Pencil and Paper vs. Digital character sheets.


Advice


So, I'm just curious. How many people are using each type of character sheet? What's the kind of demographic and demand for each?

I'm personally a fan of pencil and paper. Might be a bit old school, but I personally find it easier to find whatever stat I need on those quickly, without scrolling and zooming in on a tiny handheld screen.

Of course I can see the versatility in having the ability have your character on the cloud for yourself or sharing with others in your group, and makes it a lot harder to lose a character sheet.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I would absolutely love it if all of my players would have their characters on their phones - especially if it were through a service I could also view the character through on PC at the same time, and that helped them with the details so things wouldn't get written down without all the needed info because of forgetting or just not wanting to write "that much"

However, my players seem much more interested in having a paper sheet that will get cluttered, smudged, coated in food and beverage stains, have important details missing, and have things forgotten to be updated, only to have me print a replacement 2-3 times per campaign... and then use their phones to play mobile games, read reddit, or some other distraction while it's not their turn.

Sovereign Court

Uchuujin wrote:

So, I'm just curious. How many people are using each type of character sheet? What's the kind of demographic and demand for each?

I'm personally a fan of pencil and paper. Might be a bit old school, but I personally find it easier to find whatever stat I need on those quickly, without scrolling and zooming in on a tiny handheld screen.

Of course I can see the versatility in having the ability have your character on the cloud for yourself or sharing with others in your group, and makes it a lot harder to lose a character sheet.

I had a major heart attack and stroke last year, so I have trouble even reading my own writing anymore. All I can do is make a few notes for my hit points, the rest of the sheet I print out and fill in at home on my computer, so only form-fillable for me.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I have used both, but I prefer pencil and paper over digital. Digital is convenient, but I've also experienced server issues that erased half my information before. That's why I keep a paper copy of my digital sheets now. With paper, I can make little notes that remind me of where certain bonuses come from, or reminders that I see the moment I look at the page

So, in short, they both have their uses, but if I had to choose, I will choose pencil and paper every time. It works better for me.


Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

If my players are proficient with a digital sheet, I'm fine with that.

For learning the game, I prefer player's to create and run with a pencil and paper sheet.

Liberty's Edge

6 people marked this as a favorite.

In my opinion, I think it works best if you have a good tool for Character Creation and Leveling up and then uses that to create your paper sheet which you actually use at the game table but I personally like chocolate in my peanut butter.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Tiny screen? I like it on an iPad.


7 people marked this as a favorite.

I *require* my players to use pencil and paper, for two reasons:

1. Creating a character for the first time, and having to level it up manually means you actually had to go look up the ability and write it down, and not just check a box. More than once I've had players not know what they can do because they had a tool put everything together automagically.

2. Phones, tablets, computers, game boys, iPods, Commodore 64s, and Babbage machines are not allowed at my table, nor are things like them. It's too easy to get distracted, and I'm not just talking about during combat. During role play interactions where the party is talking to Someone Important, inevitably I have to repeat myself because someone was playing on their Atari 2600 and not paying attention!!!

I realize this may seem Draconian to some, but I'm the Dragon Master!!! And these are my friends. If I was running Pathfinder Society stuff then I'd just roll more nat 20's against someone who wasn't paying attention :-P (not really, but I might threaten it)


Pencil and Paper


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I have had plenty of players not know what they can do because they were left responsible for looking up their abilities and writing them down and there were a lot of words so they summarized or just wrote a name and a page reference, instead of having a tool that would present them the full relevant information at any moment they needed it with no more effort than checking a box.

As for getting distracted, that's a whole different problem and the presence of technology just makes the symptoms more readily visible, it's not the cause though.

...I have had to repeat myself to players that had nothing more to get distracted by than their character sheet, pencil, and dice. Stacking their dice into towers, rolling little games of yatzee to themselves (even making up their own lil dice games to be playing), doodling on the margins of their character sheet, or even just twirling their pencil around.

Better, in my opinion, to get at the root of the problem (whether it's a player being genuinely distracted/disinterested in the game, or someone else being overly sensitive to the idea of someone being distracted/disinterested) than to give up all the benefits of allowing technology at the table "just in case"

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Pencil and Paper for me. The less tech at the table the better.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Pencil and Paper to the point that I designed my own sheet to make adjusting proficiency upon leveling up more convenient.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Githzilla wrote:
Pencil and Paper for me. The less tech at the table the better.

