HeroLab Online: Quite a (Miserable) Experience


Product Discussion


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Gentlepersons, I submit for you a "first impressions" and "user experience" for HeroLab Online. I can't call it a review because the thing doesn't work yet. My goal in writing is to alert you before your money leaves your wallet, so you can make an informed choice. Perhaps someday this product shall worth purchasing, but I will tell you what has happened since I picked it up on August 1st, 2019.

I would have been quick to recommend HeroLab Classic for PF1e. As a matter of fact, when it was on Paizo.com, I did, giving it four stars but quickly noting the pricing was deceptive. (The review is in my profile, but the HeroLab Classic product page is memory-holed.) Thirty dollars bought you Core 1e, and you would spend a lot more for the PF1e full experience. I did it gladly, because HeroLab Classic was a slightly confusing, absolutely useful tool that could do just about anything you needed. And when you bought the product, you *purchased* it with your license, and didn't have a recurrent cost.

I state that in the preface because I want to say I went into HeroLab online with a generally positive opinion of Lone Wolf. I have Army Builder. I Kickstarted Realmworks. Within hours of checking out HeroLab Online, all positive feelings were lost.

First, the new model is a recurring subscription. You have no long-term in this. They are following the monetization model of a live service. Yes, this means you will pay and pay again for content that you already paid for. I hope that knowledge alone turns people off. It certainly was a negative when I was considering purchasing it, but it wasn't enough to make me turn back. With a diminished, but still favorable, view of Hero Lab, I tried HLO.

Let me be clear; you pay to temporarily license content. If you want just the Core Rulebook in Pathfinder, it will cost you $35 USD. The Bestiary is another $13. This gives you access to the content for 6 months. If you want the product after that, they want you to pay again.

The program is now browser-based and always requires a connection. This means it must always contact the Lone Wolf servers to do anything. Your ability to download your creations is limited to downloading PDFs of the characters you've created. This has several implications, such as you can no longer work when not connected, you can no longer save a creation and send it to someone else to review or edit, you can no longer customize how character sheets print and look, you can no longer take your character and use them in HeroLab without a connection, and you can no easily make custom content. All those functions are gone.

When it rolled out, the server-side connections were abysmally slow. They assured me in an email that they have the problem under control, but the roll-out was still plagued with having the product hang for minutes at a time because it couldn't get a reply from Lone Wolf's server. Well, it still does that. It's gotten better; it's now about 10-15 seconds of wait time per click. That's for every skill you are clicking to pick as trained. For every spell you're adding to the spellbook. For every little item you are picking up in your gear. For every time you edit the journal. For every time you want to delete a used consumable (Sarenrae help the Alchemists).

To put some empiric numbers on that, today at 1 PM CST, adding a spell to a spellbook requires 5 clicks and 1 minute, 2 seconds, almost all the time spent waiting on the server. So that will be 15 minutes for your level 1 wizard if you already know what you want. If you want to browse through spells and pick them, get ready to spend even more time waiting for the spell's text to populate the window.

Worse, if a character has a lot of options, such as if they have a large spell-book, the number of options available seem to cause some non-linear increase in the time you must wait for it to load. It also lacks common-sense features. For example, there is an option to hide "unavailable" features, which should hide feats or spells your character doesn't qualify for. That's nice. It also hides all uncommon things, inherently using the rarity aspect. There's no way to filter "you absolutely shouldn't have this" and "this is uncommon so there should be a reason to have this." Thus, the filter only helps if you are making choice limited to common, and can cause you to search fruitlessly for legitimate options the rules do support. It's a minor problem, but just another way HeroLab Online is just user-unfriendly.

Additionally, the customizability is simply barely there. HeroLab Classic, even with just core, would let you edit just about anything until it fit what you were doing in your game. There is no such animal on HeroLab Online. Consider the Core Rulebook itself details alternate ability score generation, and Hero Lab doesn't support it. If you create custom content, it's now no longer available if you decide not to subscribe to HeroLab. Do you want to help introduce a player to the game and send them a character for them to tweak? Can't do that. Do you want to save the files locally to use this when you go on a trip? Better make sure your connection is always assured. Do you want to ignore a rule? Well, the function to customize the ruleset is gone; you're going to have to go add adjustments to everything. Want to roll scores in your game? No option except to do it the other way and make adjustments. Want to customize what text pops up on the character sheets you export, or change what kind of file the sheet comes out as? Those functions are gone.

I emailed Lone Wolf August 1st regarding my concerns. Their policy is to respond within 48 hours. I did not receive a reply until 10 August 2019 because, as they admit, they have too many angry emails (not their phrasing). In other words, it took ten days to get to my day 1 complaint because they had too many complaints. Not a good look.

I asked for their refund policy, and they have none. They offer no refunds or guarantees on this product. (Check your state; I am in a state where this is legal. If it is not in yours, might I recommend contacting the Better Business Bureau?)

