RPG Assistance App Review: Sheet Yourself

Let me start by getting the obvious out of the way: the name “Sheet Yourself” is a terrible name.  There, I said it.  I feel better.

Now, on with the show.

Sheet Yourself (which I’ll call “SY” from now on so I can avoid that name) is a system-agnostic character sheet editing and displaying app for iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire, and costs $0.99.

Despite its terrible name, this does have quite a bit going for it, but it doesn’t quite get there.  More on that in a minute because I always like to start with the good stuff, then get to the bad stuff.

The Good Stuff

First of all, the app is aesthetically pleasing and the interface is clean and relatively easy to understand.

Ah!  Look at how pretty that is!  Look how clean!  Why can't all apps be this pretty?

Ah! Look at how pretty that is! Look how clean! Why can’t all apps be this pretty?

(Side Note: Allow me to apologize to Vanessa Hudgens and the copyright holders for using their photos.  I would love to give credit, but I haven’t been able to find any).

Now, as you’ll see in my screen cap above, “Sheet” as this app refers to it is not just for characters; it is for abilities, weapons, armor, consumables, anything that might have stats that would litter a normal character sheet.  A good example is the weapon I have there which is based on the Blast.  The important stats on the blast itself is to the right on its own sheet; then I linked the Blast to the Holdout Pistol.  What you can’t see is that I’ve also linked the Holdout Pistol to Lorena Méndez.  Just like last week’s review, this is showing how this app could be used for the Hero System.

First you start with a template, and then you add attributes to it which you can categorize.

Ability Template

This is a template for an Ability. In SY, an Ability can be just about anything: a power, a spell, and so on; something that is “inherent” to the character. There are several templates available (Weapon, Armor, Consumable, Character) and all can be linked to each other.

Adding Categories and Attributes could not be simpler: you just tap “Tap here to add an Attribute” and you’re presented with a text box to enter the attribute (it can be whatever you need).

Editing Attributes

Tapping on the “Add an Attribute” button will bring up a text box where you can type anything you need into it. You can also see some other Attributes that I’ve grouped as “Skills”. Conversation has an asterisk because it is affected by other abilities.

The app is pretty flexible on what it can do.  I’m very pleased with the visual aspect of the app, and I’m pleased with many aspects of its flexibility.

The Bad (Other Than the Name)

One thing that I find annoying is that you first have to create a sheet from a template and then have to go back into it to add attributes.  Why doesn’t it go directly into the sheet once I’ve created it?  I can’t find a logical reason why it shouldn’t.  At the very least, give me a button at the bottom of the sheet creation screen to give me that option.

Another thing that I find annoying is that each attribute has only one field, almost as if the designers thought “Oh, they won’t need to have a numerical value in addition to a text value.”  I think this is very short-sighted of them, and hamstrings any further development in this area.

Speaking of which, why doesn’t it include tracking of Hit Points/Stun/Body/Health/Whatever?  Also, shots on that Holdout Pistol in the screencap above?  On their website, they make a big deal about being a paperless character sheet system.  If that’s so, then why do I need a piece of scrap paper to keep track of HP?  It’s baffling.

Finally, it would be great (although, perhaps a pipe dream) if it would make appropriate rolls that I can set up in advance (in the case of the Hero System, it would be “roll 3d6 and compare it to the skill level and tell me by how much I make or miss the roll”).  This is what I mean by “hamstringing further development.”  If they had included more than one field per Attribute (such as a text element and a numerical element) it would have made this bit simpler.

Overall

Despite its crappy name, this is a very solid character sheet app despite its shortcomings and lack of foresight in certain areas on the part of the developers.

My grade: B-

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RPG Assistance App Review: The Dicenomicon

Inspiration has suddenly hit: I’m going to try to review apps that assist players and GMs in RPGs, whether they are dice rollers, character sheets, and so on.  Biases: I’m a Hero System fanatic, so I look for things that will work with the Hero System.  Also, I only own an iOS device, so I don’t know if these apps are available for Android.

Dicenomicon

Dicenomicon’s Roll Box.  Note the dice at the bottom: tapping them throws one die of that type into the roll box.  For 3d6, just tap “d6” three times.  More dice are available by swiping to the left.

Today, I thought I’d start by reviewing The Dicenomicon by gandreas software (Download it on the iTunes App Store, $5.99US).

The Dicenomicon is a system agnostic dice-rolling app.  You can use it any number of ways: there is a bar on the bottom of the screen that you can tap for a quick roll of dice, or you can use the very powerful dice macro system.

A Macro example

Here, in this macro example, we see that it will roll 8d6 and display the results in Stun and Body for the Hero System (Champions).

The type of dice available to roll is simply staggering, including some (such as the d9) that I did not know existed.  It can handle open-ended d% rolls (like Rolemaster), dice pools (such as ShadowRun and StoryTeller), and the BODY and STUN of the aforementioned Hero System.  You can save die macros in your favorites for quick access to the rolls you use the most often for your game.

