One of my favorite companies for RPG programs is NBOS Software. I am not associated with the company in any way other than being a satisfied customer. I like their products because they perform well and they are reasonably priced. To date I have purchased three of their four products and I have been very happy with each one. Please check out their trial versions and see if you feel the same.

One of their offerings is the Character Sheet Designer v1.0 and it is an easy to use product that allows you to do just what its name says it does — design a character sheet. It runs on Windows XP and Vista only, but with virtual machines, WINE, and other solutions I am sure that users of other operating systems can find ways to use the program on the platform of their choice.

Many of the RPGs produced by the bigger players in the industry either provide their own software for character sheet management tools, another company creates a tool for that particular game, or the community creates such a tool. Often it is rare that a smaller publisher or that a less well known game has such a program available. This program fills that gap nicely for the GMs of odd, older, or rare systems.

The character sheet designer is a “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) tool. You can create fields and labels for the various sections of your character sheet, and you can design these fields to accept input or to provide a drop down list of options that you populated a list with, and it can handle simple calculations for numerical fields. The designer also provides a JavaScript API that you can use to extend the program with.

When you install the designer you also install a viewer that you or your players use to fill out and save a character sheet with. If you add a new field or feature to a character sheet’s design you simply reinstall the character sheet design into the viewer and existing sheets will be automatically updated with the new features as long as the objects in the character sheet have the same names. Thanks to this functionality with a little planning you can ensure backwards compatibility with any character sheet that you design using the software.

Now for the best part — the program is free. You can go to the NBOS Software web site and download it right now with all of its character sheet creating goodness and pay absolutely nothing. How cool is that?

It didn’t take long for me to get comfortable with the software, although the text edit fields were a bit annoying at first until I discovered that you needed to draw the field both horizontally and vertically despite how the designer displays the field. Once that tidbit of knowledge was gained the rest of the process was easy. Normally I would share my work with others, but I have only designed materials for closed source proprietary systems and I do not feel comfortable sharing those works here. My next project is a Fudge character sheet though which is an open system and that I will make available to the public through my own site You Meet In A Tavern at a future date.

So there you have it — an easy to use free software program that fills a niche unique to RPGs. Try it out and if you like the Character Sheet Designer v1.0 perhaps you will try some of NBOS’s other products. If you do comment below and let others know what you think of the product.

Until next time, remember that the GM is a player too! Have fun with it!