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With the rapid rise of D&D, many are finding themselves in the role of Dungeon Master (or DM). As they are discovering, being a DM is a challenge. While the players only have to concentrate on their own characters, the DM needs to play the entire world. Where this challenge really becomes evident is in combat encounters. You often see DMs with multiple pages bookmarked across several reference guides so that they can flip between monster stats and abilities, ready to quickly cross reference spells and conditions, all while rolling dice, doing the math and keeping track of initiatives. It’s pretty crazy. Worst of all, what should be the most fast paced part of the game, gets bogged down and tedious.
So it comes as no surprise that many DMs resort to technology. At the very minimum a die roller app helps to roll any combination of dice. Online references provide search to monster stats, spells and other rules. But as I returned to DMing, I found that these tools, though useful, were essentially a digital version of the same page flipping, die rolling and calculating I was doing before in an analog format. The only difference was that I was changing browser pages rather than real pages. It was better, but only a little. When I looked at a monster’s stat page, I just wished I could click on its dexterity if I needed a dexterity saving throw, or its attack action, if I needed an attack. Why couldn’t I just click on the name of the spell or condition and get a quick reference. It seemed to me everything was there, but just not tied together.
So I searched the Internet. I did find powerful virtual tabletops like Fantasy Grounds. But these platforms were overkill for what I was looking for. I wanted something simpler and preferably free. I didn’t need the online player support. My players were all at the table with me. I just needed to be able to quickly look up monsters and be able to have one-click results and references to resolve attack, damage and saving throw rolls. Ideally I’d be able to do this all from a mobile phone if needed.
Unable to find what I wanted, I decided to build it. Blacklich was my gift to myself. By taking freely available SRD and Tome of Beast content, Blacklich combines die rolling, saving throw calculations, stats and reference lookups with single click ease. From the first time I used it in a real session, it was a significant improvement on how I had handled encounters. I was now more able to focus on story and less on mechanics. An attacking Ogre is now just a simple click. Blacklich generates both attack and damage results with all modifiers included. If an Ettin has advantage, an advantage button makes two attack rolls and picks the better of the two, vice versa for disadvantage.
For greater flexibility I added the ability to create or edit monsters. Maybe I needed a stronger than average Orc, say an Orc Leader. I take an Orc as a template, adjust the abilities and save. Voila! Now I had an Orc Leader ready to engage!
To facilitate the addition of monsters, I enabled Blacklich to read common D&D ability descriptions and automatically create the appropriate, 1-click, die roll button. For example, if you create a "Bite" action with the following description (e.g. Blue Dragon)
Melee Weapon Attack: +12 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (2d10 + 7) piercing damage plus 5 (1d10) lightning damage.
Blacklich will create an attack button that rolls a 1d20 + 12 to hit and then roll 2d10 + 7 of piercing and 1d10 for lightening damage.
Similarly, if your Mage Lord has a list of spells, simply listing them out, like:
“fireball, fly, counterspell”
...will have each one automatically linked to a reference page.
Knowing that Blacklich would benefit many others, I have made it freely available and even added the ability to share your own creations.
So there you have it. I hope Blacklich proves as useful to you as it has to me. I love this game and now it's even easier to play. If you have any ideas on how Blacklich might be improved, please let me know!