Everything I Need To Know About Business I Learned from D&D

I am a firm believer that the heist caper is a basic model for old-school RPG play, and ACKS encourages playing out other more legitimate kinds of enterprise (running a mercantile trading outfit, building a fortified village) as well as the established criminality of managing a thieves’ guild.

None of my real-life business dealings would make for interesting roleplaying even by the standards of Papers and Paychecks*, but they have given me the experience of trying to work with both gamers and non-gamers to set up a collaboration and get something done.

Role-playing gamers tend to have two fundamental skills. I take it for granted that we apply these skills to all areas of our life, so it is bizarre and alienating when I am in a meeting with non-gamers who don’t follow suit:

  • We are all part of the same party, working for a common goal. D&D teaches us not to let personal agendas or enmities get in the way of looting the treasure and splitting it up fairly.
  • When the dice have been rolled, you have to accept what they say. RPGs teach us to accept facts that are not what we would have wished**, and look for ways around them instead of hoping the facts will change if we complain or barging along despite all evidence to the contrary.

Folks who’ve been exposed to my conversation for any length of time are likely to have heard me say this before (unless they took sensible precautions like listening to their iPods throughout), but Tim Hutchings seemed to think this was deep and essential at breakfast during the ACA/PCA conference so I’ve posted it here. Note that it may be interesting to think about gamers who share these virtues (like you, dear reader) but not to speculate on the folks who don’t that I’m referencing here: trust me, that’s deadly dry Papers & Paychecks territory of the kind you’d venture into only in order to get paid.

*P.S. This is a worthy Papers & Paychecks scenario:

**RPGs which violate the “no backsies” design principle  advocated by Invincible Overlord are thus demonstrably morally pernicious.

4 Responses to “Everything I Need To Know About Business I Learned from D&D”

  1. 1 D. H. Boggs
    April 16, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Well said Tavis!

  2. 2 aromero5
    April 17, 2012 at 12:38 am

    As much as I’d love to serve as spokesmodel for “no backsies,” I believe you may be thinking of Jeff Rients or maybe Zack S. or Scott B. However, I may be entitled to wear my bikini and sash for systems that settle things definitely and let you move on, rather than creating a gooey void of brainstorming on what maybe actually happened unless someone has a better idea, as if the designer was sitting at your table, clucking at you — systems that “get out of the way” so that the table can move on and deal with the fictional realities. My organizational experience is in schools, where some of the most pointless meetings of this century take place regularly. Dungeon ethics should apply here too, and don’t. It’s frustrating, there are balrogs and amulets to be dealt with.

  3. April 17, 2012 at 12:50 am

    I am convinced that this is your sash and bikini, Rientsworthy though it may be. The “no backsies” principle was lucidly proposed by you, although perhaps attributed to a friend of yours, during a discussion of A Copper Sea while Lady Gaga played on.

  4. April 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Old D&D is like small business, where you’re almost certainly going to go broke. New D&D is like big business, where you always get bailed out.

    Yes, that’s right, I’m saying 4th edition caused the financial crisis.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

April 2012

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