Sunday, June 13, 2010

House Rules

The book I bought Matt for Father's Day, and then thoughtlessly left in the hotel room for him to pack, is called Geek Dad (by the editor of the Wired blog of the same name).

I have, uh, occasionally before, well, been guilty of that greatest crime among bibliophile families, too horrendous to name without hysterical laughter -- oh, ok, I quite often buy Matt books and then read them before he gets around to them. This time, though, I was better -- I only skimmed a small part of the book. The part on how to make your kid's chores into an RPG!

I didn't like the book's version, but I thought the idea was great. Thomas is a sucker for games. And don't think I'm taking advantage of Thomas's tender age and gullibility. He totally knows this is a scam to get him to do his chores, but he does it anyway because they're more fun this way, and it concretizes (in points) the idea that we keep telling him, that if he keeps doing these things and practicing, they get easier to do (but perhaps not less boring).

I made the thing up two weeks ago (according to Google Docs, which knows all). Today Thomas put his dishes away after every meal, took the dirty sheets off the bed, and put away all his clean clothes by himself, which is pretty much a miracle around here. He got tired about halfway through the laundry, but was just starting to ask for help when he said, "I know! I'll put away all the pajamas first, then all the shirts..." He was so excited to have a strategy for how to finish. (Big projects tend to overwhelm him.) And I don't have to beg and plead any more: I just say, "Of course I can help you, but then you won't get your XP, since you won't have practiced doing it by yourself."

He's got lots of in-game rewards, the simplest of which is getting to roll a die every time he completes a quest. Rolling a die is fun! He gets an out-of-game reward every other level, half of which are just going out to dinner. And he has a small chance of getting a treasure when he rolls the die, and treasures can be collected and traded in at level-up time for real rewards. (So far he hasn't collected enough of anything to get a real reward; the odds are relatively low.) Right now one of the best motivators is knowing that every time he goes up a level, he gets to level up his character and he gets two new quests. And that's the great thing about RPGs: getting new tasks to do is the fun part!

RPGs are very educational, right? The name of the game is "House Rules".

Thomas's character sheet. He picked his character's name:

Laentz Lopt, level 5
Race: Dragon
Class: Chef (gets 1 xp bonus for every quest in the kitchen)

  • Strength 2

  • Constitution 3

  • Dexterity 2

  • Intelligence 4

  • Wisdom 3

  • Charisma 3

Laundry rank 1 Outdoors rank 2

Kitchen rank 2 General skills rank 2
Bedroom rank 2 Playroom rank 1


  • "Monday Madness!" Take out the small recyclables bin on Monday night after dinner (3 xp)

    • Requires 2 Int, 2 Wis

    • Roll D20; on 10 or less, collect 1 Reusable Gold Bottle

  • "Bathe the Roots!" Use the watering can or hose to water all the garden plants [once per day] (3 xp)

    • Requires Outdoors 2, 3 Wis

    • Roll D20; on 10 or less, collect 1 Medicinal Herb


  • Mop the floor (2 xp)

    • Requires General skills 2

    • Roll D20; if 10 or less, collect 1 Magical Mop


  • "Find the Floor!" Floor is clean - no books, toys, or clothes on floor (3 xp)

    • Roll D20; on 1, collect 1 Arcane Scroll

  • Put away 1 laundry basket of clean laundry into the right drawers (2 xp)

    • Requires 2 Dex, 3 Int

    • Roll D20; on 1, collect 1 Stray Sock

  • Strip bed (3 xp)

    • Requires Bedroom 1, General skills 2, Strength 2

    • Roll D20; if 5 or less, collect 1 Stray Sock

  • "Librarian quest" Sort books on floor into hardcovers, paperbacks, board books, readers, and chapter books. Put on the right shelves. (2 xp)

    • Requires Bedroom 2, 4 Int, 3 Con

    • Roll D20; if 5 or less, collect 1 Arcane Scroll


  • Push wet laundry into dryer (1 xp)

    • Requires Laundry 1

    • Roll D20; on 1, collect 1 Stray Sock


  • Wipe down the table after a meal (1 xp)

  • Put plate, cup, utensil into dishwasher (1 xp)

    • Requires Kitchen 1

    • Roll D20; if 5 or less, collect 1 Mystical Kiss

  • Mop the floor (3 xp)

    • Requires General skills 1

    • Roll D20; if 10 or less, collect 1 Magical Mop

  • Wipe the counter (2 xp)

    • Requires Kitchen 2, General 2, 2 Dex

    • Roll D20; if 10 or less, collect 1 Magical Mop


  • Put away toys (2 xp)

    • Stay on task whole time! (3 xp bonus)

    • Requires Playroom 1, Constitution 2, Charisma 3

    • Roll D20; if 5 or less, collect 1 Arcane Scroll

XP: 47 +
Arcane Scrolls: 2
Stray Socks:
Mystical Kisses:
Magical Mops: 2
Reusable Gold Bottles:
Medicinal Herbs:


65 xp: Advance to level 6 (New dinner set!)
3 Arcane Scrolls: Choose 1 new book at bookstore
4 Stray Socks: 1 new shirt
1 Mystical Kiss: 1 chocolate chip
3 Magical Mops: 1 child-size broom and mop
1 Reusable Gold Bottle: 1 home-squeezed lemonade

4 Medicinal Herbs: plant for Thomas's room

Level rewards:
2: D20
4: Space Aliens trip
6: Kid's dinner set (you choose!)
8: Space Aliens trip
10: Stuffed character toy
12: Space Aliens trip
14: $5
16: Space Aliens trip
18: Candy making set
20: New board game or RPG!