There are very few electronic character sheets that I use that I can rely on. I am a fan of free stuff so I look at every version of a free character sheet that I can get my hands on where I can but with Pathfinder I have never come across a free character sheet that I can rely on. So I had to turn to Hero Lab as an option. I have had Hero Lab now for a good six to eight months and I have to say that I rely on it to give me an accurate representation of a Pathfinder character. But now there is a new player on the block. Recently launched (within the past month) Hero Sheets offers up a website with a subscription fee to create your characters and maintain them from the website.
|The new player in the electronic Pathfinder Character Sheet war!|
This new website offers us the promises on the front page of being able to make a character in a few minutes, that it is accurate and knows the rules, sophisticated and always available on line as well as being mobile device friendly. I was approached by the website designer +Jordan OMara to review the website. In doing so I was furnished with an annual subscription to the pro level (we will talk about the options soon) and also given a voucher so that you, the reader of www.thepathfinderchronicles.com can get a 25% discount off your first month OR year if you take up that subscription on an annual basis. A very generous offer that I have to thank Jordan for. If you do want to sign up after reading this review all you have to do is enter PCHRONICLES in the coupon code section when signing up and that discount will be applied.
So, let us leap in at the deep end and I will give you my initial impressions when I first went to the site. I am a bit of a pain in the bum when I get an offer like this so I went straight to the site before I was given the details of how to log in and the first thing I thought was “How do I log in?”. Well, it is not from the front end of the web page (NOTE: This has now been fixed and there is a login link to the page now present in the title bar!). There is a specific log in site that you need to go and enter your credentials into which had me confused, but as soon as the email came through with the details I leapt in to the site and logged on from the appropriate page. It is amusing to see though that the background photo to the initial page is at the time of this review a picture of a Beholder from D&D and Hero Sheets is currently targeting Pathfinder exclusively. It is a little confusing but lets face it, we all wish that there were beholders in Pathfinder…
|A clean, professional, intuitive interface!|
There were several things that struck me immediately when I arrived in the site. The first was that this was a professional and modern interface. The look and feel of this website is clean and modern using great block colours and attractive white space to entice me in. The site adjusts well to fit different sized monitors telling me one thing. The developers of this site know their stuff when it comes to the web and I applaud them for this. The amount of cramped, small forms that I come across on the net is atrocious and they could learn a lot from this website.
The second thing about this is it truly is possible to build a character in just a few short minutes. The design of character building really hits on the key moments of building a character and the back end of the system does all the tedious calculations so you don’t have to. You have to create a character from scratch though (level 1) and then take them through a level by level process so you cannot say up front I am building a 12th level fighter and hope that it is going to work all the detail out in one hit. If you do have a higher level character to build it may take you up to half an hour depending on the level to get it all in.
Let us talk about the launch of the Hero Sheets site and what it actually entails. Hero Sheets is a project run by one guy, Jordan. It has been released after being tested by at least twenty five play testers and is a commercial enterprise. Currently the Hero Sheets websites provides support for material that is contained in the Core Rulebook only. That is you can only make characters from the base classes and prestige classes from this book. If you were looking for something that offers the additional functions of the Advanced Players Guide, Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Campaign and Mythic Adventures then this is not going to be the product for you. This is very limiting for most Pathfinder campaigns but with one person working on it this is a mammoth effort. The additional books are touted to be included down the track but how long this will take will be interesting.
|Supports all forms of attribute generation|
Also, the material that can be included is only the material that is allowed on the PRD or the D20SRD sites. That means if you are a follower of the world of Golarion and all of the material through their campaign guides, adventure paths and the like you will not be able to use them. Again this could be a limiting factor, but if you just want to stick to the basic material and eventually anything on the PFd20SRD site then this should be suitable.
