Looks like the D&D Insider Bonus Tools are up. (Previously, I couldn’t find them through a web search or by poking around their site, but now there’s a bit along the time with a link.)

In terms of the tools themselves, there’s the Ability Generator and the Encounter Builder. To begin with, it looks like they’re using Adobe Flex (which makes me wonder how difficult it would be for me to do something similar myself). They’re Flash instead of a client app. As such, they’re both pretty lightweight, although the Encounter Builder is fairly extensive in some ways.

So let’s talk about ’em.

Ability Generator

If you’ve played a D&D computer game since Neverwinter Nights, this tool should be obvious. It’s a point buy calculator. Pick your race, which ability score you want at 8 (if any), and you can spend points to twiddle your ability scores to your heart’s content. You can also click Random to have the point distribution randomized. I thought that was a nice touch.

When you’re done, you can get them in a copy-paste-able text format.

Will I use it?

I actually liked the example stat arrays in the book, and in some ways prefer them to point buy. Tweaking my stats point-by-point is nice and all, but I prefer having the broad strokes established; I don’t like deciding what to do with my last point or two.

That said, not everyone likes that, and there’ve been times where I thought a stat array could use a little tweaking. I could also see myself clicking Random as a starting point and going from there.

Since I’ve been thinking about writing a tool like this for myself, this saves me the trouble. I will almost certainly use it.

Encounter Builder

The encounter builder is pretty straightforward in concept; you can find these in various places on the Internet. You pick party level, the number of PCs, and you’re taken to a list of monsters, pre-filtered by tier. You can then browse through all of the monsters released so far, filtering by level, type, origin, category (e.g. Archon), keyword, et cetera.

As you select monsters, it totals up how much XP you’ve spent, and offers an assessment of difficulty.

When you’re done, you can click “Display & Print.” I suppose what you’d do here is copy-paste the output, which provides a write-up of the encounter. This write-up doesn’t include monster stats, so you’ll have to transcribe those yourself, unfortunately.

Would I use it?

I’ve been eyeballing encounters based on the rule of thumb of “one monster of equivalent level per party member,” and even then I strayed from that for the first one, with only two level 3 monsters and the rest level 1s and 2s against a level 3 party.

While I do have a spreadsheet that adds up and figures out monster totals, it has one or two bugs. This is because I am lazy, and I’m lazy because Excell’s macros are a sin against creation. Having this capability in a browser window does actually make this easier, and it’s really for convenience that I will most likely use this once I’m past the idea phase on an encounter and I have to commit to some monsters.

This tool does save me some trouble, and as such I will probably give it a whirl.

My biggest problem with this tool is the font they used for monster names. It’s more difficult to read than it needs to be, given how small it is, and given that the rest of the interface doesn’t have this problem.

Coming soon

I have more thoughts about Er-Eret related to some bigger problems, like pacing in a journey-style game as well as making people’s skills relevant in a non-urban environment.