Monday, July 19, 2010

Role Playing Your Way to Fitness

In my last post I talked about an idea that I had to motivate myself to improve my physical fitness. Since this was an opportunity to improve in other ways too, I set out to develop a simple roleplaying style system that would allow me to track my progress and improvement in several areas. I used my knowledge of D&D and since I’ve heavily modified the rules of the game in the past it was quite easy to design a spreadsheet that did everything that I wanted it too using the basic rules of the game. Since I wasn’t quite sure the extent of the activities that I would want to track, I made the spreadsheet in such a way that it was quite easy to add a new activity type to track.

Developing the spreadsheet only took a couple of hours. I started with a basic D&D character sheet on the first page. It has the basic character information: name, race, class level, xp, traits (i.e. Strength, Wisdom, etc.) and abilities. I thought of adding feats and merits and flaws, but I thought that keeping it simple was the way to go.

The next step was to define some of the rules of the system. Some of these rules come straight out of D&D. The six basic traits are the same as the D&D ones with the bonuses that come from them calculated the same as well. Abilities are a set of skills that will garner bonus XP for activities. Each one has a trait that goes with it (i.e. the Aerobic ability goes with the Constitution trait) that gives a bonus (or detriment if your trait is low enough). Rather than using abilities to determine whether or not an action was successful, they instead award bonus XP when you complete an activity. This way, you can increase the amount of XP you gain for certain activities as a way to motivate yourself to gain levels faster.

The next thing that I did was to start making a list of activities. Each activity has an ability that goes with it (i.e. Jogging goes with the Aerobic ability) and a rate at which it awards XP (i.e. Jogging gives 5 points per 10 minutes). Once I had a decent list of activities and a pretty complete list of abilities, I went on to define the races and classes. I knew that your chosen race would adjust your trait scores (similar to D&D), but I didn’t quite know what a class would do for you. In D&D, your class effects your combat ability, the amount of abilities you get and a number of irrelevant items. I wanted the system to be fair, so I didn’t want a rogue to get more abilities than a barbarian (like in traditional D&D) because then a rogue would get XP so much faster. I looked back at what Ken Denmead (see my last post) did in his system, and thought that I could use a similar idea. He gave each class two bonus skills tags (I won’t explain tags, I didn’t employ that idea), so I thought that I could give each class two bonus abilities instead. This would help differentiate each class and would help someone specialize their character in two abilities to gain more XP in those two areas.

Right about now I was feeling pretty good about the completeness of the system. I entered the day’s activities as a way of testing the system and after a few minor adjustments I called my work complete. I tracked the next couple of days until I got home from my business trip. I showed the system to my wife and she was on board. We discussed the goal (level 10) and the Major Prize ™ and settled on something we could both agree upon. We also made a couple of minor changes to the system and added a bunch of activities that she thought of that I hadn’t. The game was afoot!

We weighed in and started tracking our activities, I started over in order to be fair (I had amassed some XP in my testing days). It hasn’t been too long, but she is leading by about 10%. I’m not too worried about the deficit. I think that I can bridge the gap and the game has just begun anyways. I would like to mention that my mother-in-law and my wife have also begun a separate challenge between the two of them. They aren’t using the same D&D style system, but their system is points based as well. I’m not privy to all of the details of their challenge, but I know that their activity list is different and I’m sure that the point values are too.
I plan to post an update in perhaps a month to let you all know how the system is working out. If you are interested in having the spreadsheet, please leave a comment with your email (or contact me privately if you know me personally) and I’ll send it out to you.

I’ll post some screenshots in the space below, so keep reading if you’d like to see them.

Favorite song of the moment: Supercommuter – Itty Bitty Pigeons

None of these screenshots show the inner workings of the spreadsheet, if you want these details contact me and I will send you the sheet. It works pretty much on formulas and lookups without the use of macros.

This is the generic info for a character. The race and class boxes are drop downs for easy entry. The XP boxes will also automatically fill themselves out based on your activities and level.

These are the character's traits. All you have to do is enter the score you have and the bonuses will be automatically calculated. The zero at the bottom is the number of traits you have left to distribute among the six options. Instead of rolling, I chose to allow manual distribution starting with each score at a 10 (then modifying for race) and giving 18 points for distribution. Also, at every third level you get an additional point (i.e. the zero will change to a one automatically at level three).