In summary, this product has reduced functionality, wastes your time, and has a greedy revenue model. I would advise you to stay far, far away from HeroLab Online. It will literally take you less time to make your characters with pencil and paper, you'll have more freedom to make it your game, and you won't be charged recurring payments to do so.

And while I'm at it, the no-charge, all-volunteer group at PCGen are working on PF2E. For free.
Without a subscription. They do have a Donate button if you would like to support them instead of the HLO mess.


Some of what you are saying does not seem to match with what I read on Wolf Lair's site. My understanding is that you pay a one-time cost for adding content, and a recurring cost for server access, but that the two are separate (so if you buy the Core book and the Bestiary, that doesn't mean the recurring cost goes up).

This is similar to the way it works on D&D Beyond, though D&DB has two major differences:

1. You don't need a paid subscription to maintain access to content you bought. You can get a $3/month subscription to remove ads and certain limits (such as on how many characters you can have), but that's not necessary to make characters or access your bought content. As far as I can tell, Hero Lab Online doesn't work at all without the subscription.

2. D&D Beyond also offers a $6/month subscription to share bought content with other players. So if I as the DM have a Master subscription, and I have bought the core books as well as Xanathar's Guide to Everything, any of my players with a D&D Beyond account can make characters using that material or read it.

(The subscription costs are lower if you subscribe for 6 or 12 months at a time.)

As an aside, the HLO site is a bit confusing regarding refunds. If you buy "HLOnline: Pathfinder 2nd edition" they offer a 60 day unconditional refund option, but not if you buy PF2 as an added game (which I guess you would if you already had the Starfinder version, for example). If the customer service representative told you otherwise, you might want to talk to them again.


Staffan Johansson wrote:
Some of what you are saying does not seem to match with what I read on Wolf Lair's site. My understanding is that you pay a one-time cost for adding content, and a recurring cost for server access, but that the two are separate (so if you buy the Core book and the Bestiary, that doesn't mean the recurring cost goes up).

I did not say they charge you for the CRB and Bestiary again, but I definitely was unclear. Thank you for clarifying for the readers. My point is they charge you again, and the analogy is to a video game with a live service ($60 bucks for the game, then recurring charges). This is compared to HeroLab Classic, which was buy the content once, keep your client-side program, no recurring charges.

And D&D Beyond looks like a superior product for that system, but doesn't help me play Pathfinder.

Staffan Johansson wrote:
As an aside, the HLO site is a bit confusing regarding refunds. If you buy "HLOnline: Pathfinder 2nd edition" they offer a 60 day unconditional refund option, but not if you buy PF2 as an added game (which I guess you would if you already had the Starfinder version, for example). If the customer service representative told you otherwise, you might want to talk to them again.

No mistake. As I said, I kickstarted RealmWorks and have HeroLab Classic with tons of licenses. Since it is part of my account, as a previously-loyal customer, I get no refund.


The Doc CC wrote:


I did not say they charge you for the CRB and Bestiary again, but I definitely was unclear.

Gotta say I'm not sure what this is actually supposed to mean, then:

The Doc CC wrote:
Let me be clear; you pay to temporarily license content. If you want just the Core Rulebook in Pathfinder, it will cost you $35 USD. The Bestiary is another $13. This gives you access to the content for 6 months. If you want the product after that, they want you to pay again.


The Doc CC wrote:
today at 1 PM CST, adding a spell to a spellbook requires 5 clicks and 1 minute, 2 seconds, almost all the time spent waiting on the server. So that will be 15 minutes for your level 1 wizard

I just tested this - 21 seconds for me. Sorry to hear you're having issues but just saying - they may be with your ISP or PC. Maybe it's not actually waiting for the server but rendering the page that takes unreasonably long for you.

Do level 1 wizards really get 15 spells though?

My chief issue with HLO is the seemingly glacial pace of development. I subscribed at the playtest and now a year later there are very few feature improvements (besides all the content of course). I especially miss HL Classic's full-text search.

The promise of the tactical console applying effects in real-time to all combat participants is what really hooks me up though. They can't deliver on it soon enough.


FowlJ wrote:
The Doc CC wrote:


I did not say they charge you for the CRB and Bestiary again, but I definitely was unclear.

Gotta say I'm not sure what this is actually supposed to mean, then:

The Doc CC wrote:
Let me be clear; you pay to temporarily license content. If you want just the Core Rulebook in Pathfinder, it will cost you $35 USD. The Bestiary is another $13. This gives you access to the content for 6 months. If you want the product after that, they want you to pay again.

They do not charge you for the CRB and the Bestiary, but you still have to pay for access to the server every 6-12 months. Thus, you pay $48 up front for the CRB and Bestiary, and in six months if you want to keep them, you'll start facing recurring charges. This was pointed out more than once and contrasts very negatively with HeroLab Classic. You have to pay the subscription *and* for content.


