Creating a new RPG character annoys me. Whether it be an NPC or my player character, I find the process painful. Rules minutiae, stat calculations and filling out character sheets are simply not fun. This is especially bad with math intensive rules systems like the 3.5 OGL from “Wizards of the Coast.” Even WOTC realized this and included a bare-bones character generator with the 3.0 “Players Handbook.” I tried that software, among several other open-source solutions over the years and none really made me happy. This is the personal baggage I carried into “Herolab ” by “Lone Wolf Development .” Happily, “Herolab” did not disappoint.
Upfront Review: An excellent PC/NPC software generating package with great game system support. The licensing system that allows you to only purchase the game rules/systems you need is a great idea. Easy to use, flexible and upgradable, this is a “must” for DMs and players that spend more time preparing stat blocks than story. All around, well worth the $29.95 for the base software. Additional game systems are priced at $20.00 each.
Before getting into the software’s mechanics, I need to explain the licensing system. While not complex, it is important that potential users understand it. The software can be installed on two computers per license, so one for your desktop and one for your laptop, as an example. This “core” software package includes three game systems.
The systems are:
d20 3.5 OGL (“Dungeons and Dragons” from “Wizards of the Coast “)
“Mutants and Masterminds ” from “Green Ronin”
“World of Darkness ” from “White Wolf”
You may pick ONE to actually “own.” That is to say you can save and print characters with that system. The other systems stay in “demo” mode and you cannot save or print anything you create. You may purchase additional system licenses for $20.00 each. The “Herolab” website lists the “Cortex ” (used in the Battlestar Galactica and Serenity RPGs) and venerable “Runequest .” Neither are for sale yet, so I must assume their release is pending.
So, if you only need the 3.5 OGL, the software is $29.99. OGL plus the “Cortex” system would be $49.99 total. I really like this license. Only paying for what you need is a great idea.
Enough about the license, time to get down to the software. Here is the initial screen. I chose the “d20” system for my copy.
It immediately dropped me into character creation.
Note that everything from the SRD, including psionics is listed. I entered a PC name, level and player name. It had a drop-down box for various stat-buying options.
The tabs configured automatically to handle my level 1 psion. The “skills” tab is red because I have unspent skill points. As I move through the tabs, I simply fill out the missing information, or in this example, spend my skill points. I was thrilled it correctly calculated my class vs. non-class skills.
Once I cleared all the “red” tabs, I clicked on print preview for the character sheet.
Total time from turning the software on for the first time to completed character sheet: 6 minutes.
You have the option of printing the character, saving as a “Herolab” file or saving as a PDF. The PDF output requires a free download from the software update menu.
Besides fast character creation from the base rules, “Herolab” offers a powerful editing feature. If you need to add items, armor, classes, feats or just about any other game component, you can. Here is a shot of the editing screen.
I whipped up a new “wondrous item” in a couple of minutes. Once the item is in the system, you can equip it to a PC or NPC. This has some incredibly complex features, including control over bonus stacking. Editing a new item or feature was the most complex task I performed in this software. There is a manual, but even with it, I think this will take some time to learn all of its features.
Speaking of the manual, it is short, but it is clearly written and contains helpful graphics. I found it useful to consult.
“Herolab” also has some combat utilities, such as a condition marking, dice roller and initiative tracking/rolling system. They all performed as advertised, but the features were bare-boned. The initiative roller did have one fascinating feature; the ability to reroll initiative every round. I like the randomness this threw into the game. However, compared to the elegance and utility of the character generation components of “Herolab,” these features were a bit bland. I will not penalize the sofware for not being a great combat utility. It is primarily for character creation. These combat features are just a nice “extra.” I hope they improve these utilities in future versions.
Overall, “Herolab” is the best NPC/PC creation software for role-playing games I have used to date. Even though I am not very familiar with either system, I created PCs in “Mutants and Masterminds” and “World of Darkness” with minimal effort. Bottom line is the price is right ($29.99) and the software ran flawlessly. I heartily recommend it to any gamer that uses one of the supported game systems.
OS Support: Windows Only
Full Disclosure: “Lone Wolf Development” provided a free copy of this software for review.
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