Dungeons and Dragons Gaming RPG

DnD Isn’t Just for Geeks (Okay, Yes it Is)

Here’s a secret not everyone knows (although people who know me won’t be surprised) — every Thursday evening I make a 90-mile round trip into Anchorage to play Dungeons and Dragons with a bunch of people at Bosco’s Comics. 🙂 This week was the seventh week in a row and there are six more weeks before the “campaign” is over.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted to play DnD and my sister Mariella remembers me “forcing” her and our brother Ray to play when we were all teens, although I don’t remember that (probably since I wasn’t the forcee).

I almost got to play with John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall, and the other original members of Id Software about 20 years ago — I recall eating pizza and drinking Mt Dew all night long but I don’t remember actually playing. I think I was probably a spectator and not a participant.

I’ve been interested most of my life but haven’t ever been in a place where it was handy/easy to find a way to play. And while I’d read books about playing DnD and other RPGs, I was kind of intimidated about the idea of joining a group that had already played together, etc.

But a couple months ago I stumbled upon mention of a thing called Dungeons and Dragons Encounters — it was a 2-hour per week game lasting 13 weeks where everyone started from ground zero. And yes, they welcomed complete newbies to the game — no experience necessary!


They let me pick from a stack of pre-generated characters and not knowing what I was doing I just picked the one on top — Jeskan, a Dragonborn Cavalier. As a defensive character my job was to lead the way into a fight and get the monsters to pound on me while the other members of the party picked them off.

Okay, I was also trying to kill the monsters, but a defender often takes a lot more damage than the other characters.

Last night my character was killed in battle.

(Pause for a moment of silence…)

In fact, the entire party was killed! Part of it was due to the roll of the dice, part of it was a battle strategy that was flawed.

To keep the game going everybody in the party has two choices — either come back next week with the same character, but with some penalties added, or come back with a brand new character.

While I liked Jeskan, I had grown a little bored with playing a defender. It seemed like everyone else had many different cool attacks while I could only slash someone with my sword or breath dragon breath on them. And the dragon breath could only happen once per fight (I guess I had to recharge between blasts).

So I’m taking this opportunity to switch characters and roles. Instead of a defender I’m going to be playing a striker, which mostly deals in offensive strikes to single targets at a time. A striker will use magic or trickery to move around the combat field and strike at those who need stricken.

The character I’ll be playing is named Zibit and is a good male Drow (dark elf). His usual weapons are a scimitar in his main hand and a short sword in his off hand. He also has a hand axe he can use as a throwing weapon if needed.

While it’s not cheap to make the round trip to Anchorage every week, I don’t have a lot of other hobbies and I don’t buy booze or heroin, so I kind of think it’s okay. It’s a fun escape for a couple hours a week and it also gives me lots of ideas I can use in stories and games, so I think it will show a business benefit, too.

Hmmm…maybe I can say it’s “research” and take the trip off my taxes as an expense? Gotta check with the accountant on that one…


America’s Army Cheats

(This is not a marketing post, it’s a gaming post. Well, except it has some lessons that can benefit your marketing, so…)

I’m sitting across the room from my son who is fending off enemies and accusers in an online game called America’s Army (v2.5).

Enemies: Those characters in the game who aren’t on his team.

Accusers: People behind the characters who insist my son is “running cheats” because he’s killing them left and right.

He’s not hacking America’s Army. He’s just that good. 🙂

My son is more of a computer user (okay, power user) than a programmer — while he could be doing something behind the scenes that I don’t know about, I think it’s unlikely. He’s using one of my laptops and knows if he’s caught hacking an online game he won’t just be kicked off the game server by the admin, he’ll be kicked off of ALL online gaming by me, Dad.

So how is he that much better than the other guys? I think it boils down to two major things (and these are the things that can make a difference in your marketing, etc.)…

Perseverance – Tom was not an expert when he started out, but he loved the game and kept playing it. In fact, he spends more hours per day playing America’s Army than most people do working.

Sidebar: No, his Mom isn’t happy with that and I wouldn’t either except I’ve been the same way my whole life — when I become interested in something I throw myself into it and that’s the way I’ve been able to have cool hobbies and careers during my life. There *are* ways to monetize game playing and Tom and I are starting to explore those things.

If Tom played AA an evening here or there, or just on weekends, he’d still have gotten better, but it would have taken much longer and he still wouldn’t be to the level he’s at now. Only by immersing himself in the game has he been able to make such huge strides.

Optimization – There are several panels of settings for America’s Army 2.5 and Tom has taken the time to find out which settings give him fast reaction time when switching weapons, targeting enemies, etc. And he’s not done tweaking. Just a day ago he was trying different settings to see if they had any effect in his game playing and he’ll continue trying different settings to see which ones have a positive effect on his gaming.

When he makes a change that slows down his wins, he changes it back or tries a different setting. When he finds something that increases his wins, he keeps it. