Review of Player Minion & DM Minion by Goat Head Software

One of my all-time favorite quotes has to be from Arthur C. Clarke, when he asserted - “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And thinking back to how we used to play Dungeons & Dragons back in the 70s and 80s - using piles of hand-written character sheets and stacks of graph paper maps, surrounded by stacks of game manuals - as compared to today’s gaming table - with full color printed sheets from an online character generator, surrounded by lap tops and portable devices to look up rules in a knowledge-base Compendium - and it really does feel like technology has added a bit of magic to our favorite fantasy role-playing game.

And while DDI has truly offered a number of great resources for D&D 4E, sadly, the WotC development team promised more than they actually delivered. We never saw the Virtual Tabletop come into being until only just recently, and there was no development on tools for DMs and Players which were optimized for hand-held devices.

But thankfully, GSL allowed for other developers to create 3rd Party Apps for D&D 4E, and one such company has recently risen to the challenge. Goat Head Software has, over the past week, released two new apps for iPhone and iPad, Player Minion and DM Minion, which offer Players and DMs a bit of technology to add a bit of magic to their gaming experience!

Player Minion & DM Minion
Developer: Goat Head Software
Media: iOS for iPhone & iPad
Retail Price: $2.99 for Player Minion & $12.99 for DM Minion (both available now from the iTunes Store)

Player Minion and DM Minion are iPad/iPhone apps for Players and Dungeon Masters for use with D&D 4E. Player Minion is a full-service character sheet reader, providing information on stats, powers, feats and skills, condition and hit point tracker, and other useful functions. DM Minion is an adventure organizer, encounter builder, and combat tracker, which handles initiative, logs damage and healing, as well as conditions, action points, and surges for monsters and characters. Both apps also contain a dice roller for handling attack, damage, and skill rolls, as well as a generic dice roller for use as needed.

Production Quality
The production quality of the two apps is excellent, with the features set up in a very intuitive design, and effortless running on an iPhone/iPad. Both apps have functions separated into tabs to keep them organized, and the developers used colorful icons for many features such as the dice roller and condition tracker, to make the apps even more intuitive to use.

Of a slightly less intuitive nature, the use of these apps require a the app-user to sign-up for a free account on the Goat Head Software site in order to upload .dnd4e and .monster files to a database, which can then be uploaded to the portable device. However, uploaded files can be conveniently saved on the device locally, so that loss of internet connection will not impede the use of the data during a gaming session.

About Player Minion

In essence, Player Minion is a D&D 4E interactive character sheet. It contains nearly all the information that would be detailed on a printed 4E character sheet, but placed into a iPhone/iPad interface with additional functions and features.
The app gets all the data from a .dnd4e file which is exported from DDI character builder, and uploaded to an account through the Goat Head Software site. From there, when signed in with the app on a device, a list of uploaded characters can be seen, and those can be then transferred and saved locally on the device.

The character sheet is broken down into five tabs - Racial/Class Features; Ability Scores/Feats/Skills; Gear; Combat Stats/Defenses/Hit Points/Surges; and finally Powers. But beyond mere information from the character sheet, the app also allows the player to tap certain features, like ability scores, skills, and powers, and roll a d20 for a check or an attack, as even the damage dice on powers!
For instance, clicking a power brings up a power-card-like window, which shows most all the information such as flavor, attack and damage formulae, as well as effect text. And there are little d20s to signify that the app will roll out the attack and damage for you. Unfortunately, the powers are currently lacking build text, so that a special feature for, say, a Star Pact Warlock as opposed to an Infernal Warlock, on a power is not shown.

Powers are also set up that they can be flagged as used, and the flags do not disappear until the proper rest is taken – there’s a screen for that too! Despite a few shortcomings, it’s still a very nice set-up for running powers during a combat, and tracking them through an adventure.
The combat statistics tab s also very cool, with a big hit point bar which tracks damage, healing, and temporary hit points all in one display. Combat conditions can also be tracked here, and they have nearly every possible condition that a character might be afflicted with, including marks, curses, and quarry’s. The conditions can be set for a numeric value – such as ongoing damage – as well as a saving throw bonus, such as from a theme or racial bonus.

For a more complete player’s perspective on the Player Minion app, my colleague Tizzbin got a chance to try out the app this last weekend in my regular D&D game, and has written his own review in greater detail on the Neuroglyph Games site.

DM Minion

The DM Minion is a combination adventure planner, encounter designer, and combat tracker, all-in-one. Like the Player Minion, the DM Minion requires that information be uploaded to the app from the Goat Head Software site, and lets a dungeon master add both character files (.dnd4e) and monster stat block (.monster) files, exported from DDI’s Character Builder and Adventure Tools.

