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A Pathfinder character builder like no other!


Technology


Hello all!

I wanted to let you know that I have been working on a character builder similar to the WotC Character Builder but for Pathfinder. It is called Character Explorer. It is an ambitious project but it is almost finished; I just wanted to start spreading the word and getting feedback. Please let me know what you think.

http://www.characterexplorer.com/

Oh, and be sure to check out the blog.

Thanks!


Hey jasoncof. I've actually done a VERY simple 3.5 builder in high school and I've toy'd with the idea of making a pathfinder one.

I was just curious on what you coded this project in? and any particulars you wish to share about the project (Scope, time taken, how you are incorporating all of the different books, etc)

:D


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Seems to be REALLY interesting, WoTCH Character builder is one of the good thing from DnD 4 and I would really like to have something similar for pathfinder.

Hero Lab is way too expensive and not that good anyway.

I signed up on your list, when do you plan to have it testable?


Kaelizar wrote:

Hey jasoncof. I've actually done a VERY simple 3.5 builder in high school and I've toy'd with the idea of making a pathfinder one.

I was just curious on what you coded this project in? and any particulars you wish to share about the project (Scope, time taken, how you are incorporating all of the different books, etc)

:D

Hi Kaelizar!

The application is written in Ruby, using Ruby on Rails, with lots of Javascript. It has as rich UI which accounts for all the Javascript. It has taken me a considerable amount of time. I would say about 8 months of full time development (spread over the course of a year or so). I think there is about 3 months left.

The application isn't just a spreadsheet style builder. It actually handles all the calculations for you, manages prerequisites, etc.. You could have no idea how to create a Pathfinder character and still create a valid character. Of course, you can explicitly override rules to create house ruled characters. If you ever played around with WotC's Character Builder for D&D it is like that, but better ;).

The first release will include the rules from the Core Rulebook. I will be adding options from other rule books, starting with Advanced Player's Guide, after the initial release. Adding new character options at that time will be easier because the core mechanics will be done. So I will try to release a new race, class, etc., every week or two.

Let me know if you have any more questions. You can also check out the FAQ section, and if you haven't my recent blog post When can I have a Pathfinder character builder?.


Lauraliane wrote:

Seems to be REALLY interesting, WoTCH Character builder is one of the good thing from DnD 4 and I would really like to have something similar for pathfinder.

Hero Lab is way too expensive and not that good anyway.

I signed up on your list, when do you plan to have it testable?

Thank you Lauraliane for signing up to the mailing list. I send updates to the list and will provide early access to those on the list as well. Also, it helps me gauge interest and keeps my morale up, haha. Working on this has been hard at times.

Regarding how long before the launch, I would say about three more months of fulltime development. I have been working on this fulltime for about six months. But money is running low, so I'm going to start a Kickstarter project in about a week to help fund the last stretch of development.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
jasoncof wrote:


The first release will include the rules from the Core Rulebook. I will be adding options from other rule books, starting with Advanced Player's Guide, after the initial release. Adding new character options at that time will be easier because the core mechanics will be done. So I will try to release a new race, class, etc., every week or two.

How much and how quick you can support as many options as possible will be CRITICAL to the success of your builder.

Very few characters nowadays are created using only the core rulebook.

You need to support at the very least: Core, Advanced Player, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic VERY quickly once you are released or your builder might just be forgotten quickly.


How are you handling the data. So say when you push though the APG feats, classes, etc. Is that hard coded or do you have a database or some sort of XML set up. (again just curious and if it's too much to ask please feel free to deny my curiosity) lol.

I've never actually worked with Ruby, but I've heard a lot of good things, I myself work mostly in C#, and C style languages, with a bit of knowledge in Java. I'm even less knowledgeable in JavaScript in other front in languages, but I can get most of the work done with them. I just dont have the off hand knowledge to do most things in JavaScript without looking it up.

That said, your builder looks pretty sharp from the screen shots. I'm looking forward to trying this out, and helping you make this even better with feedback :)

Keep up the good work!


Lauraliane wrote:
jasoncof wrote:


The first release will include the rules from the Core Rulebook. I will be adding options from other rule books, starting with Advanced Player's Guide, after the initial release. Adding new character options at that time will be easier because the core mechanics will be done. So I will try to release a new race, class, etc., every week or two.

How much and how quick you can support as many options as possible will be CRITICAL to the success of your builder.

Very few characters nowadays are created using only the core rulebook.