CyberMephit wrote:
The Doc CC wrote:
today at 1 PM CST, adding a spell to a spellbook requires 5 clicks and 1 minute, 2 seconds, almost all the time spent waiting on the server. So that will be 15 minutes for your level 1 wizard

I just tested this - 21 seconds for me. Sorry to hear you're having issues but just saying - they may be with your ISP or PC. Maybe it's not actually waiting for the server but rendering the page that takes unreasonably long for you.

Do level 1 wizards really get 15 spells though?

My speed test is 111 Mbs. I have tried it on multiple devices, including a lower-end 2-year old work laptop and a gaming rig that runs current games on ultra on a 4k screen. The test today is on the gaming rig. I used it on my institution's absurdly fast connection, my FLGS's wifi, and my home connection. It would be absolutely terrible for this program to run poorly on older computers; that would be yet another strike against it, because HeroLab Classic and D&D Beyond don't require anything fancy to run. And if it's my ISP, that's another strike on HeroLab Online since I live in a large community in one of the most populous states in the USA, and if we're going to be waiting on their servers, then you can bet a lot of other would-be clients will have an even worse experience.

And even then, 21 seconds per spell x 15 spells is 5 minutes waiting on the program, which compares extremely unfavorably to 1) HeroLab Classic and 2) my pencil.

Yes, 15-16 spells. 10 cantrips, 5 1st level spells. Since they must be added in manually, that is 15 spells, +1 if you specialize in a school.


CyberMephit wrote:
Do level 1 wizards really get 15 spells though?

16, actually. The Spellbook you get for free as part of the Arcane Spellcasting feature starts with 10 cantrips and 5 1st-level spells in it, and then you get one more for your school specialization.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I've been getting the same kinds of lag that The Doc is reporting all week, with today being particularly bad.

I've logged something like 8 bug reports, several of which have been addressed. It seems like the worst offenders will be taken care of shortly.

My single biggest complaint however is the hideous, unusable, non-customizable character sheet printout. I have things printing out overlapping, there doesn't appear to be a rhyme or reason to why things are laid out the way they are, and it's a nightmare to even figure out what kind of actions a character has available to them.

It's way, WAY worse than their old starfinder printout format and I cannot fathom why they made it this way. The printout is provided in a zipped file with three separate pdfs for spells, abilities, and character sheet, and each one is as irrational as the others. No font size adjustment, no custom grouping, no nothing.

If you want to use it to print I STRONGLY recommend waiting a bit.


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I've spent a couple hundred dollars on the original Herolab and I love it so much its one of the reasons I refuse to move on to PF2.

I refuse to buy into their new payment model. I will pay for a subscription OR for content but not both. Until they change it I will never subscribe to Herolab online.

Grand Lodge

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I have HLC, and absolutely love it...I've got almost every single PF1 license for it.

HLO completely lost my interest over 2 main things...first, the recurring charges to access content you already paid for..second, the online only nature of it...half the time I would want to use it would be at conventions or game stores, where I either would not have internet access, or be on a public WiFi that is overloaded to the point that I might as well not have access.

Unless both of those things change, I will absolutely never switch to HLO.


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Hero Lab Classic, yes. Hero Lab Online, heck no. It takes everything that was great about the original service, owning your packages and being able to access them any time and makes it all horrible.


Yes, I love the native Hero Lab (Classic). It was expensive to get all/most of the sources, but it was quite flexible and convenient.

Hero Lab Online (HLO) wasn't very stable or reliable all through the playtest and hasn't been any better since launch. I'm sure they're scrambling to implement all of PF2. The continued online cost isn't going to break the bank, but the quality of the service is so poor that right now I have no plans to renew once my current subscription runs out.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It's really disconcerting to play beta tester with a product I paid a fair amount of cold hard cash for. Sure, it means the bugs will be ironed out faster and to be fair they're churning through the bugs rapidly, but I could be having the same experience with PCGen.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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As soon as I heard that Lone Wolf was going to an online-only model, I stopped all purchases from them. I didn't get any more HLC modules (despite having planned 3 purchases), because I spoke up to tell them that them going to the new model was something I couldn't support.

This, sadly, just tells me I did the right thing.

Scarab Sages

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Hero Lab Classic is a thing of beauty, and you can keep it forever, regardless of whether the company continues in its current form or not.

Herolab Online is slow, clunky, has a recurring charge, requires a constant internet connection to use, and there is no guarantee of service continuance or speed from their servers as the number of users progresses. I am sure this was conceived as a great move to the cloud, etc, but all I see are many many detracting elements and no improvements over Herolab Classic. Even though I understand the reason for the slow rollout of Realmworks, that whole experience did not fill me with confidence regarding large IT projects from Lone Wolf. Moving more functionality and responsibilty to their side to maintain does not fill me with confidence.

YMMV and hopefully time proves my current feelings regarding this app wrong, but right now I am going to let my current account lapse with no plans to renew in the near future.

On the bright side, my table will soon have lots of paper character sheets and no tablets and PCs for players to surf Facebook, IG, or play Civ 6 on during the game LOL...


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I would like to say I haven't had any problems with connection or load time with herolab online.

Using an page load tool tells me it's about 1.9s load time.

I will admit the service access fee model does annoy me a bit, but it seems like everything is moving towards that model. It's inevitable. You don't own major software like Office anymore. You rent it. My company rents licenses for our AutoDesk suite of products.

I've been satisfied with the product, there have been a few errors in the PF2 material, but I expect that will be resolved soon.

My Starfinder stuff works just fine.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

while i prefer hl1 i am liking the herolabs online overall been goofing around with character builds between work calls


Claxon wrote:
I would like to say I haven't had any problems with connection or load time with herolab online.

From their email to me: "As you noted after your purchase there were indeed several connectivity issues that related to the massive traffic spike on the service that crippled the functions several times in the first few days. I understand your frustration at the failure for it to work as advertised straight out of the gate and we do take responsibility for those issues as it impacted things quite severely, and much like yourself, many Users were reasonably upset."

They flat out stated, "Yeah, our launch was a buggy, slow mess." Your personal experience doesn't negate others'.

Claxon wrote:
It's inevitable. You don't own major software like Office anymore. You rent it. My company rents licenses for our AutoDesk suite of products.

Your company struck a proprietary license deal. Many do; organizations cut those deals. You and I are consumers. Hence, it's an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Your example of Office is just untrue; if my hospital licenses it, they cut a deal with Microsoft. not me (and they have}. If I purchase Office Home & Student Edition, Microsoft does not require recurrent payments for me. It would if I wanted the online functionality of Office 365, there is a $99 per year price. This still compares favorably to HeroLab Online's model.

For Office 365 to be sold like HeroLab Online, it would be $99 a year, then $35 for the "Word Core Set, $25 for the "Powerpoint Add-On," then $25 for "Excel Core" and $5 for the "Excel Autoformulae Pack", and then $20 "Access Home Extension" bundles in addition to the subscription fee. Also, you couldn't work on your work unless you had an internet connection, the formatting of all pages would be decided for you with no ability to change it, release day it would be non-functional, and you'd have no right to share your work with others in your organization or to save a local copy of your creation to edit later. If that concept for Office sounds exploitive, why are you so quick to defend Lone Wolf?

You said yourself that the model bothered you. It should. It's anti-consumer scheme for a product that is a pale shadow in functionality of its predecessor. Here's to hoping the HeroLab Classic community uploads files for PF2.


The Doc CC wrote:
Claxon wrote:
I would like to say I haven't had any problems with connection or load time with herolab online.

From their email to me: "As you noted after your purchase there were indeed several connectivity issues that related to the massive traffic spike on the service that crippled the functions several times in the first few days. I understand your frustration at the failure for it to work as advertised straight out of the gate and we do take responsibility for those issues as it impacted things quite severely, and much like yourself, many Users were reasonably upset."

They flat out stated, "Yeah, our launch was a buggy, slow mess." Your personal experience doesn't negate others'.

Claxon wrote:
It's inevitable. You don't own major software like Office anymore. You rent it. My company rents licenses for our AutoDesk suite of products.

Your company struck a proprietary license deal. Many do; organizations cut those deals. You and I are consumers. Hence, it's an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Your example of Office is just untrue; if my hospital licenses it, they cut a deal with Microsoft. not me (and they have}. If I purchase Office Home & Student Edition, Microsoft does not require recurrent payments for me. It would if I wanted the online functionality of Office 365, there is a $99 per year price. This still compares favorably to HeroLab Online's model.

For Office 365 to be sold like HeroLab Online, it would be $99 a year, then $35 for the "Word Core Set, $25 for the "Powerpoint Add-On," then $25 for "Excel Core" and $5 for the "Excel Autoformulae Pack", and then $20 "Access Home Extension" bundles in addition to the subscription fee. Also, you couldn't work on your work unless you had an internet connection, the formatting of all pages would be decided for you with no ability to change it, release day it would be non-functional, and you'd have no right to share your work with others in your organization or to save a local copy of your creation to...

Hey dude, slow your roll.

I wasn't trying to argue or tell you your experience was invalid, I was simply trying to relay my experience. My experience was different from yours. Mine seems to have been far more positive.

I'm sorry you've had a bad experience, but I wanted to share my positive one because I don't think it's fair if this turns into a "trash Hero Lab" parade when I'm satisfied with their service.

I wanted to allow other people to see that it's not all bad in everyone's eyes, even if I might be a minority.

I'm sorry you've had such a bad experience that you feel the need to attack me for contradicting you.

I hope in the better you have better experiences with whatever you do.

And I will go ahead and say in advance, no I'm not going to bother engaging in some series of escalating arguments, which feels like where this would go based on the tone of your post.

I hope your day improves, happy gaming.

Dark Archive

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I have almost everything Paizo for HLC and use it for everything PF1 related that I do (which is a lot). It is a clunky interface and for some reason it CTDs me all the damn time (something which many other people tell me does not happen to them, so I assume it has something to do with my PC or install or something). And yet I have invested hundreds of dollars and use it all the time despite these flaws; that is how useful I find it.

