Welcome to LEGO and Tabletop Adventures - Character Creation
A short multiple-part series talking about how we use LEGO in our Table Top Role-Playing Game (TTRPG) of Dungeons and Dragons. In this article, we'll show you how we make Fantasy Figures, and where to look for inspiration
So in our previous articles, we’ve talked about how we use LEGO for Dungeons and Dragons and how we use it to make game tiles, but what about the characters? The enemies? The real essence of creativity?
Well worry not, that’s what today’s article is all about!
Now, this is article that not only Dungeons and Dragons players will benefit from, but all Castle and Fantasy-Themed LEGO enthusiasts might have something to take away from this.
We’re covering the default races of the Table-Top Role-Playing Game Dungeons and Dragons as a guide, covering all things from Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs and all things in between! As well as providing a little insight as to how we get around some of the more tricky races from the game.
All parts are GENUINE LEGO. No third-party or knock-offs here! Just a few arm-swaps on torsos. I’ll also be providing information as to what themes to look out for, for each race.
Cassian Walcox, Human Battlemaster Fighter and Highwayman (left), Elizabeth Ryker, Human Life Cleric and Lieutenant-Commander of the Wardens (right)
“HuMaNs ArE tHe MoSt BoRiNg ClAsS” – The uneducated TTRPG Player
As far as humans go, in any fantasy setting, most people would believe them to be dull and uninteresting. If you believe this, we cannot be friends. Both with LEGO building and Fantasy world-building, a boring Human is only boring if you make them that way. A quick oversight to any character, any avoidance to injecting life into them, will easily stagnate a build.
Even out of LEGO, a human/Minifigure can be so versatile with the parts available. You only need to inject life into it.
The best way to make your fantasy figures interesting is to try and make them extremely obvious what they are, by simply looking at them. You can tell a construction worker from a lawyer in the real world, the same idea applies here. Mages have staves, wands or raw magic in their hands, ruffians and thugs have face bandanas or daggers.
The biggest conversation to have is “Flesh coloured” or “Yellow coloured” characters?
Derevin Blacktongue, Assassination Rogue (left), Vanessa Springbark, Kensei Monk (middle), Caradin Lonthorn, Arcane Archer Fighter (right)
There a variety of pros and cons to both:
Flesh coloured have more dynamic and less-cartoony faces, as well as have access to better elven accessories (later in the article), however, lack a little less versatility with tattooed or half/armoured designs. Flesh coloured also usually mean licensed properties, which mean more $$$, but unlock the ability to have racial human diversity.
Yellow coloured figures are great to convey a larger variety of emotion and have more customisable options as new themes and CMF series are released. The downfall comes from making elves, as there is not a lot of options for yellow-skinned elves against their flesh-coloured counterparts. If using this colour for TTRPGs, you need to think about all the races.
For me personally, I use yellow coloured figures as the base race and then add in the darker coloured skin tones from the licensed sets. I know at least someone will point out that that defeats the purpose of the yellow colour that LEGO use, but it’s what I do. I try to have my human races as ethnically diverse as I possibly can to make the fantasy setting more interesting.
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: All castle-based themes, LOTR and the Hobbit, Ninjago (especially 2020), some aspects of Harry Potter.
Ingrid Straggard, Totem Barbarian (left), Mendax Humblebruk, Mastermind Rogue and BBEG of my 3-year campaign (middle), Eruk Bristlebark, Forge Cleric (right)
Dwarves are hearty folk and usually unmistakable for their large beards and fascination with metalworking. That is so long as you are a mountain dwarf. Hillside dwarves are peaceful farmers, expeditions, explorers or whatever else your heart so desires. Dwarves are not the shortest of races, even in Lord of the Rings managing to be almost a whole third higher than Hobbits (halflings).
I find the best way to convey this is with the new medium leg piece introduced recently, it isn’t available in a huge number of colours, but there are slowly more and more new designs coming through. Even if you don’t have these parts, the traditional short legs will do. To make a stereotypical dwarf, lean into the large bearded faceprints or beard attachments for the males, the gruffer the better. For females, I find using the tattoo pieces, or any real alluding to hammers or metal conveys the message well enough (or give them beards like LOTR!)
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: Castle 2007, LOTR and the Hobbit, some aspects of Ninjago (especially 2020), CMF series.
