Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: GURPS Calculator and GCS Integration

It was really hard for me
to find some branding
I could use.
I like GURPS Character Sheet, it is just swell, and I've been using it for a long while. GURPS Calculator to me, in the past, felt like a bunch of distinct, but tangentially connected elements, but it has been improving a lot recently, and has recently incorporated GCS format character sheet importing. Nice! Today, I'm gonna dissect its features, what I like about it, what I don't and what I'd like to see.

Make an Account and Upload a Character Sheet

So, to use GURPS Calculator, you first need to make an account which is a very straightforward process. No trouble there. Once you make an account, you can go to Settings > Account Settings, and there you will see a GUID, which is labeled the GURPS Calculator Key. You can then enter this into GURPS Character Sheet and that gives you an option to upload a character sheet from that software into GURPS Calculator.
To me, it seems kinda clunky to have file upload done this way; it's a nice extra, but the wholly naive and mundane method of just being able to upload a file with a file pick element would be really convenient, for example, when players come over my house, I make a few pre-session changes to their character sheet, and they want to load it up on their phone, and they don't have a computer nearby, except for mine, where they need to go through the process of loading the file changing the not-at-all cumbersome GUID to one that matches their account, and then having the app load the file in, presumably from some REST or SOAP API.
This boils down to that the program is not very easily used in a place where you don't have access to a PC. Unless all character sheets are up to date before going to a FLGS, then you might have some hiccups.
First Screen

Access the Character Sheet

For this exercise, I uploaded one of my player's character sheets. Once the character sheet is uploaded, finding it is simply Characters > [Character's Name]. Very straightforward, and that takes you to kind of a summary screen. Everything is displayed well on both a desktop and a mobile device. This page has very little in terms of interactivity besides up/down ticks for HP and FP. To me, this is a little frustrating if people lose or recover more than 1 HP or FP at a time, but it's kinda hard to think what might be easier for a mobile application. Maybe click and hold the -/+ button to get an option to type in "7" instead of hitting the button seven times? Other than that small nitpick it is a fine page, and very well organized, I like that clicking the HP and FP counters gives you a breakdown of the levels where you die or faint though, and it includes a one click for full HP/FP. It's a very good way to hide what is usually too much information for a front page.

Details Page

This page has all of your basic attributes and secondary characteristics, encumbrance bands, and a reference for how much weight you can manipulate according to Basic Lift. The HP and FP gauges from the first page are still there, in fact, this app is using a kind of ajax to present information so you aren't actually leaving the page when new information is being displayed, so it is technically the same counters as per the previous "page." Note in the screenshot these features:
  • HP/FP have a color change effect if certain thresholds are crossed.
  • Each of the attributes and secondary characteristics have an embedded dice roller. It's a fun feature that personally I wouldn't want to use (I like the sound of rolling dice,) but it is very conveniently done and nicely stylized.
  • The encumbrance level is highlighted in accordance to equipment burden.
I roll against my background
category and get a margin of success of
null, which according to the color code
seems better than -1.
I have absolutely nothing critical to say about this page, but one thing I think would be nice along the lines of the lifting/moving table would be the integration of the jumping distance/height table. with maybe the standing distance/height and best running distance/height.


This page lists skills, advantages, and disadvantages. Each of the skills has a nicely integrated dice roller again, but there is a small buggish issue here, in that if you are like me and enjoy rolling skills up into categories, you'll see the categories, but they will present themselves as skills. I kinda wish there was a verbose display mode on this page, because I personally like seeing the relative skill level and point costs as well. Similarly, some kinda option to roll against the skill based on a different attribute would also be nice, but I think I saw that feature being requested on the JIRA page for the project. I can't imagine a really nice way to make that work and not be clunky on a small screen though. A combobox would probably be able to do it without being cluttery, but that might be annoying on a PC UI. In any case, I nominally use analog dice anyway, so just knowing the relative skill level would be good enough.
Oh, and a fun feature for this page might be specifically calling out all Self Control and appearance roll advantages/disadvantages and having a roller for each.


