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Old June 6th, 2016, 06:12 AM
Hi there,

I've been using HeroLab and RealmWorks for 11 session now, but I still somehow feel, that I might be missing a couple of tricks, because some tasks are still very daunting and time consuming, more than they should be.

Example (worst case scenario): My 5 heroes encounter a big chest. While they try to open it, they trigger a trap and they each receive 5 fire damage.

-> I have to select every single hero and have to assign 5 points damage. That is very time consuming. Same for other special effects, especially effects, that last for x rounds and affect a couple of characters. Is there a way to apply a certain status, effect or damage to multiple characters in one go?

After that, they loot the chest. I represent the chest by creating a new, empty character in hero lab and give it all the loot, because otherwise I would have to search all the items together and it would take much more time. Feel a bit like a hack, but it works quite well.

They find 2 probably magic items and 5000 gold. They identify one of the items as am amulet, that prevents scrying (it's actually the cursed "amulet of inescapable location") and the other one they fail to identify. They decide, that they give all items to one character and divide the gold between the other 4 heroes. Moving items is easy. Moving gold is always quite a hassle, since you need to create surrogate items (I call them "bags of gold" and value them the amount of gold they contain). It would be much easier, if you could just send money from one hero to another without having to "buy" gold bag items and sell them on the other hero.

But ok, after the session, I calculate the gained XP (I just add all the XP together and then give each hero 1/5th of that). But now, I have to create a Journal entry for each of the heroes. I would like to only have to create one and then assign that entry to all of them.

Ok, but then, I export the Hero Sheets as PDF. But on the PDF, they can actually see, that the amulet is a cursed item and the other magic item is a magic sword +2, although they shouldn't. Is there a way to "hide" that information from them? Like setting a flag on the item, that only shows the basic type of the item and the DC for the spelllcraft check to identify it't properties? Because otherwise, I allways have to do the workaround via create custom item and replace that with the real one once they find it's real properties. But at that time, I have often forgotten, which item it was. I would like to have a solution within HeroLab, not an external list where I have to keep track of non-identified items.

Decrayer is offline   #1 Reply With Quote
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Old June 6th, 2016, 09:10 AM
Apparently, in your situation the GM is keeping track of all of the data for all heroes. You're going to have extra work if you do that. (You're essentially now responsible for all NPCs and all PCs! And the PCs will change every session while the NPCs rarely do.)

HL is great at managing a hero by a single player. It's not to good for GMs to use to manage all of the heroes in their game.

I filed a bug report for how I think the Tactical Console should work. Here's the content of that bug report. It doesn't cover loot distribution, although I think that's a great idea... Some way to select multiple heroes and then "roll a saving throw" or "distribute gp" or similar. Each group will likely handle this differently, but our GM wants the players to manage their own heroes which he imports a few days before a game session. He never exports them so loot distribution isn't an issue for us; players track that stuff themselves.

My GM and I had a “playtest” session with the tactical console (“TC”) and wanted to report some feedback in addition to my previous notes, included below. Here are the show stopping issues we had, followed by some “need to have” and “would be nice to have” features. Note that these are game play problems, not application crashes or lockups (which I’m sure you’re glad to hear!).


All “Take Action” buttons for creatures below the current creature should not be active!! The GM accidentally clicked on that button and the creature was moved to the next round and placed at the bottom of the window. It is now impossible to put the creature back where it belongs! If clicking that button is going to be allowed, we suggest adding an “Are you sure?” prompt to safeguard against accidents.

That last paragraph brings up another point — if a creature is moved into the next round accidentally, how should it be corrected? We believe that there should be a “Restore to active position” button that decrements the round number and puts the creature back at the initiative point it was at previously. If the “Are you sure” prompt mentioned in the previous paragraph is more difficult than I expect, then this suggestion is a very high priority. Even with the prompt, there could still be a need to put a creature back into its place in the active list. The TC window can be wider so adding a button on the left or right isn’t space-constrained, but the “move to top position” button could provide double duty: click it once and the creature moves to the top of its section, but if it’s at the top of its section already then clicking it again could make it active again and put it at the top of the active list. (That way a separate button isn’t needed.)

Need to have:

If a creature drops below 0 hp and is healed, we need some easy way to put them back into initiative at the proper point. Ideally by using drag/drop to place them (instead of the up/down buttons, which are too small and cumbersome to be useful).

Scrolling the TC window with the mouse fails at random times (Windows 10). No discernible pattern that we found as to when it happens.

There’s no way to handle a surprise round using the TC!! When the GM clicks New Combat, prompt for setting a checkbox that says “Surprise round”. During that round, let’s call it “round 0”, allow any creatures to take action in any order (although they should still sort in initiative order as randomly rolled). When the GM clicks Next Round, put all of the initiatives back the way they were originally rolled and play progresses to Round 1, with the surprise checkbox turned off. (The checkbox isn’t really needed except for visual confirmation for the GM.) Using this approach allows the GM to account for heroes that have the Pathfinder Forewarned ability, allowing them to take action in the surprise round (even though they’re still flat-footed up until it’s their turn to act). Other abilities can easily be handled “manually” using this technique as well, such as the rogue and ninja abilities that allow actions in the surprise round.

