I’m assuming that readers know how Dungeons and Dragon’s works – I won’t be talking about races, classes, skills, etc – only about how Hero Lab handles or shows different aspects of a Hero (Player character, NPC, or monster).
In the examples below, I’m using “Tarmor’s Party” – a saved Portfolio that holds five 9th level adventurers that are “advanced” characters from an actual party I have. (They are really only 4th level at this time.) One of the classes (Scout) is not Pathfinder – this is taken from 3.5 D&D (Complete Adventurer), but I’ve entered the class (and some Feats) into Hero Lab for Pathfinder with the editor.
It’s easier to show how things are done than just write about it. My images are actual screenshots from Hero Lab (Pathfinder) – green lines and text are my edits and explanations. The d20 System (3.5 D&D) package is extremely similar – with almost the same tabs – Classes & Abilities are combined to one “Basics” tab (there’s no Conditions tab) – and layout has much the same style and columns.
Hero Lab lays everything out in columns. The left-hand side of the screen has the main panel, which changes according to which tab you select across the top. The Classes tab allows you to add class levels (and templates) and assign HP’s, favoured classes, and ability score increases.
Some tabs (e.g. Class, Spells) are only added if and when you add a level in a relevant class. The other columns give a summary of pretty much everything about your Hero – each can be turned off, or its position rearranged. The “Dashboard” lists every Hero in the portfolio, and is a fast way of changing the active Hero, as well as seeing detail of other Heroes without having to switch.
“Help” on the Menu bar offers a Manual, Tutorial and FAQ for Hero Lab. Clicking on the “?” buttons also gives either more information, or a full rulebook description/definition of the item it’s located next to. In addition, you can hover the cursor on nearly any “item” on screen – AC, Skill, Skill bonus, weapon attack bonus, gear, feat, ability, etc and get a pop-up help that tells you how the final bonus/total was calculated and/or a rulebook description/definition. Any change to a Ability Score, addition of a weapon, magical item, feat, etc results in an immediate recalculation and display of changes. Anything selected or added at any stage or on any tab can be removed/cancelled/deleted.
Nearly every menu from which you can add/select something is displayed in alphabetical order, with a search field, and the choice to display “everything” or only “valid” choices. Hero Lab will let you add/change/select things that it considers to be invalid – but it will give you a message telling you what is “wrong” and why.
Note the “Feats” tab in images: it’s printed in red because HL believes I’ve picked a feat the character doesn’t have the prerequisite for. According to its rules (based on the way I correctly defined the “Improved Skirmish” Feat in the data files) the character doesn’t. The problem is not Hero Lab, it’s just that I haven’t got the “code” correct for another feat which would fix everything up. [If I have the physical rulebook for something that a character has chosen/used, then I also try to add it to the data files that HL accesses.]
This is for Race, Alignment, Deity, racial abilities, and languages. This is the ‘page’ where you would assign a Racial stat bonus if there is one, or something like a ½ Elves Skill Focus. If you are making a monster NPC you would select it by race here, then go back to the Classes tab to add character levels or extra HD to it.
Like the previous tab, it’s self-explanatory. Stat’s are all initially set at “10” and you can type in the Stat value, or click on the arrow buttons to raise/lower by a point. All the other attack, defence, saving throws, etc are also displayed here.
The Class tab is where you choose bonus feats, abilities, spells, etc for a particular class. Animal Companions and Familiars can also be chosen or switched to from here. Like on most tabs – if you haven’t chosen something then there will be a message saying what and how many to choose. If you select too many of something, the text will change to red, and you’ll get a validation message on the bottom line of the screen too.
5. Assorted Items.
I’ve jumped ahead to “Gear”, because the panel can fit in the same image as a Class tab! The Weapons, Armor, Magic and Gear tabs all work the same way. New Heroes are all given 150gp. When you select any item to add to one of these tabs you can pay for it normally, buy it free, chose a custom cost, or “craft” it at half price. I don’t use HL to track funds, so usually just click the “Buy for Free” box. Items can be placed into containers and HL counts the value of every item and it’s weight for encumbrance. If you hover the cursor over the “bag” symbol it will show you the entire contents, and over the “in container” symbol will show you what container that item is in.
There are “house rules” and options that you can choose to configure when making a new Hero (or later), that tell HL to ignore encumbrance, or the weight of coins, etc. You can assign more money in the journal tab.
