Lone Wolf (Hero Lab) Lays Off Staff

Lone Wolf Development, which makes the character creation software Hero Lab, amongst other things, has just announced that it is laying off staff, saying "for quite some time, we’ve spread ourselves too thin across different efforts".


One of those people was Lj Stephens who was offered a job there three months ago and relocated across the US to work there; her husband, Owen KC Stephens, left his job at Paizo to go with her. He has a Patreon here if you want to support him. He posted publicly "As always, my heart goes out to the familes, friends, and fans impacted by this. Sadly, this includes me and Lj. This is the job we left WA for, she had it for about 90 days, and now it's gone."

Realm Works, their campaign management software, has been cancelled. Hero Lab will continue. And a new product, Campaign Theater, is coming soon.

Here's the full announcement:

"Lone Wolf is undergoing several major changes and I wanted to personally take the time to update everyone on what those changes are and how they will impact our users.

While Lone Wolf is a business, the company itself is comprised of people. And when it’s a small company, it’s more akin to family. There’s also our user community (you), which in many ways is like our extended family. Over the more than 20 years we’ve been creating software tools for gamers, we’ve garnered a significant number of loyal fans – fans who have been crucial to our success and whose ongoing support is greatly appreciated.

This sense of family was core to how we operated in the past, but when I got deathly ill three years ago, I strayed away from that. Now that I’m mostly back to my old self and finally completing my rehabilitation, I’ve realized we need to get back to those roots. You should see that shift reflected here in the increased level of disclosure and in future communications from myself and staff.

For quite some time, we’ve spread ourselves too thin across different efforts, and that’s been especially true for me personally. We’ve been doing an insufficient job at multiple tasks instead of a great job on a much narrower set. This has clearly hurt us. By implementing the changes outlined below, I fully believe we can get back to producing our normal level of quality products in a timely manner.

To start with, effective immediately, we are officially suspending work on Realm Works while we focus on improving our other products. Realm Works is “my baby”, and there’s a great sadness in making this decision, but the reality is that, despite our efforts, Realm Works is failing as a commercial venture with what limited resources we can put into it. There are quite a few things we could do to improve it, but that would require a significant investment of time and resources, neither of which we currently have.

Various aspects of Realm Works may begin to emerge within the Hero Lab Online framework in the future, but the Realm Works desktop product will not see further development at this time. Realm Works will absolutely continue to be available, and the servers will continue running, so the product will remain incredibly useful in its current form. However, for the foreseeable future, no more coding changes will occur beyond the significant bug fixes that went out over the past couple weeks.

Another big change we’re making is with our staffing. For quite some time, we’ve been leveraging investment financing to allow us to carry extra staff and pursue some varied objectives while we transitioned from Pathfinder 1st edition to 2nd edition. – one of which is on the verge of readiness (more on that in a moment). Alas, we didn’t get those projects completed within the investment funding time window (due to spreading ourselves too thin), so corresponding adjustments are now a necessity. We’re therefore saying goodbye to some excellent people, and that just adds to today’s pain.

Everything thus far sounds somewhat dire. So the obvious question is whether there’s any good news to take the sting out of the bad. Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding YES.

First off, Hero Lab Classic isn’t going anywhere and it just received a major upgrade in the form of native 64-bit support on both Windows and Mac. If you haven’t downloaded them yet, please do so, as you should see both performance and stability improvements. We also have several data packages ready and waiting for release. However, Apple has changed their rules and is now refusing to let us update our Hero Lab Classic iPad app, so the new packages have been held up while we determine how to appease Apple. We obviously want to release them on all platforms simultaneously, but we’ll need to come to an agreement with Apple before we can do so. We’ll provide an update as soon as we make some headway here.

For Hero Lab Online, Shadowrun 6th Edition hits store shelves in early October, and we’ve been working hard to launch support for it in the weeks ahead. We’re also preparing the big hardcover books for both Pathfinder 2nd Edition and Starfinder, not to mention some significant performance and reliability improvements. But the truly BIG thing we’ve been putting into place is something we’ve dubbed Campaign Theater™. We previewed it at GenCon in an early Alpha state and you may have seen the video promo on our social media. Since the preview, we’ve been fleshing things out and testing like crazy so we can debut it in time for the holidays.

So what exactly IS Campaign Theater? The goal is pretty simple. Bring all the power of Hero Lab, in a unified manner, to everyone in the campaign – GM and players alike. In HLClassic, we’ve long had the Encounter Builder to let GMs prepare scenes and the Tactical Console to let GMs run them. But everything within HLClassic is disconnected, and nobody can see what anyone else is doing during the game. While still quite helpful, there are major limitations with this approach. Now imagine a unified display of all participants in the current scene, with the GM seeing everything and players only seeing a suitable subset of information the GM allows. Any time a player makes a change to their PC, or the GM to a monster, everyone sees the update in real-time on their own device. And imagine having all your scenes prepped and ready to play out with a few clicks. That’s just the tip of Campaign Theater and what we’ll be starting with.

