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.
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.
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).
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!