Monday, July 29, 2013

Adventures in Geek Parenting: Chore Wars

The Setup

We're trying to replace assigned chores and allowances with Chore Wars. Keep in mind that allowances are already earned on a per-chore basis under the old system. You only got paid for what you did and could document. (Just like real life!) The old system had a number of assigned chores equal to each child's age and they earned $1 per chore completed for the week. We were open to negotiating extra pay for extra work were either child really needing to generate some income. But I don't know that the option was ever exercised. Maybe once by the teenager?

For Chore Wars I'm moving away from assigned chores 'cos that doesn't fit the gamification aspects. Once it's assigned it becomes a true chore, not a game-like challenge. It's possible the kids will even start to compete with each other to maximize their own earning potential. It's also possible to cooperate, but it's up to them to work out who gets credit for what within the Chore Wars system.

Also, rather than an all or nothing for the week approach, you can claim the vast majority of chores (or Adventures as Chore Wars calls them) once per day. This also means that rather than being worth $1 if completed for the week each chore is worth $0.10-$0.25 with a few particularly challenging Adventures still worth $1 per (cleaning a bathroom for example). There's also a random element in the pay out, most adventures have a range for the "gold" you earn upon completion, which the system determines randomly.

My idea here is to encourage daily tidying rather than a weekly mad-dash. One side effect being if you sweep the office today and you also swept it yesterday it should be much easier and you can earn your chore pay out that much more quickly. But we have to hit a certain critical mass of actually doing stuff before the lesson clicks.

Every time I sit the kids down and explain how things are supposed to work, we see an explosion of activity. But this quickly falters after a day or two. They say it's because I hardly ever pay out. But I say I see no point in paying out when they've barely earned $1 for the week. This weekend I made my pitch again. And the teenager has really dove into the task. The 9 year old is still kinda draggin' ass. But maybe he'll get there eventually.

Current Experiment

I say all that just as back-story for my actual purpose in writing this. In addition to the in-game gold system I'm basing pay outs on, there's an XP system and a treasure system. I'm brainstorming on ways to leverage those for added incentive to actually do chores and log them daily.

Another goal here is to build family memories. So I'm trying to organize/structure evening family activities around that goal. Then offer incentives based on the Chore Wars system. Currently my thinking goes something like this.

Organized Family Activity Time

I'd like to set aside 7 to 9pm each night for family activity time. There are some assumptions already built into this. On work days I get home around 5:30. If we can get dinner served by 6:15 or so then we can have the dishes put away by 7 and dive into family activity time. This also assumes the house is at least tidy enough to be livable if not perfect and the kids have all their school work done. If this isn't the case we all pitch in to get there. Family activity time ends at 9 so if we don't have our collective act together then we all pay a price.

Each week night has an assigned activity. I haven't gone so far as to assign these to a specific night yet, but the 5 structured activities I can come up with are:

  1. Board Game Night
  2. Reading Aloud Night
  3. Netflix / TV Night
  4. Music / Jam Session Night
  5. Video Game Night

The weekly leader in terms of XP in Chore Wars gets to pick the specific thing we do within that night's activity. Saturday and Sunday nights are freestyle, and the XP leader gets to pick both the type of activity as well as the specific thing we do that night. There's also random treasure items that we collect. I'm considering allowing those to be bid to hijack the normal XP leader process. Or maybe make them worth a temporary XP bonus for the purpose of calculating the winner for the day.


We've tried stuff like this in the past and it has never stuck. Essentially it only takes one of us to go all Negative Nancy on the idea to derail it for the rest of us. Also making a schedule and sticking to it is hard, you guys! The gamification elements are new and hopefully will help motivate us to actually stick with it. I have not budgeted in time for things like an exercise routine. So getting that in there piles the assumptions even higher than they currently are. Once we try to roll this out to production we may have to reduce family time to 90 or 60 minutes. But that will limit the choices available for some of the activities. Maybe that's part of the weekend freestyle. We can play longer games or watch longer movies or whatever. That gets a little easier to pull off 'cos the school work should still be done from Friday night. We'll see.

Future Development

If the incentives for experience points catch on there's added arbitrary challenges we can introduce. The Chore Wars system already allows you to claim partial or bonus XP for any given Adventure, the mechanics of which are left up to the users. So, for example, completing a task while whistling may be worth 25% bonus XP while walking backwards throughout the task may be worth a 50% bonus. Do both and claim double XP. Introducing such things at this point would just be adding complication to a system we're still not yet fully using. But it's good to have ideas to grow on as needed.

Chore Monster

For anyone thinking of trying something similar, there is an alternative to Chore Wars that seems a bit more modern and app based: Chore Monster.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Necessary Evil's power system as an adaptive framework for super heroic gaming in Savage Worlds

One of my favorite aspects of the core Savage Worlds rules is the adaptability. There's no "exotic weapon" training, just pick your weapon (including bare hands) and make a Fighting roll. If you wanna model being particularly good with a certain weapon or fighting style there are Edges to do that.

This carries over to the magic / power system. There's no Magic Missile or Acid Arrow. You get Bolt. That can model any magical power that deals damage to a single target at range. The rest is just window dressing. And that's handled through Trappings. One character can use a fire trapping while another uses an acid trapping. The end result is still some mofo is takin' 2D6 damage from across the room. Accept no substitutes.

If you want your Trappings to have an actual mechanical effect there are ways to add that to your games. That sort of thing is usually left up to the specific setting.

Necessary Evil introduces a whole new power system to handle the sort of street level comic book action not really possible under the core rules alone. Thankfully they carry over the adaptive powers + player chosen trappings. Not only does this allow players to model a wide variety of super power concepts from a fairly concise set of rules, it often also supplies multiple possible ways of getting your intended power, depending on how picky you are about how the specific game mechanics play out.

For example, Gru's freeze ray from Despicable Me. That is most certainly a Device, which qualifies it for a 1 Power Point discount for ever 5 Power Points invested into it. (This is a fairly universal Modifier in the Necessary Evil powers system.) But how exactly should we invest those Power Points?

We could just call it Stun with a cold trapping. As a Device that costs us a single Power Point! The Shaken status isn't a perfect fit for what we see in the movies but you get what you pay for.

Another option is a level of Attack: Ranged + Elemental Trick: Cold for a final cost of 4 Power Points after the discount for Device. This version does damage and "slows" the target by lowering their initiative order, still not exactly what we see in the movie. But it fits the general idea of a "freeze ray" very well.

Or we could go with Ensnare + Ranged Attack modifier. This gets us much closer to exactly what Gru's gun does for the same 4 Power Point cost as the previous option.

Finally, we could combine Paralysis and a level of Attack: Ranged via Paralysis's Extra Range modifier for a total cost of 7 Power Points after the discount for Devices. This is the most expensive option, but also gets us closest to what we see in the movies: targets physical covered in ice and completely unable to move for at least a few seconds.

Personally I wouldn't sweat the exact mechanics of it all and just go with the 1 point Stun with cold trapping option. I mean, Gru's gonna need every extra Power Point he can muster to pay for all those Minions. ;)