Friday, April 23, 2010

Pathfinder + Hero Lab

I have been playing in two separate Pathfinder games recently and I really like the system.  But the one thing that I didn't have that 4e gave me was a kick-ass character builder program.

I love character builder programs,   I think I have tried them all over the years.  I had the Core Rules CD-Rom, I had the character builder from Wizards for 3.0 and back in the day my DM and I built one for our Tandy Color Computers.  And I love DDi.  I know some people complain about it and others even claim that Wizard's or Hasbro are looking for more ways to make money.  To that I say how dare they give me an awesome product that does exactly what I want it to do for a fair and reasonable price! ;)  Seriously what is up with people.  Don't like the DDI, then don't pay for it.  I happen to love it.  I can play around with it and try out different characters, multi-classes and hybrids.  Yes I can do that with paper and pencil and books, but I don't alway have my books with me, say at work on my lunch break or relaxing in front the TV on the couch, or at the airport waiting for a plane.  The DDi is fantastic.

It's just too bad that I can't use it with Pathfinder.
I can't use it with Unisystem either, but that is not the point.

So I went out and I tried Hero Lab, from Lone Wolf development.  I remember getting a free CD from them one Gen Con and I couldn't find it anywhere, so I just downloaded it and tried it out.

Here is what I liked:
- I like that there are multiple games for this product.  Currently I use DDi, Uniforge, Simpson's M&M sheet, and Metacreator installed on my computer.  I like flexible systems.
- The interface is nice.  Not fantastic, but nice.
- Using it is rather easy after a few times.

Here is what I didn't like:
- Not 100% sold on the pricing structure here.  I think the d20 SRD derived content should be cheaper.
- I would like more systems, Unisystem is the top of my list.
- The interface, while nice, is old looking.

Comparing this to DDi though is not really fair.  They are designed to do similar, but different things.  Comparing it to Metacreator though is a better choice.

The pricing structure is about the same.  Metacreator though only charged 15.00 per module download, Hero Lab charges 20.00.  The core product is also priced similar with Hero Lab at about 30.00 (with a module) and Metacreator at the same with one module.
Both have the d20 SRD, Savage Worlds, and Call of Cthulhu.   Metacreator has Unisystem as well some others.  Hero Lab has WoD and Cortex.
Despite my nit-picking on the interface, Hero Lab is slightly better than Metacreator.  Both though look like "older" technology.  Metacreator in fact looks like something for Windows 95.
Both produce very function character sheets for printing or PDF.  Metacreator gets a not here since it produces sheets that look like the ones from the game itself.
Hero Lab is easier to navigate and the tabs are very nice.

In the end it depends I guess on what game you want to play.  If you play World of Darkness, Cortex, Ars Magica, Unisystem or Fudge then your choices are made for you.

Same with D&D4.  Yes, Hero Lab can do D&D4, but you need a DDi account to get the updates and if you are  going to do then just the D&D Character Builder.

Both have sizable fan-related content and forums.

So I broke down I bought Hero Lab because I wanted Pathfinder support.
I have to admit that some of the concerns I first had about Hero Lab changed after I bought it.  Now that could be because I had been playing around with more and knew the program better.

Side by side Hero Builder does actually compare nicely to the DDi Character Builder.
Here is a screen shot of my new Pathfinder Paladin and his D&D 4 alter-ego.  (big screenshot).

Having access to the new Pathfinder classes is nice too.
What would totally sell me on this of course is Unisystem support.  I would love to be able to put my Ghosts of Albion characters into something like this.
Chance are good I'll be getting the Cortex and maybe the SavageWorlds one in the future.  If/When I do I'll review them here.

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