The Creature Library
Reviewed by Rebecca Downey, copyright 2000
Where Can I Find it?
The Creature Library is available directly from Bruce Gulke at: http://pwp.starnetinc.com/akira/
in the "Downloads" section.
What is it?
The Digital Apprentice Creature Library is a freeware program from Bruce
Gulke, creator of the GM Notebook and Table Smith. The program is a Win-32
bit application, which functions equally well on Windows 95, 98 and Windows
NT. While it is a large (4,169 KB) download for those of us still using
33.6 modems, it is worth the wait and the bandwidth.
Hows the Install?
The Creature Library installs using a standard Windows-gradated blue
background installation program whose only configuration is the location
where the program will be installed. The Creature Library is empty when
you install it and according to the Help file if found with data, it did
not come from Mr. Gulke.
The installation in all three platforms (Windows 95, 98 and NT 4.0 Workstation
with Service Pack 6.0 installed) performed flawlessly.
The interface is best viewed in 640x480, 256 colors or better.
Image 1: The Start-up Screen and the Help menu are identical
but for the buttons at the bottom.
How Configurable is it?
The Creature Library has an intuitive interface that allows you to name
the displayed fields on the fly. It comes initially configured for Advanced
Dungeons and Dragons, but took me only a few moments to convert to Hârn
Master (Columbia Games Ltd) format. There are 20 data fields, 19 of which
can be renamed. The fields are defined as follows:
|Microsoft Access Field Name
||Original Creature Library Field Name
||What I Renamed the Field:
||No. of Attacks
Microsoft Access also identifies two other fields that help associate
the data to the category and roster type, but they should not be changed
directly. The Creature Library does not need Microsoft Access to function.
Data is stored to the Microsoft Access Database file (Creature Library.mdb)
every time a field is modified. This assures that no data can be lost by
the user forgetting to save a file.
Hows the Interface?
Image 2: Bill Gants Blackspawn creature detailed.
The main screen breaks into six regions:
- The large block of text on the left-most side is the Statistics Area.
It breaks down into three "pages" of information. Fields 0 through
9 are on the first "page" with the description and fields 11
through 20 are on the second page. Somehow Field 10 does not appear on
the Creature Database layout, but it is in the Microsoft Access Database,
and can be modified or left blank like all the other fields. It is interesting
to note that there are 21 fields and the Description (Field0-Field20+Description)
listed in the Microsoft Access Database.
- The topmost block of text on the right-most side is the Name Area.
It is a 48-character field allowing you to name the creature that the Statistics
- The next block down is the Category Area. This allows you to organize
your creatures by a more general topic Bill Gants Mythical Beasts, Horses
and Dogs. Some care must be made when modifying the name of the category
or deleting it. If you click on the X (delete button) in the category box,
all creatures in that box will be deleted.
If you click on the lock, (it appears depressed) when you change the
category, the creature currently displayed is copied into the newly selected
- The next block down is the Roster area. This allows you to organize
your lists to create custom lists of creatures for modules or wandering
monster tables. The buttons in this box only apply to the Roster category
and not the Categories or Creatures recorded within.
- Add: Adds the creature currently being viewed to the roster
- Remove: Removes the selected creature from the current roster.
- Clear: Clears the roster.
- The sixth area is hidden. If you move your mouse over the label "Creature
Library v1.0" three menu items are revealed.
Image 3: Page II displayed showing the Hidden Menu
This offers the ability to:
- Screen: Hides all the text data, showing only the picture (if
there is one) for the current selected monster, and its name.
- Help: Launch notepad to view the Help
- Exit: Exit the program.
Something Seems Missing
After an afternoon of playing with the program I had all of Bill Gants
Mythical Creatures in the program and began working on the various types
of horses and dogs in the world of Harn. It was then that I realized one
very special topic was not mentioned in the Help file, nor visible in the
interface. There is no way to use the Creature Library to print the Creatures.
For that, you need Microsoft Access, or some database program that can
read a Microsoft Access file. I opened the Creature Library.mdb file and
added a report that generated one creature per page:
Image 4: Bill Gants Blackspawn creature ready to print
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Now that Ive described the product, heres the good and the bad in
regards to its usability and functionality. Heres my take on things:
- The Creature Library is very easy to use and modify to better suit
your game system and your campaign. The roster organizer is the most ingenious
method of creating arbitrary indexes of monsters to fit certain campaigns.
- The hide-information-from-peeking-over-my-shoulder-PCs (the Screen
Button in the Hidden Menu) is a neat feature that will be useful to any
GM that has a nearby PC (Personal Computer) or visiting PCs (Player Characters).
- The Creature Library automatically alphabetizes the list of creatures
per category, regardless of the order in which you enter them. Changing
the name of a creature is simple (just double click on it), as is changing
any information. It is equally easy to move creatures from one category,
or roster, to another.
- Using Microsoft Access allows the user to customize their own look
and feel to the print out form they wish to use to display their monsters.
In addition, all the data is stored in one convenient file which makes
backing up the information and archiving it far easier.
- Field #10 in the Access Database does not appear in the Creature Library.
If this is taken as a Pro, it is obviously a super-secret field where in
GMs can store information they can assure no player ever "accidentally"
- The Creature Library will not allow you to view the image by moving
the displayable area around the surface of the image. While this is not
really a limitation, it should be noted that the display image size is:
3.14583 x 3.78125 inches or 79.904 x 96.044 mm or 302 x 363 pixels. This
information should be added to the help file, if possible.
Image 5: Displaying the Picture
- One must have access to Microsoft Access to create print forms, or
have access to some Database program that can read a Microsoft Access Database
- Field #10 in the Access Database does not appear in the Creature Library.
If this is taken as a Con, then it is one field of information not easily
modified or viewed through the interface.
The Creature Library is part of a suite of programs all available from
Bruce Gulkes web site that function independently, but are designed to
be used together. The Creature Library is highly configurable and, other
than the mystery of Field #10, the con points listed above do not detract
from the fact that the program is very easy to use.
On a scale of one to four stars, this product deserves a four. Its
exactly what the gaming industry needs more user-friendly highly configurable
utilities for gamers that looks good and runs well. Bravo Mr. Gulke.
Please post your comments on this review on the Software Discussion Board.
Where am I? Scrolls of Wisdom Vote for us on the RPG 100 Sponsored By Mimic Media & Data Systems.