Me too. My preference is one iPad running syrinscape and everything else on paper.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
thenobledrake wrote:

I would absolutely love it if all of my players would have their characters on their phones - especially if it were through a service I could also view the character through on PC at the same time, and that helped them with the details so things wouldn't get written down without all the needed info because of forgetting or just not wanting to write "that much"

However, my players seem much more interested in having a paper sheet that will get cluttered, smudged, coated in food and beverage stains, have important details missing, and have things forgotten to be updated, only to have me print a replacement 2-3 times per campaign... and then use their phones to play mobile games, read reddit, or some other distraction while it's not their turn.

I started using Fantasy Grounds recently, and I've required my players to build their characters in that regardless of what character sheet they actually plan to use - specifically because Fantasy Grounds has a very convenient "party view" that lets you see the entire party's stats at once.

There are a couple reticent players that I basically had to get a copy of their character sheet and manually rebuild it on FG, but I'm glad I did - building characters is fast and being able to see the whole party's skill bonuses in one place is amazing.

Personally I prefer digital character sheets, but my players are evenly split between digital and paper.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Digital to build. IPad Herolab for PF First edition.
printed out for PF2nd as I refuse to use a server based Character tool.
Purachsed and trialing TheOneSheet for PF2. Looking good so far

Shadow Lodge

I use paper if I'm playing in the real, and a text document if I'm playing online.

Grand Lodge

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

I force my players to make their own paper. That store bought stuff is too easy and convenient. With my way, they know where the paper comes from instead it just showing up like magic.

-Skeld


in my group i'd say they are half and half.

pen and paper is my own preference, since it allows me to easily note down important details that i want to remember, loot, and generally i find it's much quicker to use compared to digital options. Even the bulk of the campaigns i designed i do so in paper.

i do have to switch out papers now and then, especially during level ups, but seeing the old paper slowly getting worn out, or smudges starting to accumulate in the wound section has a charm of it's own, akin to how a character may like his battle worn armor over a new shiny one. The old one *shows* what he's ben through.


R0b0tBadgr wrote:

I *require* my players to use pencil and paper, for two reasons:

1. Creating a character for the first time, and having to level it up manually means you actually had to go look up the ability and write it down, and not just check a box. More than once I've had players not know what they can do because they had a tool put everything together automagically.

2. Phones, tablets, computers, game boys, iPods, Commodore 64s, and Babbage machines are not allowed at my table, nor are things like them. It's too easy to get distracted, and I'm not just talking about during combat. During role play interactions where the party is talking to Someone Important, inevitably I have to repeat myself because someone was playing on their Atari 2600 and not paying attention!!!

I realize this may seem Draconian to some, but I'm the Dragon Master!!! And these are my friends. If I was running Pathfinder Society stuff then I'd just roll more nat 20's against someone who wasn't paying attention :-P (not really, but I might threaten it)

Thank you for this, well said.


R0b0tBadgr wrote:

I *require* my players to use pencil and paper, for two reasons:

1. Creating a character for the first time, and having to level it up manually means you actually had to go look up the ability and write it down, and not just check a box. More than once I've had players not know what they can do because they had a tool put everything together automagically.

2. Phones, tablets, computers, game boys, iPods, Commodore 64s, and Babbage machines are not allowed at my table, nor are things like them. It's too easy to get distracted, and I'm not just talking about during combat. During role play interactions where the party is talking to Someone Important, inevitably I have to repeat myself because someone was playing on their Atari 2600 and not paying attention!!!

I realize this may seem Draconian to some, but I'm the Dragon Master!!! And these are my friends. If I was running Pathfinder Society stuff then I'd just roll more nat 20's against someone who wasn't paying attention :-P (not really, but I might threaten it)

I feel your pain. XP


Most of my table either keeps their character sheet on their laptop or tablet (though one or two players use pencil and paper). I've only found pencil and paper to work for me for the first three levels or so before I start running out of room to write all the things my character can do, and just printing out those sheets just got to be a tedious waste of ink when I had to do it anytime my character got a new ability or useful magic item. Personally just keeping it on my laptop/tablet has been far more convenient.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

My preference has long been pencil and paper, it feels so much more personal and immersive to me, and also reducing tech at the table has always made sessions better.

