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Under His Skin by Michael McCarthy

Jonathan: Michael, please tell us what inspired you to write “Under His Skin” your latest adventure module released on

Michael: Every adventure is inspired by something. A book, a movie, an exciting moment in one game, that the writer wants to crystallize for the reader to experience.

Hi, I’m Michael McCarthy, and I’m going to be talking about what inspired me on my recent adventure, Under His Skin, and my upcoming one, It All Falls down.

Now, the former one is simple – as my first offering for Adventureaweek, I wanted to make sure it was accessible; level one, and it had to be relatable too; which is why I went with the theme of ‘a wizard did it’, one of the tried and true core concepts in adventure writing. There’s even a chapter named after the idea – a wizard built it – because I wanted to pass the feeling on to the reader even beyond the tower and the jungle itself.

It All Falls Down was less clear, when I started, what the adventure was going to be. All I knew is that I wanted to include one major encounter that felt like a movie scene, with the players outrunning a ceiling bent on collapsing. Why did I want that? Because, of all things, of an environmental effect in Skyrim, where a little bit of dust falls from the ceiling as you pass through a door. That’s right: a particle effect.

From there, there were lots of options, particularly whether I wanted to set the collapse on its own, or as part of a bigger dungeon. Maybe a giant was smashing through the ceilings of the building the pcs were running through. Or maybe the dungeon could collapse as the pcs try and escape with a maguffin.

In the end, I went with a chase scene, which was closer to the movie feel that I was trying to replicate anyways. And, it introduced the new problem of what to do with the group now that their exit was buried under tons of rock. They would escape, of course.

The underground portion was based on an excellent game I played some time ago – Avernum. Each exit is guarded in its own way; dragons, hazards, secrets. But there were ways out, and the players would find them.

For anyone of you who write your own adventures, remember. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and anything could inspire you if you need it too. In a few months, my adventure To Catch a Serpent comes out, and it was inspired by a mislabeled cardboard box in a warehouse. Like I said – anything.

Jonathan:  You can read Michael’s adventure “Under His Skin” and any upcoming adventures as they are released as a subscriber to, or alternatively purchase them on or!

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Pathways Magazine and Adventureaweek join forces!

Pathways Magazine has joined forces with Adventureaweek!

A new featured AaW article will appear in Pathways each month written by AaW team members Will Myers, Nathan Land, and Cory Vickruck.  It’s free so pick up your copy now at!

How can you say “No” to a collection of Pathfinder haunts and templates, high-level foes and minor constructs, feats and domains, and all of it bundled together with a collected view of upcoming third-party products for the Pathfinder RPG? You’d have to be crazy to turn it down.

The first of each month Rite Publishing brings you Pathways, a free ‘zine packed with plenty of Open Game Content for you to take to the table. You’ll find articles by Jonathan McNulty (Coliseum Morpheuon), T. H. Gulliver (#30 Haunts for Ships and Shores), Robert Emerson, Steven D. Russell and a host of other Pathfinder-compatible publishers. In every issue there are also interviews, reviews and more.

You can download your free copy at DrivethruRpg or
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When the Ship Goes Down by Stephen Yeardley

Jonathan: Stephen, tell us a bit about A12: When the Ship Goes Down and what inspired you to write this adventure.

Stephen: Well, this was inspired by one of the two comments from our group that have stuck with me most as I DMed. Foz, a player that really likes to know what’s going on before he flies into action, had been caught out by a trap and for a while, his character’s mantra became;

“I check there’s a floor to this room…”

(For the record, the other comment is, “You greedy dwarf, you’ve eaten all the candles!” But that’s another tale.)

I’m also a big fan of confusing PCs’ expectations. PCs are mostly used to getting their own way, so, for example, in A6, they are thwarted at every turn and have to go through a lot before they succeed and in areas of A9, many of their expected ways of doing something have to be changed completely around.

So it struck me that PCs expect “the dungeon” to be a certain way up. We’d looked at zero-gravity in A9, so didn’t want a repeat, but sometimes it’s a minor difference rather than a major one that becomes the inconvenience. What might that inconvenience be?

Two films came to mind as well. “The Cube”, which has been an inspiration in many ways for a decade and a half, as it goes from providing ideas for deadly traps all the way to showing the way characters’ feelings ebb and flow, albeit in a shortened timeframe, and to a lesser degree, “The Undiscovered Country” with its the assassination scene, not because of the anti-gravity, but the way it looks with the assassins in the magnetic boots, climbing up and down at different angles.

