Best paid character generator? Cheapest?


Product Discussion


I'm getting the impression that if I want something particularly good, I'm going to have to pay for it. Question is, where do I want to spend that money? If I'm buying, I want something good, but at the same time Hero Lab is a bit out of my league. $80 for the base package and all my Paizo spats is a little much.


Its good though, I like it.

You can trial it for free, you get the base rules and can fiddle around with it and see what you think

Sovereign Court

Hero Lab is by far the best. As you said, it's not cheap. There is an online community dedicated to using Excel for character generation, but they lag wayyyy behind Hero Lab when it comes to updates and fixing bugs.


Best = Hero Lab.
Cheapest = pencil and paper.


PCGen works well for me (and my group); it's in our price range and they fix bugs and glitches pretty quick when you report them. But since it's all volunteer work, some of the newer books aren't coded yet, but there are plenty of folks who can help if you want to have a go at DIY.


I use PCGen as well. Works well, can't complain about price (free), can add custom items. Only issue is that it uses Java, so when I am going to be working on a character for a while (ie going level-by-level for a lvl 12 character) I save, quit the program, and restart it every 5 levels or so to save on the memory creep.

It exports to PDF nicely.

RPG Superstar 2013 Top 32

Hero Lab is absolutely the best paid product out there, but IMO, PCGen isn't that far behind, and it's totally free. A higher learning curve to use it, and there are still things it doesn't do well, but back in the 3.x days I hand-typed a couple entire hardcovers into the system, and bits and pieces of other books I needed, since the data format was pretty easy to understand. I am still having trouble making custom material in HeroLab.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Hero Lab is awesome and stays quite up to date, but you'll be investing a lot. Custom material can be a bit challenging, though.

Last time I tried PCGen (about two-ish years ago?) it was lagging years behind the core published material, but maybe some contributors got together and improved it since then. I just don't have the time to type things in using their scripting system. (Edit: I did like at least one of their printed sheet layouts, though, better than the ones available for Hero Lab.)

I'd love to see a chargen system designed with ease of extension in mind, with a very readable script format (as in, readable by people who don't code for a living or haven't spent a lot of time learning scripting languages).


3 people marked this as a favorite.

cheap
fast
good

pick two, op

regardless, Hero Lab is worth every penny

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
The Human Diversion wrote:
Hero Lab is by far the best. As you said, it's not cheap. There is an online community dedicated to using Excel for character generation, but they lag wayyyy behind Hero Lab when it comes to updates and fixing bugs.

When it comes to the Excel road, I'm a Heroforge veteran of the old days. I can tell you as the things develop, they get huge, buggy, and flat out unstable.

They also tend not to work on the Mac versions of Office due to the macro language used.


blahpers wrote:


Last time I tried PCGen (about two-ish years ago?) it was lagging years behind the core published material, but maybe some contributors got together and improved it since then. I just don't have the time to type things in using their scripting system.

The latest main book in the latest PCGen build is Ultimate Equipment, I believe.

Adding custom items is easy in PCGen. Haven't tried custom anything else.


Hero Lab its worth the price tag.

PC Gen, its free, and its solid.


Herolab despite its flaws is one of the better ones, and you don't have to buy all of the books at once. I had the core book for a long time before I look at anything else being added. Eventually I started to add a book here and there, and they do packages which allow you to get rules for several books at a cheaper price.

Despite the fact that it allows me to build a character very quickly there are sometimes errors with the builds, but it is faster for me to build with herolab and then go over it to find the mistakes it made than to build from scratch.

The times I have reported bugs they have been quick to note the error.


So, Hero Lab and PC Gen are basically the two main programs? Huh. I thought there were some other paid options out there.


Kelsey MacAilbert wrote:
So, Hero Lab and PC Gen are basically the two main programs? Huh. I thought there were some other paid options out there.

Yeah. I know Herolab is licensed to use Pathfinder stuff. I don't think anyone else is.