You need to support at the very least: Core, Advanced Player, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic VERY quickly once you are released or your builder might just be forgotten quickly.

Understood. I can either release early with the core rules and add the advanced rules later, or I can wait until everything is done before the launch. I will think about it some more. I guess it depends on how much support I get from Kickstarter. If it gets well funded I can hire more help and release on time with the additional character options.


Lauraliane wrote:
You need to support at the very least: Core, Advanced Player, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic VERY quickly once you are released or your builder might just be forgotten quickly.

I agree that these will be critical on launch, but I think it would make sense to do a beta or something before (while you just have core) to be sure you don't want to make any tweeks, and get some feedback on this before all the other additions.

Silver Crusade

I'm really excited by this. The 4th ed charactere generator, and the promised but never appearing online dungeon maker tool were the reason I bought many of the books.

A tool like this for Pathfinder would be amazing, most of the group I game with are 'story first' kind of people, so there are always amazing moments in our sessions (drama and comedy abound). But combat falls to the wayside, due to many people not truly grasping all the rules. (One particularly memorable event, we redid an entire combat because our Monk forgot he used level for BaB while flurrying...and forgot to add his STR, which explained why he missed everything first time) Something like this would speed up his character management significantly, allowing him to focus on immersion as he prefers, while we all can continue to level at a decent pace.

I also signed up, and have directed your link to my group. If you go Kickstarter, you've got atleast one supporter chomping at the bit.


Kaelizar wrote:

How are you handling the data. So say when you push though the APG feats, classes, etc. Is that hard coded or do you have a database or some sort of XML set up. (again just curious and if it's too much to ask please feel free to deny my curiosity) lol.

I'm sorry if this is too technical for the rest of the audience, but here is the answer to Kaelizar's question:

I've been keeping the data as simple as possible. Simple data (language lists, weapon stats, etc.) are CSV files. More complicated data, like feats which have stat changing effects and complicated prerequisites, are done using a Ruby domain specific language (DSL). So, for example, the combat feat Wind Stance looks like this:

feat "Wind Stance", "Gain 20% concealment if you move", "Combat" do
dex_prerequisite 15
feat_prerequisite "Dodge"
bab_prerequisite 6
end

It will be easy to abstract this into XML, JSON, or any other serialization format if I want to. I haven't had the need to yet. But I will when I allow users to create their own options.


Booksy wrote:
A tool like this for Pathfinder would be amazing, most of the group I game with are 'story first' kind of people, so there are always amazing moments in our sessions (drama and comedy abound). But combat falls to the wayside, due to many people not truly grasping all the rules. (One particularly memorable event, we redid an entire combat because our Monk forgot he used level for BaB while flurrying...and forgot to add his STR, which explained why he missed everything first time) Something like this would speed up his character management significantly, allowing him to focus on immersion as he prefers, while we all can continue to level at a decent pace.

Exactly this! This is exactly why I wanted to create a character builder. I've been playing Pathfinder with my 11 year old son and his friends. They don't have a firm grasp of the rules. But also, being 11 years boys, love combat. However, it slows down the game a bunch as I help them with their characters. It takes us out of the moment. We are no longer adventuring, but doing math (not that math isn't fun for some people, but there is a time and a place ;).

Thank you for your support!


Lauraliane wrote:
jasoncof wrote:


You need to support at the very least: Core, Advanced Player, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic VERY quickly once you are released or your builder might just be forgotten quickly.

I disagree. Based on my experience as a software developer, I think releasing it sooner (with fewer features) will improve the outcomes. Perhaps the users will say " Sure, I'd love to cover the other books, but I REALLY wish you'd improve the print-to-PDF functionality." Or something else. The point is, there's nothing as good as actual users to pinpoint what is most valuable.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
mcherm wrote:
Lauraliane wrote:
jasoncof wrote:


You need to support at the very least: Core, Advanced Player, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic VERY quickly once you are released or your builder might just be forgotten quickly.

I disagree. Based on my experience as a software developer, I think releasing it sooner (with fewer features) will improve the outcomes. Perhaps the users will say " Sure, I'd love to cover the other books, but I REALLY wish you'd improve the print-to-PDF functionality." Or something else. The point is, there's nothing as good as actual users to pinpoint what is most valuable.

That's why doing a beta would be cool indeed, to get those feedbacks. But let's be honest, people won't feel like using it to create their character if more than half the options are not there.

