GMing with Hero Lab
You’ve heard that Hero Lab can help you plan and run your games, but you’re not sure how to get started. Don’t worry – we can help! Read on to find out how Hero Lab can speed up not just your game preparation, but your play too!
Keep Track of the Player Characters
Get your players in on the action! If your players are Hero Lab users (of course they are!), have them build their characters in Hero Lab and send them to you before the game. When they update their character after or between sessions, have them send you the new version, so you can keep your copy of the character updated.
Not only does this let you see all the PCs in the Tactical Console (see below), you can make sure that characters are built correctly, and readily check their stats or abilities during play. Having a copy of each character can also help if someone’s character sheet gets lost, damaged, or forgotten, as you can print a new one before you start playing. Finally, you can look up how abilities or spells work in Hero Lab, if a new player doesn’t understand how something about their character works.
If a player doesn’t use Hero Lab (boo!) and you don’t want to enter their character yourself, you can quickly create a “stub” character to get many of the same benefits. Simply create a blank character and set up certain critical stats, such as ability scores, initiative values, hit points, and maybe character class levels and abilities. It only takes a few minutes, and once you’ve done this, you have easy access to all the critical details for that character.
(One tip for keeping files synchronized between players and GMs is to use a file-sharing site such as Dropbox or Google Drive. Give each player access to their own sub-folder within a “master” folder for the campaign – they can use it to keep notes, write about their character background, and anything else game-related they want. If you or your players don’t want to share files like this, no problem – email or USB thumb drives also work just fine.)
Hero Lab makes it a breeze to build your encounters. Pre-built monsters and NPCs can be imported from the Encounter Builder, and whole encounters from licensed modules can be found in the Pathfinder Encounter Library. Both of these features can be found under the Gamemaster menu, and can save you hours during adventure creation. Try them in your next game!
Not only that, you can build important NPCs just like your players build their characters. Just mark a new character as an NPC on the “Configure Hero” form, and you can have just as much fun building characters as your players do!
All the NPCs and monsters for an encounter should be saved in a single portfolio file – this helps when you run the encounter in Hero Lab’s Tactical Console (see below). Remember, you can import multiple NPCs and monsters into the same portfolio, using the Encounter Builder, Encounter Library, or the Import command on the Portfolio menu!
Brainstorm Ideas with the Encounter Builder
Try searching the Encounter Builder if you’re looking for inspiration – you can search by keyword, or restrict the list using game-specific factors like the NPC’s Challenge Rating. For example, if your players are adventuring in a desert wasteland, you could search for monsters with the word “desert” in the appropriate CR range. This can help you add some variety, by bringing in monsters or NPCs you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of including in your game.
Prepare with Hero Lab
A prepared GM is a speedy GM! The night before the adventure, open up Hero Lab and scan through your NPCs and monsters. Remind yourself which abilities they have and how they work, so you can start thinking about what they’ll do during combat.
Now you have your encounters built, Hero Lab can keep track of them during the game using the Tactical Console. Here’s how to do it:
- Create a separate portfolio for each encounter while preparing for the game, either by building the NPCs yourself or by importing them from the Encounter Builder (see above). If you’re running a module from the Encounter Library, this has already been done for you – just import the bad guys from the Encounter Library when you need them in step 3, below.
- Create another portfolio holding all the player characters and their allies, animal companions, etc. Have this portfolio open when you start play. You’ll update this portfolio multiple times during the game session, as the players encounter enemies and NPCs.
- When an encounter starts, import its contents from the encounter portfolio (using the “Portfolio menu -> Import Hero” command), or from the Encounter Library, into Hero Lab, then save the portfolio. Hero Lab will now track everyone involved in the encounter, allowing you to switch quickly between characters to get the information you need.
- Now you have all the PCs and NPCs in one portfolio, you can bring up the Tactical Console from the Gamemaster menu to see an overview of all the characters, including all the relevant stats and skill values for the game system.
- Encounters often lead to combat, and when they do, Hero Lab is there to lend a hand! When you start combat, Hero Lab will roll the NPCs initiative and allow you to manage the initiative order, PC and NPC hit points, and resources and spells remaining. Players often prefer to make their own initiative rolls, so you can enter their initiative values as they roll them. (My players keep track of their own ability and spell uses, but it’s sometimes useful for me to know how close to death the PCs are, so I often update their hit points in the tactical console myself.)
- After the encounter is over and you’ve distributed any treasure, delete the encounter NPCs and creatures from the portfolio by going to the Portfolio menu and choosing the “Delete Hero -> Delete All Enemies” command, then saving the portfolio. This will leave only the PCs in the portfolio, in the same state they were in after the encounter.
Do What Works for Your Game
Different people run their games differently, so not every piece of advice discussed here may make sense for your game – we recommend you pick and choose the ones that help make your game preparation and play more efficient.
We hope this helps, and that you’re enjoying using Hero Lab!