Tuesday, January 22, 2013

[TechTuesdays] Time to level up: HeroLab

When it comes to role playing, there is a lot of tools of the trade. Many of these tools are designed specifically for players, and some that help out the Game Master as well. As I start fleshing out character ideas, I have found one particular tool exceptionally useful.

"What tool is that?" One may ask? Why it is none-other than Hero Lab, by Lone Wolf Development. What does it do exactly? Well read on to find out...

Hero Lab: Use to cure sever headaches and lack of time to work on campaigns

Hero Lab has been, by far, my most used tool in my Game Mastering, and player, toolkit. Hero Lab is what people tend to call a Character Builder software, and in the case of this particular software, one that can be used in order to make characters or even none-player-characters for a large variety of gaming systems.

Now for those who remember, I currently run my computer on Xubuntu Linux, a specific flavor of Linux that I am exceptionally fond of. Despite the fact that Hero Lab is most certainly exclusive to the Windows software line, I am able to run the software with ease through the use of Play On Linux.

Once up and running, one will be able to generate character sheets with exceptional ease and within a VERY timely fashion. Thanks to this software, I am able to spend more of my time on creativity and less of my time doing math.

And let me say, for any of you who are familiar with Role Playing Games as a Game Master, there is an exceptionally large amount of math involved. Mind you it is all very basic math, it is still a lot when one has to consider the sheer amount of creatures one Game Master is placing before the players to cause trouble and have the players resolve.

HeroLab Screen
Yeah, even pre-generated archetypes are pre-loaded!

As a game master for the Mutants and Masterminds RPG, even having the various archetypes, be they villain or hero, loaded before  hand so I can load up a quick sheet, save a copy, and polish off a concept... I save myself literally hours of prep time.

Not to mention, if I want to toss in a villain on the fly to polish off later during a game, I can do so by loading up a template and making modifications as I play through the game. Yeah, it really is that easy.

Add in the fact that the software checks for any "Rules Lawyer" laws that have been broken, allowing for Players to use the software and send it back to the game master with little room for abuse... well at least most of the time. Silly crafty players...

With that in mind, it is no wonder that many companies (GreenRonin and other like publishers) are now using this software to produce character sheet files that can be opened with this software as part of a bundled digital package. Once it comes to that point, I hope to do the same for my setting Valanas.

I hope you enjoyed this little recommendation, as I can assure you I have yet to find any real flaws with what it does, and it does what was intended very well. I look forward to see how their Realm Works software will turn out, as it may very well be that one piece in my gaming tool belt that I am missing... something that puts all my notes in one place. The software has worked wonders for me, and I am most certain it will do the same for all those gamers and game masters out there!

For those of you who are Linux Users like myself, follow along for further details on how to install and get this pleasant software to work.

Play on Linux
POL, to help make manage those pesky Windows programs you just can't do without.

Now, for those who have Windows, you can stop reading at this point, unless you must really know. Though the rest of this post will be a short tidbit on how to get the software running on Linux.

For those who do run Linux, keep in mind that Hero Lab has made it very obvious that they do not officially support Linux. Despite this, the community (as is often the case with many Linux users) have proven that nothing can really get in the way of making this wonderful software work despite what others may think.

In order for this to work, and for the printing/exporting of character sheets to PDF Format, and for the general install to work, one must have the latest version of PlayOnLinux and preferably the latest version of Wine (preferably 32bit
, as my understanding and experience is that 64bit is a bit wonky at times and doesn't always work.) as well as a copy of the fonts currently in use by the software.

Since the fonts used in the software are windows defaulted, copying the fonts from a running windows installation and paste them into your Flavor of Linux's default font directory. If you don't have these, do not fret as the software works, though one may find that the exported and character print outs may be missing various elements or may have undefined characters across the sheet. This is not the same case with the software itself, as it still reads and looks fine.

After that, purchase the software and run the install through Play On Linux, making sure to just go through like a normal install at that point. If after the install things do not work and it crashes every time you save, email the devs and they just so happen to be working on an update to hopefully fix the problem, and have a Beta release that they can share with you to pull you through till the final fix.

As always is the case with Beta Software, provide input often. Even though it isn't supported, if the information is easily available and clear enough the Devs can easily (or at least hopefully) fix the problem. Also, Play On Linux, and it's related software Wine, are skins that make the software think it is running on Windows. As such, there can be any number of problems that are not directly related to the software and is instead Wine itself. Always check the Wine forums for any other feedback.

If push comes to shove, any Virtual OS works just fine if you happen to have paid the money for it. That, or you can tell me how you got there and I do not mind one bit helping a fellow gamer enjoy this wonderful software!