Of course, creatures that can fly, climb well or just plain float won’t ave any probem with any of this, so the inconvenience is only for the PCs, who must either be well equipped, use lots of magic or just climb a lot. That fighter in his banded mail, boy, I bet he wishes it wasn’t quite so heavy…

Jonathan: You can read Stephen Yeardley’s adventure “When the Ship Goes Down” right now on or purchase the PDF which should be released on Paizo and RPGnow sometime next week! Enjoy!

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Map of Kingdoms

Todd has updated the map and added the country of NaeraCull.  NaeraCull and Pradjna are not available to choose as your primary country.  You may however choose to assist Todd in his development of Pradjna as he will need some assistance with statistical information and editing as he builds his part of the world.  You can be sure it will be filled with all manner of amazing inventions and wonderful sketches/works of art!

Make sure you jump into the forum and voice your opinion if you’re interested in becoming involved in the world building on  If you’ve never been active on the site you may still have the chance to get involved.  Simply sign up for a free account and get involved now!  It’s never too late to get started.  There are still many territories to be explored and defined.


Let us shed some light on the new country of NaeraCull shall we?

NaeraCull has been an ongoing project designed by Joshua Gullion of  Due to his daily hard work on and non-stop work on PDF development and HERO LAB files, Todd and Jonathan have agreed to grant him this section of the world to develop however he sees fit.  I would like to take a moment to thank Joshua for all his hard work, introducing us to HERO LAB, and pushing all of us to make our website, the PDFs, and the artwork the best it can be.  Salute Joshua, here’s to your dedication and impeccable work ethic.


Country Name:  NaeraCull (pronounced Nair-a-cool)

Climate: Temperate, think Mexico (desert, dense tree coverage, and coastlines)

Ruling Race(s):  Lands ruled by three powerful undead, with a conglomeration of two distinctly different cultures of humans populating their lands (an Incan inspired people, and classic fantasy gypsy)  70% human, 17% lizardmen, 3% kobold, 3% elven, 3% dwarven, 3% other (standard), 1% construct.
Brief Synopsis:

Davional, classic elder vampire with a deeply ingrained sense of patriarchal responsibility to his “people”.  Davional still interacts with his people on a daily basis as time permits, and treats them as much like his children as a food source….there is a loyalty between them that goes both ways, he provides for them and keeps watch over them (an unholy guardian angel if you will), and they in return watch while he sleeps, and give freely when he hungers and can find no other source for sustanance..  He participates in their wedding ceremonies, and celebrations of birth, as well as funerals for friends he has watched grow their entire lives…he sits in judgement when crimes must be heard, and punished.  

Kham-u-Tael, a former holy ruler of these lands who returned from the grave believing himself to be the voice of his Gods, until Davional arrvied to educate him as to the nature of the undead.  A mummy, but not in the sense of a rag wrapped corpse, Kham-u-Tael is still coming to terms with what he is, and that he is not an agent of his Gods…not wishing to shatter his people, and their new founded faith and sense of purpose, he continues to uphold their belief that the Gods have returned him to them to guide them through life.  Understanding that to “live” as openly as he is, he would need support from powerful allies, he struck a bargain with Davional when the vampire sought him out, and the corpse that haunted the vampire’s shadow, Malakittal.

And Malakittal (the lich who did not wish to be), found over a hundred years ago by Davional, and hidden from the world by possibly one of the only things on this planet that could ever befriend it.  Cursed by his former master for slaying him and stealing his grimmoires, Malakittal found himself thrust into the existence of a lich against his will by the power of an unresolved demonic pact, unresolved since he slew his master before he had fulfilled his obligations in the pact.  Hiding himself from all, sealing himself away in an attempt to not meet the working end of an adventurer’s weapon, Malakittal might have simply faded away had it not been for a chance encounter with a certain vampire seeking shelter from a paladin that was hunting him.  Befriending the pitiful lich, and promising him that he would never again face the curse of eternity alone, Malakittal has been a trusted and dangerous comrade to Davional ever since.  Whereas he cannot rule as openly as his peers within NaeraCull, his thoughts and opinions still carry much weight and power, and all know there is a dark shadow behind the men who share these lands.  One who must never be crossed.  

