Tag Archives: game aid

Updated D&D 5e Character Sheets

In playing my Fiend Warlock at D&D Encounters I made an exciting discovery: in D&D 5e temporary HP work exactly like they do in 4e, except that they last all day or until consumed, rather than evaporating after 5 minutes. That means that Shyui could feasibly start subsequent fights already shielded by THP. The problem is that my character sheet had no clear way to track any leftover THP from session to session. To remedy the situation I added a small THP section to the wounds box on each of them.

D&D 5e Character Sheet
D&D 5e Caster or Single-page Sheet
D&D 5e Half-page Sheet for Pre-gens

Those links, as well as links to all of my game aids, are always available on my Downloads page above, which also tells you about the most recent changes to them.

As I added more characters to my Character Library spreadsheet I found several shortcomings, not the least of which is the lack of space for saving throw bonuses. I have extensively rebuilt it multiple times in the past week and think I may finally have it perfect. To make certain of that my wife and I are both putting lots of characters into them, so I should be uploading a final version within the next couple of days.

Since two of my Encounters characters are traveling merchants, I made several versions of full-page inventory logs. I think they may be complete, but I’d like to play a couple of sessions using them to be sure of that before uploading them.

After that I’ll be putting the final touches on my GURPS Character Creator. I don’t foresee that taking more than an afternoon, but will want to make a bunch of characters to test it before uploading it.

The D&D 5e version is proving to be far more complicated than I expected even though I am being careful to not infringe upon Wizards’ copyright (so I don’t need to factor in the Tough feat, for example, other than including a box where players can specify any extra HP mods). As an added bonus it means that it won’t have to be updated every time a new book releases, other than adding any new races or classes to the data tables, which is trivial. Adding the races introduced for the Princes of the Apocalypse season of D&D Adventurers’ League was a bit messy since I hadn’t thought to future-proof my formulas, but have done so since, so adding new ones in the future will be easy.

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D&D 5e Character Library and Conditions Reference

I have uploaded several new aids for D&D 5e. The first two are different versions of a list of conditions: one to be shared by the whole table, and one for individual players. The table version has every condition, paraphrased and converted to second person to hopefully make them easier to understand. With one or two on the table there should be less need for players on both sides of the screen to stall the game while looking up rules. The player version has a condensed list so that four of them can fit on a page.That way each player can have a list of the most common conditions, and can reference the table version for the others.

The other aid is a D&D 5e character library in the form of an OpenOffice spreadsheet, which is a convenient place to keep any number of characters without using up a ton of disk space (important for Dropbox and thumbdrives). There is also a Google Docs version for players who like to keep everything in the cloud. I see the latter as also being used by GMs to keep all of their players’ characters in one place for easy reference.

My next character library will likely be for GURPS since it will be easy, and then I’ll make one for HackMaster 5e for the sake of my current campaign. I may even make one for OVA eventually since I do have about a dozen characters for it. My current focus is on revising my GURPS character creator and finishing the D&D one. That said, the D&D character library is a result of my drive to free up some space on my nearly-full Dropbox, so I may well make the other libraries as part of that process.

UPDATE 2015-04-16: Added space for saving throw values and proficiences. I truly don’t see how I overlooked that before, but it’s there now.

GURPS Character Creator

If you have ever had trouble with the math of GURPS’ character creation process, or needed to make multiple characters in little time, or just wanted to play with a character’s numbers without erasing a hole though the page, then my GURPS character creator is for you. It does all of the math for you, including applying the final modifiers to advantages and disadvantages, and calculating the final skill level for techniques.

There are detailed instructions on the first tab and on other sheets as needed (aided by examples), but here’s a summary:

  • “Basics” is where you put in your character’s base attributes as well as how many points you have to spend.
  • On “Ads” and “Disads” list all of your advantages and disadvantages, as well as their base costs and total modifiers. The sheet will then calculate the final costs.
  • On the “Skills” sheet it is vital that you spell things carefully since it is used as a lookup table by “Techs”. For each skill you also specify what attribute it is tied to, its difficulty, and what relative skill level you want. The spreadsheet will then calculate the final cost of each skill, as well as its final value. The next version will also include space for you to specify any modifiers to a skill (such as Combat Reflexes to Quick Draw).
  • “Techs” does the same for techniques, but instead of looking up the associated attribute, it finds the associated skill on “Skills”. that’s why the spelling of skill names is so important.
  • “Gear” should be self-explanatory. Simply list any equipment your character buys, along with its cost and weight, which the spreadsheet will total for you. The character creator does not include a database of equipment because that would be a copyright infringement.