Typically only core means "No archetypes", that's a pretty big issue, people loves archetypes and I see them used often.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
jasoncof wrote:


Understood. I can either release early with the core rules and add the advanced rules later, or I can wait until everything is done before the launch. I will think about it some more. I guess it depends on how much support I get from Kickstarter. If it gets well funded I can hire more help and release on time with the additional character options.

If you do a Kickstarter, you get my money I can already tell you that ;)

Especially if that means supporting more books.


One thing that would be handy is the inclusion of templates. I can't check the site right now but from what people have said, it's sounding pretty good. I will definitely check it out later.


Lauraliane wrote:
jasoncof wrote:


Understood. I can either release early with the core rules and add the advanced rules later, or I can wait until everything is done before the launch. I will think about it some more. I guess it depends on how much support I get from Kickstarter. If it gets well funded I can hire more help and release on time with the additional character options.

If you do a Kickstarter, you get my money I can already tell you that ;)

Especially if that means supporting more books.

I agree, and also encourage you to release it with more 'stuff.' If you released a builder with only the CRB, I wouldn't be interested, if it had APG, UM, and UC, with ARG 'coming soon,' I would be very interested!

My other 2cents, don't go as pricey as herolab is. There is no chance I would ever drop THAT much money on a character builder. That said, I would pay monthly like I did for 4e.

Silver Crusade

Additionally, I would suggest implementation of Advanced Race Guide's core race info. You don't need all the other races at launch, but having the core will help to truly EXPLORE your CHARACTER's race options. It's in your name after all :)

Paizo Employee Webstore Gninja Minion

Moved thread.


Looks pretty good. I'm currently tackling the same thing, just as an iPad app rather than a web-based app. Managing the data sets and the rule processing is definitely not easy...


jasoncof wrote:


Thank you Lauraliane for signing up to the mailing list. I send updates to the list and will provide early access to those on the list as well. Also, it helps me gauge interest and keeps my morale up, haha. Working on this has been hard at times.

Regarding how long before the launch, I would say about three more months of fulltime development. I have been working on this fulltime for about six months. But money is running low, so I'm going to start a Kickstarter project in about a week to help fund the last stretch of development.

Oh this could be a big time thing for you if you can have some kind of demo ready for your KS kickoff (like - "here you can build a fighter with this!")

Keep any stretch goals/rewards simple and clearly worded/written. I have seen some great project completely messed up and fail due mostly to poorly thought out goals and confusing layouts (see Tidal Wave Redux for a prefect example of what *not* to do. - Check out Reaper Miniatures Bones KS for how to do it *right*).

Best of luck and I, for one, am really excited about a top-end character builder for PF!!


Oh ive already signed up before this haha.

Anyway glad to see it still moving forward, you'll have my support with the kickstarter.


jasoncof wrote:
Kaelizar wrote:

How are you handling the data. So say when you push though the APG feats, classes, etc. Is that hard coded or do you have a database or some sort of XML set up. (again just curious and if it's too much to ask please feel free to deny my curiosity) lol.

I'm sorry if this is too technical for the rest of the audience, but here is the answer to Kaelizar's question:

I've been keeping the data as simple as possible. Simple data (language lists, weapon stats, etc.) are CSV files. More complicated data, like feats which have stat changing effects and complicated prerequisites, are done using a Ruby domain specific language (DSL). So, for example, the combat feat Wind Stance looks like this:

feat "Wind Stance", "Gain 20% concealment if you move", "Combat" do
dex_prerequisite 15
feat_prerequisite "Dodge"
bab_prerequisite 6
end

It will be easy to abstract this into XML, JSON, or any other serialization format if I want to. I haven't had the need to yet. But I will when I allow users to create their own options.

Okay cool, Thanks for the info jasoncof.

Also that seems to be the short description of the feat. Will you be having an expanded description of the feat: "If you move more than 5 feet this turn, you gain 20% concealment for 1 round against ranged attacks."

because as with the books themselves, the short description can be quite misleading.

Last question I guess would be, will you be having a print to character sheet option? or will it just be a digital sheet?


Thank you everyone for your feedback! This is very helpful.

I plan to charge about the same rate as WotC's product. They charge $10 a month. I may charge a little more or less depending upon interest--the more interest the less I have to charge to keep the project going.

Right now I'm trying to brainstorm stretch goals and rewards for the Kickstarter. If anyone has suggestions I would love to hear them. The most obvious reward is coupon codes for the application (basically preordering the product at a greatly reduced rate). But I'm sort of at a lose for other rewards. Especially the higher end rewards.

Please let me know your suggestions. Thanks!


