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Is there a tool out there, preferably free, specifically for making custom, system-agnostic character sheets? I'm looking for something a little more focused than a general program like PhotoShop/GIMP, Illustrator/Inkscape, or Word.

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or Acrobat Pro; you could set up a form in that as well, but it's still a general program and also not free. –  Dave DuPlantis May 19 '11 at 21:11
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I think "system agnostic" but "not a general program" is just about an impossible combo. Because each system of course has different stuff you'd put on it. –  mxyzplk May 19 '11 at 23:48
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Someone could write a really nice character sheet package for LaTeX. I'm not aware that anyone has, though. –  Ichoran May 21 '11 at 1:57
    
Ichoran why would you want to do that? (Speaking as someone who just typeset their thesis in ConTeXt... WHYYYY?) ::cough:: –  Brian Ballsun-Stanton May 25 '11 at 1:49

5 Answers 5

up vote 9 down vote accepted

NBOS Character Sheet Designer

Need character sheets? Then check out the new NBOS Character Sheet Designer. The Character Sheet Designer is a system you can use to create and fill out interactive electronic character sheets. Design character sheets for your favorite system, home brew systems, or even create special purpose character sheets for NPCs and monsters.

Note that save files allow sharing completed characters, as well.

And some resources for it: http://www.nbos.com/nox/index.php?pcatid=44

Price: Free
Platform: Win XP and later (but it does run in Wine on MacOS)

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This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Thanks! –  chaosys May 20 '11 at 14:41
    
Tried it out on Linux (Ubuntu 11.4) under Wine, and it mostly runs, the Text areas are a little weird. –  Cthos May 20 '11 at 14:50

It's not character sheet specific, but I've had good luck with Inkscape. It's a free SVG editor. Here's why I like it:

  1. SVG instead of raster. This means it'll print more cleanly than an image of text.
  2. Item grouping. I can group items into a set and then treat the set as a single entity. So if I like my stats block but want to move it to the other side of the page, all I have to do is group the stats block and drag the whole thing around instead of moving individual sections. This also makes it harder to move things by accident. Before I used grouping, I sometimes moved checkboxes or underlines by accident without noticing. When a whole block of content moves, you notice.
  3. Align and Distribute. This group of tools makes lining up objects dead simple.
  4. Rows and Columns. Even better than A&D above. You take a selection of objects, tell them how many rows and columns to form, and Inkscape distributes them appropriately. I found this very useful when I was going back and forth on whether my skills should cap at 4, 6, 8, or 10 points. I could copy and paste more skill boxes and in a couple clicks they were placed in rows for me.
  5. It's open source. Okay, that doesn't really apply to it being good for character sheets, but I like software that I can try for free.
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+1 for open source. Inkscape is what I usually use, actually. And you're right, it's pretty nice. But I'm looking for something specific to character sheets. –  chaosys May 19 '11 at 20:31
    
Good idea, using vector for charsheets...html5 support is good too. –  Ian Pugsley May 19 '11 at 20:51

I've seen some good character sheets made with Microsof Excel. It might be feasible to make a generic one out of that.

Otherwise I'd play with something like ClarisWorks (if you have an old Mac), or possibly CorelDraw.

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Omfg, ClarisWorks haven't heard about that in over a decade!! It had Windows versions, so fear [not]. –  Matt Joiner May 20 '11 at 11:49
    
There are some neat pre-made Excel sheets for various games that you can find online - I can't remember the name of it, but there was a really great one for D&D 3/3.5 that pre-built lots out with formulas. –  Ian Pugsley May 20 '11 at 12:43
    
The reason I like ClarisWorks is that it's so simple. It's not powerful, but there wasn't anything like layers to work with, so whatever tool I was using it was like ink/graphite on paper. It was easy to understand. I'm gonna have to look into this Windows version. –  migo May 20 '11 at 15:28

If you're feeling ambitious, I recommend Scribus:

Scribus is an Open Source program that brings professional page layout to Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows desktops with a combination of press-ready output and new approaches to page design.

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I've used Scribus for this. The interface is a PITA, but the flexibility of layout and quality of results is hard to argue with. –  SevenSidedDie May 25 '11 at 5:24

There are a few different pieces of software for a few different games (ex: http://gcs.trollworks.com/wiki/ has GCS, the GURPS 4th Edition character sheet generator for multiple operating systems, written in Java). It really depends on your need - I haven't heard of a totally generalized piece of software that will assist in creating a character for any system.

Considering what @valadil mentioned, it would be quite a neat idea to implement something very generalized like that in HTML5 with SVG support, and then set up some common templates (for things like 4th Ed D&D, Pathfinder, GURPS 4th Ed, etc.). I may look into that...

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