario, that means a weapon or arm has to be bent back into place, but worst case scenario it means something snapping off that needs pinning and replacing… in multiple places.  And that’s not to mention the repainting necessary.

In contrast, plastic figures have a resilience that lets them take a fall better. The relative elasticity of the medium, combined with the model’s lighter weight, means an accident with a plastic miniature is far less catastrophic than its metal counterpart.

I’ve also found that people are far more careful with my painted metal figures than my plastic ones – painted or otherwise.  I do appreciate the care that they show, but then being a little more liberal with them can lead to interesting uses at the game table.

My druid climbs to save him

The pictures shown here are an example  from one of our recent sessions.  In the combat shown, a large monster formed from an animated bridge (yes, as weird as it sounds) had “swallowed” one character.  Instead of simply using another figure to represent the beast, we built the monster here out of wooden blocks, complete with a space in the middle for the trapped character.

If we had been using metal figures, I’m not sure anyone would have thought to do this.  If someone bumped the table and knocked the block monster over, it could damage metal figures.  Likewise, metal figures perched either inside or on the hip (as I did with mine as it climbed the construct) could be dislodged and tumble to the table.

I know I spray seal the bejebus out of my figures, and for the most part I’ll take those risk with my figures.  But most other people I game with don’t, even if I tell them it’s ok.  When we’re role-playing we want to concentrate on the game, not (over)protecting miniatures.  Plastic figures – both pre-painted and not – just seem more convenient in that regard.

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