History of Lego D&D

After surveying the Facebook group, I found that people have been using Lego to play D&D since 1980. It is possible that someone else started even earlier. Let's take a trip through the past, to see what real and/or plausible games of D&D would have looked like using the Lego available at the time. Here are the best Lego sets available for running a D&D game, when various editions of D&D were first released:


Original D&D

When the very first version of the game was released in 1974, there were no Lego minifigs. The first proto-minifigs were released in 1975, the year that Greyhawk was released and the game became independent of Chainmail rules:

That is basically the entire catalog of minifigs, and of sets other than basic bricks that might be useful in a D&D game, in 1975. There was nothing medieval, and no fantasy elements, but you could have made it work. All you need for castles and dungeon walls is basic bricks, and cowboy hats are always a good way to represent adventurers. All of the monsters would have been brick-built, with no advanced building techniques, because they did not have any pieces other than wheels and fences to make studs go sideways. Here is a humanoid enemy build that one of the people used:
There was, however, a ready supply of giants with articulated arms:

Depending on the desired tone of the game, you could leave those faces or replace them with something brick-built. You could also use them to make four-limbed things.


Advanced D&D

In 1978, the year that the AD&D PHB was released, Lego started selling its first actual minifigs, and a Castle set with medieval weapons and armor:

There were a few other options for equipping minifigs for dungeon-delving. Here are some guys with pick, shovel, handaxe, and a different helmet style:

And that is basically it. Any game would have to use those minis and tools, plus brick-built things. But people were already running games with Lego. Creative children will use whatever they can get their hands on.


2nd Edition

When AD&D 2nd edition was released in 1989, Lego Classic Castle had been going for several years. There were more realistic castle/dungeon walls, a better variety of equipment, elements like barrels and treasure chests, and even minifigs suitable for elves:



Also in 1989, Lego introduced Pirates, giving more elements and clothing options, and minifigs with faces:



Also, by this time, most of the elements for modern building techniques, like clips, bars, hinges, and headlight bricks, had been introduced, as well as tubes and other elements needed to make things like a Beholder (although it would have used a colored radar dish for the central eye). You could easily make most of what you needed for a D&D game, and it would have looked right. By this time, Lego was already better for running games than pewter figurines, even though there were no obvious fantasy elements.


3rd Edition

By the time 3rd Edition was released on 2000, Lego had been producing fantasy-themed Castle sets for years:



There were skeletons, ghosts, dragons, witch and wizard minifigs, and a huge variety of specialized weapons and armor. There were also oriental-themed sets:


and the Adventurers sets:



At this point, Lego sets are practically begging to be used in a D&D game.

Everything produced since then is just icing on the cake. All of the new minifigs and accessories are nice, but not essential. The only things that I would really miss if I was limited to 20th century Lego are the click hinges, technic friction pegs, and mixel ball joints that let you make much better customized brick-built monsters.

Build Guide: Modrons

I like Modrons, and I am glad they came back for 5th edition:
 These goofy clownlike relentless alien creatures of law and clockwork make for interesting encounters:


These builds are all based on their appearance in the 5th edition Monster Manual, but with one change. I do not have any appropriate Lego face tiles (Nixels do not have the right tone, but some of the new kryptomite faces might work), so I emphasized their goofiness by using ski pieces to give them clown feet.

Monodrone


This is a simple build focusing on the circular body and wings. With my emphasis on the feet, I made it a monopod to match the theme.

Duodrone


 Another simple build, start with a 2x3 plate and add the limbs and eyes:



Tridrone


These are very similar to my Xorn build. Make three segments with clips, and roll them up:

 


 



Quadrone


Returning to a cube shape makes for another easy build:


Pentadrone


This is another clip-and-roll build, but with the addition of a dome on top.



 


The dome is not connected to the rest of the build, but the axle just fits in the hole in the middle, and a gear on the bottom holds it in place:


Locked Door Build Guide

Here is the build guide for the locked secret door from the previous post. Each picture shows the parts used in the next step:






The 2x16 plate and the 6x10 plate can be replaced by shorter ones, if necessary.




The plates covering and concealing the hinge prevent the door from opening in the direction of the studs, and the piece on the swivel keeps it from being pushed away, until it is turned with one of the keys from the Elves sets (or a Technic axle).

You can decorate the wall however you like. Slope bricks create the appearance of a rough-hewn tunnel, as in the last post, and smooth plates make it look like a wall. You can add basically anything as decoration:



It would be fairly easy to make the wall taller so that the door is larger, but if the walls with secret doors are taller than all of the other walls you use, it will be obvious that something is going on.

If you want this to be placed on a Lego baseplate, then it becomes a much harder build. An experienced Lego builder could figure something out, but it is a lot easier to set the terrain for your games by placing walls on the mat or grid.

Trick and Secret Doors

I like secret doors, and try to add a few whenever I can:




The one built into an extension of the ninja fort is extremely well-hidden:




The old railway platform baseplates are great for big secret doors, because the big ugly rock pieces can slide on the studless area:



Here are some built into my basic flexible dungeon wall segments:



The one in the middle is a fake secret door, meant to look like it should open even though it does not. More on that later.

Here are closeups of the individual secret doors or panels:







Next we have a secret door that also requires a Lego key to open:





Closeup of the mechanism:


This 'bank vault door' can only be opened with a magnetic staff:





The mechanism is basically just a Lego magnet on sliding plates in a frame


Next we have a wall that becomes a staircase:

video

Still shots, from the back end:





A smaller one, over a pit:

video

And the stills:




Using in Game

Secret doors are fun to build, but with a regular game, it is too much work to make new ones for each session, and after you use a door technique a few times, players will recognize it. The key to reusing them is to sometimes use the secret door piece as an ordinary wall segment that cannot be opened. Be open with your players that you are doing this. When they are accustomed to seeing the wall segments with secret doors used as regular walls, they will not always assume it can or should be opened.

It also helps to add details to wall segments that look like they might be secret doors, but are not. Once players are accustomed to seeing a lot of things on walls that might or might not be secrets, then it is no longer obvious.

Alternately, you could never place the secret door segment on the map initially, have any normal wall potentially be a secret door, and when they find it, replace the normal wall Lego piece with the secret door piece.