HLO... no thank you. I spoke with some of the employees at Gen Con and I understand where they are coming from with the new model, but, just, no. When I first heard about it I thought it would be a subscription service that allowed automatic access to all the content. Not my first choice, but workable, and after a few years the costs would start to match that which I paid for HLC. But wait! Then I find out one has to pay for content packs like before AND a subscription so that one can access one's characters from the cloud. Of course, since I always bring my laptop and use HL from it exclusively, that feature is worthless to me. And the need for constant online connectivity means I cannot access it if I am at a game store that has spotty/no free wifi. Oh, and what I experienced of the interface was somehow EVEN MORE clunky than that of HLC! And yes, I had the major lag from the servers being overloaded as well, to the point that I was reading several paragraphs of my brand new PF2 bestiary between choices; and woe unto me should I accidentally click the wrong button and have to wait ten extra minutes to get to the correct menu!

So yeah. If you have good experience with HLO, if it works for you, then great, I am truly happy for you. I will avoid it however, for much the same reason I avoid MMOs and never tried Diablo 3. Maybe they will change things later on, improve their model, and then I will reevaluate. Until then I will use HLC for PF1 and look into an alternate program for PF2.


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I have been using HLC for about ten years and signed up to HLO for Starfinder when it first released. I love HLC but despite it being a great product, it had a number of flaws which were primarily caused by its initial construction.

HLO is the future and although not a finished product yet, is already very functional as a character builder.

I am not disputing that people have had issues with HLO and everybody has their own experiences but as Claxon pointed out above, it is good for people in this community to understand that each persons experience is different.

My bug reports (and those of my PC group) have been addressed promptly and communication (Gen Con aside) very swift.

It is also important to note that Lone Wolf have not charged any subscription fees yet, as they still view the product to be in Beta.

Subscription fees for services are unfortunately a way of life, but a necessary evil for companies to survive. I mean I pay over three times the HLO subscription fee to Netflix each month, and certainly spend more time on HLO.....


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I will add that I find the HLO usage model MUCH more convenient as I frequently switch between different devices at home or elsewhere and don't have an iPad (nor do I plan to). I would be happier with a native Android app but looks like it has never been on the cards. I think the online access is the future and will only become better with time.

I do agree that it's pricey and unfinished and not ideally fast (though I don't have any egregious issues like OP or other posters). Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a strictly better product out there at the moment.


Talsharien wrote:

HLO is the future and although not a finished product yet, is already very functional as a character builder.

*Snip*

It is also important to note that Lone Wolf have not charged any subscription fees yet, as they still view the product to be in Beta.

Subscription fees for services are unfortunately a way of life, but a necessary evil for companies to survive. I mean I pay over three times the HLO subscription fee to Netflix each month, and certainly spend more time on HLO.....

Emphasis added.

I would definitely argue against it being functional, and have. To wit: the character sheets can barely be tweaked, the character sheets can have overlapping print, you can't take anything offline, it's slow, it's buggy, it omits data, you can't share anything with others, it does not make customization easy, editing the inventory is a nightmare, you can't put your gold down so its bulk always applies, and it omits tables and other necessary data when making up your spells.

So they are charging to be a beta tester? Is that it? Then put pay to be our beta-tester, sorry, Early Access, on the store front, or you're being more disingenuous than Steam. Also, my direct emails from the company never mentioned such a thing. Could you kindly explain your source of insight on this? Take a look at their storefront. You'll find nothing that says, "We consider our product to be in beta and unfinished." If you are correct, then the necessary conclusion is they are being deceptive.

I avoid any game which demands both a subscription to a live service and an upfront charge. They get one or the other; as a consumer, I refuse to accept this is in any way necessary and will point to any game with no subscription as a counterexample. Indeed, your own Netflix example contradicts your argument. I don't pay Netflix both an initial and recurrent price (and that's before discussing that Netflix's content probably costs orders of magnitude more to produce/license than Pathfinder and requires similar orders of magnitude more bandwidth and storage to deliver). I have Spotify; they didn't charge me a special license for the Classical Pack, American Rock Pack, and the Podcast Pack. Nor do I pay Roll20 for both a subscription and then have to buy a special license to use the product. Nor does D&D Beyond have this kind of obligatory double-dipping shenanigans. I could continue ad nauseam.

So if it is a necessary evil, why do Netflix, D&D Beyond, Roll20, and Spotify not need to do it?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think Lone Wolf honestly didn't want to go to the recurrent fee model, but looking at the server and upkeep costs they realized they needed to float the idea now or they'll be in the hole in 5 years if no one is buying new packs.

They thought they could maybe get away with a really low recurring fee specifically for server upkeep, and keep on trucking with the rest of their business model of expensive data packages.

The problem is that most people complaining about the recurring charge don't distinguish between paying for server upkeep and data packs, they see it is part and parcel of the total package they're buying into. Many would in fact prefer if they had fully embraced the monthly fee model, even if it would have costed them more in the long run, just to avoid the feeling of getting double charged.