Back to skills. Blue text are Class skills, greyed text are “trained” skills that require skill ranks to use. The “shield” symbol means that armour check penalties apply to that skill. A red “hammer” indicates that you have a –2 penalty for not having the required tool(s), a blue hammer means that you have the tools. Craft, Knowledge, Perform and Professions aren’t initially displayed on the skill list and have to be added individually.
Placing the cursor over the “?”, or the total ranks gives you a pop-up like the grey box in the image. I’ve edited this image because the actual help box is much larger (full skill description) and actually appears where you have the cursor. Pressing the “?” button means the box appears and stays there until you click somewhere else.
Feats are selected here. Any feats gained as Class bonuses are repeated on this list also.
This tab is used to give you Hero weapons, and you can click a box to show what is readied for use, by main and off-hand. For this image, I’ve switched to a fighter who has Two-Weapon Fighting. The checked boxes show that she has a longsword in both main hand and off-hand. HL has already deducted a –2 penalty for wielding two weapons. If I “ticked” both the 1st and 2nd box on the same longsword, HL would set the Melee attack bonus back to +19/+14 and increase the damage for fighting 2-handed. (One and a half times STR bonus) This Hero carries a shield which was not “readied”. If I selected the shield as being used (on the Armor tab), without un-marking the second sword, all three items will change to red text as HL complains “can’t have off-hand weapon with shield”.
The “Other” tab is used for Mounts and Hirelings. The “Personal” tab records sex, age, height, weight, hair, eyes, skin and background details. You can also include an image here of the Hero – either chosen from Hero Lab’s large set of images or you can include you own. There is an option in config to allow this image to appear on a printed character sheet. An image here will also be used in the Tatical Console. (Next Blog post!) Permanent adjustments to the Hero (refer “Adjust tab”) can be selected here – changes to AC, Ability Scores, HP’s, size, etc… usually relating to effects not covered by something in you data set for HL, or because of something out of the ordinary happened in your campaign. [ Your character speaks an additional language because of his background, a magical fountain made him a Large creature, et al. ]
The journal tab can assign experience and money to each Hero. You have the option to “title” an event/adventure that gives experience and enter a game date. HL automatically assigns the real world date to the record. A “notes” button opens a window where you can record a few simple notes or a complete adventure summary. Entering negative values removes XP and/or funds.
The special tabs is just a list of all Special Abilities – primarily Class and Feat related – and a summary of what they do. A “?” button can give a complete rulebook definition/explanation. Abilities or powers granted by magical items will also usually appear on this list.
This tab is used for tracking damage inflicted on the Hero, and Healing received. It also allows you to note whether you have used that throwing axe, dose of poison, potion of cure light wounds, or how many charges are left on that wand of magic missiles. Activated abilities give you a box that can be clicked for things like charge, power attack, raging, smite evil, etc and modify all bonuses accordingly.
This is probably only going to be used by someone with their Hero on a tablet or iPad during a game session, but it’s also mirrored by the Tactical Console, where a DM might find it quite useful for the same sorts of things with monsters attacking the party. (Again, more on that in the next blog post.)
I touched on adjustments in the Personal tab. This tab covers temporary adjustments, most notably those provided by spells, magical items, class abilities, etc. [ While writing all this tonight I have realised that the language adjustment that my characters have should actually be under the Personal tab! ]
This tab should be self-explanatory. All the Pathfinder “conditions” can be selected and any bonus or penalty that relates will be applied to the Hero. A duration can also be entered here for tracking. The “?” button gives more detail on the effects and description/rules of the condition.
That’s about it! The menu bar gives you options to configure/copy a Hero, import or export a Hero from/to a portfolio and save/load portfolios. Heroes (and/or whole portfolios) can be saved or printed as a PDF (if you have a licence). Print/save options can be: standard character sheet, a Ability/Gear description, Journal contents, Spell Summary or Spell full description.
A PDF of my Ranger/Scout follows – a standard character sheet. My only problem with the printed character sheet is that it has particular places it always puts certain “categories” (like Exp on the top right of page 2), and that sometimes breaks another category into two parts. It also places weapons in the same order as they appear on the “Weapons” tab, which can mean that your primary weapon may be on the second page, unless you get sneaky and “rename” your weapons to arrange them in a way you prefer.
Any questions? I’m happy to answer them to the best of my knowledge (or go looking for an answer). I’m also happy to share my self-created portfolio’s (or PDFs of them) and data files for 3.5 D&D and Pathfinder. The next blog post will be concerned mostly with the Tactical Console for DM’s using Hero Lab during a game session. I’ll also touch on the editor.