The cost of Herolab is ridiculous and I probably wouldn't buy it even if I wasn't poor. My question is why do you want a character generator? If the main draw is being able to have all the resources at your immediate disposal and convenience (which would be the draw for me and was why I was in love with 4E character generator program before Wizards ruined it), you can get the same effect with sites like d20pfsrd.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
chaoseffect wrote:
The cost of Herolab is ridiculous and I probably wouldn't buy it even if I wasn't poor. My question is why do you want a character generator? If the main draw is being able to have all the resources at your immediate disposal and convenience (which would be the draw for me and was why I was in love with 4E character generator program before Wizards ruined it), you can get the same effect with sites like d20pfsrd.

I can't speak for the OP, but for me, the advantage of using a character generator (or character manager, as it were) such as PCGen is that it gives me an itemized list of things to do, so I don't forget about adding a favored class bonus, what level I get new feats/abilities, etc, and it scales things as I go along. And since I'm usually trying to manage things for my whole group (as GM), this is a HUGE time-saver.


Changing Man wrote:
chaoseffect wrote:
The cost of Herolab is ridiculous and I probably wouldn't buy it even if I wasn't poor. My question is why do you want a character generator? If the main draw is being able to have all the resources at your immediate disposal and convenience (which would be the draw for me and was why I was in love with 4E character generator program before Wizards ruined it), you can get the same effect with sites like d20pfsrd.
I can't speak for the OP, but for me, the advantage of using a character generator (or character manager, as it were) such as PCGen is that it gives me an itemized list of things to do, so I don't forget about adding a favored class bonus, what level I get new feats/abilities, etc, and it scales things as I go along. And since I'm usually trying to manage things for my whole group (as GM), this is a HUGE time-saver.

If I were only playing, I doubt I would have ever gotten past the CRB, but as a GM it helps a lot. I still do it by hand out of habit, but for higher level encounters I often go to herolab, especially when I am short on time. When I make a PC I do a full stat out. If I did partial stat outs and guesstimated at anything that came up unexpectedly I would not use it either.


chaoseffect wrote:
The cost of Herolab is ridiculous and I probably wouldn't buy it even if I wasn't poor. My question is why do you want a character generator? If the main draw is being able to have all the resources at your immediate disposal and convenience (which would be the draw for me and was why I was in love with 4E character generator program before Wizards ruined it), you can get the same effect with sites like d20pfsrd.

Some people are math challenged, plus you can save you character at different levels and plan your character out better.


wraithstrike wrote:
If I were only playing, I doubt I would have ever gotten past the CRB, but as a GM it helps a lot. I still do it by hand out of habit, but for higher level encounters I often go to herolab, especially when I am short on time. When I make a PC I do a full stat out. If I did partial stat outs and guesstimated at anything that came up unexpectedly I would not use it either.

This ! As GM, and "group PCGen guru" I keep up on everyone's character sheets and code all the special items, like the shards from Shattered Star, etc.

-- david


Hero lab works wonders. Half of my players use an iPad to run their characters with the HL app. Speedy, accurate enough, and easy.

Now you can update and save your character to dropbox without the hassle of moving your character sheet around.

HL seems expensive, but if you only buy what you need then you can get away with a fair price.

Sovereign Court

LazarX wrote:

When it comes to the Excel road, I'm a Heroforge veteran of the old days. I can tell you as the things develop, they get huge, buggy, and flat out unstable.

They also tend not to work on the Mac versions of Office due to the macro language used.

Same. I used it extensively for LG. Heck, I think I still have every one of my LG characters out there somewhere, but it is slow and big - my primary character ended up over 20 megs and took a good minute to load on my netbook.

I play and run Pathfinder often enough that Hero Lab is a fantastic investment for me.


To plan out characters I use notepad... and my mind.
For the final product, I use pencil and paper.

Very cheap. And it works. I know of people that use HeroLab, and there are frequent mistakes on it. I cannot provide any details, as I haven't used it. But I recall skill totals not adding up correctly or something weird like that.


chaoseffect wrote:
The cost of Herolab is ridiculous and I probably wouldn't buy it even if I wasn't poor. My question is why do you want a character generator? If the main draw is being able to have all the resources at your immediate disposal and convenience (which would be the draw for me and was why I was in love with 4E character generator program before Wizards ruined it), you can get the same effect with sites like d20pfsrd.