I strongly believe HLO has a lot of value. My starfinder game has been a delight with it, that is until the recent printout change which makes the character sheet unusable. Having it available everywhere makes it easy to use, and I've used HLO at work FAR more than I have HLC.

PF2 on HLO has been fraught with bugs and lag, and it's basically a beta, but it will get better rapidly.

I'm also excited to learn about the group license model, which might in the long run make HLO a no brainer.


What are we supposed to be getting in exchange for this to be online only?

Switching devices? Cloud storage?

I had these things before.

What is the supposed benefit?


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Yes Doc CC, you have argued and continue to argue about it being non-functional, I hear you, loud and clear on multiple occasions. I am simply trying to make a point that is more positive than yours. If you feel the need to pick holes in my examples then fine, go ahead. But ultimately, my experience has been very good and I have experienced very few of the issues that you have.

I would greatly appreciate my opportunity to express my opinion without my thoughts being analyzed and insulted.

You have made your point, well done and I will respond to you no further as I have now made mine.

I would recommend HLO to anyone who wishes to use the best PF2 character generator out there at the moment, is it flawless?, NO, but it is pretty good and will get a lot better.


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Claxon wrote:


I will admit the service access fee model does annoy me a bit, but it seems like everything is moving towards that model. It's inevitable. You don't own major software like Office anymore. You rent it. My company rents licenses for our AutoDesk suite of products.

While true, most services are either or. You can subscribe to Office 365 or buy the regular version of Office.

HLO wants you to both pay for the core product and a fee to have access to it.

Silver Crusade

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Talsharien wrote:


It is also important to note that Lone Wolf have not charged any subscription fees yet, as they still view the product to be in Beta.

I was considering buying HLO and went to their site. One thing that instantly turned me off was the complete absence of any information on their pricing model in any findable place.

I had to go to the forums where some NON employee pointed me at a FAQ that had no apparent link to it.

Whether or not you're willing to accept user fees the fees should be VERY clear up front.

I did what I generally do when a company makes finding pricing information difficult. I decided if they don't want to tell me what it costs I don't want to buy it

Shadow Lodge

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Stone Dog wrote:

What are we supposed to be getting in exchange for this to be online only?

Switching devices? Cloud storage?

I had these things before.

What is the supposed benefit?

It works on droid now.


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Yup, as someone who has all the material for PF1e but will likely just not support HLO any further I cannot agree more.

I was willing to take a usability drop in exchange for being able to use it on my android device. But there are WAY too many core issues with what they have made, and unfortunately a lot of the issues require a full redesign imo.

I never thought I would say this, I miss the functionality of D&D Beyond, it may be a stinted mess of an online platform. But it is way better than HLO.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Can somebody post an example of the print character sheets that HLO generates?


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Generic level one fighter, the least offensive.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Example of the overlapping text when printed

Sovereign Court

My HUGE issue at the moment with HLO is this

When I bought HLC, I got two licences. That meant I had a licence, my husband had a licence. I bought two more licences for our laptops when we game (Desktop to create, laptop for travel and game)

From everything I have read, HLO is for 1 user. Yes, I can use it on any system I log into. But for me to get use for my husband, I now have to guy 2 copies.

For cost, it is not as good and I hate having to always be on line

I had Realmworks, but it was not worth keeping it up with paying a fee. I do more on my personal site for free than I can with Realmworks, which promised custom calendars, but never happened.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Their licensing has always been behind the curve. Your licenses for HLC you shared with your husband were technically in violation of their terms of use. They looked the other way since they had no way to enforce it, but it was supposed to be extra licenses were only for your own personal use on your separate devices.

It was galling how they made you jump through hoops to switch licenses between computers more than once every 6 months or whatever.

They have always arrogantly believed they were entitled to a separate purchase for every member of a gaming group, when next to no groups even bought more than one set of Paizo books.

We might finally see a change in that outlook with the new group license scheme they have been hinting at, which could be a breath of fresh air.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber
The Doc CC wrote:
Emphasis added.

Just to let you know, from the outsider's view (as in, someone who was merely interesting in what the state of the onion is and isn't going to buy), your feedback has gone from unbiased but negative to evangelically negative. You sound like an anti-crusader now, arguing with anyone who had a positive experience.

I agree with your overall view on SaaS and pricing and quality that should be in place with any software's rollout. But you're now just repeating yourself and arguing with anyone who doesn't agree with you.

It diminishes your effectiveness.


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Stone Dog wrote:

What are we supposed to be getting in exchange for this to be online only?

Switching devices? Cloud storage?

I had these things before.

What is the supposed benefit?

the supposed benefit is they have reduced overhead from developing for linux, windows and mac versions and instead everything is run from a server and displayed via html so they only need 1 version of the software for all devices.

there's really no consumer benefit, and they're unlikely to do an offline model unless they completely abandon the current model as they would gain nothing if they also had an offline system.

