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Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 09:36 am
Yesterday I was caught by new software.

You will recall that I play RPGs? Well, yes, it’s no secret. I was reading File 770 for an update on the Hugos situation when Mike Glyer posted the nominations for the nominees for the ENnies, the Gen Con EN World RPG Awards.

I didn’t even know there were awards for excellence in RPGs – though logically I suppose there must be. So being a gamer I had a look through the websites he linked to and I was drawn to three things.

The first thing which I got curious about is the D20 system for running tabletop games online. This looks as if it could be very good for any time when my group can’t get together for some reason but need to play on. We’ll be playing in our retirement homes yet! I was invited by a gaming friend to take a closer look, which I am. One thing I did notice that while the system itself is free (though the paid-for options look tasty) artwork can have varying costs. All of them look quite small per set of items, but I’d think they can mount up fast if you’re not careful.

The second and third were two software options from WolfLair called Realm Works and Hero Lab.

Realm Works is a very powerful bit of software that allows a GM to create and keep track of their game world. It also appears to allow the GM to send the information to a nearby screen (such as a TV). I haven’t explored that bit yet to see if it works as described but the possibilities attract me. It has a sister bit of software which is a player’s version, allowing the players in a game world to see what the GM lets them see – handouts, background information, lots of things. I’d prefer to see that on an iPad rather than a computer, I would think that even a laptop would get in the way of the players’ faces but maybe the screen version obviates that.

Hero Lab allows GMs to roll up characters on the fly and in advance of a game, and insert them into the Realm Works engine, as well as print them out for use by players. It works with several game systems including Pathfinder, various flavours of AD&D, Call of Cthulhu and a couple of other things I hadn’t heard of. You have to pay for each system separately due to licencing issues, but none of them are expensive. On the other hand, if your chosen system is Pathfinder you could be in for an expensive time – there is a positive plethora of Pathfinder stuff, masses of it, but each bit is separately priced. None are expensive, but it could mount up fast if you use their sources.

On the other hand, the ones I wanted were $20 each – Call of Cthulhu, AD&D 3e (nearest I could get to 2e, which is what we play) and the ‘authoring’ section which should allow me to adapt what’s available to close to 2e.

Learning this software is…interesting. The learning curve on Realm Works is challenging, even with video support – but then it was late at night and I was tired.

On the other hand, I love software like this and couldn’t leave it alone. I finally went to bed at 03:30 having played with it for hours and hours. I love filling in the little boxes on Hero Lab and seeing the other numbers move around. It’s so cute. I also love filling in information on Realm Works and watching the software link it all up. It’s amazing.

So, yes, I recommend these if you’re a GM or a gamer in general.