Together these three have formed an alliance that allows them the freedom to exist without drawing unwanted attention from “do-gooder” types who seem to always want to end the existence of those challenging the concept of traditional life.  Their lands are rich in exportable materials (coffee, cocoa, wood, spice, iron, gold and gems to name but a few), and they have established “buffer” communities along the edges of their land mainly comprised of Davional’s people, allowing those who have had the most contact with the outside nations to deal with them the most, sheltering Kham-u-Tael’s people from as much outside influence as possible while still leaving a lifeline for commerce open to facilitate export and import with many of the world’s largest conglomerates and organizations, all the while hiding their true nature as undead.

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We build this world together!


The Campaign Setting is growing!  We are granting one country to each of our hardcore AaW members.  If you are an active member in our community and would like to join in the development of this world please hit us up on the forum!

Here’s a little blurb on each of the countries.  Take in mind that this is a rough draft filled with brainstorming and messy creativity.  It feels good to open the creative side and let it explode all over the page!  GO!


Worldbuilding: Adventureaweek Campaign Setting


Klavek Kingdom
Similar to Tsarist Russia. A hearty people who are patriotic and proud of their country. They live in an ice covered land and somehow manage to not just exist, but thrive here. The Klavekian monarchy is ruled by King Tokolvor XIII, a monster of a man who has made it his life quest to rid the Klavek Kingdom of the Vikmordere barbarians once and for all.

Quoted from the Campaign Setting:

Sometimes referred to as the Klavek Homeland by its citizens, the Klavek Kingdom hosts the most powerful military in the known world.The Klavek Kingdom is ruled by King Tokolvor XIII, a tyrannical leader and military genius. Tokolvor is a monster of a man who has declared it his life focus to rid the Klavek Kingdomof the Vikmordere barbarians once and for all. The King is rumored to have agents installed in every city, town, and village across the entire kingdom. Anyone who publicly speaks out against the Klavek Kingdom, the King, or anyone employed by the Monarchy are executed without trial.

Mohkba is the Capitol City of the Klavek Kingdom. A fortress-like city of towering spires topped with onion-domes. Mohkba is home to the Royal Monarchy and the majority of the Klavek Kingdom’s military. Mohkbavians are both feared and respected throughout the land.

The Klavek Kingdom encompasses a huge amount of land spanning across a substantial portion of the northern continent. Most of this land is covered in snow and ice where tough Klavekians work their fingers to the bone for their mighty Kingdom. Despite little help from the monarchy, the Klavek Kingdom People are patriotic and have always stood together to administer swift retribution to their enemies.

Few enemies are as dangerous to Klavekians as the barbarous Vikmordere. The Vikmordere are a nomadic tribe of barbarians who raid and pillage small riverside villages in the Klavek Kingdom. The Vikmordere threat has been somewhat reduced in recent years by the actions of King Tokolvor XIII.

In the rugged mountains of the Vikmordere Valley a small Klavekian settlement dubbed “Rybalka” has been dug out on the edge of the Serpent Lake at the site of an old Vikmordere village. Rybalka is a refuge from the cold harsh mountain snow and the Vikmordere barbarian tribes.

Similar to Northern Tribal Native American Vikings. The Vikmordere worship the Ancestor Spirit and believe that living in harmony with nature is the natural way of things. Most of their kind have been eliminated by the Klavekian over many decades. The Vikmordere Valley is this culture’s last stand. Luckily, the massive Serpent Lake and the surrounding towering mountains provide extreme terrain which hinder the Klavekian expansion. Looks like the hunter could very well become the hunted here. The Vikmordere lost their iron mine and the village of Rybalka a decade or so ago. This is a sore point, but they hope to take it back in the coming years… if they can band all the tribes of the valley together to do so.

Quoted from the Campaign Setting:

Culture and the Ancestor SpiritSporting one of the deepest and most sophisticated cultures in the entire world, the Vikmordere are not the unintelligent barbarians they are made out to be. In fact, the Vikmordere come from a highly sophisticated magical people who lived in this world over 1000 years ago. These people now collectively make up what the Vikmordere call the “Ancestor Spirit” which drives everything they do.

As legend has it, the Ancestor People lived in this world long ago and used amazing magic to travel the entire world and shape it as they saw fit. They made the mountains, the rivers, the forests, and the streams and then they began to build cities. Over many generations the Ancestor People lost touch with Nature and the world they created, instead opting to live in cities and laying waste to the gifts their ancestors forged for them.