When you click on, for example,
"Fine Quarterstaff Swung" it shows
the expander with a little bit of extra
This page lays out all your melee and ranged attacks as you'd expect, and is pretty straightforward. The information looks all right, but not having the range for projectile weapons and requiring that one clicks on a weapon to see its reach is a bit daunting to me. I feel like maybe there should be a verbose mode or something, because I really like having those columns. Weight and GURPSbuck value doesn't matter too much, but being able to immediately see range and reach, that matters. Interestingly, the ranged attacks seem to be aware of distance, because setting a ridiculous distance outside of max range does cause it to automatically fail; the range is still never displayed, just the message, "range exceeded."
This right here is just flat out snazzy.
The fire icon button immediately rolls an attack, and the gear icon brings up an option menu with a lot of interesting extras to help with some tedious calculations. It is a very useful page, though, I am thinking that "Armor Divisor" is not an attribute which gets changed up commonly.


This page is a really nice one that simply shows the information it needs to show. It includes all possible active defenses, DR for each part of the body, and the bands for fainting/dying/etc as seen elsewhere in modal windows. No especial complaints or suggestions for this page, actually.


A decent page that does everything
it needs to do and does it well.
I mean, there is the slight issue that
three parries are shown for the
quarterstaff, but that is owing to
having four different "attacks."
This page has no interesting interactivity, and that's a bit of a let down, but I think they are working on it? As it stands, the data displayed for all of the equipment is fine, but I would like if it would keep the inventory hierarchy from GCS at least. Having the ability to increment, decrement and "unhold" stuff would be really useful as well, because encumbrance is among the few calculations I don't enjoy, but as a mechanic, I enjoy immensely. Looking forward to it's implementation.
Yes, you are wearing everything here,
but we will not tell you where
you are wearing the First Aid Kit.


I am not even sure the point of this page. It is called "Tracker," and it looks like a way of having a bunch of attacks, probably because GCS doesn't do a lot to model more complicated Innate Attack abilities or spells. It does what it... does, I was gonna say, what it says it does, but it isn't really doing a Tracker like thing here. It is a little unwieldy, but I have a feeling that new pipe and foundation is still being laid and it might be better in the future.
One issue I have with using it, at least on the desktop is that if you set the window to half of the horizontal width for the edit tracker page, some elements don't display right. The up/down ticker control widgets have the arrows partially/completely covering the number, so I need to make the window wider or make it narrow enough that the page collapses into the mobile style.

Pencil Icon

I have a tracker category
"foo" and inside it I have a tracker
called "A Tracker Thing." It got a
critical hit.
There is a pencil icon on the right of the tab bar. It brings up a notes page. The notes are not the same as the notes associated with the character sheet. In any case, you have notes? If you want to write notes, you can do that!

Other Thoughts and Closing

There are a lot of other useful calculators on the site if you like, and many of the most annoying calculations, like collision and throwing damage are covered. They are definitely working on a timer feature, which is something this app really needs. I wonder if it'll handle "game time" and "real world" time though, important to consider. One thing I'd love is the ability to add counters for more than just HP/FP. Specifically, ER would be great, but maybe showing healing potions, arrows, bullets, and other liquid consumables that come and go like nothing would be helpful. 
I'm excited for where this program is going, and if I sound overly critical, don't mistake that for disliking the program. I call these things out because the authors ask for feedback, so I decided to be totally frank. I am excited to see where it goes from here and hope for the continued success of the its development.
To clarify, the way the program is written shows that the authors are competent and skilled at what they are doing, and I think it's only a matter of time and resources before issues are ironed out. When you do software for a living, you can kinda get a knack for which bugs are "I'll work on that later," and the ones that are truly mistakes, and of everything I've seen and critiqued, only one bug felt like a true mistake (a small issue where if you update the properties of a ranged attack from the UI, most of the fields update without refreshing except for the text field for armor divisor.)


  1. Thanks for the review! Check out today's, release, it fixes the trait grouping bug you mentioned.


  2. Thanks for the review! Check out today's, release, it fixes the trait grouping bug you mentioned.



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