I may have written about this previously, but one element of my new item system that I am very excited about is “ITEM ALCHEMY“.
First, just a refresher and some vocabulary. In my classroom Items are Powerup Cards that students can earn in a number of ways.
- Randomly earned during common classroom missions (routine content based activities)
- Can be purchased with silver that is earned during missions and during battles
- Found hidden around the actual school building
- Rare cards can be earned by going on specific quests (like going off to find some powerful magic item in an MMORPG).
I also have a system of character cards that I call The Enthralled. These are historic figures that have become enchanted by our Big Bad and form an army that attack students. They become the students’ allies if they are defeated during a Skirmish (more here Battle Mechanics: Skirmishes) The character cards can also be purchased.
To play a card students need to “ACTIVATE” the card prior to its use. This means writing a “spell” or creating a “talisman” (more here Activating Items). The basic principle is that students need to think about the meaning of the “primary source” that the card is based on and then summarize its importance before they can play it. The summary takes the form of either through a short poem (spell) or simple drawing (talisman). When I realized the educational twist to the item mechanic I wanted to be able to get students to make connections between cards as well; both between the primary sources and the enthralled historic figures and primary sources.
What was born was the ITEM ALCHEMY System. Students can combine 2 (or more) cards to create a new and more powerful spell. I modeled this a bit on Skyrim’s Alchemy system which is where I get the name. The following posters are now in my classroom and the first has the outline of the alchemy instructions.
The second poster has pockets that students will put the two proposed alchemy cards into. The will then Title the new combination, write a Spell (no Talismans) and the desired effect. If 5 students check the boxes the combination is then sent to Mr. Powley and I get to decide if the effect is “Overpowered” (or “OP” in the gamer vernacular), violates the spirit of the XP system, is too manipulative of the overall game, or has a poor connection between the cards. In these cases the Alchemy will fail. The students get the cards back and can try again.
This is a bit of a risk/reward mechanic for the students. They get a chance to create a potentially powerful effect but it cannot be so unfair or manipulative that the other students or myself will reject it. There is a risk of lost time and the opportunity cost of the lost ability to play the individual cards while the Alchemy is taking place.
We have just been on a 3 week Hurricane break and the students are just being introduced to this ITEM ALCHEMY. I am excited as to how it will be used and how effective it will be!