A D&D 4 character sheet in Dicenomicon

This is the character sheet for D&D 4th. Just about everything on this screencap is tappable, and will automatically roll the appropriate dice (usually a d20), compare it to a Difficulty, and display the results.

Probably the most staggeringly powerful function of the app is the character sheet ability.  You can download a template for a character sheet and put in all your pertinent stats (Characteristics, Skills, Powers, etc).  All you have to do is tap the appropriate ability on the character sheet (such as the Fortitude Saving Throw in the above screencap), type in the target number and any modifiers and Dicenomicon will automatically roll the appropriate dice for you and tell you the results.  Unfortunately, there are only templates for a few systems (d20 and Pathfinder among them).

Now, to the bad: there is an annoying bug where every once in a while an extra set of dice will appear in the roll box, particularly when you shake the device to re-roll.  Also, occasionally, the dice will just freeze in mid-air.

The support is better than I’ve seen with some apps, but could still use some work.

There are also some peculiarities and annoyances in the die roll macros, too, such as parts of the “if-then-else” clause will just disappear with no rhyme or reason.  Parts of it are also woefully under-documented, and if they are documented, not very easy to get to or find.

All in all, this is a good app to assist players and GMs.  It could use some more full templates for more systems (such as the Hero System, alas), but is powerful enough to assist players of any system, regardless.

My Grade: B+

DC Universe Online

Batman

Batman in DCUO

I’ve been playing DC Universe Online (hereafter to be called “DCUO”) a lot lately.  It is a Massive Multiplayer online game based on the DC Comics franchise.  It allows you to play a superhero (or supervillain) and interact with all of the DC characters we’ve all come to know and love: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the Flash, the Joker, Lex Luthor, Bizarro, Gorilla Grodd, Circe, and so on.  It goes by three different models: Free-to-play (free, but you don’t get all of the character options), Premium (where you get some but not all of the character options on a pay basis), and Legendary (where you pay monthly, and get access to all character options and DLC).

It’s a fun game, and it’s nice to play in the settings that I read about in comics (Metropolis, Gotham City).

However, I can’t help but feel that the game has missed an opportunity to make the game even more fun.  For example:

First of all, all players should be encouraged (if not outright forced) to play both a hero and a villain character, at the very least.

Secondly, all players are PvP (there is an option to turn off PvP, but that’s no fun).

Third, and this is most important: The villains need to be cut loose after a certain level.  There just aren’t enough opportunities for the villains to cause mayhem.  Where are the banks that villains can rob to finance their schemes?  Where are the museums holding artifacts of arcane power for a villain to try to steal?  The armored cars for a simpler villain to knock off?  What about hirelings/henchmen?

Let’s describe what I’m thinking about:

The Villainous Victoria (a mystic blaster) decides that she needs some cash to make improvements to her Sanctum Sanctorum.  She

the villainous Victoria

The Villainous Victoria

and a handful of thugs break into the Gotham Bank on River and Third in Gotham City.  As soon as she does, a timer starts.  She has a base time of 2:00 to finish whatever she is doing (this time can be increased due to her powers and skills, and decreased based on how well the bank is protected).  After the timer is up, all of the heroes within a few blocks of the bank (within a reasonable character level range) are made aware of the robbery, and get an opportunity to stop it.

If Villainous Victoria gets captured, she should have to log off (or sit in prison), until she either busts herself out, or is busted out by her henchmen, or 8 hours, whichever happens first.

If Villainous Victoria gets away during the robbery, she can use the money she gets to buy the demonic portal she needs for her plans to succeed, make improvements on her base (the demon summoning room is needing a fresh coat of paint–that virgin blood gets everywhere), hire more henchmen, and so on.

Any other ideas?

A Man Playing Female Characters

One of my Christmas presents this year was a gift card, which I promptly used to reinstate my Eve Online account.  I decided to start from scratch and create three new characters, hoping to find one that sticks.

The first new character I created was Erinn Ferguson, a Gallente field tech

.Erinn Ferguson

I didn’t realize that you could modify the wireframe subtly when I created her, and so she looks kinda young to me (maybe 18 or 19).

Next, I created Tom O’Malley (a Gallente shipping magnate):

Image

This one, I made as close to me as I could, given the limits of the client and apparently my video card (or lack thereof).

Then there is my newest character which I just made this week.  This is Mila Shardani, a True Amarr. I haven’t decided what I’m doing with her yet.

Image

This one I gave all of the sexy.  Since she is Amarr, I gave her a little modesty, or else I would also have made her wearing as little clothing as I felt I could get away with.

There are some who would criticize me for this, as if I’m misleading people into thinking that I’m a woman.

First of all, I half-jokingly tell people that since the perspective as you play these characters is in the third person, I would rather stare at a woman’s ass all day than a man’s ass.

