Why Only Pathfinder Character Sheets? (A brief history of D20)

I first encountered the D20 system when I started playing Pathfinder, and it didn’t take long before I recognized the need for an online app for Pathfinder character sheets. Players familiar with Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 & 3.5 might already know quite a bit about the D20 system, but I discovered that the history is more complex than I thought.

HeroSheets - Pathfinder Character Sheets

This photo, “D20 amalero” is copyright (c) 2006 Zambo and made available under a Attribution-commercial-Share Alike 2.0 license


D20 System

The standard D20 system was originated with Wizards of the Coast, who created it for Dungeons & Dragons 3.0. They released a System Reference Document (SRD) for 3.0 under two licenses: the OPne Game License and Open Game Content. These basically allowed third party publishers, if given consent from WOTC, to publish compatible supplements for 3.0.

The core mechanic of the D20 system is elegantly simple in design. It begins by rolling a d20 to generate a base score. Then, you add ability modifiers from your character sheet to your base score and compare it to the “difficulty class” of the task you are trying to accomplish. This will sound very familiar to Pathfinder players, as it is the basic mechanic for all the attacks you make. You roll the d20, add modifiers like weapon bonuses and your Strength bonus from your character sheet, and hope the result is higher than the enemy’s armor class. Pathfinder characters deal with spells, traps and skill challenges in the same way.

D20 Modern & D20 Future

D20 is built for fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. However, it’s not very flexible for games that take place in modern settings with guns, aliens, technology and the internet. Roll reflex save for Javascript vulernabilities!

WOTC released the core D20 modern book in 2002, adding rules that make sense in a modern setting. Skills were updated to reflect their modern counterparts – using computers, driving, etc. They released several supernatural-themed campaign settings as well. They also released the D20 – FUTURE books in 2004 that added rules for robots, aliens, cybernetic enhancements and all kinds of crazy science fiction equipment and situations.

How does Pathfinder fit into this?

Pathfinder is a game based strongly on the D&D 3.5 system, but with finely tuned rules. For this reason, it has its own SRD. The underlying elegance of the D20 system deserves an equally streamlined game-plya experience. HeroSheets is designed to help you create and edit your Pathfinder character sheets in a painless way, so you can ignore the paper work and enjoy the unique and unpredictable blend of skill, team-work and luck that makes the D20-based Pathfinder experience so much fun.

What does this mean for Hero Sheets?

Hero Sheets is at its core a Pathfinder product. The SRD for Pathfinder is complex and will take a long time to implement in a computer program. However, I plan on designing the rules engine in way to allow “easily” swappable rules sets and support for other D20 games. Easy if you can understand my code and have a good grasp of ruby!