But now that I've moved away from my friends they're all maintaining their characters on Roll20 (some still having their own separate paper or digital sheet), and holy cow is it convenient. It saved me from the nightmare of trying to help everyone build their characters in PF2 proper without being able to see their sheets. It might be something I do in the future even with in-person games so I can reference and possibly adjust things as needed.

Also it auto-calculates modifiers and stuff and HOLY COW does that save time. And you still have to input abilities and notes manually so everyone still has to come to grips with what they can do as they gain the abilities.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

My group has gone fully laptop based for PF1. We even do more than just the sheets, we use a virtual tabletop and a projector to handle maps and movement as well as show character art and such. Maybe I've just gotten lazy and complacient, but I'm not sure I could do PF1 with a paper sheet anymore. There are just too many moving parts. Using auto calculations is incredibly helpful, as is having basically an infinite amount of room to write all the info needed.

I was at one point kind of looking forward to going back to a simpler paper sheet for the PF2 playtest, in large part because of the distractions issue. But quickly I broke down and went digital again. Every level you have to change basically every number on the sheet, and that gets to be a bit much. Also probably some of that laziness I mentioned earlier.

Having the electronic devices can certainly contribute to distractions, the whole group is guilty of this and I know I'm one of the bigger offenders. "Ooh, shiny!" But in the end, for us I think it's the right choice. We go about 12 hours a week, so maintaining a laser focus is probably not going to happen anyway. And most of the distractions are about people chatting than the electronics anyway. Since part of the game is for us to hang out, we take that as an acceptable loss. A group with less time will likely want to keep tighter discipline. But digitization does really help with a lot of things. We can keep an accurate record of where each of those numerical modifiers are coming from, not just using some number you have on your sheet that you no longer even remember what's taken into account and what isn't. Apps like Combat Manager really help make the GMs job easier, with initiative and condition tracking and easy access to monster stats. Hopefully there will be a PF2 version coming soon. Using online resources for rules lookups is also much easier than hunting around for just which book something was in. PF2 might be easier to run without the assistance, but it still helps.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

When I first got into Pathfinder (& TRPGs in general), one of my group members gave me a fillable pdf which I printed out and used for games. I'd enter some permanent things before printing, and then use pencil for things like items or spell preparations which could frequently change during gameplay.

After graduating college, my group continued to play together online through Roll20 and I switched to being purely digital with my sheets. After some annoyances with having to resend pdfs after leveling, an online site losing the data for many of my sheets, and other sheets being too wide for my (old) laptop screen to easily display/use (among other issues) - I eventually got frustrated enough to just design my own sheet in google sheets that I could use and share with my group/others (& later designed a GM sheet that could pull specific info from multiple player sheets for quick reference).

So while I started more towards the pen & paper side - things like automatically being able to calculate the effects of multiple conditions that just got applied in combat without spending 20 minutes going through the rulebook and questioning what does/does not stack is too useful for me to ever go back to the non-digital method.

Grand Lodge

I like having a form-fillable PDF to create the character, but print it out for the game. I don't own, don't want, and can't afford a "smart phone", but the FFPDF is just so damn convenient for creating and leveling.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Players in my PF1 group create and level-up their characters on herolab and print the sheets for play.

GMs use a mix of paper and digital based on personal tastes. I tend to go more and more digital though not necessarily connected : PDFs of rulebook and modules as well as an Excel file to note down creatures stats and PC stats for secret rolls. This file allows me to have all relevant stats for combat and encounters in a single place.


I made a google spreadsheet for PF2. NOTE: It's not comprehensive! It does a lot of calculations, and it lets you enter your stats and rarely changing info on the Data tab and your feats on a skills/feats tab, and spells on a spellbook tab, then it consolidates it all down to a Play tab where you can play with the changing numbers like bonuses and HP. I won't go into great detail, but if a field is colored on Play, you don't edit it there, you edit it on Data. To get feats to show on Play, you have to edit the filter of its "Time" column on Pivot Feats to optionally make it show on Play.

Anyway, this lets me as GM see everyone's character in real time, and it's convenient for players.

Caster version

Non-caster version

Sample Fighter
Sample Diviner


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I hate seeing apps and spreadsheets hog the limelight around the RPG table. Pencil and paper character sheets are really a must for any face-to-face gaming experience, IMHO.

I have no problem with somebody using their computer to prepare their character sheet for printing. But once the game starts, they really need to have paper in front of them, not just a screen.

