Full disclosure: this review is based on a Hero Lab license I received for review purposes.
I covered the Mutants & Masterminds dataset for Hero Lab a while ago. I use Hero Lab for just about everything when it comes to character creation. When I had the opportunity to get my hands on the Ultimate Magic data for Hero Lab, I was really excited. I loved what I saw in the book, and I wanted to see how Hero Lab could handle the extra data.
If you’ve used Hero Lab before, it’s no surprise that the data for the Magus class, the new feats, the new spells, the new equipment, all of it, is entered correctly and works just like you would expect it to. All of the new familiars are there, and everything looks great. This is where a program like Hero Lab shines. As Paizo has released more books, there are more and more things to keep track of. With something like Hero Lab, you’ve got it all at your fingertips. Now, it’s still really helpful to have the books, because it’s not always easy to find what you’re looking for in Hero Lab, but it’s a big help to track everything.
The thing that I wanted to make double-sure of with this dataset was the optional rule for spell casters to use Words of Power for their spellcasting. As Buddy said in his review of Ultimate Magic, Words of Power are a cool, flexible way for casters to build their own spells on the fly. I’m happy to say that, now that Words of Power are available for the dataset (they were not when it first launched), and they are implemented well.
I can’t pick terribly original names for my spells, but it’s great to have the option so to do. If you use Hero Lab during play, this will be a big help to players and GMs alike if they wish to play a Wordcaster. I do wish that Hero Lab gave you the option to save a list of commonly used Wordspells. I realize that the list of spells that are added to your spellbook is sort of like that list, but given how much you can customize your Wordspells, and how much you can change things up, a list would be a nice touch.
The other thing that still bothers me a bit about Hero Lab is the character sheet output. It has gotten much better over the time I have been using it (about a year, now), but it can still be frustrating. I experienced this when I made characters for my games at GenCon. When I built the characters, I was excited because it looked like all of the abilities were explained in full on the character sheet. Granted, I should have checked them before I gave them to my players, so that’s on me. However, when I handed out the sheets, some of the ability descriptions were cut off, leading to a bit of confusion.
You can output the character sheet as a statblock, which is not as pretty, but it has everything printed with full descriptions. I think that’s the option I’m going to go with in the future, as I use Hero Lab to save me time, not to make it so I have to print out cheat sheets for my players.
Overall, the Ultimate Magic dataset is a good investment if you use Hero Lab for Pathfinder on a regular basis. Also, it’s only $9.99, which isn’t bad. You can pick up the set from the Lone Wolf website. And keep your eyes peeled over the next few weeks, as I will be reviewing the Ultimate Combat dataset, as well.