Speaking of copyrights: due to not wanting to step upon Steve Jackson’s toes, and simply because there are hundreds upon hundreds of GURPS books available, the spreadsheet contains no actual skills, advantages, or any other content other than a small subset of the freely-available GURPS Lite, so you will also need whichever books you are using for your campaign.

Like all of my trpg aids, I built this in OpenOffice (AOO 4, to be precise), so I can’t guarantee it will work in other spreadsheet programs, but it should work in StarOffice’s other descendants (I wrote previously about the pros and cons of LibreOffice vs Apache OpenOffice, but there are several other derivatives as well). Normally it wouldn’t be an issue since the very few things I don’t upload as PDFs are relatively simple, but this thing is the second most complicated spreadsheet I have ever created; the first being my still-in-progress D&D 5e version. I simply don’t have the time to thoroughly test it in all of StarOffice’s children, so if you do use one of the other OO variants, please let me how well it works – especially if part of it doesn’t.

Also in common with my other aids is the fact that I built it, with input from my wife, specifically for our use, and don’t seek input from others. But in this case, instead of simply offering it up to the world for people to use or not as they please, this time I would like your feedback. Naturally, I need to know about any bugs or formula errors immediately so I can fix them. But I’d also like to know which parts of it you do and don’t like, as well as suggestions for improvements. Bear in mind, however, that this is version 1.0, and 2.0 is about half done.

One of the major changes is cosmetic. As it stands, “Usage” and “Basics” don’t even look like they’re part of the same document as the rest, so I’m making everything easier to read while giving the whole thing a facelift. Another small yet big change is that I somehow neglected to separate out CP spent to raise BS and BM from modifiers to them, so it ends up charging you CP a second time for any modifiers you list. That has already been remedied, so all of the major mechanical issues should now be dealt with. The only other mechanical change I’m planning at this time is to repeat the character’s BL on the gear tab. I may also include there the specified TL’s starting wealth, but providing a way to modify it for Wealth will just needlessly clutter up the sheet for most characters, so I will likely instead include a box where you can specify the character’s starting wealth, and the spreadsheet will keep a running total and tell you how much you have left to spend.

“Pain is Temporary… Quitting Lasts Forever”

(Post title is a paraphrase of the following quote:
“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” –  Lance Armstrong in It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life.)

Those of you who follow me on facebook or know me personally may already be aware of this, but for the past couple of months my chronic pain levels reached the point where I was almost totally incapacitated. The most I could type at one time was a paragraph about as long as this one will be when I finish.

As a result, I haven’t been blogging or working on any of my books or short stories because I haven’t been able to. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have been totally unproductive. To make my life GMing D&D Encounters easier, I copy-pasted the relevant monsters from my epub to the spreadsheet that I normally only use to calculate how much XP to give each player. In doing so I discovered that I could do work like that for much longer than serious typing, so I got some other things done instead.

Made D&D 5e Character Sheet More Multi-class Friendly

In making my first multi-classed character, I discovered that my sheet was only slightly better for that purpose than Wizard’s. I rearranged the top matter a bit to make room for listing multiple classes and their levels, leaving the original “Level” space for the character’s total level. The largest difference is that in place of the checkboxes for keeping track of spent hit dice, there are now two boxes for tracking two types of hit dice – there wasn’t room for a third one, or I would have included it.

It has replaced the old version on Scribd.

Added Features to the D&D 5e Grimoire

In putting a caster on a character sheet for the first time, I realized the grimoire could use some additions. Across the top there are now spaces for your spell attack bonus, saving throw DC, the maximum number of spells you can prepare each day (generally caster level + spellcasting ability modifier), and your spell slots.

