How to Rock it Out with Character Creator – Tools and Utilities
We had a TPK (Total Party Kill) last month in our 4E game. It was horrible. We just went down like dominos. Needless to say we all started work on new characters. I created an Elf named Verasis. I thought it would be fun to try an Essentials character so I chose the Sentinal Druid. It is a leader focused class rather than the usual controller roll that typical Druids fill.
Much to my surprise as I logged into the Character Builder, I saw that it now supports exporting! The files are just simple XML files. They look to be exactly the same as the previous format. This is great because it allows people to once again use simple tools like XSL style sheets and HTML to display custom character sheets. It also allows people to publish their characters on forums and send them to their DM's.
Let's look at some tools available to players out there.
iPlay4e is probably the most compelling tool available online. It let's you upload your characters that have been exported. It uses Google to log you in and they just starting supporting Android! You can use your iPhone/Android or any phone that can use Opera Mini to get access to your character, make roles, etc...
It has links directly into the online Compendium (you need DDI access) for all of your items, rituals, powers, feats, etc... It has die rolling for all of your powers. They just added a Campaign mode that hooks everyone together and gives the DM access to all the characters.
I just showed this to my wife on my phone and she was ecstatic! The new features they just added this week are killer. Go check this out right now!
The downside to this is that Wizards changes their file format all the time, and they publish no standard for it. Luckily it is always in XML format. As long as they publish it in XML it will be relatively easy for the folks at iPlay4e to keep up to date without too much lag.
Dropbox is a great tool (be careful how you store private information on it though! Google Dropbox and Truecrypt to make Dropbox secure). With the export functionality in Character Creator and the ability to have Dropbox data follow you anywhere on the web, you will never be without your entire library of exported characters. There is no reason to fear that paltry 20 character limit anymore.
You can also share your Dropbox characters with your DM or party members by dropping in your Dropbox Public folder and sending them the public link to it.
Google Docs will also let you put your exported characters on the Internet (I hate calling the Internet the marketing BS name “the cloud”). The nice thing about Google Docs is that you can share a folder with a group of people. You can give them different types of access as well. There are also a ton of tools and access to the files on most types of modern phones.
Google Docs handles PDF files natively. You can upload your PDF character sheets and view them in any browser without even having to install Adobe Reader. Save your characters in both the .dnd4e and PDF format.
Printing to PDF
I've mentioned this before but it bears mentioning again. If you have Windows go download the free PDFCreator right now. Click on that link right now! I mean it. There is no excuse for a modern operating system to not have built in PDF printing. Yet still Microsoft can't manage to find their ass with both hands. Once you have it installed you can print from any program to a PDF file.
If you are a Mac user, printing to PDF is built into the OS by default. While iPlay4e, Dropbox, and GoogleDocs are all cool and flashy, all of them are Internet apps, including the Character Creator itself. You are totally screwed if you don't have access to the Internet with all of them. Unless you print everything to a PDF! This is by far the most important thing you can do. After you print them to PDF you should also upload them to Dropbox and/or GoogleDocs. That way you have a local copy and at least one backup off of your laptop.
I hate to suggest that you actually use a dead tree to print any of them. So just don't! This is 2011. Stop killing trees OK?
Are you a Coder?
If you are, an XML file should make your mouth water. If you code anything, I beg you please don't waste your resources with Microsoft Office Excel imports and proprietary crap like that! If you have coding chops and the time to do it, go make things happen with something open like LibreOffice, or a cool web service, or even better... go do something cool with Maptool from RPTools.Net!
Here is an awesome post about how you can use XSLT to change the XML file into a just about any kind of format you want. Specifically they talk about JSON (a data format that Maptool can read easily) and HTML. This is the beauty of XML. Thank you Wizards for getting that part so darn right!
Wizards can keep their 20 character limit! I've got my PDF's, exported XML files, and the Internet to keep them all at my finger tips.