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Hero Lab for iPad

Hero Lab from Lone Wolf Development seemed like an unnecessary piece of software to me for the longest time. Then they released an app for the iPad and all of that changed.

What Is It?

Hero Lab, in its desktop form, is a piece of software to support character creation for a variety of systems from Pathfinder to Mutants & Masterminds to Shadowrun. A purchase of the desktop entitles you to the core rule set for a single system. Additional rule sets and content are available for purchase through Lone Wolf’s website.

The app for the iPad is free as a character sheet viewer for Pathfinder. As of this review, Pathfinder is the only system that the app supports. Lone Wolf recently added character creation to the app, but to save characters made with the app requires a license for the desktop version with appropriate Pathfinder material licenses.

The character sheet viewer allows a player to manage their character by performing common game activities like adding or subtracting hit points, imposing conditions, and rolling skill checks or attack rolls. The app handles all the underlying calculations.

The character creation portion of the app functions much like its desktop counterpart. It allows you to select race and class, set abilities, spend skill points and feats, and buy equipment. The app validates the character against the rules and notifies you if something on the character is not valid.

What Do I Think Of It?

As I said in the introduction, until this app came out, I considered Hero Lab an unnecessary piece of software. Creating characters just so I could print them out seemed inferior to handwritten character sheets. This app changed that. Now I can juggle conditions like sickened or keep track of how many times I’ve used channel energy. And it all resets with the push of a button. There are no pieces of paper to lose or wear out with repeated erasing.

The app functions well on both my iPad 3 and my wife’s iPad Mini. Obviously, my wife has less screen real estate for everything, but the app still manages to keep it from being too crowded.

It isn’t all sunshine and roses though. I was looking forward to the implementation of the character creation functionality.¬†While I’m happy that it is now in the app, the way in which it was implemented has made the app harder to use. The character sheet functionality has been moved to a “Play” tab alongside all the various section tabs for character creation. While that reflects the desktop version, I would have preferred for the character sheet manager be a completely separate area from the character creation. This may be simple perception or semantics, but my wife found the new structure confusing¬†to navigate.

Loading times can also bit a bit long, but once a character portfolio is loaded the app seems pretty snappy. That loading time seems to crop up at weird times if you’ve switched out of the app into something else. My wife has that happen to her frequently on her Mini, but I don’t see that problem often on my iPad 3. I also don’t multitask as much as she does though, so that may be part of it.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a Pathfinder player with an iPad, I think this app is very useful. You will have to license the appropriate data from Lone Wolf, but it’s usually no more expensive than purchasing the equivalent PDFs from Paizo. While there is room for improvement in the app, Lone Wolf is working actively on the app and putting out regular updates. It is definitely a tool that my wife and I will continue to use for our Pathfinder games.

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