Simple Monster Characters (GM Feature)

The thing I spend most of my time doing is creating monsters or NPCs for my characters to fight in one or two encounters. Currently, this is a very clunky process. We play DnD5e, so the most I really need from this temporary character is an Icon, HP, and maybe AC just as a reminder.

As the site works now, I need to create a whole new character, go over to the info tab to avoid the beta stat block, and enter the HP. Even if I select the 5e monster template, I’m not about to enter every stat for this monster that’s probably going to be dead in the next 20 minutes. I just need an insanely quick way to make a simple token for a throwaway monster or npc.

I was thinking I might use small combat cards and create a sheet for that, with just things like attack and and special abilities on them, then I can just copy that like I used to with the old non-paper sheet feature. Honestly the old look with the actions and folders was probably easier/better for monsters.

If there was a way to set the sheet to open to a smaller default size it would be nice…as it is now I have to drag the corner of my combat card sheet to get it down to a manageable size every time.

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Oh my gosh, yes, please. I had to create all these monsters and I just ignored the stats. I have hidden the health from my players and I will manage them off a sheet of paper, old school. A system for quickly creating simple monsters would be such a huge help!

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I completely agree. im enjoying the system and plan on buying pro at the end of the month, but the monster/character creation aspect for DMs seems clunky at best. It is very time consuming, particularly when you think about how much duplicate work is likely being done by DMs for monster creation. If we were able to share unique assets among dms, that would alleviate some of this headache.

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And update:
Firstly, thank you so much Astral for allowing all users to use your full suite for free while we all play at home these few months. Incredibly generous, and than I cannot thank you enough.

I’ve been using the “Simple Sheetless Quickstart” option. While that is great by bypassing having to see a full sheet to fill out. It’s still just a few too many clicks.
Proposed Solution: If there was a separate template that allowed me to select “Monster”, type in their Name, HP, and choose a token. Then see it on the tabletop.

I personally don’t want to waste my prep time copying information from one webpage into another, or from from the MM onto a webpage. I’ll just have that info up on a second screen or in front of me if I need it. Minimizing prep time is the key to selling a DM on your app.

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Hi @Mjpindara

You can certainly create one yourself. Once you have created the sheet you can then import it into any game that you play and use that sheet instead of one of the “official” ones.

Yes. By making the sheet. Copying it to your character assets, importing it, opening it, changing it. It’s an okay workaround, but it would be nice if there were some default ones, or if we could, you know, mark things as templates and also share those templates. That would also maybe mean Astral staff would have to spend less resources on making character sheets and templates, because the community could more easily take on those tasks.

My workaround was that I created a blank white graphic, created a sheet, added minimal “monster entry” stuff, and I use that as a pseudo-template in my games. Works fairly well, and saves a lot of time (complex character sheets can be slow to load and switch pages with lots of stats and actions).

It would also be really nice if it were possible to directly type into stats easily. One either has to scroll through a large list of stuff in the Build list (which may not have stats in the order in which they actually appear, and cannot be reordered), or has to keep clicking, opening the minidialogs, tab or click inside them because they don’t put the cursor into a field, type, click outside, hope the dialog closes that time, wait for it to draw/redraw/close/disappear, and then rinse and repeat.

It really adds to the time it takes for a GM to set things up for players, and for me, that’s not the fun part of playing. That’s the shopping for snacks, and cleaning up chip crumbs and pizza bones part of the play, which I prefer to minimize. : )

@CoyoteConscious

All character sheets, besides the basic Pathfinder sheets and the basic DnD 5E sheet, are all community created.

I kinda feel like I am suggesting a UX improvement that removes clicks and steps, and you are defending why there’s a workaround that does not do that. I think we have a different understanding of these conversations.

I’ve spent the last several decades designing interfaces that reduce steps and workarounds, and which do not require workarounds or training or help files to use.

This is born out of a philosophy that computers should to the annoying stuff, so the humans can focus on work and play.

Data should not have to be entered in more than one place. Documents should be easy to share and collaborate on. If something can be done in one or two clicks or on one screen, it should not take five.

And there are common conventions that exist in all manner of applications, where someone knows that to share something, they click a thing, and it’s easy.

For instance, the core way data is entered into character sheets here involves opening up modal dialogs then navigating to things inside them. That’s not easy, and it takes a lot of clicking and waiting while things render and people find things.

Or you have to go into an unsortable list. that cannot really be resized and is not easily readable (or search in the list, which is not the ideal way to quickly enter data).