I have made four characters inside the system itself and I was a little let down by the reliability that the rules of Pathfinder are applied correctly but also buoyed at the same time by the responsiveness and helpfulness of Jordan to attend to errors. Let us go through the process of creating a character. In the first place you are asked to give a name and some descriptions of the character and then you are led through the sections that do attributes (all types are supported and this screen is awesome), class, skills and equipment. If you have a class ability that requires a decision it will pop up in the flow, some times. It is a bit glitchy at times. When I made a Wizard and I clicked back it took me through a whole heap of screens I had not completed and then made me do them. Also, when you click back (say if you want to change a skill rank that you just thought of) you actually have to completely fill in the page you are going back to from scratch. Jordan tells me that the testers all wanted this fixed and he is working hard to do so at the moments.
|Only asks you to fill out the absolute minimum necessary details|
Spells are only currently supported (as in spell names and details) for sorcerers. Jordan has advised me that this is because he is yet to find the perfect way to expose them to players without them being a little confusion so I imagine this sits pretty high on his to do list as all this material is already in the background database. Further to this, in the inventory section the only thing that is currently supported is weapons and armour. You may not as of yet stock up with pocketfuls of chalk, caltrops and thunderstones as my players want to do, nor may you have any stock magical items as yet either.
I am also a bit concerned as to the quality of the testing that was done. Of the four characters I made I found errors in rules applications. As it states on the front page that it is an accurate tool that understands the rules this needs to be addressed. The errors are small but they are numerous and should have been picked up with a good beta test.
During my trial run I also found glitches. Some were errors I have mentioned above and others I have not mentioned. The interface is slick and pretty, but not yet fully functional. I really got the feel that I had been invited into an alpha version of the software and been asked to provide feedback on the problems I was having as opposed to being asked to review a commercial grade piece of software being offered to a paying public. Having said that though, I am a professional in the IT world and when I get asked to review software, I test it and test it hard.
|So graphically impressive and very easy to use.|
The positive in all of the above is that I have spent a little over a week playing with the software and whenever I have found an error in the rules I have sent it (all but one but I will do that soon) off to Jordan and he has fixed it almost immediately. He is responsive, friendly and wants this to work well and be a good option for players of Pathfinder. That is an awesome thing to consider when looking at software, how committed is the developer to improving it. In this case, that answer is very.
So, now let us turn our eyes to the cost of this website. There are three plans that you can sign on to and each has a different set of features and a different price.
- Hero Sheets Lite is $5.99 USD per month which equates to $71.88 for 12 months, or if you actually pay annually I believe it would be around $48 for the year as they offer a 33% discount if you sign up annually (then you could apply our coupon to get 25% off the first month or the annual amount). This level allows you:
- 3 characters to be created and maintained on the site
- All features of the PFRPG Core Book (which is not strictly accurate as there is stuff that needs implementation)
- Custom items, weapons and armour (also not strictly true as items are not yet available)
- Any new content is added free of charge
- Email support
- Hero Sheets Pro is $9.99 USD per month or $119.88 for a year worth. If you pay annually though they give you a 33% discount (or more it says) so you would pay an upfront amount of about $80 with 25% off if you use our coupon. There is only one difference to the above package that I can find and that is you can have 5 characters instead of three.
- Hero Sheets Unlimited is the final plan available and at subscription is $19.95 per month which equates to $239.40 for an entire year. If you pay this fee annually you are looking at possibly around $160 with the 33% discount and further savings using the coupon. There is again only one difference to the Lite version and that difference is you can make as many characters as you want.
|Criteria||Hero Sheets||Hero Lab|
|Cost||Up to $71.88 USD
Up to $119.88 USD
Up to $239.40 USD
Note, these are the
absolute maximum you
can pay on a monthly
|$29.99 USD One off cost|
|Number of Characters||3
|Ease of Use||Excellent||Takes a bit of learning!|
|Scalable||Not yet||Yes, at a cost|
|Accuracy of Character||Not reliable||Very Good|
|Use on Mobile Devices||Yes||Only with a separate purchase|
|Licensed to use Pathfinder
As you can see the two have a differing range of features and focus. They are strong in different areas and this may mean that one of the options is better for you than the other. For me though there is a precluding factor and that is the prices of the packages as well as the accuracy factor.
