Thursday, November 20, 2014

Calling All Opinions; Input Needed.

To quote the venerable Johnny-Five; "Need input."

So, allow me to bring you up to speed. I recently(okay, yesterday) mentioned that I was considering a new programming project. Specifically my desired aim was to create another digital character sheet, this one for use with 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons. Now the overall goal mind you isn't anything glamorous or personal gain for my own benefit - I strictly want to try and make something useful.

With that in mind I'd like to share some of what I am considering incorporating into the design thus far. You can let me know what you think about it either way but more than anything else I am starving for input. Anyone is free to submit any idea or feature they would like to propose or recommend. If you know anyone who is never quite satisfied with other character sheets, then share this post with them so that they might contribute their opinions.

Here is the basic essential elements I've pieced together thus far;

  • Included menu functions must at least cover saving the character as a file, loading any saved file, clearing the sheet if a reset is warranted/desired and printing the sheet.
  • Any and all derived attributes or values such as ability score modifiers, proficiency bonus, skill modifiers, armor class, weight carried etc. should be auto-calculated and filled based on inputted entries made by the user.
  • An area for players to list any notes or otherwise record anything desired must be included.
  • Customizable or overridable fields should be available for any player using house rules or non-standard characters. Potentially even the auto-calc feature could be disabled by user preference.
  • Some standard details like racial traits and the like, even if not automatically filled in or listed should be incorporated in some capacity. That form can be taken as a mouse-over tool-tip that pops up or as a note/memo the user can reference under a help menu.
  • While a step by step walk-through approach to the character creation process could be helpful to some players it would be restrictive to a larger majority of players and require massive amounts of complex built-in information. This would also potentially reduce the programs flexibility. For an example; a user selects a gender or race etc. at some point in the process and then changes their mind. Can they go back and change it or are they stuck in the process? Will they have to finish it, start over or can they alter it? For those already familiar with the rules anything other than their own preferred method can be seen as irritating or a nuisance.
  • Some fields such as those devoted to spellcasting could be made optional by a user selectable feature so that non-casting classes can hide such sections. However, should a player be playing a race granting access to a cantrip or some other ability then a smaller appropriate 'Racial Spellcasting' field for example could be added instead.
Well, it is a start in any case. Thoughts, opinions, suggestions? Let's have 'em!

Input, Input, Input!

Full Disclosure; A previously proposed auto-fill example I offered as an idea was this -

[The inclusion of so much auto-loading details has been pointed out to be a potential problem, citing things like not every single race might be included or the use of altered and/or third party ones for instance. I only include this previous approach out of fairness to demonstrate one potential way considered for the design.]

A Dwarf Fighter from a Noble Background - 
On selecting Dwarf as a race the constitution score will increase by 2, Size will set at medium, speed will become 25ft and cannot be reduced by heavy armor, Racial traits such as Dark Vision(60ft), Dwarven Resiliance(Advantage on Saves vs. Posion and Resistance vs Posion Damage), Dwarven Combat Training(Battleaxe, handaxe, throwing hammer, Warhammer Proficient), Tool Proficient(Smith, Brewer, or Mason), Stonecunning(Inteligence(History) Checks regarding stonework with double proficiency bonus), Languages of Common and Dwarvish, and if a subrace is selected +1 Wisdom and +1 Hp/level is added for Hill Dwarves, while +2 Strength and light and medium armor proficiencies are added for Mountain Dwarves.

For Selecting Fighter we set the hit dice to d10 and if the level is set at 1 then we auto-fill 10 + Constitution modifier. Set armror and weapon proficencies to all, saving throws to strength and constitution, fill in the proficiency bonus based on level, highlight class skills to select from, check to see if using starting funds to purchase gear or the granted gear by class and background to offer any optional selections, select fighting style and list benefit, list second wind feature. For higher levels, list features appropriate to level such as action surge, martial archetype selected along with listed benefits by level, ability score increase prompts, extra attacks, and indomnitible.

For the Noble Background add the skill proficencies History and Persuasion, one type of gaming set tool proficency, prompt to add another language, gear if using granted gear, feature (position of privledge) unless using the alternate Knight variant then feature (retainers), and suggested characteristics(personality, ideal, bond and flaw) - possibly by even offering popup lists to select from.

Some additional auto-fills; AC(Based on armor, class features etc.), Skill modifiers, highlight any to be filled in fields, xp by level, Spellcasting vlaues by class/race.

Gear Fill In:
Armor - AC calc method, Strength Required, Stealth Disadvantage, Weight, Doff/Don, Speed Penalty
Weapon - Proficency Bonus, Stat Mod, Damage Mod, If Versitile add 2 handed damage field, finesse shifts strength modifier to dexterity, if thrown add a range field, an off-hand designation.
Adventuring Gear - Weight, Equipment Packs select to fill in with it's contents on your gear inventory list, Gaming Set(Select One), Artisan's Tools(Select One), Musical Instrument(Select One).

Optional - A Trinket Field complete with a potentially hard-coded 1-100 array of trinkets.
Optional - Feat Tab.

Now, can I pull all these things off? That I cannot make any gurantees on but I will certainly try to make as much of it as I can work. Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Character Sheet Conundrum; Convenience vs. Flexibility.

The Character Sheet Conundrum; Convenience vs. Flexibility.

Ultimately, at some point every person playing a tabletop role playing game has reached for the most basic form of character sheet imaginable; a blank piece of paper. You can fill it in with any information you want and in any way that you want. But at some point the little issue of convenience slips in. It could be any manner of pre-made printed or digital creation – we’ve all used them. From photo-copying the character sheets out of the back of a book to downloading some new one found online everyone has their personal favorites. The thing is, and it is something that can be argued; at what point does that convenience balance with flexibility?

Let’s say for example a player picks up a printed sheet that allows him to fill in a blank space for any skills that he has while a player next to him has a list to check off. Which of the two would you prefer? What does a player do if their skills are not on the list?

There are many digital tools for character sheets online as well that include auto-fill and auto-calculation of various scores as an aid. However, sometimes a player uses a house rule or has a special trait that doesn’t fit with the standard methods. What then?

I find myself contemplating such things as I consider working on a new digital character sheet for 5th Edition Dungeon’s & Dragons. What features are useful for players in such a utility? Is it better to allow them to fill in some aspects or lock in the pre-set values defined by things like race and class? How flexible and how convenient should it be?

I’d love to hear any thoughts on what favorite features people enjoy in a character sheet. What do you look for in one? Do you like the freedom to fill in what you like or do you prefer a pre-defined pick from a list approach? What are some of your favorite character sheets that you have used over the years?