In addition to handling surprise rounds as described above, it should be possible to add new combatants to the encounter that is already running. The PF rules say such creatures come in at the top of the round at which they arrive on the scene, but the TC can play it more simply. We suggest allowing the GM to specify a round number when importing creatures into the encounter. Those creatures then sit idly at the bottom of the TC (with an “X” to indicate they’re not active) until the GM clicks Next Round and it matches their pre-programmed round number. Now they're set to Delayed and placed at the top of the init sequence. (I think rolling initiative should be an option. If the GM wants to play by the rules, they’ll leave all newcomers at the top of the init window and can take their actions whenever they want. My GM thinks they should have init rolled for them and be inserted into the proper place, but since that isn’t rules-as-written, it should be an option and not forced.)

In addition to adding new combatants, my GM doesn't want to roll initiative separately for animal companions or familiars (or similar), so PCs with such minions should import into the TC as just themselves. Could we have a checkbox for this when the TC is initially opened and init is rolled? We suggest a checkbox in front of every creature with two buttons at the top: Toggle All (which toggles all checkboxes on/off), and Toggle Minions (which only toggles all minions on/off). Then only the creatures with a checkbox are added to the TC and have their init rolled. This lets GMs tweak how it works and only adds a single extra mouse click to GMs who don't want this feature. (If you want to avoid even that mouse click, make it a preference setting whether the checkboxes even appear at all and GMs could them opt-in to this process.)

I’m not sure how useful this last one would be. When I run a game, I would love to have it, but my GM for this campaign isn’t that concerned: when a player casts a spell, add an entry for it at the current point in the initiative with a number that counts upward every time the “Next Round” button is clicked. This doesn’t need to be a creature, just a one-line entry that defaults to “Spell” with a Source field that has the name of the creature that was active when this entry was created. The GM can then click and rename it from Spell to Summoned Monster. This is needed as spell tracking is the biggest PITN when playing mid-level to high-level 3e/3.5e/PF. It’s important to add it to the TC because heroes can Delay or Ready and change their position in initiative, so it’s not appropriate to say “on your next turn” when they can Delay and give everyone else an extra round of the spell effect!

Would like to have:

There’s needs to be a visual differentiation between Delay and Ready. I suggest that when the GM clicks one of those buttons, it should stay active (and yellow) when the creature is placed above the active creature. The other button should have it’s yellow changed to gray. This provides simple visual feedback and doesn’t change the UI layout much.

And if the button stays active, then clicking it again can simply turn it off, putting the creature back into its original init position. (This is for use when a creature below the current one starts delaying out of turn. For example, a player needs to take a bathroom break and yells out, “I’m going to Delay. I’ll jump back in when I get back.” The GM might Delay them immediately so they don’t forget to do it later. )

Don’t scroll to the bottom of the TC window at startup! That’s insane! There’s nothing important at the bottom of the window!

Some kind of spell duration tracker for PLAYERS would be nice, but I’m not sure how it would be implemented. Basically, whenever the player clicks the “I’ve taken my action” button, the counter would decrement. Some actions would automatically prompt afterward to remind the player. For example, a spell that takes 1 round to cast should prompt, as should a full round action (like a full attack). So should drinking a potion. But the player needs to be able to activate it manually in case the hero does nothing but move during their turn. I don’t believe this is a worthwhile goal to pursue at this point in the evolution of HL. This would be a HUGE project!
Azhrei is offline   #2 Reply With Quote
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Old June 6th, 2016, 12:10 PM
Oh, maybe there is a small misunderstanding. Currently, I'm (as the GM) not keeping track of all the data. During a session, for the heroes, I keep only track of their gold and items. They are responsible for keeping track of their hitpoints (because, like my example showed, this is not feasible for me to do) and their spell selection & usage. They also note down stuff they loot, but I do so too, so I have always the current status of their characters. But, of course, I keep track of the monsters hitpoints. And it's really not fun if the wizzard shoots a fireball or black tentacles into a group of 4+ NPC...

During a session, I always have the whole hero group open in hero lab. And when there is an encounter, I import the previously build encounter that I integrated into RealmWorks directly into the already opened hero group. Then I open the tactical console and start a the fight (I don't understand that part of your quote, isn't the tactical console always already starting with the surprise round? At least that's the reason, why all heroes get the flat-footed condition till it's their turn in the surprise round).

If people or other parties join the fight, I just import them and in the tactical console, I select "integrate into running fight" (or something like that, can't remember the exact wording).

After the fight, if the players decide to loot the bodies, I just move the loot from the enemy to the hero who actually looted it. Then I select "remove all enemy" and I usually also hit the save button at that time. It's working quite well, but I still have a hard time to use it's full potential. For example, there are condition flags, where you can just select "grappled" or "sickened". And it applies all value changes to the creature/character. But still, it could be a bit more convenient. For example, if a character gets sickened, I would like to beeing able to enter, that he will be sickened for 6 rounds. And then, after rounds in the tactical console, the sickened condition is automatically removed from the character.