Assuming you can use it in play, it makes it much easier to track bonuses and effects in real time.


I've used The Only Sheet and Hero Lab.

I found The Only Sheet good, but cumbersome. Hero Lab is much easier to use.

Hero Lab is indeed very expensive (at least, for the complete package), but I find it's worth the money. YMMV.


Its free other than needing Excel, but sCoreforge is great and has most of the books. It gets updated frequently. Only thing it needs is a pickable spell list and the newest rulebook (ACG). Only issue I have is its a pain to change things for homerules adjustments without rehashing the whole set of macros.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Do a google search for YAPCG Sourceforge. It's a huge excel file called "Yet Another Pathfinder Character Generator". It's slow which can be obnoxious, but it's 100% free, the guys who manage it take bug reports seriously, and I haven't had it crash on me ever. If you go this route, in Excel, go to the Formula tab, and under Calculation Options select "Manual". That keeps the sheet from rerunning all the calculations until you hit F9 or the "CALCULATE" button in the lower left hand corner.

Liberty's Edge

Hero Lab being licensed by Paizo is now my go-to software. They have the (majority of a) book ready to go on release day. That is the selling factor for me.

The cost to get into Hero Lab is managable. $30 to start out for Core book and ALL PLAYER MATERIAL FROM ALL ADVENTURE PATHS (that's the part everyone forgets to mention...). From there you just purchase books or packages as needed. If you don't use anything from Obscure Splatbook, don't worry about buying it. If you're a completist that "needs" every book out there, yeah, it can get expensive if you need it the day it becomes available.

At the $80 entry point for the OP, you're probably looking at $30 for the Core, $10 for APG, $10 Ultimate Combat, $10 Ultimate Magic, $10 Advanced Class Guide, $10 Ultimate Equipment or some variation to get Campaign Setting books or Companion books which are $5 for ~3 books a package as a player. As a GM you're looking at (I think) $30 for Bestiary 1-3 bundle, and $15 for Bestiary 4 content in the above mix.

Look at what you NEED first. Budget it. Then look at you want. Budget it. Hero Lab is doable money-wise. If your HL license is the only one in the group and the group will be benefiting from it, don't feel bad to ask the group to help with the cost of the program and packages, especially if their character is the one taking the obscure feat from the brand new Book of Obscure Awesomeness in the $5 package of 3 books of Coolness You Can't Live Without.

If all you're getting from a book is 1 feat or the like, look into the editor. It can be programmed DIY-style and the Hero Lab forums are a friendly place to ask for help on something like 1 feat or Archetype, etc. for entering into the editor. Also there are literally pages of posts and threads that will probably answer your question just by searching the forum without actually needing to ask. Someone else has probably run into the same issue and asked how to solve it.

As for the "buggy" Hero Lab... I've been using HL for about 3 years now and the bugs are fewer now than they were before, and Lone Wolf is very good about squishing them as they crop up. That said there are some that are old and known and acknowledged as being a mountain of work to tackle. Nothing that will break most people's games by any means. But when in doubt, report it so that the developers can know about it and squish it.

If nothing else SERIOUSLY look into Hero Lab as they are the only LICENSED software, and their Ennie Winning pedigree as voted on by the fans.

Don't let cost sway you to lesser software in this regard. It can be done, maybe not in one shot, but it can be done!

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

My group and I have been running hero Labs for a few years now. It can be licensed to several machines so we split the cost among us and it works pretty well. One of our guys even uses it at the table to track all of his rage/ spells/ misc stuff and loves it for that.


CorzatTheGray wrote:

The cost to get into Hero Lab is managable. $30 to start out for Core book and ALL PLAYER MATERIAL FROM ALL ADVENTURE PATHS (that's the part everyone forgets to mention...). From there you just purchase books or packages as needed. If you don't use anything from Obscure Splatbook, don't worry about buying it. If you're a completist that "needs" every book out there, yeah, it can get expensive if you need it the day it becomes available.