Twin siblings Fiona and Flint Derrybroke, New Adventurers.
Hearty folk. Happy-go-lucky adventurers in the making. Love their food and love their pipeweed. Such a simple life. Making halflings sounds simple enough, but if you don’t do it right, they’ll just look like children!
Make sure to give your halflings plenty of adventuring gear, whether that be lightly armoured torsos (as pictured) or even backpacks. It is quite important to make sure the faces you choose show some form of aged look to differentiate them from children. Makeup, scars, small tufts of facial hair, all these things help convey a certain look. In large dioramas, or if it fits the narrative, “starter” adventurer gear like small weapons, cooking utensils or wooden shields show their humble beginnings.
Worst case, give them food to hold. Can’t go wrong there.
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: CMF, LOTR and the Hobbit.
ELVES AND HALF ELVES
Elivana Idriell, High Elf Archfey Warlock (left), Allimuun Celubrum, High Elf Loremaster Bard (middle), Avander Ditumatch, Half-Elf Bladesong Wizard (right)
Ah elves, either the world’s greatest protectors or biggest buttheads. Blessed with immortal life, most Elves look down on the lesser races with either intrigue or disgust. No matter how you convey them, elves have a certain look the either demands authority or showcases how free-flowy they are.
This is also where the Flesh vs. Yellow conversation really kicks it up a notch.
For yellow coloured figures, as it stands, there are two headpieces with elven ears, excluding Christmas elves and both came from CMF series. One hairpiece is blonde short hair, as pictured above, and the other is a nougat-brown long hairpiece for females. That’s it. So if you want to go toward yellow-skin, you need to get creative!
Convey the elven nature through the clothing or physique of the character. Defining facial lines, long forest-maiden-like hair or even very leafy-esque or royal clothing. It’s tricky, but with enough of these features overlapping, you can tell a figure is of that lineage.
Illeana Crachbor, Beast-Master Ranger and Princess of Forlan (left), Corigbane Crachbor, Scarred-King and Tyrant-Lord of Forlan (middle), Forlan Guard (right)
On the flip side, flesh-coloured skin reigns supreme here with elves. You have a lot more versatility for elven headpieces thanks to the Lord of the Rings, Hobbit and LEGO Elves lines. LEGO Elves are especially good in this regard, as they also provide racial versatility and more vibrant colours! LOTR has, unfortunately, “white” elves, but the LEGO Elves theme had toned skin types and bright colour headpieces to make the characters truly stand out. If you use both yellow and darker flesh tones as I do, you can really get the best of both worlds. I feel bad I didn’t get a photo of one of these examples for the article now...
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: All castle-based themes, LOTR and the Hobbit, Ninjago (especially 2020), CMF, LEGO Elves.
Reif Tippertutt, Horizon Walker Ranger (left), Maven Gippen, Wild-Magic Sorceror (middle), Minerva Cloverseen, Echo Knight Fighter (right)
Gnomes are… tricky. How do you stop them from looking like halflings?
They use the same small legs and can be easily mistaken. By the handbook of Dungeons and Dragons, they look very different from halflings. But conveying them to a figure, how do we make it happen?
The best way I’ve found is to make them look like halflings, but nicer. Dress gnomes in the same manner that you would dress an elf and then just give them short legs. Avoid any faces that have facial hair, and the more “childish” the expression, the better.
Alternatively, another way you can do this is to use the Christmas elf hats that LEGO use each year, which would give a gnome-y vibe. Try to look out for the exclusive colours that seem to occasionally pop up, like red and pink, to differentiate from the normal outright green that they make.
ORCS AND HALF-ORCS
Rhagazabarr the Grumpy, Orc Champion Fighter (left), and Murt, a “Munce” from Ninjago 2020 (right).
Orcs and Half-Orcs have been done in LEGO before, so if you own any of the 2007 Castle wave or any of the 2020 Ninjago Wave, you’re pretty well set for having these parts easily on hand. That being said, these versions of the characters are quite monstrous, so they work well for enemies, but not so much for charismatic player-characters. Use the bare-torso versions for barbarians, but armour them up with some plate-mail, metal scrappy weapons and you cannot go wrong.
One of my players played a Half-Orc character, which is essentially one human and one orc parentage. Being able to convey this in a less-monstrous figure certainly helped showcase how “tame” this character was by comparison to his blood-thirsty kin.