Finally, a wise man came from the south who had not forgotten the ways of their people. He saved the Ancestor People from plagues and famines and taught them to hunt and gather in the forests and live free in the world. Within just a few generations, the people had returned to their former life. At this time a pledge was made with Mother Nature to always protect and respect her ways and to join her spirit force when one dies. Thus the Ancestor Spirit began to grow and evolve; now it is strong and the wild world lives again. The Vikmordere will never lose their way in the world and will fight to stay free and destroy the “city people” and their evil ways.

Silent Forest
Isolationist Elves of which little is known. Fields of tall dead grass surround the forest when approaching from the north. As one grows closer the wind stops and it is apparent that nothing moves within the forest. There are no birds chirping, no wildlife, not a sound issues forth from this silent forest. Those who enter never return and group which band together and enter have later been found dead at the edge of the forest, no clue as to how they died and no way to bring them back to life nor speak with dead. Facts: the forest is full of life yet the elves have worked hard to isolate themselves from the other races due to a horrible atrocity which occurred centuries ago. The other races have no record or knowledge of such an event, but with the long lifespan of the elves and their impeccable memories they are not so quick to forget… or forgive. The elves live in twisting forest homes built into massive trees deep within the forest. These trees are thousands of years old and were rumored to have been the first trees planted by the gods upon the surface of the earth.

Giants (Frost?) walled off from the Klavek Kingdom with a massive wall spanning hundred of miles (similar to wall of China). Treaty with Prajna. The Giants once ruled all the land of this great continent. Something happened over two centuries ago which drastically reduced the population of the giants and in turn gave rise to the “time of the humans”. As the years have gone by the giants have watched the Klavek Kingdom slowly eat up all the smaller nations and territories adjacent to it. The giants began construction of a massive wall spanning hundreds of miles to seal off the humans never ending expansion. The giants signed a treaty with PRANJA to enlist the gnome inventors and engineers to construct mechanical weapons with which to further protect their walls and borders. In return the giants agreed never to harm PRANJA and even to come to their aid should the need arise. (The gnomes and the monks which live in PRANJA are mostly peaceful and do not seek out war, so the giants feel they have received the better end of this agreement.) The Frost Giants have been assigned guard duty along the walls and other vulnerable points of entry by the Klavekians (such as by sea). Frost Giants are garbed in the piecemeal hides of woolly mammoths, saber toothed tigers, and other ice dwelling mammals. They carry massive clubs and ranged weapons which could crush numerous men with a single blow/throw. Other types of giants rule the actual government within the country. Humans know little about the giant realm other than that all creatures within are giant sized.

Wise, meditative monks framed and protected by industrious, inventive gnomes. This symbiotic relationship was interestingly enough, formed organically. The wise monks gravitated to this land out of spiritual guidance and to spend their lives in meditation and inner reflection. A great upset on the gnome homeland (island far to the northwest) drove the most industrious of the gnome people off to find a new home where they could live in peace from the incessant nagging of the gnomish illusionists which rule their homeland. In the PRANJA Gnome’s mind illusions are an utter waste of time and fail to accomplish anything. They crave accomplishment and the betterment of life and society through the invention of creation of powerful machinations.

Magervare (changing name to Preservar or Preservare)
Country of Wizards which use their magic to protect the planet from destruction (Shard of the Sun). The story of the Shard of the Sun is a long and complicated one (coming soon). The most powerful mages in the land bound together in an epic group spell to send a permanent blast of magical energy into space directly in the path of the Shard of the Sun (which was plummeting on a destruction course for the planet). The blast knocked back the Shard which almost immediately began to fall back toward the planet’s surface (due to the strong gravity of the planet). Luckily, with each rotation of the planet the blast again hit the shard which pushed it back up again. The wizards which began the spell realized that they could never stop lest the planet be destroyed. If the beam hesitated even for one rotation life would cease to exist. The magical energy which pours ever into the cosmos continues even to this day… many hundreds of years after the shard came. The wizards have been magically altered and protected with an impenetrable shield. This shield is created through crystals charged by excess magical energy shed by the shard (more to come on all of this!) Since so much magical energy exits the flow here the wizards of this country take precautions to teach the responsible use of magic and warn of the abuse of magic. Small prestidigitation spells are not of any consequence, but the higher level spells 8, 9, epic can have lasting effects on the natural balance of magic.(((Notes via email: nature is the natural way of things. Natural evolution, cycles, what have you. I meant the cycle of natural magic. If abused the flow of the nature of magic could wane causing an imbalance which could affect the stability of that which keeps the Shard of the Sun from crashing into the planet. Therefore schools where magic and the rules and laws of the use of magic in society are taught. Those that grow up and go rogue or renegade are tracked down and either imprisoned (or killed depending on who takes this realm and what they decide to write.)

