The role-playing genre has had a number of ancillary markets spring up in order to deal with its needs. One of the biggest problems is keeping track of where a character or monster is on a map. As role-playing came from war gaming, the solution was simple: They used metal and paper miniatures that they had lying around. As role-playing took off, companies started producing miniatures for the specific games. Suffice it to say that the Dungeons and Dragons miniature figures boom produced a number of its own industries as well, such as paints and brushes specifically for the miniatures.
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The miniatures are made in a number of different mediums. Although metal is the most common, vinyl has also been used more in recent years. Paper is also still used, usually with small plastic stands to make them stand up straight and to provide a bit of weight so that they are not as easily knocked over or blown away. Vinyl is debated because it is harder to paint or otherwise modify. Other mediums are used, such as plastic.
The miniatures are also collectibles in their own right, and are tracked down by collectors. There are a number of these Dungeons & Dragons miniature figures out there, making swap meets fun to watch, especially for people that have the figures for sale. These collectible figures are usually ones that are hard to find, produced in limited amounts, made with mistakes, or are popular for other reasons. For the players, it can be fun to find a miniature that matches your character, especially if your character is hard to replicate, and that just makes the search all that much more fun for players.