So, here’s the first confession: I’m an über nerd.  I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) since I was about 16 years old.  It was also about that time (possibly coincidentally) that I also became engrossed with computers.  Not just watching my fake family die from dysentery, cholera, snake bites or drowning, but actually how they worked and why this was important.

In High School, I had a job with a few good friends and still had some free time.  What’s a teenager to do with some free time, friends, evenings off, while still maintaining a clean criminal record?  We decided to give this Dungeons & Dragons thing a try.

Defining Roles

Part of the deal with a new D&D group is punishing someone deciding who will be the Dungeon Master (the “DM”).  Where everyone else gets to read parts of one book, the DM gets to read that whole book and two others.  Your job as DM is to provide the game bounds and guide the characters on their adventures. Done well, it’s like collective story telling with some randomness added.

Looking back, the parallels between working in Information Technology and running a D&D campaign have striking similarities.

Party Balance

Confidence and a little bit of showmanship are key attributes of a DM.  You are the center of attention most of the time as you weave the story and outline possible paths.  Understanding and enforcing the rules is important, but even more vital is keeping the players working together.  This can be especially difficult based on their experience with the game, the varying personality types, and the jobs or alignments they’ve chosen for their characters.

Thinking back, this isn’t any different than working with an IT Team.  There are going to be people who know more than others, each will different skills, and their personalities can be just as varied.  Leading a team like that can be frustrating, but also incredibly rewarding.  The different skills create a great “party balance” and the different levels of experience offer multiple perspectives when solving a problem.

Come to think of it, creative problem solving is also something that crosses the boundaries of Dungeons & Dragons and Information Technology.  Given a situation (dragon in a tower or storage array tray failure) you need to work together to try and find a solution.

Planning

Some would argue that being a Dungeon Master is only as difficult as taking the time to do the reading and planning.  Sure, you can pick up a pre-written module, but you still need to read through it and prepare.  Planning is key as it keeps the process (or story) moving forward.  Keeping tabs on various players, settings, and key items is just as important as getting updates on teammates, inventory, and project status.

My past, in both IT and D&D, have influenced each other in more ways that I can count.  In a game a few years ago, my wife was playing as an elven bard.  Basically, her role in the party was to poke fun at the other players and keep things moving forward.  If the players were sitting on their hands debating opening a door, she would kick it in and keep the game moving forward.  Whether she knew it or not, she was acting as my Project Manager – keeping the process moving.

Check back for part 2 soon.