Then again, I am an old grognard who got started in '74. I mean really! Kids these days! <g>


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I use form-fillable sheets and print them out for use at the table. I update the PDF when the character levels up and print up a new copy. In between levels I simply write on the sheet in pencil.


Digital here. But I don't use things like Hero Forge or similar.

R0b0tBadgr wrote:

I *require* my players to use pencil and paper, for two reasons:

1. Creating a character for the first time, and having to level it up manually means you actually had to go look up the ability and write it down, and not just check a box. More than once I've had players not know what they can do because they had a tool put everything together automagically.

My excel sheet works like this, but its even better, as I can link cells together with formulas so I can later look at a number and go "+15? That seems off somehow, lets see, 4 from attribute, 2 from skill boosts, 5 from level, oh! the last +2 is from a class ability! that's right."

With a paper sheet I have to go back and look up all those feats, class abilities, items, and other things to find the +1 that was baked into my base values when the GM doesn't trust what I put down six weeks ago. And sure, sometimes it turns out that I plugged in a temporary value (say, a 10 min/lv buff) that had definitely worn off, but the point is that the sheet can keep a permanent record of where every bonus is coming from.

Quote:
2. Phones, tablets, computers, game boys, iPods, Commodore 64s, and Babbage machines are not allowed at my table, nor are things like them.

You are not wrong about that.


Charon Onozuka wrote:
I eventually got frustrated enough to just design my own sheet in google sheets that I could use and share with my group/others (& later designed a GM sheet that could pull specific info from multiple player sheets for quick reference).

Realized I should probably plug my updated Character Sheet for PF2.

While I've fully been tempted by the allure of digital character sheets to the point of making my own, my origins in printing out sheets probably had an influence in what I make. I've kept my sheets around letter-sized for possible printing (in addition to smaller screens) and made an effort to have many tabs formatted so they naturally break at where printed pages would for easy viewing (though this admittedly doesn't work for on all tabs or if certain textboxes overflow before printing).

Draco18s wrote:
R0b0tBadgr wrote:

I *require* my players to use pencil and paper, for two reasons:

1. Creating a character for the first time, and having to level it up manually means you actually had to go look up the ability and write it down, and not just check a box. More than once I've had players not know what they can do because they had a tool put everything together automagically.

My excel sheet works like this, but its even better, as I can link cells together with formulas so I can later look at a number and go "+15? That seems off somehow, lets see, 4 from attribute, 2 from skill boosts, 5 from level, oh! the last +2 is from a class ability! that's right."

With a paper sheet I have to go back and look up all those feats, class abilities, items, and other things to find the +1 that was baked into my base values when the GM doesn't trust what I put down six weeks ago. And sure, sometimes it turns out that I plugged in a temporary value (say, a 10 min/lv buff) that had definitely worn off, but the point is that the sheet can keep a permanent record of where every bonus is coming from.

Similar here. With both paper & simple pdf sheets I've always had issues with players accidentally stacking non-stackable bonuses, having no idea where an extra bonus is coming from, or simply never doing a thorough reading of the rules and doing something really weird (because lets face it, not everyone is reading the CRB cover to cover). I've found digital sheets to be helpful both because they can help guide the player in how certain aspects are calculated & make it far easier for a sheet to be shared with the GM, making it quicker for them to double-check and figure out what's going on.

As for players forgetting what abilities they have due to a sheet doing the work for them. I can't say I've really seen that at my tables considering most of my players are always looking forward to what new things they can pull off next level and probably remember their abilities better as a result.


Charon Onozuka wrote:
Charon Onozuka wrote:
I eventually got frustrated enough to just design my own sheet in google sheets that I could use and share with my group/others (& later designed a GM sheet that could pull specific info from multiple player sheets for quick reference).
Realized I should probably plug my updated Character Sheet for PF2.

I should get around to updating mine, but I made mine because my group did the playtest. I haven't updated it for the release because, well, we're playing Shadowrun. :P

Quote:
While I've fully been tempted by the allure of digital character sheets to the point of making my own, my origins in printing out sheets probably had an influence in what I make [...]

Same here. The excel sheet template that I use goes all the way back to a 3.5 sheet I found probably 12 or 14 years ago now that used tiny 10-11 pixel cells merged up so that the smallest "actual data" cell was 2 tall and 3 wide and looked near identical to the official printed sheets. None of the graphical elements, just the black and white box grid layout.