For sharing, it is the difference between:
step one, click share button, choose person
or
drag item/template from screen to other person

and

Make a document. Open the document. Save a new copy of the document. Save a document to a vault. Go into another game entirely, where you are GM. Import the document. Make the other person have to save it to their vault. Have them import it into another game.

It’s not intuitive, or fast, or easy. Yes, it can be done, but this is not the way I would expect to do it, and it has way more steps. More steps is more time, and more chance to make mistakes, and more resources, and more code to maintain and debug.

I mean, I’m trying to offer suggestions, from a UI/UX perspective, not argue, and not attack. If it’s being taken that way, then I kinda feel like it’s pretty pointless to even suggest something.

2 Likes

There are specific Feature Requests for each of those points that you have made.

That is good! And I vote when I see those.

I kinda feel though, like when I suggest something could be less clunky or take fewer steps, that the pushback is “but you can do it in seventeen easy steps that don’t get the result you want.”

Kinda makes me want to spend my time doing… anything else besides offering feedback or suggestions intended to make a nice tool better.

When you solicit feedback, and then argue with it, like somehow a conversation has a winner, it kinda sends me the message “We don’t really want feedback, we want to say we want feedback.”

Look: Obviously we like the tool. We’ve chosen Astral above Roll20, Fantasy Grounds, etc. for a reason.

But there’s a lot of really clunky, multi-step stuff, and weirdness in the interface that really could be improved.

Frankly, most of this interface would never have made it past any UI/UX review at anywhere I’ve worked in the last 20 years. There’s broken conventions, slowdowns, misuse of modality, resource allocation problems, and screen real estate problems (plus bugs). I’m on a 40" monitor and as a GM, spend a lot of time switching windows because everything takes up such huge amounts of space. There’s also a lot of antipatterns present.

I’m not saying that to be mean, I’m saying it because it could all be fixed, and I would love to see Astral be the go-to toolset for gamers over, say Roll20. I feel like Astral is a labor of love, and has a great focus on the stuff that is really important to gamers, rather than a bunch of fluff or ways to pry money out of people without adding value. Warts and all, it is a much better experience than we’ve had with similar tools. But feature requests and bug reports aren’t for saying “everything is awesome” they are for providing constructive feedback.

Which is what I am trying to do, but a lot of your responses feel consistently defensive. My goal isn’t to pick a fight with anyone, it’s to make suggestions for improvement and give feedback based on the real-world way my friends and I have used the tool.

If I’m just being upsetting, and the feedback isn’t wanted, then I’ll just go back to actually playing, because it’s not my job to be a gadfly. Especially when my goal is to be helpful. I don’t want to make anyone sad, but I can’t really manage someone else’s emotions.

So, I’ve said my piece. I’m gonna go back to entering in a whole bunch of monsters in 17 easy steps.

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Don’t take it that way.

Some of us just have a style of writing that’s intended to be brief but often comes up as something else. Also, do note that most users in these forums are… just users, like yourself (not employees; those are clearly tagged in their user header).

When people comment that they have a problem, our first instinct is to offer a way to solve your problem. We’re not devs for Astral. If fact, the team of devs is a team of 3 (yes three).
So… new features might take a while (and maybe only if enough people vote for them).

And while those features arrive, we want to make sure we can offer workarounds as a community.

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To @CoyoteConscious’s point. This is a feature request forum, not a “what other ways can I do this” forum.

Initially i was requesting a feature that does not exist, because I am sometimes frustrated by the current functionality of the system. I’m grateful for a workaround, but the reason I’m posting here is to make requests that I believe will make Astral more efficient and usable.

The DnD 5E Sheetless Quickstart Character Template is now a thing.

I’d like to close this thread as resolved if nobody has an issue with that?

Having the sheetless template doesn’t solve my original problem. Sorry the thread got away from that.
I think the new thread I’ve created “Updating ‘Quick Add Character’ (GM Feature)” provides a more succinct presentation and proposal of a solution however.

Well, the current project is on spells, but I’m sure we’ll get to monsters Soon™

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I whole heartedly agree. I’m really enjoying Astral but currently creating monsters takes most of my time. It’s a bit easier with shared types like Devils and Demons in DnD 5e that have similar abilities. However, a unique monster with multiple features can easily take 15-20 minutes to set up. Additionally, some things on the sheets can’t be moved requiring cramped or abbreviated text. Thank you for so many great features and I look forward to future updates.