Basically a very structured order of mages not necessary based on alignment of “good” or “evil”, but bound by certain laws to protect the stability of the flow of magic. Since elders become VERY powerful and high level a single spell can tax the flow of magic considerably. Spells must be used with care and epic spells only when absolutely necessary.

Take in mind this is all rough and whoever adopt this country may alter as they see fit. Todd and I have some additional details that are very exciting to add to each realm. We drew up some sketches and notes which will be refined and added to the site.)))

Free Country of Picollo
Land of the Halflings. Tropical island paradise threatened by an evil insectoid race which thrives on the other side of towering snow-covered mountain peaks.

The green, rolling farmland that makes up most of the free Halfling country of Picolo is bounded on two sides by ocean, one by forest, and the last side by towering mountains.

The halflings are first and foremost a peaceful race of farmers, drinkers, and enjoyers of all the good stuff that life has to offer. They were also a simple people finding beauty in all natural things that the gods placed upon their isle.

It was an event almost fifty years ago which changed halfling society forever. A race of insectoid creatures which lived primarily on the other side of the massive mountain range decided to expand their territory. Unfortunately this meant a full scale invasion into halfling lands. The invading force was relentless and unwilling to engage in any form of diplomacy. They wiped out halfling villages everywhere they went, colonizing the new land and setting up hives like mindless drones.

The invasion summoned a new urge to thrive and survive within the halflings hearts. The small force of remaining halflings took to the forest and began to plot a way to regain their land. Through stealth, trickery, and valiant assault the halfling force began slowly to retake their land. Since the insectoids were so far from home, reinforcements took too long to arrive. The halflings joined forces with the fey of the Pico Forest and together with the ancient treants they wiped their land clean of the insectoid invaders. This did not happen overnight though, and the halflings still had their work cut out for them. When they returned to their homes they found everything their parents and grandparents had built completely destroyed. They had to start from scratch and build anew. The halflings again bound together to assist one another, again the halfling spirit came through and united as a people they took back their land.

Now, almost fifty years later most of the towns and villages have been rebuilt. Rumors still persist though of ruined ghost towns in far off parts of Picolo where undead halflings dwell, still existing in a state of undeath and eternal suffering. Bands of insectoid creatures still roam the distant plains where halfling travelers dare not go. Finally, a twisted race of malevolent Treants wander the Pico Forest, killing anything in their path. These Treants were infected with a strange disease that the insectoids brought to these lands.

All in all the free halfling country of Picolo is a wonderful place full of merry and celebratory halflings enjoying all the niceties in life, but there is a darker shadow now to the halflings, an untrustworthy part. This is the part that forges secret pacts, thieves guilds, and dark deals in an effort to further protect the halfling way of life and prevent outsiders from again invading their lands. Travelers in these lands are welcomed by day yet carefully watched and spied upon by night.

Most of the Picolo region is rural, and the halflings grow grains and vegetables for eating or sale to merchants from other lands. In the quaint communities of hillside tunnel-homes that dot the open country, the halflings often gather together to celebrate the onslaught of halfling holidays which take place at least once per week.

Vast Swamp
A massive swamp dotted with sources of black gold (oil). A powerful organization known as the Black Gold Consortium loosely rules over this land with cold hard gold coin. Humans live on the edge and just inside the swamp and must deal with the dangerous creatures which live there (such as Bog Trolls).

Quoted from adventure A16: Wild Thing which takes place in the Vast Swamp:

The Vast Swamp spans hundreds of miles/kilometers and dominates this region with foul smelling stagnant water. The swamp is a breeding ground for vermin, disease, and monsters. A hearty supply of oil brings humans to the region which must deal with the constant stream of vile creatures and putrid filth spawned from the depths of the swamp.