My only qualms with a monthly charge is that it must be maintained and updated constantly, If I'm being charged monthly, I'm expecting the product to become easier to use, have more functionality, features, etc on a month to month basis. I can understand the need for monthly fee, b/c if you make it a stand alone app then anyone can copy and it and give to friends.

I do have several friends who pitched in together to get a hero lab subscription between them, there by cutting the cost of it, and it's not like they are all using it all the time.

I think as an alternate to a monthly fee, there could be tiers of 1 time cost, (core, expanded, full) etc or whatever, but this would be a bit complex for figuring out pricing and keeping funding, but if people only play core (which is possible) they they wont need something that evolves with the new books or extended Pathfinder library.

Again, not saying this should but used, but something to think on.

Silver Crusade

As a suggestion for the Kickstarter video: get someone you know to do it unless you've already had ample experience. People will judge your 'product' by the presentation. Bad sound, bad music, and bad lighting do not make for fun videos. And making it long and drawn out isn't any good either.

Taldor

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Tales Subscriber

If you want to win people over from other platforms then find a way to support gestalt.
None of the others do that at the moment, AFAIK.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This looks absolutely amazing! I would definitely pay into a Kickstarter to ensure that you project goes on without a hitch.

Osirion

I've subcribed to your mailing list. It looks good but i reserve my final judgment on seing the actual character sheet layout. Multiple layouts would definetely be a plus. As for a monthly fee i can tell as a consumer that it made cringe instantly. If its like wizard's original creator in the sense that the genrator is installed on your device and you pay the monthly fee in order to get the updates, thats fine. But if i decide to stop my subscription i dont want to be locked out or cutoff from accesing my characters. Just my thought


Monthly fee is reasonable for a product that's continually updated with the new content that Paizo releases. Don't back down from that. Maybe back down from the $10 mark, or possibly offer large discounts for long-term pre-paid subs. (like $60 for a year) I prefer a sub to the model that Hero Lab is using. What a joke.

Qadira

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Modules Subscriber

I love how clean it looks from the three images showing on your website, I'd definitely be keen to try out as our club is fully hooked on running Pathfinder games and need a quick way to produce characters in bulk.

Something that could be an interesting addition, though may take a little work so should be put to one side until you've got the core stuff done, is a random character generator function.

A $10 a month subscription would be a purchase model that I'd go for, as mentioned a discount rate for paying a longer period in advance would likely be popular.
Something like 3 months at 10% off, 6 months at 12% off and 12 months at 15% off would work quite well and not cut away at earnings by much.

With the various rules that you have planned to be added later on, do you have plans to add the Pathfinder Society materials as well?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I strongly believe that most gamers will not pay a $10 per month subscription fee. I'd say you would have a better chance at getting them to pay an annual fee of $30.00 a year.

Out of the 11 people I game with weekly, I am the only one who uses HeroLab (I really do not like the program, but its the only "real" choice we have. Once you master the awkward and at times clumsy interface, it produces a reliable result). A few of the others in the group just do everything by hand, but all the others use one of the free online resources available. One of them still uses an Excel spreadsheet I developed that only supports the core rules. It seems that none of these people will pay to use a character builder mainly out of principle.

I suspect that most of the people that would be willing to pay any kind of a cost for a character generator are already using HeroLab. The two main factors that need to be considered in trying to vie for these customers are:

Cost: HeroLab customers pay a 1 time cost of $30.00 to use the program. About another $50.00 buys them all the core supplements. So after they have spent $80.00, they have access to a great wealth of materials. This amount needs to be considered before assigning a fee structure.

Interface & Layout: An easy to use, intuitive interface is vital to compete with HeroLab. I have been designed interfaces for many years, and a lot of the things that are on my "don't do" list, are used by HeroLab. This is an area where a new product could really excel if done right. If well designed, the interface should be fun and informative to use and should almost make a person feel like they are creating a character in a video game. A child should be able to use it as efficiently as a seasoned computer programmer. HeroLab's interface is lacking so significantly in this aspect, that this would be a great selling point for a new character builder.

Ultimately, if a new character builder was cheaper than HeroLab, and offered a better user experience, then I would say it could become a very viable product. Such a character builder would likely attract new customers who have not paid for a character builder in the past. If such a product existed I'm sure several of players in my groups would even break down and buy such a product if I told them it was great and worth the money. I know they would never likely pay a subscription fee, but possibly would part with about $30 - $40 once if it gave them unlimited access to all core product game material (CRB, APG, UM, UC ARG).

