Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Set Recommendations: May 2015

These are my picks of the Lego sets currently available in stores that will be most useful for running a fantasy role-playing game. I tend to recommend sets that are flexible and cost-effective.

New Lego GMs

Treehouse and/or Mountain Hut: Both of these are solid choices that produce a good variety of adventure settings. Each one has instructions to be rebuilt into three things, and once you have experience building these from the instructions, you should be confident in your ability to make similar things from a pile of loose bricks.

Red Creatures: Every D&D game needs a big red dragon, and you can have a very good one for $15. If your party is not ready to handle a dragon, they can take down a giant snake or a giant scorpion instead. I actually prefer the scorpion to show off the potential of Lego RPG fights: the claws can pick up the characters they have grappled, the characters can hack off legs, claws, and other body parts, and they can can climb on the back of the monster to avoid its claws (or even climb up the tail to chop off the stinger).

Lava Falls and Jungle Trap: Both of these sets are excellent values, almost perfect for a Lego GM. For only $7 or $8, you get two minifigs, a good terrain feature, and a magic weapon to claim as loot. Given that you expect to pay $3 or $4 for a minifig, the terrain is basically free.

If you bought everything listed above, it would cost $100. As described in the Starter Guide,  the basic supplies will cost another $100. That $200 will give you enough to run games for a long time. You will have eight adventure locations just from following the instructions, not counting all the terrain features that come in the Fantasy minifigures set. You will have twelve large monsters (and three small ones) just from following the instructions, and two or three more if you download and use the combined mixel instructions. And if you start rebuilding things and using your creativity to create new locations and creatures, the possibilities expand dramatically.

Expanding the Collection

Lego bricks can be addictive. Even though you only need a few of them, it is often tempting to keep buying more. Right now is almost the perfect time to be a Lego GM, because there are so many good sets available. There are so many obvious choices, like the Hobbit sets and the new Pirate sets, and many less obvious ones, like certain sets from City and Ultra Agents. You are limited only by your budget and the direction you choose to take your campaign in. I will highlight several sets, in roughly descending order of how much I recommend them, that I find to be good values or unexpected choices. They key to making a good Lego GM collection is to gather up a big variety of things, because that expands the possibilities of the people you can represent and the places you can build.

Chima Tribe Packs, for example the the Crocodile Tribe Pack. Any fantasy campaign needs bestial humanoids, and these also add useful accessories and pieces that will make larger monsters.

Treasure Island: If you want to add a pirate-themed adventure to your campaign, this will do the job nicely for only $20. You get three people, including an excellent pirate lady, as well as a boat, alligator, chest full of loot, and an adventure location with several good terrain features.

Spyclops Infiltration: If you are running a game with magitech, this is a nice addition. For only $10, you get two minifigs and a nice three-legged iron golem. A lot of the pieces here, like the metal spiders and the translucent blue shield, will be useful in a lot of situations.

Mirkwood Elf Army: In general, I prefer to avoid the branded product lines. You are getting less Lego for your money. But this set is a good deal: for $30, gives you six minifigs, a riding wolf, and a good adventure location.

Protector of Stone: Bionicle sets are often very nice for giving you giants and other huge creatures to fight.

Naida's Epic Adventure Ship: This thing has an otherworldly beauty that is fantastic in all senses of the word. If you want the party to interact with fae or elves, and emphasize their distinctiveness, this set and the other Lego Elves sets will do that.

Swamp Police Starter Set and/or Demolition Starter Set: Any set that gives you four minifigs for $10 is worth looking at, especially if those minifigs have interesting features that give you and your players new options for character creation. All the other stuff should be considered a free bonus. You can decide whether your playgroup will appreciate a Lego toilet showing up in the dungeon.

Senate Commando Troopers: Star Wars stuff can often be made to work in a fantasy world. These blue guys look more like greek-fantasy armored hoplites than sci-fi space marines.

Large Creative Brick Box: This is the best option now, among new sets, for the basic supplies to make a wide variety of towns, adventure sites, and creatures, and if you are new to Lego building then the idea book in the set will help you get started. Unlike the medium box, it is not loaded up with wheels that are almost worthless to a fantasy GM, and it has several useful architectural elements. The reason it is ranked so low is that it has too many colors to be useful for building large realistic towns and dungeons. If you want to do that, without buying a used collection, you are better off buying more Mountain Huts or getting the larger sets from the Hobbit and Ninjago product lines. Unfortunately, there are no actual Castle sets in the current lineup. Hopefully that changes soon.

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