It was the fact that it didn't try and do everything for me that I fell in love with. It let me decide how to compute values and make notes (I used the margin space next to the feat lines to denote which level the feat was acquired at, and so on), write in item names and utilize the "quantity" cell to denote "mechanical bonus applied somewhere" for calculations (do I want to write down that I have one (1) headband of charisma +2? no, I want to write down that my headband of charisma is a "+2" and reference that +2 cell where it matters).

Quote:
As for players forgetting what abilities they have due to a sheet doing the work for them. I can't say I've really seen that at my tables considering most of my players are always looking forward to what new things they can pull off next level and probably remember their abilities better as a result.

Been there, done that, wrote down the feat name in the slot it goes in, formatted it to be clear that I don't have it yet (italics for my most recent characters). If its a class/racial/whatever feature I tend to map those out in advance and use conditional formatting to make the cells appear blank until the LEVEL: cell has the requisite level.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Uchuujin wrote:

So, I'm just curious. How many people are using each type of character sheet? What's the kind of demographic and demand for each?

I'm personally a fan of pencil and paper. Might be a bit old school, but I personally find it easier to find whatever stat I need on those quickly, without scrolling and zooming in on a tiny handheld screen.

Of course I can see the versatility in having the ability have your character on the cloud for yourself or sharing with others in your group, and makes it a lot harder to lose a character sheet.

Tiny screen? I use a laptop. At one game I even have a 2nd monitor. Yes, these are in-person games. One of them just embraces automation perhaps more fully than typical games.

Having the program apply all the modifiers, know prerequisites, quick references... its just a time saver all the way around and I'm old enough, and established enough, to have spare cash for such things. I should probably note that Hero Lab Online hasn't been very good with PF2, though I'm hopeful for improvements.

When at a college game club, I would often enter other player's characters into Hero Lab for them. About 90% of the time they had made mistakes that a pencil/paper person just made because they were human. Many times the player just left abilities/powers on the table.

I'm kind of waiting for a primarily software company (like Roll20 or Lone Wolf) to release a game entirely through applications. I don't really need books anymore.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I usually prefer to have my character sheet in an online file that I print out for the session (if it has changed enough that my last copy is no longer valid) and update online between sessions in accordance with penciled notes from the last session.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I print out my sheets, specifically the Dyslexic custom sheets. It's a 4 page character sheet that I put into clear plastic sleeves. That helps with temp bonuses for which I just write on the plastic sleeve in wet erase markers. For a more "permanent" change I pull the sheet out and write on it in pencil. I also use post-it notes for any side notes that I want to keep track of such as HP or the number of rounds something lasts... etc. All of this is bound in one of those basic school folders. Which keeps everything together.

We had a couple of people try laptops but space on the table is at a premium (Group of 7, 6 PC's 1 DM) so they stopped. I'm also the only one in my group that has a tablet (Surface Pro) which I sometimes use as more a backup then anything else.


I like you name


I usually play online, so obviously digital sheets are the only option. More speicfically, the built-in character sheets, that enable things like macros. I absolutely forbid manual rolling and math, it just slows the game down too much and people get confused about rules and it's just this big mess. Nuh-uh, click the attack macro and have the damage and everything handled for me. It also lets me use macros to handle monsters a lot easier, not needing to wait for a player to slowly respond what their AC is before I know whether it hit or not, which is pretty important when dealing with the realities of online play like mic problems, voice delays, and just not being able to look directly at someone to get their specific attention (though FG lets you ring their client like it's a phone).

For real-life play, I similarly demand form-fillable PDF's, with fresh printed copies for new levels, or possibly tablets/phones if people prefer. I don't have that many issues with distractions and quite honestly I'm not interested in policing that. Regardless, being able to have that stuff quickly, accurately, and legibly detailed is extremely useful, and it makes the system MUCH more approachable for new players who don't have to learn the entire system just to play. It's a lot easier to teach people during play where they can see stuff happening, or point them to a number on the sheet, than to hope they filled the sheet out correctly. I can be emailed a sheet, fix the errors quickly, shoot it back, and we're good.

Ideally, those with phones/tablets would use apps that let them roll right from their sheet, but I do know some players really like rolling physical dice (the novelty's worn off for me) and I don't think there's a decent app like that for PF2 yet. Haven't played PF2 in-person so iunno whether Pathbuilder will let you do stuff like that.