DM Minion has six tabs for major functions such as to Create/Save Adventures, Load Players, Load Monsters, Create Encounters, Run Combats, and Camp – this last one lets the DM track rest periods (short and extended), as well as surges, healing, action points, and milestones. There is also an options tab with one option – one initiative roll for same monsters – and a tab for rolling any combination of dice of any sided-ness. You can even create imaginary dice… want to roll 1000 d999s? There’s an app for that…
The interface is very intuitive to use, and it take no time to set up an adventure, upload monsters for it, and then organize encounters. Once the characters are uploaded and the monsters are placed in encounters, you can run an encounter, tracking initiative, damage taken, and combat conditions, for both characters and monsters alike. Monster stat blocks are transferred into the program, and like the player-character powers, can be selected and rolled in the app for attack and damage. Damage results can then be transferred to targets, allowing the DM complete tracking of the combat from both sides of the DM screen. There is even a log to keep track of combat events, for reference at any time.

Information about the adventure and its encounters can saved at any point, which is handy if a combat stops in the middle, or if an adventure runs for a dozen encounters. Like the Player Minion, action points, surges, and healing are tracked in a “camp” tab, allowing DMs to monitor these stats over the course of an adventure, even if it takes more than one session.

About the only problem I could find with the DM Minion was with the Condition tracker. There was no way to add a stance as a condition, but otherwise all other conditions are there. There was also no way to add a combat condition which lasted until the end of the encounter, although it is possible to add and track conditions which last until the end of a turn, start of a turn, or a save end condition.

Overall Score: 4.0 out of 5.0

Conclusions
I was really impressed with both of these apps, and I have no doubt that I’ll be using DM Minion in my D&D 4E games from now on. Certainly, there are a few issues at launch that need to be fixed, such as the condition tracking duration and the player power card missing build specific text, but overall, I think players and DMs with iOS devices will find these apps very useful to their gaming experience.

Pricewise, I think the Player Minion has a lot of bang for the buck, but the DM Minion is considerably more. But as long as the programmers at Goat Head Software continue to update and develop these apps, I think they are well worth considering for almost any 4E gaming group.

Except for ANDROID users – no word from the developer as yet, but I’m hoping we’ll see this pair of apps for non-Mac devices as well!

So until next review… I wish you Happy Gaming!

Author’s Note: This Reviewer received a complimentary copy of the products from which the review was written.
 
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Comments

Neuroglyph

Visitor
At the time of this article, I mentioned that I did not know if the developers of this app had plans for ANDROID users. I received an email last night from Ben Knoll at Goathead Software stating:

"As far as android devices goes, we will be finishing device compatibility testing this week to make sure we can run on most devices, so far Player Minion will run on everything. DM Minion has some issues on smaller tablet devices, still working out those small kinks. "

So good news for folks who use something other than iPhone/iPad... there are Player and DM Minion apps on the way!
 

Paul_Klein

Visitor
This was a good review. I just can't help but to say though that A.C.C.'s quote at the start of your article is one of my all-time least favorite quotes. Makes no sense. Magic does not exist; therefore nothing existing can be indistinguishable from magic. :p

Sorry for the tangent, and thanks for the review!
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
This was a good review. I just can't help but to say though that A.C.C.'s quote at the start of your article is one of my all-time least favorite quotes. Makes no sense. Magic does not exist; therefore nothing existing can be indistinguishable from magic. :p
The quote only works because magic doesn't exist. He's saying it might as well be magic for all we can understand it. He's using magic as a metaphor for that which we cannot understand.

It makes perfect sense as long as you accept that metaphors are not supposed to be taken literally.
 

EmbraCraig

Explorer
Sounds good - I've been looking for something for condition tracking and things in 4E, "Until end of next turn" effects seem to be something I can never keep straight in my head at the table.

How smoothly do you think it would work if you didn't use all the features, such as only the initiative/condition tracking, but not uploading character and monster stat blocks? Or using it for all the monster details, but not having Player character sheets uploaded?
 

SteveC

Adventurer
I was wondering if there is any syncing between the player and GM apps. I currently use iPlay4E and I love it, but the GM app has some issues when I've been trying to get it to work together.

I love the idea of using tablets to manager the behind the scenes details of a game, and if you can sync things between the two apps, I can guarantee everyone in my group will be an Android purchaser.

The idea that you can run your character through your phone will appeal to a couple of my players who sometimes forget their character sheets...
 

goathead82

Visitor
I was wondering if there is any syncing between the player and GM apps. I currently use iPlay4E and I love it, but the GM app has some issues when I've been trying to get it to work together.

I love the idea of using tablets to manager the behind the scenes details of a game, and if you can sync things between the two apps, I can guarantee everyone in my group will be an Android purchaser.