Malakai Bowtro, Half-Orc Wild-Magic Sorceror and only original cast member to survive our 3-year long campaign, despite nearly dying outright on 5 separate occasions.
I was lucky enough to have a green-tinted headpiece from the Ninjago character Cole from a previous wave and I implore you to keep an eye on different coloured heads as they come out for these more eccentric races as we continue on.
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: Castle 2007, LOTR and the Hobbit, Ninjago (especially 2020).
Jihan Shadowhorn, Battlerager Barbarian
Demon-humans, whether it be a relationship with an otherworldly demon, a blessing or curse, or a debt fulfilled, this is the race that stands out amongst a crowd for all the wrong reasons.
If you’ve never played Dungeons and Dragons, you’ve probably never heard of a Tiefling. These normally-red-skinned characters are fun to play, but hard to convey in LEGO. Or so originally thought.
The past couple of years have been ripe with the right stuff to make your demon-humans stand out. The Nexo-Knights waves, as controversial as they were with the AFOL castle community, gave us our own versions of Tieflings, monsters from the Book of Monsters. You can easily pick up the parts you need to make the most standard of Tieflings from this wave – just add a demon-tail from the CMF Trick or Treater, and you’re gold!
But what if you want more eccentric Tieflings? Not digging the red? Fortunately, there are options. If you want to stick to yellow-skinned, or “normal-looking person with horns”, then you can simply opt for the Satyr horns from the CMF series.
Mordecai Chalamein, War Magic Wizard
If you’re looking to dabble in other colours, the recent 2020 Monkie Kid set 80015 has two demon characters name Jin and Yin who are perfect to use! If you want to take it one step further as we have, mix them in with Star Wars character heads, like Aayla Secura and Ahsoka Tano.
Illarah Ryslemark, Psi Warrior Fighter (left), Amiria Shandiclain, Alchemist Bloodhunter (right)
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: Monkie Kid, Nexo Knights (Wave 1), CMF, Star Wars.
DRAGONBORN, AND OTHER ECCENTRIC RACES
Atrimund Splinterveil, Gold Dragonborn Eldritch Knight (left), Evelyndir Splinterveil, Gold Dragonborn Dragon Knight (right)
Without a doubt, these are the hardest ones to pull off. Dragonborn are a race of humanoid with draconic like features. There are multiple ways to try and pull this off in Minifigure form with purist LEGO parts and if I don’t think I’ve seen it fully pulled off, including by me!
I’ve seen the CMF Dragon suit be used, the Serpentine from Ninjago, and honestly, if that’s what you like, go for it! If you’re wanting my take on it, I just try to keep to the solid coloured Minifigure heads.
Banforth Shimmervein, Silver Dragonborn Paladin of Devotion, next to a quite horrifying stack of heads.
My reasoning for this is simple, complicated Minifigure headpieces mean that you can't use any form of headgear with the figure. A Dragonborn can still wear a helmet, but you lose a bit of that if the figure can’t either.
Not all Dragonborn or eccentric racial colours exist in LEGO yet and they will slowly expand over time. You can use the same headpieces from the Nexo Knights used in the Tiefling section above us or use almost any licensed coloured head. Heck, even the nougat-coloured headpieces can double up as a copper or bronze-coloured Dragonborn!
Another way you can convey the nature of a Dragonborn character is to lean hard into its colour palette. Silver Dragonborn? Silvers Word, shield and armour!
The best thing to do is to keep an eye on the sets that come with these different coloured figures, such as Star Wars or Ninjago, and go from there.
Hot Tip -
Significant themes to keep an eye on: Monkie Kid, Nexo Knights, Ninjago, Star Wars.
These are just my experiences with these sorts of characters and are intended as a guide only for those just starting out.
For those wondering how I get these parts and characters, I’ll be honest, most are already in my collection. I was a huge LOTR and Hobbit fan before I found Dungeons and Dragons.
There are a lot of other ways to get some of these interesting parts and I for one would highly recommend Bricklink.com or even using Bricks and Pieces on the LEGO.com website (a guide for this will be coming to Cheepjokes.com eventually, stay tuned!)
The next article coming in this series is all about enemies! Though not wholly Minifigure focused, I’ll be showing off a few designs for creatures that I use that work within the 4x4 grid system talked about in our previous post here.
Thank you for reading!