I would claim this leads to quicker bug fixing and progress, but well, progress has been slow.


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Bandw2 wrote:
Stone Dog wrote:

What are we supposed to be getting in exchange for this to be online only?

Switching devices? Cloud storage?

I had these things before.

What is the supposed benefit?

there's really no consumer benefit,

Well, I guess, the reduced overhead is supposed to translate to consumer benefits like faster releases and/or lower overall annual costs. It's just not visible to us for some reason. But perhaps they wouldn't be able to do Day 1 launch at all if they stayed with HLC? Pricing is painful but so are the competitors (apart from PCGen I guess which is not here yet anyway).

Android support is also a not insignificant consumer benefit.

For me switching devices and cloud storage is a noticeable benefit as well; with HLC I had to save the file to dropbox on one device then open it on another device, frequently finding that the program and data packs on the other device have to be updated before the file can be opened, and if I bought data packs on one device I would have to refresh the license on another device before I could open my character... It wasn't smooth sailing either.


Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

I've been trying out HLO, after having been a sporadic user of HLC. I've always been a little displeased at their costing model. Definitely feels like buying stuff twice (or more in the case of some virtual table tops) and I wish they would/could negotiate something more customer friendly with Paizo.

Until we see the subscription prices I'm willing to wait and see, but licenses content + paying for access doesn't sit too well, unless the paying for access is rather minimal. (Something on the order of $5-10/mo would seem reasonable).

And they need to address the responsiveness, spells as the OP listed are particularly bad as you get to higher levels.

This is probably more niche, but I typically use HL[O|C] more for 'what-if' planning of a build, and typically do the actual build on paper. So I'm typically adding/removing things leveling up/deleveling a lot. HLO does a very poor job of deleveling, all the feats/skills/attributes have to be manually unselected. Its been easier just to delete the character and start over.

Another place the responsiveness has been an issue:
Built a level one character. Bought some gear.
Bumped the level to three. Accepted the new starting money suggestion.
Noticed that it reset my money to the full amount 75gp.
Went to go sell back (at 0 price) my gear and buy again.
1/2 way through selling stuff off, my gold updated to the 75-initial purchases.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
NielsenE wrote:


Until we see the subscription prices I'm willing to wait and see, but licenses content + paying for access doesn't sit too well, unless the paying for access is rather minimal. (Something on the order of $5-10/mo would seem reasonable).

They said a while back that they plan to charge $2/month. That's still what their FAQ says, but they haven't charged yet.

As for leveling + delevling, I really wish they would show at which level you selected a feat option. It's super hard to go through a character and say when you got what option.

This is particularly important for bonus feats, which if given at level 2 have a far different value than if given at level 20, and will definitely come into play when retraining.

Silver Crusade

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Bandw2 wrote:


and they're unlikely to do an offline model unless they completely abandon the current model as they would gain nothing if they also had an offline system.

Oh, they'd gain something. They've lost customers who don't like their online model. I, for one, am very unlikely to buy their online product but would have bought the PF 2 offline version already.

Now, I have no clue whether the numbers abandoning them are significant or if we're just a small number making a lot of noise so it might well not be enough to cover their costs. But it would be something


pauljathome wrote:
Bandw2 wrote:


and they're unlikely to do an offline model unless they completely abandon the current model as they would gain nothing if they also had an offline system.

Oh, they'd gain something. They've lost customers who don't like their online model. I, for one, am very unlikely to buy their online product but would have bought the PF 2 offline version already.

Now, I have no clue whether the numbers abandoning them are significant or if we're just a small number making a lot of noise so it might well not be enough to cover their costs. But it would be something

okay, i'll reword, there's no reason for them to have both, as the bonus of having everything online(html) is that you can support the same number of customers without needing to support all the offline methods(windows, mac and linux).

if they go back to offline they'll abandon online or keep it up while deprecating it until they can shut it down

Grand Lodge

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I for one will never switch to any service that requires an ongoing subscription to use especially if it also charges additional fees to unlock more content.

I will also never use something that requires online connectivity to use. I do most of my gaming at stores and conventions where there either is no public WiFi, or there is and it is so bogged down that it might as well not have it. I game while camping. I game when the power is out. Online only is absolutely worthless to me. I won't even play online only video games any more..I love the Fallout universe, but I will never play Fallout 76, I will never play games like Overwatch, etc.

I would rather use 10 year out of date software, one of the freeware options, or just do the work by hand like I have done for the vast majority of my 40 years as a gamer.

I still use an older version of Corel specifically because it doesn't require a subscription service like Illustrator does.