At the $80 entry point for the OP, you're probably looking at $30 for the Core, $10 for APG, $10 Ultimate Combat, $10 Ultimate Magic, $10 Advanced Class Guide, $10 Ultimate Equipment or some variation to get Campaign Setting books or Companion books which are $5 for ~3 books a package as a player. As a GM you're looking at (I think) $30 for Bestiary 1-3 bundle, and $15 for Bestiary 4 content in the above mix.
Look at what you NEED first. Budget it. Then look at you want. Budget it. Hero Lab is doable money-wise. If your HL license is the only one in the group and the group will be benefiting from it, don't feel bad to ask the group to help with the cost of the program and packages, especially if their character is the one taking the obscure feat from the brand new Book of Obscure Awesomeness in the $5 package of 3 books of Coolness You Can't Live Without.

I totally forgot about the Bestiaries. As a GM, I'd need those, too. Issue is that I want the software to take the edge off encounter design since school takes up so much time, but on the other hand I use splat materiel heavily. I'm the only one who'd use it, so asking my friends to pay isn't happening. I wouldn't feel comfortable with it, either, because there are a couple guys I merely tolerate because I need the extra players. I'm not going to ask for financial contributions from people I'd boot from the game if I could.


DocShock wrote:
Do a google search for YAPCG Sourceforge. It's a huge excel file called "Yet Another Pathfinder Character Generator". It's slow which can be obnoxious, but it's 100% free, the guys who manage it take bug reports seriously, and I haven't had it crash on me ever. If you go this route, in Excel, go to the Formula tab, and under Calculation Options select "Manual". That keeps the sheet from rerunning all the calculations until you hit F9 or the "CALCULATE" button in the lower left hand corner.
Heimdall666 wrote:
Its free other than needing Excel, but sCoreforge is great and has most of the books. It gets updated frequently. Only thing it needs is a pickable spell list and the newest rulebook (ACG). Only issue I have is its a pain to change things for homerules adjustments without rehashing the whole set of macros.

Sounds like that might be best, given that I have a reasonable level of proficiency with formulas and macros.

Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've used HL exclusively for several years now and I've been very pleased with it. I GM so I rebuild all my encounters for my group (7 players). I also manage all their characters in HL.

Once you get past the initial purchases, HL isn't all that expensive, especially once you consider what the packages costs versus the time I'd have to sink into doing it myself. When viewed from that perspective, it's a steal.

-Skeld

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Echoing sCoreforge esp if you're good with macros. It also has a partner sheet for spells. I'd say even though it's just Excel-based, I actually really like its interface for the actual character generation the best of what I've used. The downside is it is really slow when it's loading sources.

I've used HeroLab, PC Gen, and sCoreForge, among a few other now no longer updated products (if you thought there were other things there were a few announced/started but were never completed) and all are good in their own way. As a player just generating a sheet that I want to print out, I prefer sCoreForge. I prefer PC gen if I am doing all the work on my computer, or as a GM generating monsters, NPCs, and pregens, I prefer PC gen. I will also note that as a player, I find PC Gen hands-down the best for equipment purchase. HeroLab is the prettiest and the fastest, and is a good virtual character sheet if you play from your laptop.

My issue is indeed the cost for HeroLab, especially as it is only minorly more convenient than the free apps. And the cost is ridiculous (I only have the paid version for Mutants and Masterminds, for which it is very useful since it's a point buy system)----bearing in mind triple A video games cost $60, IMO a pretty character generator with a few options unlocked year no f#*%ing where worth $80. HL also has limited installs--because I have installed it before on new machines and I bought a new motherboard this year, my software install decided it was new and I don't think I will be able to install it again if I get a new comp/hardware unless I beg for an extension and prove I'm not a criminal.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DeathQuaker wrote:


My issue is indeed the cost for HeroLab, especially as it is only minorly more convenient than the free apps. And the cost is ridiculous (I only have the paid version for Mutants and Masterminds, for which it is very useful since it's a point buy system)----bearing in mind triple A video games cost $60, IMO a pretty character generator with a few options unlocked year no f#&%ing where worth $80. HL also has limited installs--because I have installed it before on new machines and I bought a new motherboard this year, my software install decided it was new and I don't think I will be able to install it again if I get a new comp/hardware unless I beg for an extension and prove I'm not a criminal.