Also, I think it's actually meant to keep the GM in charge of the players stats, because otherwise, the tactical console with it's automatical enemy/ally mechanic and initiative wouldn't be such a big help, if you would have to still keep a separate list of initiative order for the players. Also, my players don't use laptops while we play, they only use printed out paper sheets. And only one of the players has hero lab, the others don't. Therefore, they just tell me their decisions when levelling up and I put them into their sheets.

But the main point of my post is, that I would like to have secret annotations for characters. So that I can keep non-identified items a secret from a player if I print out their pdf. Or cursed items.

Last edited by Decrayer; June 6th, 2016 at 12:12 PM.
Decrayer is offline   #3 Reply With Quote
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Old June 6th, 2016, 12:25 PM
Ill be blunt, you're trying to micro manage your players a bit too much. HL isnt a do everything for you.

I would keep a listing of item numbers and descriptions, and then only give the actual item when it is identified.

Shadow has a few useful adjustments for modifying item text/output, but blank ITEM ## seem to be the best way of doing it.

Also keeping track of initiative via the TC isn't something that I would recommend. I have found that either a Pathfinder Combat Pad or Tent folded note cards are the easiest way of tracking initiative since it is so fluid.

I could probably work with you some more but the forum really isnt a place for GM guidance.
Minous is offline   #4 Reply With Quote
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Old June 6th, 2016, 10:47 PM
First, I want to thank you for your input. I thought about my current combat process, but I came to the conclusion, that using a combat pad wouldn't help me much. It might even slow our combat management down (because we would have to roll our initiative manually, collect the values, sort the actors into the right order etc., one of the reasons, why I switched to the tactical console). The only real benefit of the combat pad over the hero lab tactical console is the right side of it, where you note effect durations. But that´s something I already do on my own sheet of square paper at the moment.

The item listing with replacement blank ITEM ## is, what I actually currently do. I just found it stupid, because I would like to have everything integrated, reducing the need for additional software (I do almost everything on my laptop and the screen gets quite overloaded). I imagine, that it would be very handy, if hero lab would have a flag that you could set for an item in order to mark it as unidentified. I think it would also fit quite well into the rest of the mechanic.

The Pathfinder Combat Pad helps when you need to move the initiative of one hero, but so does HeroLabs tactical console. The PF Combat Pad doesn't help you to set up a fighting scene within seconds, rolling initiative and sorting the heroes into the right order.

But maybe I don´t understand the intention of the hero lab tactical console and the condition tab. I thought, it is meant to be used as a very fine grained combat support tool. It is not perfect, I agree, I don't use every single function of it (for example, I wouldn't select "Flanking" on the condition tab if a hero or enemy is flanked). But for keeping the initiative order and look up some conditions and spell rules, it's quite good. You just need to learn a bit how to use it. And it could use some UI and performance improvement, especially for actions, that you have to use very often (like hitpoint reduction for multiple actors at once).

But what is that "Shadow" you are talking about?
Decrayer is offline   #5 Reply With Quote
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Old June 7th, 2016, 04:54 AM
I use the Tactical Console pretty much just like you do. You can't assign damage, conditions (or anything else) to multiple heroes/creatures in the TC - you have to do each one separately. Assigning XP in the journal is the same.
ShadowChemosh (one of the volunteers and forum posters) has some adjustments (part of the "Community Pack") that allow you to change the displayed name of an item - so you can "hide" what an item really is - you could rename it "unidentified". "ShadowChemosh's equipment" has items that are gp, sp, etc that would probably help you with money.
See this thread
Dami is offline   #6 Reply With Quote
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Old June 7th, 2016, 08:40 AM
Alright, thank your for the hint. I'll try that community pack out.
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Old June 7th, 2016, 12:23 PM
I use a program called Combat Manager to manage combat/initiative, etc... google it. It's pretty awesome, you can even import HL files into it.
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Old June 8th, 2016, 03:34 AM
Neat, I think I'll try that one out next sunday. Thanks for the hint!
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Old June 12th, 2016, 11:06 PM
I just wanted to update: I tried Combat Manager yesterday and it worked really great. It has a very nice balance between covering most of the often used stuff (dice rolling, treasure generation, common fights stats displaying, hitpoints counting) without getting too complicated. The only thing I missed was the option, to reduce the hitpoints by a certain amount instead of having to calculate them on my own. But on the other hand, calculating this stuff on my own is a nice training. Oh, and I didn't find the combat round we are in yesterday, but today I had a second look at it and I found it (I didn't expect it to be on the right side). And for multiple dice rolls, I prevered hero lab (6d6 for example).

So to conclude, thank you very much, Dhrakken. It still will not replace HeroLab for the rest of the character handling, but it helps to replace the tactical console.
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