For the sake of the mage character sheet, I also lightened the color of the headers so the bar wouldn’t bleed through the page as much.

Both have replaced their old versions, linked above.

Mostly Finished GURPS Character Creator Spreadsheets and Half Done With One for D&D 5e

In the course of creating a new GURPS character several months ago I accidentally half-built a GURPS character creator spreadsheet. Over the past couple of months I’ve been slowly revising it. Now all it needs is a little spit and polish.

Inspired by that project, I decided to make one for the current editions of D&D and HackMaster as well. I haven’t yet started the HackMaster one, but the D&D one is at least half done. I have yet to start on the “Race and Class Features” tab, but the mechanics of everything else are mostly, if not completely, done.

The only major things I have left to figure out are how to handle armor and weapon proficiencies, and race-based skills (dwarves, for instance, don’t actually grant proficiency in History, but for all things stonework, they are considered proficient and double their proficiency bonuses).

The gear proficiencies are the big puzzlers. I have only been using lookup tables and other advanced spreadsheet features since a fellow D&D Encounters GM helped me start my GURPS character creator, so I’m mostly learning by doing. Because of that I have no idea how to limit the player’s equipment choices based on the proficiencies granted by the character’s race/class combination. My temporary fix is to simply list them and leave it up to the player to only choose proficient gear. Likewise with limiting the player’s choice of skill proficiencies.

Other than that, all that is need is more spit and polish, and to have local players do their best to break my code and give me their feedback on the user interface (UI). After that I’ll upload a basic version to Scribd as usual, then continue working on actually integrating proficiencies into the various places they are needed.

These are currently my top priority and should be finished fairly soon.

Worked on HackMaster 5e Campaign Manager and Started D&D Version

If you were active on the Kenzer & Company forums when HackMaster Basic first released, you may have seen my original encounter builder spreadsheet. Since then I have incorporated much of my HM4e campaign manager into it, and applied some of my new-found advanced spreadsheet coding skills, as well as the session experience tracker I originally made for D&D Encounters. It is probably only about half done, but is a lower priority than the other projects since it does everything I need it to for my current campaign (it works, but the UI is ugly and a bit clunky), and both D&D and GURPS have larger user bases.

Speaking of the experience calculator, while working on the HM campaign tracker, I slowly added new features to it, gradually turning it into a D&D campaign manager. I am also adapting it into a  generic campaign manager that should be easily user-adaptable to handle just about any level-based fantasy trpg. It will likely become my top priority after I finish the character creators.

As an indicator of how much better I’m doing now, I wrote this entire post in one sitting. I need to rest for a while now because my upper back is starting to flare up pretty intensely, but I was able to ignore it long enough to finish this, so I have high hopes for the near future (although, as always, I’ll sleep and then proofread it tomorrow before actually posting it). On the advice of a doctor, I started taking magnesium supplements a week and a half ago, and it seems like it may be doing the trick. If you suffer from chronic pain, it might be worth a try (but always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement).

So that’s my last couple of months in a nutshell. Keep watching here for updates on my character creators and campaign managers.

D&D (or Any Other Level-based game) Session Experience Calculator

Had a great family vacation, and got a 93 in my online Java class, but now I’m back to focusing on writing and game design. For example:

To compensate for my memory issues and to save a lot of work for non-mathophile GMs, I created a spreadsheet that will calculate how much experience I need to award each player at the end of each session of D&D Encounters.

Using it couldn’t be easier. Type the number of players into the appropriate box at the top of the sheet. Below that you will a list of all of the non-unique monsters that appear in the Tyranny of Dragons season of D&D Encounters. Each row below that is a separate encounter. Simply type in the number of each monster you used in the encounter, and the spreadsheet will do the rest.

It looks up the appropriate amount of experience points (XP) for that monster using the table on the “Data” tab (you can easily add your own, as long as the list doesn’t exceed 50 in all), then uses that to add up the total experience for the encounter. The XP totals for each encounter are added together, then divided by the number of players.

