Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Dungeons & Dragons, the fantasy role-playing game published in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, has come a long way from its early days as a niche hobby. Now, it’s entered the mainstream, with web series like Critical Role having millions of views on Twitch and YouTube and new players discovering the game every day. I’ve been playing for about three years now and finished running a year-long campaign for a group of friends not too long ago.
A post about Dungeons & Dragons on a productivity blog might not seem to make a lot of sense at first, but D&D has real-world applications for a happier and more harmonious workplace, and some employers are embracing the idea of a monthly game night.
So what is Dungeons & Dragons?
Distilled down to its essence, D&D is about telling a story together. Players work together to solve unusual problems in creative ways - the only limit is your imagination (and what the DM, or Dungeon Master, allows). Although players in a game are facing goblins, werewolves, ogres, and the like, the collaborative problem-solving skills necessary for a smooth D&D session can translate well to the workplace. This article from Mentor Works even takes an interesting look at how different D&D adventurer classes like barbarian, wizard, and bard can correspond to roles in an office.
Like a good workplace, a good adventuring party is made of diverse characters with different backgrounds, perspectives, attributes, and strengths – no party can consist entirely of damage dealing fighters and not have a healer, for example, and no adventurer can succeed alone.
Players can create characters that let them use their own strengths, or they can try playing as someone entirely different from themselves and look at the world through a new perspective. Different characters may have individual goals, but also come together to achieve a larger goal over the course of a session or a campaign, just as a social media campaign for a company has many components and different people doing different tasks, all with the end-goal in mind.
D&D for communication and adaptability
This goal-oriented group problem-solving also relies on effective communication. If you and your party are facing down a cyclops and you have a plan for dealing with it, that plan has to be communicated to your party members in a way that everyone understands. Furthermore, players in D&D aren’t playing against each other and no one person can “win.” If everyone is having a good time, that’s a win. D&D encourages cooperation and active listening, just like a team meeting in the workplace.
D&D also requires flexibility and adaptability, especially for new players. A veteran player might know the stats and weaknesses of every beast in the Monster Manual, but players who’ve never encountered an owlbear won’t know how to deal with one right off the bat and may make mistakes. The beauty of this is that these mistakes occur in a consequences-free setting and afterwards, players can reflect on what they might do differently next time, an important skill for both life and work. This can help encourage a corporate culture of openness and admission of errors, in which people feel comfortable enough to ask for help or support when things go awry. A coding error in a new program doesn't have to be the end of the world when you view mistakes as learning opportunities.
Interested in D&D but not sure where to start? This video from Vox provides a good introduction, while D&D Beyond lets you create an account for free, although you do have to pay for materials beyond the basic rules. One of the many great things about D&D is that you can do sessions remotely if meeting in person isn’t an option. If we can work remotely, we can have fun remotely, too.
Looking for another great way to make connections and get more done? Use this link to register for September 13th's Bigger, Better Bubble and find your focus!
I’m a full-time university student, part-time Focus Bubbles host, and part-time D&D dungeon master. When I’m not playing Dungeons & Dragons, I love meeting new people, hearing their stories, and getting new perspectives on life. I love Focus Bubbles because they help me protect my time and do deep work. I can’t wait to see you in a Bubble!