View Full Version : Hero Lab: Worth It?

2012-08-02, 09:33 PM
I'm debating starting up a small Pathfinder game with a couple friends whose most recent game was 4E. All of them have said they prefer 3.5, and when I showed them Pathfinder, they seemed pretty excited to play a campaign.

However, one of their favorite things about 4E was the online character creator. Myself and one other person had subscriptions, so everybody just used our subs to put together characters for the campaign. Recently, I was made aware of Hero Lab (http://www.wolflair.com/index.php?context=hero_lab), a 3rd-party program that has Pathfinder support, and would function similarly. The program, for those unwilling to follow the link, costs $30 initially, with added costs for all systems/expansion past the first one selected.

Does the Playground think this is a worthy investment?

2012-08-02, 10:28 PM
Disclaimer: As a Paizo campaign volunteer, I got a free copy of Herolabs as part of their partnership with Paizo.

I would definitely recommend it. It's a good way of creating, and better yet, double-checking characters and NPC statblocks quickly. Even if you use build the character by hand, it's great to run it through Herolabs to get full printouts of all spells and class feature so you don't have to reference the source books. (Which is great if you use spells from a lot of books.)

Be advised that the initial purchase price gets you only core, entitlements for books beyond core and ISWG are sold separately.

2012-08-02, 10:29 PM
I started playing 3.5 and Pathfinder about 9 months ago, and have been using Hero Lab for 7 of those months. I feel it is an amazing product, but it does have a couple of downsides.


It is way easier to manage your characters and play accurately. Sure, you remember that your DEX debuff lowered your ranged attack bonus, but did you remember everything else? Your AC is down, some of your skills are reduced, you may not be able to qualify for a certain feat, etc. Hero Lab keeps track of all of it for you so that when you make a small change, everything related to that change is automatically updated.

It is amazing for DMing. It will roll initiative for the 10 trolls the party is facing, keep track of their HP, etc. It takes about 10 seconds to add a monster to your fight and be ready to play with it.

Between it and using sites like the d20pfsrd, you don't need much else other than your laptop.

It is a bit costly to purchase several of the addons, but I imagine it costs much less than buying all of the books.

Very easy to use, saves you a lot of time adding up all of your bonuses. You can check the screen and immediately know what your modifiers are, getting you into the action quicker instead of double-checking your math on every roll.

Updates and bug fixes are constantly being applied. I only use Hero Lab for Pathfinder, so I can't really say if the other systems are updated as often.

The program Combat Manager can open Hero Lab's character files and import their information.

I could go on, but you really should try it yourself.


Sometimes (rarely) things aren't displayed as accurately as you would like. One example is with creatures with several natural attacks. It will display all of the attack bonuses as if each attack was a primary attack. If you aren't 100% familiar with the rules, you're going to murder your players with too many attacks at too high of a bonus (I have a feeling my DM does this :smallyuk: ). You still need to be able to use your head instead of putting all of your faith into what it says. Issues like this are quite rare, and typically only show up when looking at monsters.

When you use it you rarely, if ever, need the books. I think a pile of books, character sheets and notepads provide a lot of "feel" to your gaming environment, and Hero Lab just adds that extra little bit of detachment from what some people might argue gaming is all about.

If the programmers ever stop working on it, updating and expanding, it is going to be quite annoying trying to take those steps back to move to pencil and paper again. I only know of one other program, PCGen, that is even close to Hero Lab and I just can't stand it. Though it is free.

It has a separate editor for creating your own custom things like special weapons, spells, feats, even classes and much more. However, it has a huge learning curve and the guides on the website are not very straightforward. It helps to have prior programming experience.

In the end, it doesn't really do anything I can't do myself. It just does it all MUCH, MUCH faster and easier. Less time spent on setup means more gaming and social time for me. That's what I care about most, so I love Hero Lab.

I believe you can download it for free and use it "fully," you just can't save your characters. It includes a large bestiary by default I believe, so you can get the hang of the DMing aspect.

Hopefully this helps. I'm a pretty terrible writer, so hopefully it isn't too much gibberish. :smallredface:

2012-08-03, 04:00 AM
Also, remember that as computer software, Herolab can and does have bugs. I plugged my Underfoot Adept monk into it only to discover that it didn't have the archetype replacing class features properly and my Agile Amulet of Mighty Fists wasn't applying its damage. Always double-check it against books.

2012-08-03, 04:45 AM
The trouble with programs like Hero Lab is that I'd recommend new players stay away from them, because in my experience letting someone rely entirely on a machine means they'll never learn for themselves, and one of my goals for new players is to get them to stop asking questions directly from me and start turning to researching their problems via the books and internet.

Then, of course, once a player is at the point where everything is effortless anyway, then buying a machine to do the work for them is pointless.

2012-08-03, 06:26 AM
I've looked at the Hero Lab trial for Mutants and Masterminds, and it was decent. I don't think I would bother paying for it, though. Not sure how much different the PF one would be. For M&M I have an Excel spreadsheet set up to calculate total power point cost, but for D&D I prefer to do things the old-fashioned way.