GenCon 2011: Hands-On with D20 Pro v2.4

by: Russell -
Being a Dungeons & Dragons fan, I'm always looking for software that can help run or play a campaign, or even automate character creation.  Unless you know the process inside and out, creating a character can be a tedious process.  Well, while at GenCon I came across a couple people who created some D&D software for campaigning and character creation.  I haven't looked too much into Hero Lab and Fantasy Grounds, but they seemed a little complex, as they can cover multiple systems that use the d20 system.  The one I looked at the most may not have a character auto-generator (that's what my programming skills are for...eventually), but is actually quite useful for campaign creating and running, and that is D20 Pro by Mind Gene.  I realize that Gaming Nexus did a couple interviews at past Origins events, but being my first time with the software, I figured I'd give it a shot for those who have never heard of it...like me.

In doing some research, I couldn't find an exact release date for D20 Pro, but the first Release Notes post I saw was for v2.0.3 back in December 2009, with a Gaming Nexus article/interview from Origins 2008, so it's been out for quite some time, but I only heard about it at GenCon.  See, this is what happens when I can only afford to go to Origins each year, I miss out on this kind of stuff.  Anyway, the latest version is v2.4 which looks to have been released back in late April, so that's the version I'll be looking at.  After playing around with it a bit, it's actually quite a good program, with a couple little bugs here and there.  You can create maps, items, setup characters, NPCs, and monsters, and pretty much run the campaign with a game log and even dice to roll.  The Judge (ie. DM) version can even have the option of approving player moves and decisions, so they can deny your idea of using magic missile on everyone in the inn because your food tasted terrible.  If you need to help create a character, you can't create it in D20 Pro, but you can do it through a separate program called Hero Lab, which is produced by Lonewolf.

The only issue I had seemed to be with the tiling system.  You can import tiles for "painting" on your map (so you can use custom tiles for the ground, sea, meadow, etc., or can place a tile and scale it for things like traps and monsters.  The files can be placed in separate folders, so you can easily keep track of tiles for terrain, tiles for a castle or dungeon, enemy tiles etc.  The problem is though, that if you DON'T use separate folders and just keep everything in the root folder, the scaling option displays the tiles just fine, but the painting option will only show one of the images (NOTE: right now, it seems to have fixed itself, but I'm not sure if it'll happen again, so I'll leave this paragraph here just in case).  What was recommended to me though is that you create a map with software such as Cartographer (developed by ProFantasy), then just import the map into D20 Pro.  I've never used Cartographer, but have seen some of the maps created by it, and they look awesome.

The software actually has four different licenses for it: Trial, Full, Guest, and Player.  None of the licenses expire (except for Trial) and can be run on Windows XP or higher, OS 10.4 or higher, or Linus.  The licenses and pricing is as follows:

Trial License - Free
The trial license has everything the full license has, except it expires after 30 days and you must have an internet connection when you use it to validate the trial license.

Full License - $30+
The full license is what's used for DMs (or Judges as the program calls them) as it comes with the functions and abilities to create campaigns, maps, and pretty much anything else needed to run the campaign, as well as let you join a campaign as if you had a player license.  It also comes with two guest slots and additional slots can be purchased for $10 each (hence the $30+).  The guest slots I'll talk about below.

Guest License - Free
The guest license will only allow a player to join a campaign, and only if the DM has an open guest slot available.  If no slots are open, the guest can't join that campaign.  A guest license comes with the trial as well, and it will not expire.

Player License - $10
The player license allows you to join a campaign without the need for an available slot.  If you get the player license, you can upgrade to the full license at any time.

Overall, the program looks really nice and I do plan to at least plunk down the $10 for a player license for when my friends decide to come up with a campaign, but will eventually upgrade to the full license, because you just never know when your creative side will come out.  If you want to take it for a spin, head over to their site at www.d20pro.com and download the 30 day trial.

Images courtesy of www.d20pro.com.

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