Parents, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. One that cut the whining in my household down dramatically.
I have become the dungeon master of my own multiplayer campaign. But, instead of leading a band of adventurers to slay monsters in bloodthirsty battles, I'm leading the family into a war against household dirt. That’s where Chore Wars comes in. Chore Wars lets you claim points for household chores. By getting other people in your house or workplace to sign up, you can assign point rewards for individual tasks and chores. Even if you’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons or any other role-playing game, it’s fun — and productive — to rack up points competing against roommates, co-workers, or, in my case: the kiddos. It’s a great motivator. The whining has decreased and one of them has even been getting up early to claim all the points for emptying the dishwasher! Win-win!
The setup. Go to the site and set up an account. You will be the admin (in our case, both Paul and I are admins, which means we can set up new chores/assign points/etc.) Go have fun making up a character for yourself. There are several settings you can choose, depending on how public or private you'd like your group to be. Ours is private, but if you were doing this among coworkers or roommates, it might be fun to publish the results to keep better tabs on who's doing what! You can always change your nickname - which appears on screen with your character - whenever you want. (At right: Peter's character sheet. And yes, we know Trogdor is a dragon. The name was just too good to pass up.)
Make up a fun name for your group, and invite others to join. In our case, we are The Cleanup Crusaders. Now... this is where it's a little bit of a pain for those with small kids: you have to log out as yourself, and create a new account for each child. If they are too young to go online and log in their own hours, or if you want to oversee them doing it, make them NPCs (Non-Playing Characters). So, you will have to log in separately, each time you want to update any chores for any kid. That's literally the only complaint I have about this process, and trust me, the benefits far outweigh that one little thing!
Create a list of chores. There's a basic 15 that we started with, which I heartily recommend. Then you can tailor it after a day or two to add your own special chores and points. If there is an especially distasteful chore in your family, you can jack up the points and treasure to make it more enticing.
Rewards. At first, your kids are just going to be excited to participate, and compete for the most points. But there's more than one way to score at Chore Wars, and it's up to you and your family how you want to do it. Let's look at the three kinds of rewards and what you could assign to each.
XP: Stands for eXperience Points. Each chore has certain qualities that go with it. Something like vacuuming or mowing the lawn might require more stamina or strength, while paying bills or getting on the phone to negotiate something with the insurance company might require the use of more charisma and wisdom. The more chores you do, the more XP you get. And as your XP goes up, you get more points. In our house, whoever has the highest XP at the time we're going shopping gets to choose what flavor ice cream we get. Sounds like not a big deal, but on the last shopping day, one 7 year old and 8 year old managed to vacuum the bedrooms, wipe down both bathrooms, make their beds, clean their rooms, empty the dishwasher, and wash, fold, and put away a load of laundry, all in the same day, just to have the right to pick that ice cream flavor. In our house, it's ice cream; maybe at your house it's choosing a movie or what game to play on game night or getting a free download of a song on iTunes - whatever privilege would be most fun for your family.
Gold: Each chore comes with a random amount of gold that can be discovered when the chore is completed and logged. You can change these amounts as well. Our kids have done chores for quite a while now, but we struggled with how to give them an allowance and teach them about money as well. Now their allowance is based on the amount of gold they earn in the game. Whenever they reach 100 gold (or more), they may exchange it for a dollar in real money. Then I go in as an admin and subtract that amount from their profile and make a note of it in the game. The kids love this, and they get to see a direct correlation between the amount of work they do to help out the family, and the amount of money they get for their banks.
Treasure: For every chore, you can also assign treasure to find (and the chance of finding it). You can make up totally silly things, for instance, for recycling, we added "the golden yogurt container" just to be funny. However, as the game says, you can make those magic items correspond to things in the real world. From the help page:
Perhaps "fizzy potion" treasures could be used as free-drink vouchers, "golden dishmop" objects could be gained from washing-up and used as a "get out of washing-up free" card, or the younger members of your party could spend a pre-agreed amount of Chore Wars gold to buy a toy.
In our case, we will be gathering all sorts of coupons and vouchers for stores downtown, plus little toys and erasers and stickers and things, and putting them into a box we'll call the Treasure Chest. Each adventurer can surrender one of their treasures in the game for a real-life reward of their choosing from the Treasure Chest.
Are you convinced yet? If you decide to do this with your family, roommates, or co-workers, I would love to hear about how it's working for you!