13 July 2016

Review: Wild Card Creator (UPDATED)

Become a wild child!
I am gearing up for my new campaign set in the world of Midgard, the excellent creation of Wolfgang Baur and others at Kobold Press. It is written for Pathfinder or Fantasy AGE but I am using my "go to" system, Savage Worlds to run it under. “Oh no, you got your fluff into my crunch,” “No, you got your crunch in my fluff.” “Two great tastes that taste great together."

I love character generators and have used them for years. I would have probably not had GURPS as my go to system in 1990s without them for building GURPS characters as the method can be complex (especially in third edition with buying skills taking into account skill defaults). When I found Bill Seurer's MAKECHAR utility for MS-DOS it was heaven.

I have a license for Hero Lab and like it. I use it with Pathfinder and find it to be the best generator for that game as it gets updated with new information for Pathfinder releases pretty much as the books are released, and it fully supports the rules changes for Pathfinder Society characters. However, in the Savage World side it is not quite as well supported. It takes a very long time for updates to support new material. Also I find adding custom items and rules to be unintuitive and takes too many steps for each item, and I dislike the way you make your Novice character and then lock it to add Advances which makes it more difficult to experiment as you make a character more experienced than Novice, you need to unlock it to change.

So I recently bought a license for Wild Card Creator from Journeyman Games. It is just for Savage Worlds and was developed with the monetary help of Kickstarter supporters. Version 1.0 was released on my birthday in 2013 (September 15th). I got my license in 2016 when it was at version 1.5, and an update to 1.6 was recently released to the “wild.” I have the Windows version. It is also available for Mac OS X and Linux, with Android and iOS support promised in the future.

What I like

The program is simple which is something I like. I prefer an app that has the features I need over looks. Hero Lab has that polished look, while this one uses just basic windows and widgets. This makes the program lean and fast. The layout of the generator is well done, with tabs along the top to get to different parts of the character (races, traits, hindrances, etc.). Each tab has it easy to find the options you want and add them quickly. It also shows the stat block in standard Savage Worlds format at the top so you can see the choices applied as you click.

When books are released they become available pretty fast. Not every setting is covered but it is easy enough to custom add what you need in the campaign editor. It requires you to show it the PDF on your computer and then it adds it. It must be a supported PDF so it will not magically add the information from a PDF. I think this is a check to see if you own the PDF and it is not getting any other information from the PDF, instead the program downloads the data.

Making a character above Novice is easy. Choose the “advancement” tab and enter the XP total for the character. The program then tracks what you choose and warns you if it is in taken in error. It shows a nice list of all the advancements taken and what is available so it is easy to see, as an example, how many Attribute increases the character has left. You can order the program to break the rules and force it to add the trait anyway.

NPC mode takes all the reigns off so you can choose anything regardless of the rules for PCs. This goes along with the rules in the core rules that tell the GM to choose whatever is appropriate to the NPC.

The campaign editor is easy to use as well and it is fast to enter a new trait. You may add “mechanical effects” to it, like adjusting traits, allowing more user choice (like a free Edge or extra skill points), even calling other traits like making a Profession called “Sniper” that automatically adds the Marksman Edge. You can have many these mechanical effects. The custom setting can also hide options from the core rules that are not appropriate to your setting, such as not having any powers for your game about normals in the real world.

Printing is nothing to write home about. The built in templates are useable but no frills so you might choose to copy it to another character sheet. However, it does allow you to make your own layouts and to have the program put the information into fields on a form fill-able PDF, of which a few are predefined out of the box. The fact these customizing tools are hidden away in the preferences dialog under “experimental” is not encouraging and I have not tried it yet, but I am making a custom PDF form for my game and will give it a shot coming up. Look for me to make an update about this in the future.

What I Don't Like

If you only purchase dead tree editions and not PDFs (as many still do) and do not want to take the time  enter all the information yourself in the editor (which is time consuming), this is not the program for you. Hero Lab, though a setting book's information costs extra instead of free like here, let's a non-PDF owner access to the data. Update: Maybe this PDF only thing is a wash... you need to pay extra on Hero Lab, you need to pay for the PDF, so it is not that different.

Wild Card Creator is not a finished product and many features I think are necessary are missing. Granted, this is a small company and I love supporting the little guy, but it is still a problem. Some features are promised “in the future” though they have been promised since it's release almost three years ago.  Here are some specific shortcomings:

You cannot load more than one setting at a time. This means you cannot have a setting file you created, like one for your custom martial arts edges or custom powers. loaded with the Fantasy Companion. This is also a problem because you cannot edit the supplied setting information. I cannot import the Fantasy Companion data into the editor and add other races, powers, etc. which would allow me to combine setting together. You also cannot export any items individually to another custom setting; you cannot export your custom race from your fantasy setting to your sci-fi setting: you need to re-enter it from scratch. This is a problem for me with my custom Midgard setting: I cannot load the Fantasy Companion data with my custom data so it will not have the additional Powers or any of the magic items and character options unless I enter it by hand.

UPDATE: I have discovered you can combine settings but it does not do so by default. This is an experimental feature being tested. It may not always work right so if you use it you might run into problems. You turn it on in Preferences==>Experimental on the menu.

You cannot duplicate an entry within your custom setting. Example: Midgard has four versions of the Dragonkin race each with mostly the same build with a couple of minor changes for each. I cannot duplicate the first one I make, make the changes quick, and rename it, which would save time and energy (and sanity).

Size matters. Click to biggify!
The layout has a problem in the editor. You cannot re-size frames in the window (I assume this is the same in non-Windows versions but it may not be as the toolkit for windows are different on each platform). So, when creating the entry you have a large area for writing the description but a tiny area to add the mechanical effects. This makes it a bit harder to make an entry with more than a few mechanical effects as need to scroll a lot and cannot see all of them together at a glance to make sure you did not miss anything. It also does not automatically scroll when you add a new effect. You hit the “+” to add it and then need to manually scroll down to make the next entry when you have several effects.. Minor complaint but the annoyance builds up when making lots of entries.


Even with the missing features this is still my choice as it is fast to use, displays the information in the character maker in a way that is easy to see the “big picture” of the character, the export to PDF forms is nifty, and it is not complicated to add your own custom settings. However, it is frustrating not being able to combine data from existing settings in your custom setting. Very frustrating.

Also, as mentioned, dead tree buyers are SOL.

So I recommend it with a bit of hesitation. Just be aware of the limitations it has right now.

1 comment:

  1. There is an option to load more than one setting at a time, though it's a bit hidden. It's under the Experimental tab in Preferences. The checkbox is "Allow Combining Top-Level Settings".

    I use it for most of my stuff; I have a setting file for the changes I use in all my SWD games (a few custom Edges and some adjustments to skills) and then a campaign file for each setting. It works well. I haven't run into any issues with characters created using this feature.

    My biggest issue with the WCC is the lack of some documentation (particularly on the formatting for some custom commands) and it not supporting the Switchable power option in the SPC. Other than that it's a great program, but I'm probably more of a power user that most in terms of how much I customize things.