This is the list of abilities for a character. You start with six abilities to apply in the ranks column and you will get six at each level. The number in the bottom row will update when a level is made showing how many ranks are left to assign.

This is a sample of entering activities in the sheet. The activity boxes are all drop downs allowing for easy data entry. The types then are automatically filled out based on the activity and the points will be automatically calculated when a volume is entered for the activity. The bonus is also automatic as is the total. One issue is that if you add ranks to a skill, the total will automatically adjust, hence the banked points column. You must hand enter this and it will update the XP on the character sheet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Geeky Fitness

So, lately (who starts a blog like that?) I’ve been feeling less and less good about the shape of my body. Not just my physical shape, but also how fit I am. I get winded too easily and I don’t feel as energetic as I think I should. Sure, I could blame my sleep apnea on my constant tiredness, but I don’t feel like it is all to blame. You see, for my job, I sit in a chair eight to ten hours a day. That’s a lot of sitting. When I go home, I play with my kids and eat dinner, then help put them to bed. After that, I might sit on my butt again for another hour or two before bed. That’s when I’m home. Since I’ve been travelling regularly to California, when I get off work I go to the hotel and sit for the rest of the evening. If you add it all up, I’m sitting for over 14 hours a day while I’m not at home. Not acceptable.

I’ve decided to do something about it. Since I’m a problem solver at heart, I went about coming to a solution in a methodical manner.

First step, identify the problem. Easy enough, I’m not in shape and I want to be.
Second step, identify a goal. Also easy, get in shape. Okay then. Now comes the hard part.

Third step, identify a solution that will attain the goal. I know from my history that I don’t like going to the gym or exercising on my own. Even the Wii Fit has failed to keep my interest, though it worked longer than the other two items. You see, the problem is that I don’t feel motivated to do these things. Sure, I want to change, but change is hard and I’m quite lazy. Just the desire to change isn’t motivation enough to do so. I needed something new that would motivate me to accomplish my goals.

I also happened to be reading the book, “Geek Dad”. In it are many geeky projects and activities for parents just like me, geeky. Starting on page 79 is an idea on how to get your kids to do their chores, do better in school, etc. The idea is to create a character sheet for each child and they gain XP by completing pre-defined tasks and objectives. The outlines in the book are very good and are loosely based on D&D. For those of you who know me well, you know that I’ve extensively modified the D&D rules for my own use in the past and the idea that the author, Ken Denmead (editor of the blog by the same name as the book), describes to motivate your kids greatly intrigued me. I finally had a rough idea of what my solution would be.
I began brainstorming ways to use Ken’s idea and my own experience to devise a system that would motivate me to get healthy. I quickly decided to broaden my scope from just physical fitness to other areas that I wished to improve in (more details in a later post). I ran the idea by my wife and she was tentatively on board to make it a competition. I suggested that the first person to level 10 (since we’ll be characters that can level up) would win and get a Major Prize ™.

I began work on the system. I was so excited that I did the whole thing in one sitting this week. It only took me about two hours to get the spreadsheet up and running. It’s a simple version of the character sheets that I used to create in Excel for D&D. Stay tuned for more details on the spreadsheet in my next blog entry.
I’ve done one full day so far, so I’m not sure how fast I’ll make it to level 10. I’ll keep you all posted as to my progress.

Favorite song of the moment: MC Chris – MC Chris is Dead

I keep wanting to type MC Christ… :D

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Back in Business

Hello people on the intarwebs. I know that I haven’t posted since September (and in that post promised more posts to come), but who cares? It’s not like anyone reads this anyways… no, don’t hit the back button…I do want you to read my blog.

Anyways, I would like to state my intention to write at least ten entries before the year is out (that’s two a month for those keeping track). I have the next three or four entry ideas in my head and even have the first one written already (I’m not going to share it today, I’d like to re-read it first).

I think that I’ve set myself an attainable goal and with all of the travelling I’ve been doing lately, I think that I’ll actually have the time to put the jumble of words in my head into a somewhat cohesive string for your perusal.

That’s it for now, stay tuned for my upcoming post. It should be a good one.

Frink out.