The idea that you can run your character through your phone will appeal to a couple of my players who sometimes forget their character sheets...
Hi SteveC, there is not currently any syncing between the apps. It was part of the original design and is on the roadmap but no ETA when it will make it in.
 

goathead82

Visitor
DM Minion 1.1 and Price Reduction!

DM Minion Version 1.1 is now available with a permanant PRICE REDUCTION!

Updates:
New easier to use Damage and Healing control
Add and edit players
Add and edit monsters
DDI imports are no longer requried for players and monsters
Revamped power attacks for more complex powers
 

RisnDevil

Visitor
Having a problem...

Ok, first, I just wanted to say thank you to Goat Head Software for releasing a lite/free version: I like what I am seeing but need to figure out a problem I am haing before I buy it. So, without further ado:

I am attempting to use DM Minion Lite. When I first launch the App I create an Adventure name (test for, you guessed it, test purposes). My first red flag is when I click "Create Adventure" and seemingly nothing happens: the adventure name DOES populate in the top right corner so I assume it worked. I move on to the next tab, Encounter, to attempt to build an encounter. I load the sample monsters, build an encounter with a random number and combination of them and click save: so far so good!!! Click the newly created encounter and run it (I do like the way initiative is set for players and handled behind the scenes for monsters). Go through a couple example rounds and actions: smooth sailing and very satisfied so far!! End the encounter, click around on some more options and exit the App: now the problem(s) begins.

When I leave the App for short periods of time everything stays loaded/configured/built/what have you. If I stay away for a larger amount of time, or kill the app through the standard means, it's all gone. I think to myself "Fine, I'll just load what I built and run it again," but there is nowhere to load the adventure I created. Nor is there anywhere to load the encounter I built; I can only recreate it. Do some more testing and try to create a PC: can't be saved without an adventure loaded. "Create" my test adventure, load the character and save it. Immediately exit out of the App (and completely kill it) and the adventure is gone now ALONG WITH the PC I built. Try to creat the same "Test" adventure to see if the PC populates as available and nothing. So here's my conundrum: can I PERMENANTLY build ANYTHING from COMPLETELY WITHIN the App or will I have to do EVERYTHING through the website and import it in after?

Here's hoping I'm doing something wrong.

RisnDevil
 

goathead82

Visitor
Ok, first, I just wanted to say thank you to Goat Head Software for releasing a lite/free version: I like what I am seeing but need to figure out a problem I am haing before I buy it. So, without further ado:

I am attempting to use DM Minion Lite. When I first launch the App I create an Adventure name (test for, you guessed it, test purposes). My first red flag is when I click "Create Adventure" and seemingly nothing happens: the adventure name DOES populate in the top right corner so I assume it worked. I move on to the next tab, Encounter, to attempt to build an encounter. I load the sample monsters, build an encounter with a random number and combination of them and click save: so far so good!!! Click the newly created encounter and run it (I do like the way initiative is set for players and handled behind the scenes for monsters). Go through a couple example rounds and actions: smooth sailing and very satisfied so far!! End the encounter, click around on some more options and exit the App: now the problem(s) begins.

When I leave the App for short periods of time everything stays loaded/configured/built/what have you. If I stay away for a larger amount of time, or kill the app through the standard means, it's all gone. I think to myself "Fine, I'll just load what I built and run it again," but there is nowhere to load the adventure I created. Nor is there anywhere to load the encounter I built; I can only recreate it. Do some more testing and try to create a PC: can't be saved without an adventure loaded. "Create" my test adventure, load the character and save it. Immediately exit out of the App (and completely kill it) and the adventure is gone now ALONG WITH the PC I built. Try to creat the same "Test" adventure to see if the PC populates as available and nothing. So here's my conundrum: can I PERMENANTLY build ANYTHING from COMPLETELY WITHIN the App or will I have to do EVERYTHING through the website and import it in after?

Here's hoping I'm doing something wrong.

RisnDevil
RisnDevil, Thanks for giving the application a try. The Lite version has two features removed: Importing from DDI and Saving\Loading Adventures to the device. The Lite version is more of a 'demo' just to play with the features of the application. The Full version supports everything the Lite does + DDI Imports and Saving. Saving in the full app is handled in two ways, you can either manually save by pressing a save button that is available on the adventure screen, the app will also auto-save when soft or hard(kill) closing the app to a separate Auto-save file so it does not override a manual save. The full version will allow you to build and save everything you have done in the app (in the middle of a combat too) without using the myminion website if you do not have a DDI account, it just takes longer to input all the data.
 

goathead82

Visitor
Mac and Windows Desktop support

DM Minion is now available for Windows and Mac desktops!

you can download it at goatheadsoftware.com!
 

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