Saturday, 8 August 2015

Player Character Spreadsheets

Now that my party have agreed to bring their laptops to the sessions and I’ve finally had the time to sit down and input code for a few hours, I present an example of the spreadsheets I’ve made for each player to keep track of what he has, what he’s capable of, and what he’s doing. No more rummaging through papers for information written illegibly in pencil and crossed out. No more stalling combat to make sundry calculations with multifaceted modifiers. No more malodourous ‘pants duty’. All essential information is now together on one clear, user-friendly screen.

This one is for the character of a player who left the campaign a long time ago but might come back eventually; the chances of him rejoining are slim enough that I’m not giving away confidential information about his character here. This PC is a mercenary from a farming family, who worked at various times for different nobles of the shire. He met the party while between errands and joined them for a spell; this is when he picked up a bit of scarring and maiming, as well as the bit of coin for his time, all of which is now spent. He’s fairly religious and would like to go on a pilgrimage at some point, has much experience with pack animals, and also has developed some talent at card games. The sheet has his bibliographic information on the right, proficiencies below that, and space to list all his stuff along the bottom of the page. Next to certain ability scores go the notes about certain effects based on those scores.

The rule for using these sheets is that the pink cells are sacred and inviolate, because that’s where all the formulas live. Players are free to plug in numbers into any other cells and watch the pink ones change automatically. When they type in sufficient additional XP, their level changes, and along with it their THAC0, AC, and Saving Throws. Maximum HP don’t change under our house rules, and the ‘XP for Next Level’ is just a handy place for the player to keep track of that if he wants to do. (Incidentally, if the character had an XP bonus, it would be at the right side of the XP box, but this character doesn’t.)

His total encumbrance is calculated automatically by linking all the total weights of his containers, which in turn generates an Encumbrance Level category and adjusts his movement rate.

(In this connection, the special box, ‘Items Borne by Horse’ was an afterthought. That box was the location of spells for priests and mages, and of thieving skills for rogues, so it was empty for our fighter here. When I originally input all his equipment into the lower left list for his backpack contents, his Encumbrance Level read ‘Severe’, and then it occurred to me that he had a palfrey named Becky who could carry some it for him, so I decided to see what would happen if I loaded her up with some saddlebags. The result is that her movement rate is still normal, so it might behoove Bret to pass her more of his burden, but I ran out of space. Not ideal, I know, but I liked the relative symmetry that comes of not adding more cells there. None of the other PCs have horses at this point, and I’ll have to make changes to these sheets if and when they acquire them.)

Anyway, there’s also plenty of space for proficiency and special skills as they’re gained, and for everything they wear, carry, and sling over their shoulders. Pouch 1 is a money pouch, with the individual weights of English coins programmed in so that encumbrance changes when more money is carried. Obviously this would be negligible under normal circumstances, but will make a big difference after a big loot haul. 

What I expect to really enhance combat is the 10% reduction in each ability score as the character goes into negative HP (old house rule by Alexis Smolensk, described here). Here are Bret’s normal stats, with full HP:

...And here we see the result of plugging in a random negative number, in this case -5. All ability scores fall, which cause the capabilities related to them to fall in tandem. 

(The automatic colour change in the ‘HP Now’ cell to progressively darker shades of red is a visual reminder of how badly the character is bleeding; when a number -10 or lower is input into ‘HP Now’, the cell turns black, lest he have any doubt about being dead.)

Just another couple of weeks of streamlining and I’ll be ready to start running again.


  1. I like the conditional formatting that darkens the cell as hit points drop. That's a truly great idea. If I played a character, I would probably rework half my excel character sheet this way, from food possessed to coin.

    Sadly, not sure what it can do for me as a DM, gamewise. I'll have to think about it.

    1. Yeah, I kind of figured you'd already have all the spreadsheets you need as a DM. I'd be curious to see what the players in your campaign have on their screens during your sessions, though.