Earlier this week I released my first product that included Hero Lab support: Book of Magic: Signature Spells 1. If you don’t know what Hero Lab is, it’s a character building program for many of the major game systems. Pathfinder, D&D (both 3.5 and 4E), Mutants and Masterminds 2E and 3E, nWoD, Savage World and others. You can export your character to a few virtual tabletop programs like d20 Pro. Plus the guys that run it keep it up to date with program and data set updates. It’s the best commercial character program I’ve seen.
The best question is why did I choose to make the spells in the Book of Magic with a Hero Lab datafile? Remember: for every minute I’m making product x, I have that much less time to make product y. So by taking the time to write spells, format the file cleanly, PDF and bookmark it, I produce a product. Then I took those spells, learned how to use the Hero Lab editor interface, entered those spells in and then took the time to make sure it worked properly in the program. The time that it took to produce the Hero Lab files is time I could have been using to finish up books that are going to be announced next month. Is that time a worthy trade off?
My answer is: I think so. I don’t know for sure. This is a test and I’ll find out. The thing is, the pool of people that use Hero Lab and Pathfinder is smaller than those that play Pathfinder (with or without Hero Lab). So by making the Hero Lab file and offering it with the PDF, those that do not use Hero Lab may feel they are paying for something that they are not going to use and will not purchase it. That is what my own editor thinks.
Myself, I see Hero Lab in the same way Michael Stackpole saw Kindle users a few years ago (before ebooks were as big as they are now). At a seminar I attended, Stackpole said that Kindle users paid $300 to read books, when you can get a paperback for $10. He said these are the hardcore readers that want every book in their library with them all the time. And he is right. The hardcore signed on and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world followed suit.
In that same light, Hero Lab is generally purchased by gamers that make so many characters and monsters (typically GMs) and want all their resources right at their finger tips. So I am happy to provide them support for my company. By giving them the tools to use my products with their preferred program, I am making it easier for them to use my products, and to buy more of my products in the future.
Hero Lab is a sign of things to come. Gaming is going electronic. Even if most of us never use a virtual table top because it feels too “video gamey,” programs like Hero Lab make the math easier and help us to spend more times enjoying our games.