Quoted for an example of a village loyal to the BGC (Black Gold Consortium):

Cherrian’s Rest (Village)

Loyalty: Black Gold Consortium
Alignment: LG
Export: Oil
Import: Tools, Clothing, Specialty Goods, Specialty Foods
Assets: 10,000 gp
Population: 120
Authority figure: Mayor Crockett LG male human ftr2
Authority: Kambel’s Mercentary-for-hire
Important Characters: Mayor Crockett, Merlin Kambel, Alexander Rofet (BGC), Sandalia
Population: 120

A small village which originally started as an inn and stop for travelers on their way elsewhere. When black gold (oil) was discovered here, the Black Gold Consortium (BGC) moved in and helped build up the population and support to the area. Over time a small village sprang up and was subsequently walled off to protect against wandering monsters and foul beasts from the swamp. A few long docks host local fishing vessels and visiting ships alike. While black gold is the primary source of income in Cherrian’s Rest, a steady supply of mud crabs and swamp eels has provided a rare and interesting export to food connoisseurs in distant cities.

Cherrian’s Rest Inn & Tavern

A quaint establishment which tolerates no roughhousing of any kind. A slow paced, relaxing place with good ale and swamp tales. Feels more like a large Victorian style mansion than an inn & tavern. 1 main room, 1 bar, 10 rooms, stables, cellar, tool shed.

Black Gold Consortium Warehouse (BGC)

This warehouse holds oil scheduled to be shipped out to neighboring towns and cities. The largest building in town it employs a massive workforce of local villagers. Alexander Rofet is responsible for all BGC operations in Cherrian’s Rest.

The Black Gold Consortium is an extremely wealthy, powerful, and influential company which manages oil extraction facilities at numerous locations throughout the region. The oil is then sold to be used in lamps and other household items as well as being used by military organizations in the field of battle and in defense of keeps and castles. The Consortium owns and operates both the extraction facility on Black Gold Island and the massive warehouse in Cherrian’s Rest.

The Black Gold Consortium employees over 80% of the population in Cherrian’s Rest. Obviously this company holds great sway over public opinion in this village.

Here’s one region of the Vast Swamp as an example:


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HERO LAB: Setting the Standard

In a role-playing game industry flooded with a multitude of time saving tools, Lone Wolf Development has accomplished not only standing out; but setting the standard.

For those of you out there not in the know, Lone Wolf Development is the driving creative force behind several different software based tools, including the one this review will be covering: HERO LAB.

Now officially speaking, Hero Lab is available for several different game systems ranging from various incarnations of D&D (with 3.5 and 4e available), to Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Call of Cthulu, Savage Worlds and 2nd/3rd editions of Mutant’s and Masterminds all being available as core systems one can purchase for use with this program. Why do I point out the officially speaking part? Read on, we’ll get back to that.

At its core, HERO LAB  is a character builder, and quite simply one of the best I’ve ever come across.  Players can use this tool to find the perfect combination of skills to feat to trait ratio for the best all-around perks.  GMs that need to bulk out their encounters for the evening with some fast NPCs find HERO LAB a huge time saver.  Publishers populating their newest books with personalities may not wish to spend hours working out statistics for every single character; once again HERO LAB is a life saver.

I’ve been using this program exclusively now for over a year, and have converted several of my friends into users as well. The first thing that struck me was the brilliant design and intuitiveness of the program.

HERO LAB handles all formula and pre-requisite information. What do I mean by that? Simple: you no longer need to be a rules lawyer to create a character!  The program handles the math and keeps track of what I can and can’t choose as options.  It lets me know why I can’t choose something, and tells me when I’ve gone outside of the parameters set by the rules of the game system I am using.

The error system is simple and highlights anything incorrect in red either in the text or on a tab (as the pages are laid out in tab formation).  Just in case you miss that HERO LAB alerts you with an icon in the lower left corner.  Does this mean you are forced to only color inside the lines?  Heck no!  Creative role-playing games are all about finding a way around the rules, and Hero Lab accommodates.  It allows you (through several different means) to override error messages.

Your Hero got more skill points than he should because he spent time training in an academy?  No problem!  Add some more skill points!

Life on the mountains of Tarqui make you stronger than average with a free attack feat?  Again, not a problem.  If you can think it up, this program can handle it.

As cool and versatile as this program is, its strongest selling point is its simplicity.  I decided to do a speed build this afternoon and see if HERO LAB could handle the pressure.  HERO LAB pumped out 78 different NPCs in five minutes!  The ease of creating fodder for your world is insane and will give any GM back some precious time that can be focused elsewhere. Now of course these were all cannon fodder NPCs, but they were all different and unique in their own right.