Anyways, that's just my random ramblings and opinions on this matter.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Is there any chance this will support Gestalt characters? (The refusal to ever support for them is one of the main reasons I never bought into HeroLab.)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Laithoron wrote:
Is there any chance this will support Gestalt characters? (The refusal to ever support for them is one of the main reasons I never bought into HeroLab.)

Lone Wolf Developing does NOT refuse to support gestalt characters. They really can't at the moment. They are unable to have two spell casting classes together as basically one class leveling at the same time. So to be fair Hero Lab DOES support it if it was able to.

So please do not make it sound like they are just flat out refusing to do so.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Deanoth: I'm not interested in derailing Jason's thread by getting into semantics regarding another company's product. My point was:

1. Stress that a lack of support for gestalts might be a deal-breaker for some potential customers.
2. Find out if he has any plans to implement gestalt support (or at least raise awareness of the issue so as to avoid coding himself into a corner [where gestalts are concerned] the way LWD apparently has).

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Jason,

I just became aware of your project.

To use game mechanics from the Pathfinder RPG, you need to use Wizards of the Coast's OGL, which you can find in any OGL product.

Anything we've declared as Open Game Content in our products is available for use under the Open Game License, which you can find in any OGL product; anything we've declared as Product Identity is unavailable. In most of our products, you'll find the statements of OGC and PI on the title or credits page at the front of the book. Note that these statements occasionally vary from product to product, so you'll need to check the individual statements in each product you wish to draw from.

It's very important to note that the OGL is Wizards of the Coast's license, not Paizo's, and so I can't provide any advice about its suitability for your use. There's certainly some disagreement in the community about whether it can reasonably be used in software to which other licenses are attached. (Note the clause at the end of section 2 that says "No other terms or conditions may be applied to any Open Game Content distributed using this License." You'll particularly want a solid legal understanding of how that interacts with any software or IP licenses you're using; I'd suggest you seek the advice of an intellectual properties attorney on that front.)

Also note that the OGL specifically restricts you from using "any ... trademark or registered trademark clearly identified as Product Identity by the owner of the Product Identity", or from "indicat[ing] compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark."

This means that, absent another agreement, you can't use trademarks like Pathfinder, Pathfinder Society, or Paizo in connection with your app (except for citing your sources of Open Game Content in your OGL Section 15 Copyright Notice). (Using the non-trademarked term "PFRPG" is legal, though.)

We do offer an agreement that *may* be applicable to your needs, though: the Paizo Community Use Policy -- http://paizo.com/paizo/about/communityuse. The CUP is available to noncommercial users only, and requires that you cannot sell or otherwise charge anyone for access to content used under this Policy. You *can* accept donations, and you can subsidize your costs with advertising (so long as you're *only* subsidizing costs, and not accepting advertising for commercial gain), but *everything* produced under the CUP must be freely available.

(I've sent the same message via email to the contact address on your website.)

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Addendum: The above was written with the assumption that Character Builder is a downloadable app. If the form it took were as a freely available website, the Pathfinder RPG Compatibility License would provide another way that you may be able to indicate compatibility with the Pathfinder RPG.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I believe his best route would be to enter into a specific license agreement / contract with Paizo similar to HeroLabs. Such an agreement would make them partners and would also allow access to the protected Product Identity parts (which would be important for the project to be really successful). I believe that such an agreement though would require a financial commitment though.


Has anyone heard anything more on this ? Unless I am missing something the last update I saw was from Dec 2012.

Paizo Employee Chief Technical Officer

Kor - Orc Scrollkeeper wrote:

I believe his best route would be to enter into a specific license agreement / contract with Paizo similar to HeroLabs. Such an agreement would make them partners and would also allow access to the protected Product Identity parts (which would be important for the project to be really successful). I believe that such an agreement though would require a financial commitment though.

As far as acquiring a specific license from us, that option will only be considered for established software publishers with excellent reputations and solid business plans for their prospective apps.


At this risk of hijacking this thread* I thought it might be worth mentioning that I'm working on an extremely similar project that is nearing beta:

HeroSheets - PFRPG Character Sheets

If you sign up for the mailing list, you'll get notified when the free Early Access program is ready. We're rolling out slowly to interested players, starting on September 20. The first release supports OGL content from the Core Rulebook. We'll be adding more content over time, for free, based on customer feedback

*I'm hoping its OK since the Character Explorer creator has been unresponsive for the last seven months - if it's inappropriate I can move this to its own thread.

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