Secondly, I am reminded of a joke I read somewhere, “The internet: Where the men are boys, the women are men, and the children are FBI agents.”  In other words: caveat emptor.

Thirdly, I don’t play the female characters any differently than I do the male characters.  Essentially, they are males with boobs.

What do you think?

Coming Up With A Story For Minecraft

I’ve been on vacation for the past week, dealing with family issues.  But I did get a lot of Minecraft time in between.

I’ve been playing 1.9 pre-release 5.  It doesn’t add anything massive or major to PR 4, but it does sort of suggest a possible story-line to Minecraft.

First, when you start (and this has been since Beta was released way back when), you’re alone, with only the clothes on your back.  You have to find a way to survive the first day.  You have no memory of what occurred, but there are clues:

  • There are abandoned villages and mines peppered throughout the world;
  • Zombies are the only other humanoid (other than pigmen, but as they’re only found in the nether realms, they don’t count) beings you encounter, and they’re not exactly… friendly;
  • One of the mobs you encounter are the Endermen (introduced in 1.8), and they’re a huge hint of what’s going on.

 

These hints make it clear that some sort of disaster has occurred, linked to the Endermen somehow.  I happen to know that part of the endgame will be going to the world the Endermen originate from (cleverly called “The End”), and fight a dragon.  The End is reached by a specific portal that itself can only be reached in a specific place and must be activated.

Now, this suggests to me that part of this disaster is linked to The End.  Imagine this scenario:

  1. A medieval society develops ability to travel between worlds (the Nether and The End).
  2. Opening up a portal to The End allows the Endermen to come through.
  3. The End and the world do not get along with each other very well.
  4. Something Bad ™ happened, and all of the humans except the player were killed.
    1. This Something Bad is obviously linked to the dungeons and mob generators sprinkled throughout the world.  Endermen can move blocks: maybe they’re responsible for the dungeons?  Maybe the dungeons are responsible for the missing people?
  5. The humans leak into the World nightly as mindless Zombies.
  6. The player wakes up on the beach with no memory.

Hmmm…. thought-provoking.

Minecraft Cavescapes

Image of a cavescape

I’m a bit of a pain of the ass when it comes to space: I’m obsessed with it.  I’m not talking space as in outer space, but the spaces that we surround ourselves with everyday.  I’m a bit of an agoraphobe, so I have a tendency to prefer closed in spaces, including caves.

I’m also the kind of person who will play a game for maybe twenty minutes, become bored of it, and quickly put it aside, never to be played again.  It has happened to more games than I can count, and one reason I’m reluctant to pick up a new game unless it is heavily discounted.  This phenomena is especially pronounced if I get frustrated with a game, and especially if I feel that the whole purpose of the game is to piss me the fuck off.

Minecraft is a game in which the player explores a randomly generated world, collecting resources, building shelters, making tools, and so on.  What is so remarkable about this game is that if I recall correctly, the game cost me around $20, yet continues to give me pleasure in ways no other game has ever done.  It is also a game that I’m still playing (though not with the fervor I once might have) ten months after I bought it.

If one were to ask me why, I would point to the one thing that frustrates me about many video games: their lack of freedom.

You know what I’m talking about: that stupid plumber in Mario Bros. is simply incapable of walking to the left.  And if you try, he runs into an invisible wall (or, at least in every version of the game I’ve ever played).  In Quake II, at least in the single player story mode, you are forced to go along a certain path to get to the final boss at the end.  Even Portal has this limitation, no matter how cleverly disguised.

Minecraft has none of this: you go where you want to go, when you want to go there.  Since the world is randomly generated, its size is only limited by the hardware it is running on.  The beauty of Minecraft is that it is different things to different people:  For some, it is a game of survival; for others, it is a game of construction and creativity; for yet others, it is a game of exploration.

I’m in the exploration camp:  I love finding new, cool, and/or beautiful places when I explore these randomly-generated worlds.  Every once in a while, I will come across a piece of scenery that takes my breath away.  Some of my favorites actually come from caves, and I call these scenery “cavescapes.”

Here’s one such example of a cavescape (keep in mind that these are all at least quasi-randomly generated):

Image of a cavescape

This is a naturally occurring cave in seed #1381145796.  Look at all those nooks and crannies just begging to be explored.

Here is another from the same seed:

And yet another, still from the same seed:

A Massive cave in minecraft

Note that torches were added to this cave to provide light.

I would further note two things:

  1. All of these caves are interconnected by winding underground passages, forming one massive cave system that goes on for miles.
  2. If you use the seed #1381145796, be careful where you step: This world is pockmarked with tiny little holes in the ground that open up into massive chambers like the one in the third picture above.  Not visible in that picture due to the poor angle, is that there is an opening to the surface at the top of this chamber that is only one meter by two meters.  If you’re not paying attention to where you’re stepping, you will fall through that hole (and the dozens like it) to your death.