John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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E-Tools, the Utility I Love to Hate [gaming]

Y'know how some guys have an old car or motorcycle in the garage, sitting in a pool of its own oil, that has a pile of parts lying around, that occasionally runs beautifully and sits around the rest of the time?

I don't have one of those. What I have instead, is E-Tools.

E-Tools is a clunky character generator for Dungeons and Dragons, that is the descendant of a semi-abandoned character generator that WotC originally planned to release when DnD3e first came out. The sad, sordid history of E-Tools is not worth going into here, but suffice to say it was a classic tale of putting a beautiful paint job on a house that has no foundation.

But CodeMonkeyPublishing was contracted by WotC to "clean up the E-Tools mess" and have done so above and beyond their original agreement, updating it to 3.5 and releasing data sets covering almost every major release. They've even expanded it to cover d20 Modern ... kinda sorta ... in a really kludgy way. ;) (If I had the database experience, I could probably kludge together a Star Wars d20 data set, too, although telling the world about it would be an invitation for lawyers to come after me with razorblades. Suffice to say, I haven't done that.)

Now at some point in the not-too-distant future, they're going to abandon E-Tools in favor of their own built-from-scratch, no-stupid-legacy-database-issues character generator called "RPG Toolkit" -- but it's overdue and counting so who knows when that'll happen. So I keep plugging away with E-Tools.

They've just released yet another "major penultimate patch," updating the software to version "1.666" (eek!). These update patches are problematic, because they more or less force you to reinstall from scratch, losing any custom data you've created (user-created spells, domains, materials, etc.). Thus, if the version you have works, it's not worth patching it to fix some obscure item unless you've got a compelling reason to.

But, I had a compelling reason to. In fact, I had two:

First, the Expanded Psionics Handbook dataset never did work right until now. Every time I tried to create a [spoiler], it would list a mathematical formula instead of having a proper number of skill points and power points. Not having enough experience to quickly sit down and stat out the [spoiler] by hand, I eventually punted on the idea and turned it into a mind flayer with a polymorph potion instead. But I still wanted to be able to use the [spoiler] idea at some point, so I've been waiting for a patch that would fix it.

Second, for Christmas laurie_robey got me a boatload of D&D books, including Complete Arcane, Complete Divine, Complete Adventurer, and Weapons of Legacy. 0.o To use those with E-Tools, I can either create the data manually (and thus lose it with the next patch) or just buy the datasets. Guess which I chose? ;) But to install 'em, I've got to have the most recent patch! Le sigh. :)

So this morning, amid all the various clean-up-around-the-housey kind of junk that needed doing, I've been downloading, patching, and updating E-Tools -- followed by carefully importing characters from previous versions one-by-one to make sure they don't break anywhere. Theran won't work due to his custom armor, but I'm pretty sure that every other character worth importing can be. Theran I can rebuild when the time comes without too much difficulty. I also still have the old software sitting on my hard drive, so I might be able to run that, ditch the custom armor and save it, then run the patched version and import him. But I won't bother with that 'til the time comes to play Theran again.

-The Gneech
Tags: dungeons & dragons, gaming
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