HeroLab Classic was an incredibly handy program, and I would love to have the same for Starfinder and Pathfinder 2...apparently Lonewolf just doesn't want my money.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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I was never a fan of LoneWolf's business model. The original HeroLab was extraordinarily well designed and helpful, which is props to the programmers, but their approach to game system licensing I always personally found to be unreasonably nickel-and-dimey and their limits to how many devices you can use to be extremely annoying and indicative of a distrust of its own customers--they assumed their customers will cheat them and made preventing that a priority over other aspects of product or customer support. (Mind, of course companies should protect themselves from piracy, but other companies have done that without making their paying customers feel shortchanged). That most of my interactions with Lone Wolf reps involved very defensive and smug tones on their behalf over the simplest of questions or concerns caused me to abandon supporting their products years ago. Other's mileage may vary widely, but based on my own experiences I am highly sympathetic to the OP and do not doubt his assessments.

Many still supported HeroLab Classic because the program itself was great. They chose not to be bothered by the company's policies (their choice, their money after all) and honest gamers who got burned by them or who couldn't afford their model. Still, good product is good product and it was hard to find similar products that worked quite as well (even if there are others out there).

This new clearly draconian subscription and always online policy (which would be very unfriendly to many of the people I play with and how we play) seems to suggest they are only increasing their nickel-and-dime business model and distrust of their own customers. I am not surprised but it is heavily disappointing. Not only that but clearly the quality of the product--the thing that allowed its fans to ignore the company's flaws--appears to have gone downhill at least for many. Maybe it will improve but my own heavily biased self is skeptical. Of course there are those who will leap to defend HL, either out of past good experience or a desperation at least to justify a lot of money spent... I hope, honestly, they will be proven right because the alternative that expect is just sad.

For those unhappy, hopefully not only PC Gen will produce a useful free alternative, but other gamers and companies are working on comparable products for the new system. With the new edition coming out, hopefully chances of that are high.

Silver Crusade

Pathbuilder is still incomplete in its implementation of PF2 but it, basically, rocks. I'd suggest people give it a try.

Dark Archive

I've brought up many of the complaints here on their forums and it has fallen on deaf ears over there. The main issue is that they are assuming that "the internet" is ubiquitous, fast, ever present, and constantly improving. It is very much out of touch with reality. Basic day to day uses of HLC show this isn't true:

1. Use on a commuter train/planes/other public transpot with no internet.
2. Use in a convention without internet service/available bandwidth (i.e., from all the other users in the convention).
3. Use in a gaming store with no internet
4. Use in rural areas.
5. Use in a part of a host's house that gets poor wifi from the person's ISP.
6. ISP network goes down.
7..... it goes on and on.

The second issue is the subscription based model. Everyone has subscription fatigue. No one wants to add more no matter the cost. Especially not for a half formed beta that doesn't work.

The third issue is their poor communication on HLO. Initial company communications were really awful about why they were switching, how, timelines, etc.

The fourth and more recent issue is that they've started screening negative posts from their forums. Its a classic red flag behavior.

The fifth problem is that the 'features being added in HLO above HLC are all content already being done by better by Roll20/Fantasy Grounds. They have completely forgotten the aspects that made them better (i.e., PC generation) and have lost sight on the PR spin they made up to justify them going to an online subscription model.

Finally, they aren't being honest with themselves. I asked them 'what if anything' would act as an offramp for the HLO path forward (i.e., loss of customer base, too long to develop features, etc.)? They said that there were 'offramps' but in all honesty it felt like it was the first time they had ever considered the ability to stop/get out of HLO. I personally know ~20 people with various levels of HLC. 0 of 20 want HLO, some have tried it and all indicators from them are that it is bad. Honestly HLO is one of the main reasons I never picked up starfinder. But pathbuilder or community based excel files are honestly going to be just as good/free at this point. They need to pivot hard away from HLO and give the userbase something good enough to compete with those free resources that are currently better than HLO.


I have a bunch of HLC, and I have HLO for Starfinder and PF2/Playtest.

The UI for HLC is clunky and dated, but the functionality is top notch. My GM runs a home brew campaign with his own races and some new classes, and I've been able to use the editor to support them. It's great.

My experience with HLO is that it's generally okay on my desktop machine (which has a very stable Ethernet connection), but is very flaky on my laptop or Surface, where it's connected by wi-fi. I generally update my character sheet for Starfinder in HLO on my desktop and then print it out, because I just can't rely on it for live updates.

During the playtest, I was using HLO extensively, and Lone Wolf's support was very responsive to bug reports. Any time I've had issues with HLC licensing after reinstalling my OS, they've gotten them resolved very quickly. I think their support is quite good.

There are ways to mitigate some of these SaaS (Software as a Service) problems, but that's up to Lone Wolf to sort out. Hopefully soon, since I do like their products when they're working.


Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
pauljathome wrote:
Pathbuilder is still incomplete in its implementation of PF2 but it, basically, rocks. I'd suggest people give it a try.

I'd love to, but it appears to be limited to Android devices...???

Silver Crusade

AJCarrington wrote:
pauljathome wrote:
Pathbuilder is still incomplete in its implementation of PF2 but it, basically, rocks. I'd suggest people give it a try.
I'd love to, but it appears to be limited to Android devices...???

I think that's true.

No idea how well it would run on an android emulator

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