"Minorly" again as noted before it depends on your expectations. If they are low enough, than PCGen does a wonderful job. If you want every book you own covered the day you get it, then you really don't have any alternatives unless you can code like Cowboy Neal.


DeathQuaker wrote:
HL also has limited installs--because I have installed it before on new machines and I bought a new motherboard this year, my software install decided it was new and I don't think I will be able to install it again if I get a new comp/hardware unless I beg for an extension and prove I'm not a criminal.

I had to do something similar a couple years ago and had to contact them, but there was no begging or proof required. Just an email or two. Not a big deal.


I haven't tried PCGen in a few years. Last time I did, it was way behind. Has it been more up-to-date recently? Not necessarily the day the book comes out, but months, not years behind?


Posting from my "PCGen Alias".

Yes, we are "behind" on books. Currently there are 31 NEWSOURCE open requests, of which 18 are from Paizo material (Link).

Remember this is an all volunteer open source project. If you have a specific book / request, PM me and I will either open a Jira (request) or point you to the open one, and you can follow the status of it.

-- david

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

LazarX wrote:
DeathQuaker wrote:


My issue is indeed the cost for HeroLab, especially as it is only minorly more convenient than the free apps. And the cost is ridiculous (I only have the paid version for Mutants and Masterminds, for which it is very useful since it's a point buy system)----bearing in mind triple A video games cost $60, IMO a pretty character generator with a few options unlocked year no f#&%ing where worth $80. HL also has limited installs--because I have installed it before on new machines and I bought a new motherboard this year, my software install decided it was new and I don't think I will be able to install it again if I get a new comp/hardware unless I beg for an extension and prove I'm not a criminal.
"Minorly" again as noted before it depends on your expectations.

It should go without saying that all I say is simply in my personal experience, and in my personal opinion. I've used all of the programs I've mentioned for many years, and those are my personal findings. As with all things of course, your mileage may vary. As for my expectations, all I "expect" is something I find works best/most efficiently for me.

As it is, as someone mentioned, HeroLab has a free demo and the others are already free, so there is no cost for someone shopping round trying all of them and finding what they like best, which I strongly encourage anyone to do. Ultimately what matters is not how you or I justify what we use, it's what the individual user finds works best for him or herself, and luckily that's easy to find out.

Quote:
If they are low enough, than PCGen does a wonderful job. If you want every book you own covered the day you get it, then you really don't have any alternatives unless you can code like Cowboy Neal.

Well, last I checked, sCoreForge was up to date (I was discussing both)---although I haven't checked to see if they've added ACG stuff yet. PC Gen tends to be more behind (DRB rightly points out it's a small group of volunteers coding for free and I accept they do it when they have time) but for my personal purposes it still has what I need.

And for that matter, I think PC Gen DOES actually cover every book I, personally own :) --- but I do not own every book in the Paizo catalog (my personal financial priorities do not permit me to buy those any more than they would allow me to unlock all that would be nice to have in HeroLab). And that is a caveat to bear in mind when considering my personal evaluation of these things.

Since DRB posted, it reminds me to add that he and the other CodeMonkeys are extremely responsive and helpful if anyone needs assistance with PCGen.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I did not intend to knock any of the work that PCGen does. In fact, I still think they do a better base output job when it comes to character sheets than Herolab does. Although I wish they had more options for character portraits.

The PCGen folks are doing a hell of a job for free. That needs to be remembered... they do this on their free time.


LazarX wrote:
Although I wish they had more options for character portraits.

heh, yea!

What I do, if it will help, is use Token Tools and create tokens from the photo's that Paizo uses for the messageboards, and save it to my output file and put them in as pictures of my characters, under the Description -> Portrait tab.

-- david

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Third-Party Pathfinder RPG Products / Product Discussion / Best paid character generator? Cheapest? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.