Gaming Tools for D&D 4E

I’m a gamer, as you might have guessed by this blog content. One of my favorite tabletop RPG games (also known as pencil & paper) is Dungeons & Dragons (also known as D&D, or DnD).

I’ve played every version of the game from Basic to 4th edition in the last 18 years and so far I find the latest edition to be the best (your taste may vary).

One of the reasons why is the support provided by the parent company, Wizard of the Coast. In the past the product support from the parent company has been lackluster at best, with an emphasis on flooding the market with splatbooks that added very little to the game except headaches to the DM. Add to it the sheer volume of product generated under the d20 brand (plus the travesty that was 3.5) and the game turned into a nightmare even for the most experience DM.

Now things have changed, at least in the electronic department. The folks over at WotC have tightened the editorial rules (extremely lax during the 2nd Edition years specially with the Misbegotten Realms and downright diuretic during the 3.x years). With the new found disciple came a reinvigorated approach to online/electronic support.

Enter the D&D Insider and a new series of tools designed to make the life of players and GM that much easier. The Insider is subscription service that provides a series of benefits (for around $10 a month). Among these benefits you get:

  1. Character Builder- A program to create PC characters.
  2. Compendium- An online library of every rulebook and DragonDungeon magazine articles.
  3. Adventure Tools- A series of tools for GM to build adventures. Currently on it’s Beta phase.
  4. Dragon/Dungeon Magazine- In house mag for all things D&D. Includes races, items and adventures.

I’ll focus on two of these: the Character Builder and Adventure Tools.

The Character Builder has everything you need to build a character. Regular updates (once every month or so) means that you don’t need to run to buy new books just to get access to the latest powers or items. GM/Players can customize the creation process with homerules and choose which sourcebooks fit their campaign. An autobuild button button allows players to let the program build their characters for them, which then they can tweak to fit their gaming style. Finally, the character sheets created are concise, clean and clear. I especially like how the powers are color coded for ease of use.

As a Beta, the Adventure Tools only provide a monster creation/modification tool (so far) but even that is a godsend for a GM who wants to whip up a monster in minutes. It has a complete list of creatures from multiple source books including both Monster Manuals. Even if you don’t plan modifying or creating new creatures, having the entire list (updated regularly)  helps as each entry is in alphabetical order and the descriptions use the same standard setup for all monsters. The program suggest it’s best to modify an existing creature rather than to create one from scratch and I agree.  Once you’re done you can save the new monster in the existing list or copy/paste to another document so that you can have it on hand for game night.

The way I used these programs is as follows:

The Builder is great for keeping track of my characters both past changes and future possibilities. With the autobuild feature I can scale said character several levels and see possible builds and how the change it’s nature.

The monster creator gives me hundreds of creatures at my disposal and if I want to create a memorable NPC I just search using a key word such as Human and then look for the closest creature to use. If I think it needs tweaking I copy it, make some changes it and save it.

New tools are expected soon, including a virtual dungeon maker (in 3d no less). If WotC keeps this up, they won’t be any need for third party software to deal with the hassle of adventure creation.

And I know that D&D is not World of Warcraft, although the similarities are undeniable, especially with the revamping of the core mechanic in 4E, but I still think this video is pretty cool:

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