Absolutely none of this TXT file or pure pen-and-paper crap, though. Makes it a lot harder on me to track and stuff always gets miscalculated.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Like my friends, I will always prefer the digital format.

Dark Archive

There is something nice and retro about pen & paper sheets while they aren't really handy(and is pain to use with erasers), but I run games online sooooooo yeaaaaaaaaaaah :P

Though yeah, I prefer digital sheets where players have to fill stuff themselves(I do like sheets that do automatically calculations, but players should definitely know their character's abilities)

Shadow Lodge

Both. I use the PnP to write things down and I type the finish product on a fillable sheet.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Helmic wrote:
I usually play online, so obviously digital sheets are the only option. More speicfically, the built-in character sheets, that enable things like macros.

Oh definitely. One of the games I played on roll20 was amazing because of macros.

It did require getting all the character details into the sheet, which was annoying at first, but it was worth it.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Ravingdork wrote:
Like my friends, I will always prefer the digital format.

I forgot the best part, digital sheets make it trivial to write down the complete rules for any class features, feats, spells, or equipment. No need to go flipping through pages to see what the exact wording is if a question comes up, it's printed right there for everyone to see. If it's on a VTT, you can even click a button and have the rules posted in chat, complete with formatting.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Paper all the way.

Like many others in this thread, we don’t allow players to have cell phones, laptops etc. at the table. The DM might have a laptop off to the side for music and maybe to occasionally look something up, but that’s it.

I find I actually dislike playing with people who sit there with a laptop open staring at their screen. For me, it’s a paper character sheet always


PF1 trained me to use digital character sheets since I could macro things with spreadsheets like "you have this condition" or "your size changes" and have all the math be done automatically.

PF2 seems doable with just paper, but I would still want a custom sheet.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Fumarole wrote:
I use form-fillable sheets and print them out for use at the table. I update the PDF when the character levels up and print up a new copy. In between levels I simply write on the sheet in pencil.

I don't understand why this isn't the opinion of the vast majority.

1. The game is admittedly complex and built with digitization in mind. "Your weapon gains the broken condition" reads exactly like someone coded "weapon_broken = TRUE;" in a computer program.

2. That being said, at the table, it's just so much easier to audit rapidly changing conditions like "I'm shaken for 4 rounds, how many have elapsed?" with pencil and paper.

The obvious solution is to use the computer to generate non-time-sensitive and complex calculations, and then use pencil and paper for time-sensitive, simple calculations.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

For me, a big part of the aversion to digital character sheets (even if it saves time) is that I spend all day on excel and other such tools manipulating data in efficient ways.

Doing that for my hobby just feels like work. Doing it with pen and paper feels like I'm playing the game I've been playing since I was a kid (almost pre computers, but definitely pre-character software).

It's a similar reason I prefer a very relaxed, 'what feels right' approach to RPG rules. A big part of my job is parsing legislation or contracts to determine which clauses apply, which are exempted and which are arguable (plus the best way to structure things for the best result). Approaching the rules in a similar way isn't a break (plus RPG rules are so imprecise anyhow, that it's a fool's errand to actually find an objective, true answer, imo).

I can see things like Herolab and so on would be quicker and more efficient, but that's almost why it's less fun to me. I like the greyed out, over-erased, drink-stained and hard-to-read character sheet I end up with by the end of a campaign. It almost feels like as much of an achievement to get to the end still using the same piece of paper I started with as to actually defeat the BBEG.


I use a hybrid between the two.

I generally use form fillable character sheets when I play in other peoples games, but I leave certain fields (HP, spell slots, inventory, etc) blank. Then I print the sheet out and use those erasable pens to fill the blank fields.

I do it this way because my handwriting is terrible (so having details that don't change often, like ability scores, class features, feats, etc typed out makes it all a lot easier for my brain) and because I don't like having a device at the table unless I am the GM.

I use erasable pens because I find pencil difficult to read, especially in the slightly dimly lit conditions the 5e group I play in prefers (the GM has troubles with migraines, so bright light isn't his thing), and it allows me to use all kinds of pretty colours to make important details stand out.

Also, erasable pens mean I don't have to own a pencil sharpener or carry an eraser to games with me.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Second Edition / Advice / Pencil and Paper vs. Digital character sheets. All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.