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A Review of the L5R Character Manager (v2.5)

Manage your advances, attributes, skills and perks easily.

Note: This is an updated review for version 2.5, the older review of 1.9 can be found 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.

As you might expect, the program facilitates character creation by tracking XP for you and offering up the choices in various drop-down menus. Most–but not all–of the schools from the master list are available. Basic character concepts are do-able, including Different School if you uncheck Rules > Lock School and take the requisite Advantage, but if you are looking to do something more complex, like adding advanced/multiple schools or alternate paths, you won’t be able to use the Character Manager, and Kata, Kiho, and custom inputs for advantages and the like is still a ways away. Even so, if you have a fairly concrete character concept, you can breeze through the options and create a fully-fledged Rank 1 character in five minutes or less. For GM’s like me who often run one-shots, being able to pump out multiple pre-generated characters in an hour or two is a godsend, and is the core strength of the program. But if you’re looking for something to help you make the highly personalized character of your dreams, I’m afraid this isn’t it.

Still need one of these.

The Character Manager is a fan effort and limited as to how much it can legally republish from the books, so unlike official generators such as the WotC Character Builder, you will not find descriptions of the various Advantages & Disadvantages, Attributes, and so forth anywhere in the program or resulting PDF character sheet. Spells effects, however, it does provide in some capacity, at least in terms of range, area of effect, duration, and raises, but not in terms of a description of the spell itself. This is no substitute for the books, and you’ll still need to flip through their pages a while first to familiarize yourself with the options and do a rough plan of what you mean to take. Especially considering that if you change your mind about which Advantages, Skills, etc. you want mid-generation, you cannot delete that one item individually, but will have to hit “Undo” multiple times until you get back to that point, losing all your progress in the process, unless you uncheck Rules > Lock Advancements, which as the author cautions, could allow “cheating”. It may be faster to simply hit Reset Advancements and start over, remembering what you had picked before.

And while it may track XP, it doesn’t limit you to 10XP in Disadvantages by default. Additionally, it will give faulty and vague error messages if you don’t select the correct amount of spells from this ring and that ring as some of the more flexible shugenja (e.g. Isawa; those with specified elements are hard-wired to offer those), or if one of the two skills you get to select if a duplicate of a school-granted skill (it won’t specify which one). In short, as long as you have the books to reference the generation and school rules themselves, you’ll be fine.

Sample Character Sheet

My biggest gripe before was that there was no export to PDF feature, but the programmer has since added that in the more recent additions, which makes it feel more like a finished product than a working beta. It’s a nice sheet, too, with art of the Rings and a clear layout. The only drawbacks are that shugenja spells are not included on the sheet, and there’s no space in the Manager to fill out the personal info, like siblings or hair color, so you’ll have to write it in after you presumably print it. Otherwise, derived stats such as Weapon Damage, Armor TN, Initiative, and Wounds are calculated for you based on the weapons and armor you selected in the generator (custom weapons and armor is allowed, interestingly).

Not perfect, but still recommended!

Essentially, the Chaarcter Manager is still not a perfect and complete program, as the list of issues and features to add reveals, but judging by the roadmap we’ll get there eventually. Two out of Three crits, but still worth your time to download and play with. Pop by and +1 her project on Google or star it on the project page to show your support, or pop by the official thread on the AEG forums. For a free, fan-made product, it’s still exemplary, and an amazing resource for fans of L5R 4th edition. Thanks again, Daniele!

About the author

Katrina Ostrander is a twenty-something gamer chick, game master, and fiction editor working at Fantasy Flight Games. Her previous credits include work as a game developer on the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion roleplaying game lines. When she's not gaming (or working, which is practically same thing), she enjoys reading, writing, singing karaoke and trying craft beers.

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:) many thanks for the good review!
I see you’re disappointed by the lack of a printable character sheet.

The truth behind that is that I suck when it comes to design, I tried but wasn’t able to design a nice looking character sheet in HTML nor in Editable PDF.

If you happen to know somebody able to do that ( for free, of course :D ) well… let me know.

    ETA: I’m proficient with (very) basic Python but in terms of exporting to PDF is there a certain way that it matches output variables to the respective text boxes?

    Do you need a new sheet/layout designed from scratch? Or do you think you can get away with someone else’s pre-existing layout with writability added? The latter I could whip up for you fairly quickly (that is to say, quickly once I reformat my laptop), otherwise a brand new sheet would take some time but I could give it a shot.

      And editable PDF sheet (without passwords of any sort) would be the best. I’m trying to make my own right now ^^,

        Josh

        Have you had any luck finding / creating an editable PDF sheet? I am unable find one anywhere on the internet.

    Michael Wellman

    If you’d like assistance with this worthy project, let me know. I’ve been programming for 11 years now (though mostly C++/Java) so I’m sure I can find some ways to help.

      Of course I need assistance :) I always do.

      If you want, contact me on the G+ pages
      gplus.to/l5rcm

      or add an issue here:
      http://code.google.com/p/l5rcm/issues/list

      specifying that you want to help and what you can do.

      For starters I recommend to download the code and try to hack on it :)

      PS for the reviewer. As Version 2.6.1 shugenja got spell list on pdf sheet! :D

        I saw that on the G+ page! I did a little happy dance inside. XD