Since quest XP rewards are specified per player rather than as an amount to be subdivided, I have provided a space especially for those. Next to the blue box that tells you how much XP to give each player you’ll see a long red box. Put each quest reward in its own cell within that box, and the spreadsheet will add their sum to the amount in the blue box.

If you understand lookup tables, it is trivially easy to use more than 50 entries in the data table, but I was required to set a limit. I tried to allow more than 15 monsters on the table, but i kept getting an error telling me my formula was longer than OpenOffice could handle. If you know a way around the problem, I’d be happy to hear it.

Naturally, this can be used for any level-based game (as I will for for my HackMaster 5e campaign); it’s just pre-filled out with the monsters for DnD Encounters: Tyranny of Dragons.

Campaign Wikis

After checking out at least a dozen free wiki sites, I made my first campaign wiki five years ago for my HackMaster campaign, but that site was far from ideal. Despite its flaws, I made do for several years, and even prepped it for my steampunkish Warehouse 23/13-inspired GURPS campaign, but never actually used it due to how annoying it was adding things to the site.

Two years ago, after again checking into every free wiki site I could find, I finally found a better one (by which time we had converted it to 5e), but my Depression kept me from actually setting it up until last week. Now all that’s left is to get it updated (which, naturally, I’ll leave mostly to the players).

This whole thing has gotten me thinking about what I really need from a campaign wiki:

  • Easy to set up – getting the first wiki’s files arranged, including parent/child arrangements, took me at least a week; wikidot let me create parent/child connections as I went along, streamlining the process greatly.
  • Easy to make templates – While learning the process on wikidot I knocked out a fairly simple one for character pages in a couple of hours. I never did get the template to automate on PBworks.
  • Tightly controlled access – Thus no wikia. PBW went so far as to let me control who can edit a specific page, meaning the players can’t edit each other’s character pages. So far my players haven’t had time to join the new one, so I’m not sure exactly how much control I have, but I do get to manually approve all uninvited applicants (and I’m the only one who can send invites).
  • Easy for my non-wiki-geek players to edit – PBW uses standard HTML instead of wiki code, but has a WYSIWYG, so it’s great for less techie players (even though my job of setting up the documents in the first place was a major pain). Wikidot, on the other hand, \uses a mix of standard wiki and HTML markup that isn’t terribly intuitive. Thankfully, it too has a WYSIWYG of sorts, but doesn’t give non-coders you the option to hide the code, so they might still get confused.
  • Customizability – PBW is aimed primarily at classrooms, so the only customization it offers is color scheme. Wikidot, on the other hand, wants people to upgrade to their premium service, so they offer all sorts of bells and whistles. In some ways I actually have more control over my wiki’s appearance than I do this blog (although upgrading on both sites lets me write my own CSS, giving me complete control over their appearance).

Over the years I have looked into just about every free wiki site out there (all of them unless I overlooked one), and at the moment wikidot fits the bill best, but its wonky markup and lack of a proper WYSIWYG for non-programmers is a big problem. If all of your players speak HTML and Wikipedia then wikidot may be perfect for you.

One especially exciting feature wikidot has but that I haven’t tried yet is the ability to post comments on pages. I’m hoping that will let the characters talk to each other during down time, adding to party cohesion. It looks like those comments are even threaded, making it easy to track conversations. I’ll edit this as soon as I know one way or the other.

Naturally, I tried Obsidian Portal, but many of the features that where free on every other wiki site were premium upgrades there, and none of its actual premium services were anything I need (it’s been a couple of years so I don’t remember any specifics). Now if I were running a play by wiki instead of just using a wiki to organize a table game, then OP may well be worth the upgrade.

So the question is, do you use a campaign wiki? Why? Would you recommend your host? Why? If you don’t use one, are you considering it, indifferent, or think it’s totally pointless?

Assuming I don’t change wikis again, my next step is adding my GURPS game, and the Pokémon game I run as a pick-up when we can’t run the scheduled game for whatever reason. After that I’ll add campaigns I’m planning so those wikis will be filled out and ready to go as soon as we need them.

