Every Friday night, I get out from my Mom’s basement, um, my wife lets me get out for a night, err, I get together with my old High School gaming group for a fun night of D&D 4th Edition.
One of the things that was a bit of shocker in 4th edition is how much administration there was. Gone are the days of just whacking creatures and getting healed. Now I need to deal with healing surges, at-will powers, encounter powers, dailies, etc. It can get to be a bit much. To help with a lot of the back-end creation I subscribe to the excellent Wizards Insider (sadly, this is Windows-only). Among its core features is a very handy character builder that uses all of Wizard’s published source material — even if I don’t own that volume — and creates a very handy, easy to read character sheet.
However, by the end of a gaming session, that sheet of paper looks like the crib notes to a physics final exam. The hit points section is a blur of eraser marks. The encounter powers have been checked, unchecked, rechecked, and double-checked. I was originally hoping that viewing a PDF (and maybe even annotating it) on an iPad might be an ideal solution to outsource the administrative details, but then I stumbled upon i4e in the app store.
This handy program either lets you input your character by hand — not recommended since it stores none of the powers and items from the game, so you’ll be entering in a lot of stuff on a small keyboard — or you can simply import your character from the Character Builder. Naturally, this is the option I chose.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t 100 percent successful. Most of the abilities are missing some of the descriptive text and it wasn’t taking into account the bonus to hit from my +2 sword and the base damage to the full-blade. According to the developer’s web site, this is a limitation in what is stored in the file, so there’s not much that can be done about it. At this point, if I wanted to, I’d have to input a lot of this data by hand. For now, though, I’m simply shrugging and keeping a printout of my character in front of me. Also, to check something I created a weapon within i4e and it still didn’t use the proper values.
That may seem like a complete deal-breaker, but the areas I wanted it to shine — handling the administration — it does. For example, the below screenshot is what happens when I select the hit points field. From here, I can either take damage, get healed (and say if that heal uses a healing surge), or add temporary hit points. This is very handy if you completely suck at math like I do.
I’m also impressed with how it handles powers. In 4th Edition, there are three types of powers you have: at-will powers than can be used at any time; powers that can be used only once per encounter; and powers that can be used only one a day. In i4e, I can click a power, tap the “use power” button and that power will appear gray in the powers list. When we’re done with an encounter and take what’s called a “short rest” (which resets the encounter powers) I can press the “short rest” button and, you guessed it, it resets all my used encounter powers. Naturally, there’s an “extended rest” button that’ll reset my all used powers.
After a full night’s game session, I asked myself: can I run a nightly gaming session using only i4e and an imported Character Builder file? Right now, with not having all the powers descriptions there, that answer is no (the character builder file gets updated too much for me to keep re-entering all the missing data). But, it’s not by missing the mark by much. I make PDFs of my character each update to send to the other players. Using Dropbox and the new Quickoffice Connect, or the Dropbox App, I can store the PDFs on the iPhone without needing to sync to iTunes. Sure, it’s not ideal with the small screen, and I’ll at least need a PDF of my main sheet, but once I get an iPad, I predict a paperless D&D night is in my future.