Some of you have mentioned this sounds a little bit like a virtual tabletop. Well, sort of, except that our focus is on all the detailed character/monster manipulation that VTTs don’t excel at and Hero Lab does. So there may be some similarities, but very little overlap. In fact, we’re developing these capabilities with the ultimate goal of integrating with VTTs, allowing those products to focus on all the tabletop visuals and Hero Lab to handle all the character mechanics in a coordinated manner. I like to think of it as the RPG equivalent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

We’ll have more to share regarding Campaign Theater in the near future, so stay tuned for that. As you can see, there’s still plenty to look forward to in the next few months, and even well beyond that.

In closing, allow me to say a big THANK YOU for your continued support over the years. It’s been extremely gratifying to create products that I love and to know that thousands of gamers are using them every week. Thank you for giving me – and the rest of the team here – that opportunity. It means more than we can express.


Rob Bowes, President"
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A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I remain a heavy user of RealmWorks and HeroLab and love the integration of the two products. I started using these projects when I first got back into gaming even though they didn't have a 5e license. I still have not found a better product for building homebrew campaigns. I expect I'll still get a lot of use out of these products for a couple of years, but I'm using DnD Beyond for all rules reference and charactersheets and I'm seriously following World Anvil. It really doesn't hold a candle to RealmWorks for home brew, but Frog God Games is doing some cool things with their IP where they'll be releasing it on World Anvil for others to create their own content in their setting.

I've put my home brew world on ice and have been running Rappan Athuk. Putting existing content into RW is a lot of work. If FGG puts their Lost Lands setting and adventures in World Anvil, I'll likely live with the limitations just to have access to all that content entered for me. Also, World Anvil is being actively developed and adding new features all the time. The risk of course is that if World Anvil goes out of business, you just lose everything. Even though RW is no longer being actively developed, I can still continue to run my games and create new content.

Even though I see myself moving away from LWD products (mostly because I play DnD 5e), I do wish LWD the best though. The owner and main developer, Rob, has struggled with serious health issues and seems to have bit off more than his small company could chew with the RealmWorks kickstarter. I hope they can focus on making Herolabs Online an excellent product and right their ship.

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Wow. That sucks. I love HL as an app, but I've never been very impressed with Lone Wolf as a company. This only cements my opinion that they, to all external appearances, seem simultaneously both great game app developers and terrible business people.
@Morrus, wasn't Lone Wolf the company you had the “Army Builder” kerfuffle with several years back? Great developers, but their business savvy sometimes wasn’t, well, very savvy...


Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
@Morrus, wasn't Lone Wolf the company you had the “Army Builder” kerfuffle with several years back? Great developers, but their business savvy sometimes wasn’t, well, very savvy...

That seems to the long and the short of it, they're like many people that turn their passion into a business without being business people first. I've seen many a comic book shop go down the tubes because a comic book fan wanted to run a shop, rather than a shop owner wanting to sell comic books.


The Laughing One
They've been in business for over 20 years, so I wouldn't not call them business people.

The "Army Builder" was due to protecting their Army Builder trademark, they have the term "Army Builder" trademarked. They were fighting "trademark genericization", more info here: Unfortunate Developments with Privateer Press - Lone Wolf Development Forums

I find this particularly funny, though accurate:
Colen clearly stated that we tried the super-polite approach when contacting multiple sites in years past. Every time, that approach netted us zero response. So we followed up those polite emails with something much more insistent that clearly indicated there would be ramifications if we didn't get a response. At that point, people responded. If the polite approach had worked in the past, we'd still be doing it. Since it has proven to be a waste of time, we stopped it in recent years.

"Army Builder" seems like an awfully general term to be legitimate for trademark. I remember when White Wolf trademarked a laughable number of terms in their WoD games. I'm sure some of those wouldn't have held up in court.

Honestly, I'm a fan of penalties for frivolous trademarks. If you try to trademark something you have no business trademarking, it would be nice if you had to pay a fine for it. But then again I feel the same way about legal contracts and that sort of thing in general.


The Laughing One
@Sword of Spirit I wouldn't be so sure, no one tried to contest that name in court for over 20 years, not even Privateer Press at the height of it's popularity (#2 at the time in minis). People could have used many different names for the same thing, but the most popular (is still around) was Army Builder. You could use army creator, army calculator, force builder, etc. Keep in mind that when this came to a head this was already in use for 12 years by LWD. How is it a generic name, what did this before 1998? Also, good luck using the word 'Apple' in anything related to music and/or computers. How much more generic can you get? But just about everyone in the world knows what that is and what it does. The same goes for SHELL...

I'm not happy with how trademark, but especially patents and copyright is handled currently, but I do see the side of LWD in this case.

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