Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"I spent 1/2 an hour shading your upper lip"

I love drawing pictures, and throughout my drawing-pictures life, I have been inspired by comic books, anime, fantasy novels and really any other genre that involves people holding swords. Naturally, one of the elements of tabletop RPGs that I enjoy the most is dreaming up, playing and visualizing fantastic characters. While it can be great fun to dream up guilds upon guilds of calamitous intent, one of the big challenges of being the GM is that I am in charge of conceiving and birthing (Zeus-Athena-style) every character the players will meet in the course of the game... and darn it! my uteran brain gets wore out! I want to draw every character I come up with, but I just don't have the time!

That's why I love the Hero Machine. Simply put, the Hero Machine is a virtual paper-doll tool that allows the user to assemble and color portraits of characters with a slant towards the action/fantasy/super-hero genres. The tool allows busy GMs like myself to churn out detailed, full-color renderings of characters with a fraction of the effort required to draw them by hand. Hero Machine is also fantastic for people who might doubt their drawing ability, but who really want to show their friends what their halfling barbarian, Dave, looks like in their mind. My players and I have all used the site to great effect crafting character portraits for our game.

I call him, "Cuddles

The most recent version of the Hero Machine (v3.0) is still in the alpha test phase, but has already far surpassed its immediate predecessor. Version 3 allows the user to rotate, resize, reposition and add multiple copies of each element. It is also the first version that allows the user to save an image, rather than just the source code. That being said, the tool is still in Alpha test, and so is a bit buggy. The known bug I most frequently run afoul of is a quirky little minx that will reposition your image in the upper-left corner upon export if you had the audacity to make use of the "hands" menu -what can I say? I like my characters to have hands.

Anyway, the Hero Machine is both a useful gaming tool and an entertaining time-sucker. I highly recommend that you check it out.

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