Now that we understand this program is designed for building characters, what then? Well, after hooking up all of your players with their characters you have several different options really. The program can be used via its internal combat tracking system (known as the Tactical Console) to run all combat numbers for an evening of play. Simply load the portfolios (saved characters) of your group into one open screen, creating what they call the “dashboard”, load up your NPCs and monsters (also stored as portfolios) and you can very easily as a GM keep track of all combat using nothing more than this simple “Character generator”. Handling initiative rolls, all effects and conditions, an internal dice roller (if you choose to use it), the tactical console has become a trusted friend at my game table. But what of those of you using virtual tabletops like Fantasy Grounds? Well, Lone Wolf has got you covered, with options to export straight to the program format. And that’s far from the only option for export, others include html, pdf, text and of course the various character sheet options.

I would be remiss in failing to mention the rather large amount of additional data packs available for purchase to continue using new material as it is released, with prices ranging from as low as under $5 to around the $25 range for bundles. Now, admittedly this is more so for Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG then the other systems, but for those systems without a massive library of official releases, there is the “community”.  There’s that word again, official.  Don’t worry, we’re almost there, have patience.

When I began using this product, I was a casual user looking to speed up my game prep time. Now, whereas Hero Lab is my trusted right hand at my game tables, it has also become my most valuable tool.  I write .hl files for a small publisher of 3PP Pathfinder compatible material. Yes folks, on top of everything else this program will let you do, you can add and build your own custom database of your creations. And the best part of that is the included editor, which will, after some trial and error, become your gateway to adding everything you’ve ever come across to the database options for your characters. There is a learning curve, but it is an easy one. I didn’t understand a single line of html code the first time I opened the editor, and I closed it scared that I had ruined my program.  Now, less than a year later I am developing packets that are distributed every week. The editor makes it easy to learn, supporting both xml veteran programmers and the total newbies.  I would encourage any small publisher out there who is considering this program to stop considering, and buy it.  Customers want these files and being able to say your product includes HERO LAB files alone will increase your sales.  This will very quickly help you recoup the cost of the program and data packs.

And that my friends, is where we get to that word official I mentioned earlier. For whereas the game systems I listed earlier are the only ones available currently, they also have available an authoring kit, with which one can write their own game system to distribute. Additionally there is a thriving online community of folks sharing custom files containing everything from homebrew creations and rules, to converted game systems and current OGL material, with the embrace and guidance of Lone Wolf. Yeah, that’s right, they not only support the idea of the custom file sharing, they help folks figure out how to write code to get things to work that they are trying to add to their files. Talk about killer support for the consumer. There’s an entire section of their forums dedicated to custom files, their development, and the sharing of them.

Now, it would not be a review if I did not cover some of the negatives, as there are a few things that I would love to see in a future update. Currently, there is no method of adding/subtracting finances from the tactical console, now xp. With the tactical console open, you can see your entire playgroup without having to “switch” between profiles, and this step would greatly speed up that function of game. I would also love to see a method via which a company could instill a logo into their description text for custom created items/races/spells etc. Such that when the choice is highlighted, not only would it show the name of the source, but give the publisher/developer the chance to have a small logo at the bottom of the description, to help identify from whence the selection came.

OK I know; truly horrible stuff to say right? So, wrapping up, best character management tool on the market, multi-game support, fully customizable and seeing more support from the 3PP market everyday, intuitive easy to use interface….Oh, almost forgot, sharing your creations with a friend? As easy as clicking a few buttons and creating a “.hl” file (think program exclusive .exe zip) that they then can click on their end, and everything will install where it needs to go, no muss, no fuss….and my only negatives….oh yeah, I’m lazy and want an secondary money/xp button (lol), and the capacity to a logo on custom stuff…..can’t help but think it’s pretty obvious that this is the type of product that any gaming group would be well rewarded with benefits by picking up.

Oh, and one last thought, before we pass final judgement here….remember the beginner box Paizo put out? The stripped down rule set intended to help get a new generation interested in their game? Well, Hero lab supports it also, and for free. That’s right, If you are a Beginner Box player, go to poke around on the product page. The sheer fact that they support this system, and for free, major kuddos, and a great way to get people used to their product at a younger age.

OK, final tally, I promise this time….Seriously, if you are a GM, and you haven’t picked this up yet, you’re going to thank me. If you are a player looking for a tool to make management of your characters easier, this is that tool, or perhaps you’re the kind of player looking for the ultimate GM bribe? I’m not judging, (lol)…point is, you will not regret purchasing this program, its simply that good.

Once you’ve got some time under your belt with it, come join us on the forums and show us what custom goodies you’ve got to share!