Not a wiki, per se, but another campaign management tool I employ is Lino, a virtual corkboard. As an example I made a now very dated public copy of the board for my first HM5e mini-campaign (we put my 4e campaign on hold long enough to try out the new edition to see if we wanted to convert). Simply looking at that will explain Lino far better than I can, but I’ll give it a go.

Lino is, as I said, a virtual corkboard. Each board’s creator can set it as private, public, or limited to certain people; you can even create groups, as we did, and everything posted in it is automatically accessible by everyone in the group. We have found it mostly useful for campaign planning, but it can remain useful during the game as well.

In my example above, I describe the world and starting location, and sort of the concept, but it was known by all the players so i didn’t explicitly state it. Since it was primarily to learn the new edition, we took inspiration from the Pokémon Mystery Dungeon games and started the PCs as members of an adventuring company. People with problems that need solving submit their requests to the AC, along with contact info and the reward offered. Since those requests are then pinned on a bulletin board in the AC, a virtual corkboard seemed obvious.

If you scroll to the right of the setting info, you will see the actual AC job board. Blue jobs are completed, and have notes on the results. Red jobs are in progress. I used another color for available jobs, but I don’t remember which since it was years ago.

Where it becomes really useful is demonstrated by my wife’s sticky on one of the in-progress jobs. As the job progresses, players can stick on their own notes about clues, relevant NPCs, their characters’ reactions, and anything else that seems relevant to the job. More general info can be posted on the left side.

Since my current campaign is partly an experiment in cooperative world-building, we could devote one entire board to the world, so players can brainstorm ideas together. The wiki can do the same thing, but the benefit of Lino is that the whole thing is visible at a glance. Another board can be used for various rumors, threats, and clues they find along the way.

So far they have found:

  • a summoner hiding in the sewers of the starting city, who groused about having to report to his boss before teleporting away. As yet nothing is known about his boss.
  • that the country a few hours west of that city is beginning to amass troops near the border thanks to the presence of the adolescent dragon the PCs rescued and befriended.
  • the steampunky city in the middle of the nearby desert was invaded by Silurians, but the PCs brokered a peace. What’s not known is who woke them up, and why. Also promising to be interesting is what will come of the combination of the city’s technomancy and the technology of the Silurians.
  • and so on.

Shortly all of that will be listed on the wiki, but it will be much easier to see the big picture on Lino, even if it’s just covered with short notes that link to fuller details on the wiki. Trying to keep all those separate threads together with just a wiki could well be impossible if the game ends up running for years, but even known it’s getting a bit tricky.

(Note to fellow writers: Lino is also excellent for world-building, and keeping track of plot threads, threats, solutions, and minor characters.)

So that’s both of the online tools I use for campaign management. What about you?

Pokémon Pocket-sized Game Aids

My regular readers know that I have been working on several Pokémon game aids since late last year and finally got them ready for general distribution. My wife and several of our Pokémon Leaguers have been using them for several months and seem very happy with them, so I hope you’ll find them useful too.

The first is a list of every Pokémon as of generation 5, including their types and what Effort Points they yield. It is in the form of two booklets, each using one sheet of paper, that are small enough to fit in your pocket or DS case, yet have large enough text to even be readable by my eyes. To learn how to fold each sheet into an eight-page booklet, simply visit the website of PocketMod, the home of the handy bit of freeware I used to convert the original 16-page document down to a more manageable two pages.

My printer has a strict .51″ bottom margin, so in order to get those to print properly I have to set it to 96% and turn off auto-center. That results in a lot of trimming after folding, but it’s better than missing nearly half of two pages.

The second is a type chart designed to fit on an index card and therefore be slightly smaller than a DSi. If you can’t remember how the types match up in Pokémon or are tired of carrying around a huge chart, then this is for you.

If your printer can’t print on index cards or want to run off several to share with your friends or hand out at Pokémon League, you’re in luck because I also fit six on a single sheet of paper. You’ll find the best results if you print them on card stock.

Naturally, once X and Y release this fall I’ll update both documents with the new Pokémon and type(s). (You have heard about the new Fairy type, haven’t you?)


As usual, here are the download links for your convenience: