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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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
Platform: Win XP and later (but it does run in Wine on MacOS)
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:
- SVG instead of raster. This means it'll print more cleanly than an image of text.
- 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.
- Align and Distribute. This group of tools makes lining up objects dead simple.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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...