|Equipment is limited at the moment however.|
In reality there is too little difference in the three packages that are offered by Hero Sheets. In fact, the only difference is the number of characters you can have. If you look at Pro and Lite the difference is between 3 characters and 5 but this difference alone costs you an extra $5 a month! Then if you want to make as many characters as you please you are shelling out around $20 a month if you can’t afford to pay on an annual basis ($15 a month if you use the coupon PCHRONICLES when you sign up). Each package does come with a 7 day free trial so there is absolutely no reason why you should not get in there and have a look at the product today and consider it though. I personally would like to see two packages, the Player Package that offers 5 characters at $5 a month and the GM package that offers unlimited characters at $10 a month.
$20 a month is much too high a price for a character generator with the scope that this has. Mind you, as a group of players and GM you could actually share the cost of a single subscription of $19.95 per month and all of your characters could be on the same site concurrently and up to date. This could actually make this a very cheap sharing option and is encouraged by Herosheets as an option.
|Most of the interface feels very intuitive and you don’t need to be a
computer genius to use it.
I have Hero Lab as I have mentioned and it has probably cost me another $100 on top of the basic program cost to have all the books I want. That does not mean I have all the available supplements so I want to stress while Hero Lab is a good option if you just want the Core rulebook, it is not a winner automatically because any additions will cost you per book or book bundle. Hero Sheets is offering any updates they do as free and available to all users.
Presentation of data is a concern to me also. If you, like me, want a hard copy of the character sheet at your game Hero Sheets solution is to show the sheet in a browser window and allow you to print. A simple Paladin printed out eight pages of exceptionally poorly formatted character sheet and this needs to be improved. That said I have heard from Jordan that this has been a love or hate relationship with a lot of users enjoying the reams of paper due to white space and ease of reading and those that dislike it (such as myself). It has to offer us as professional a presentation for the character sheet as is the interface you use to make it. Also, in the interface when you are selecting weapons and armour this needs to be improved. It currently sits in tabbed format and is illogically order. This also needs to be fixed as it really sticks out when the rest of the interface is so professionally created.
I do like this product a lot simply for its ease of use but I cannot forgive the numerous rules errors in the sheets. I use electronic sheets where they can give me an accurate view of a character when following the rules of the game. An audit if you will on all the little bonuses and modifications that such a complicated system brings to the table. To have had at least 25 play testers tested this and still have very basic errors in it makes me wonder what more complicated errors may be lurking in the system.
|It is not without its issues at the moment though. It can be (as viewed here) a
bit glitchy and the rules are not 100% accurate as yet.
Whilst this system is far from perfect, it is far from awful as well. The interface is a huge leap forward in character generation. It hits only the required components to making the character in a logical order and does not complicate decisions. In comparison, I have spent hours in Hero Lab trying to find out how to add something to my Eidolon for my Summoner only to find it in the most illogical and obscure place possible. I have to applaud Jordan for his efforts in simplifying such a complex system even though I think it may need a little more work cleaning up the rules errors and the interface glitchiness at times before it will become a reliable tool. It also needs to offer everything it says that it does on the front page before it is, like all the equipment and magic items at the very least. This is a huge amount of data entry though and I realize it is not a small job for one person to undertake alone.
This choice really comes down to you. If you are a seasoned player that wants a character sheet you can access from a mobile device wherever you are, this is not bad. If you are not sure of the rules though I would suggest you give it a bit of time before looking at this again. There needs to be more work done but as this improves it will become one of my go to web applications. If you think it may be an option, sign up for the seven day trial. Check out the interface and I guarantee you will find it effortless to use and also quite intuitive! Until next time, keep rolling 🙂