Ral Partha was a company that designed one of the better lines of miniature
s for role playing
games. One would be hard put to find a company that rivaled Ral Partha during the hey day.
Little would anyone guess this company, the Cadillac
of lead miniatures, was formed around a 15 year old kid from Dayton, Ohio
. Tom Meier was 15 and loved to sculpt figurines. Jack Hesselbrock, the man who would go on to become Ral Partha’s president, took notice of Meier’s work. Part of Meier’s secret he was using a new substance called E-Pox-E Putty. As an untrained amateur he just stumbled onto the substance, although no trained modeler was using it. Meier discovered it was ideal for creating small miniatures as it held detail well.
Hesselbrock was aghast to discover the company that Tom was doing work for was only paying him half what a designer half as good would earn. Hesselbrock saw raw talent, got together a group of investors, and started Ral Partha in 1975 in Cincinnati, Ohio
The company started making casts of ancient historical soldiers. A small market, surely. However, it attended Gen Con
1975 and discovered a growing market for swords ‘n’ sorcery type figures. Ral Partha was making a line of ancient Greek warriors like hoplite
s and found a ready market selling to the D&D
crowd that basically would use any kind of miniature as long as it had a sword or spear in hand. Ral Partha sold out of its entire stock of miniatures after Gen Con ’75.
The name itself was suggested by a friend of Meier’s. John Winkler was a fan of D&D and played a wizard character called Ral-Partha. Winkler felt some of his character’s magic might rub off on a company so named. The hyphen was dropped, however.
In 1988 they signed a deal with TSR to produce an official line of AD&D figurines. Ral Partha also held the rights to make miniatures for other games like FASA
, and Ogre
By the late ‘90s, with D&D eclipsed by Magic: The Gathering
, FASA’s Battletech line became a major source of revenue for Ral Partha. However, with revenues from its fantasy RPG
line of miniatures drying up, Ral Partha got into some financial hot water. FASA saw an opportunity and grabbed it. It gave Ral Partha an ultimatum. Ral Partha could either sell itself to FASA for 1/3 its market value or FASA would pull its Battletech license. With little choice, Ral Partha sold itself to FASA in 1998.
When FASA went belly up in 2001, Ral Partha pretty much ceased to be.
Meier himself left Ral Partha in 1988 and founded his own company called Thunderbolt Mountain Miniatures which specializes in dioramas and larger figurines (54mm+).