Note: This review is now outdated, as the L5R Character Manager underwent many changes and overhauls as it progressed from 1.9 to 2.5. You can read the most current review here.
The Character Manager by Daniele Simonetti “is a GM tool for the RPG game “Legend of the Five Rings” 4th edition. It can be used to create PC and NPC and to manage characters during playtime.” For Windows 7 and Linux. Download the latest version here. (1.9 as of this writing.)
For me, this tool literally cut the time it made to create a character into quarters, or fifths. If you have the concept, you can literally pump out the stats in about five minutes, primarily because of the database of skills and values associated with the schools, as well as its ability to track XP expenditure. Instead of having to hand-count your points and worry that you’re cheating, the CM deals with the XP values for advances and disadvantages for you. This is great not only for character creation but for ongoing campaigns as well, since you can up the experience limit in the Rules menu.
Speaking of campaigns, the built-in name generator ain’t half-bad either for NPC’s on the fly.
The only drawback is that it does not limit the points to be regained by buying disadvantages, so you’ll have to restrict yourself to the default 10 points worth, but at least you don’t have to futz with the program to take more disadvantages if your game allows for more.
Finally, it calculates your Insight Rank and assigns Mastery Abilities accordingly. As of version 1.9 many if not most of the Major and Minor clans and their schools from the Core Book are included, though there are some exceptions (such as the independent Fox Clan and Kitsune Sugenja School). The rules found in the Great Cland and Emerald Empire books are not added as of yet.
My biggest regret is the inability to export to any format other than plain .txt. Most character builders afford us the ability to jump straight from the program to the table with the click of a ‘Print’ button, but in the CM’s case you would need to print out blank character sheets separately, then hand-transcribe your stats and calculate your own roll/keep ratios. By no means is that a deal-breaker, but it is annoying to those of us who are spoiled by official or paid generators. Here is a sample text output from the program’s built-in exporter.
On some of the tabs, such as Perks, I’d like a button to buy the Advantages and Disadvantages right there, as opposed to having to go to Advancements > Buy > etc.
Additionally, shugenja characters get the short end of the stick in terms of the lack of affinities and vagueness with the spell choosing window. A caveat: I haven’t played one in game so there may be other drawbacks that I’m not aware of.
Finally, because of the free-form nature of point-buy character creation, L5R doesn’t lend itself to “step 1, step 2″ kind of generation that generally lend themselves to programs of this nature. You navigate haphazardly by the tabs on the left to flesh out a character as ideas strike you. I wish there was a way to improve on this, but nothing immediately comes to mind. Ah well.
What To Look Forward To
Slated for future releases is support for weapons and inventory; the inclusion of advanced schools and alternate paths, Kata & Kiho; as well as rules for multiple/different school advantages and discounted costs of attributes and Void rings. The Google Project page has a Roadmap that is updated regularly, and is a repository for bugs and fixes as well so you can contribute to its development.
As of yet, the program still feels like a beta, albeit a very stable one, and garners my first 2/3 Crits designation on the site: Good. Make no mistake, you’ll need the core book to make use of the program, as none of the descriptions/effects are included, and spells only have basic modifiers/ranges associated. Even in light of its weaknesses, the Character Manager exceeds in its capacity as a basic character generator for Legend of the Five Rings 4e, especially given the price: free! I prefer this over the Rokugen program for the L5R CM’s aesthetics and ease of use–no install required–and much the same functionality. At its core, the CM allows you to spend your time crafting a concept, not worrying about tracking advances and XP. If you also use and like the L5R Character Manager, please star her page, or +1 her on Google to show your support!