PCGen attempts to relieve that burden. It is a Java-based character creation tool, and can build anything from a first-level Fighter to a fifteenth-level Vampiric Fiendish Half-Dragon Hobgoblin Wizard. It incorporates all of the 'core' D&D rules, as well as many optional rules from third-party publishers.
Because it is written in Java, PCGen is portable and will run on any system which runs the Java runtime environment. It is also somewhat sluggish and the interface is often a bit quirky or non-standard. It also has something of a learning curve, as it can be unintuitive and clumsy, as it is a product of many minds which do not always share a common vision. Further, it has had to grow and adapt to the ever-changing rules structure of D&D since the new edition came out in 2000; incorporating psionics, epic powers, and even deities into the engine has meant a lot of functionality has had to be hammered in at odd angles.
At the simplest level, creating a character involves setting basic attributes (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth), choosing a race (Human, Elf, Minotaur...) and a class (Fighter, Wizard, Psion...). The program adds the class to the base character and allows you to pick feats and skills. It manages all the rules--you cannot take 'Cleave' until you have 'Power Attack', for example, and you cannot take levels in a Prestige Class intended for elves if you are a gnome. Users can edit all of the rules--they are in plain ASCII files--to change this, or add any features they wish, from new feats to new classes.
The feature set is impressive--if your character has a familiar or animal companion, you can generate it. You can easily create custom magic items and equip them. You can create multiple 'sets' of equipment and swap them around, with the program tracking your encumbrance and all that it affects (such as your Jump skill). Output can be to PDF, HTML, or ASCII, and there are many different output sheets to choose from.
The utility of PCGen is directly related to how much D&D you play. If you have one character, it can be useful for making sure you've done all the math properly. If you play in several games, or change characters a lot, or especially if you are a Dungeon Master, the program is invaluable. (It also supports D20 Modern, the modern-day/science fiction variant of D&D.)
PCGen is not without its bugs, some of which have been long-lasting. There is an active development team constantly fixing the program, but the complex edifice of Dungeons & Dragons rules, and the mountain of legacy code which has built up over the past eight years, can combine to make maintenance difficult. The bugs are mostly found in obscure options or are minor errors in the raw data; there are few system crash level errors.
Note: This program is a tool for the tabletop (paper & pencil) version of Dungeons & Dragons, not any online or electronic version.--Ian Harac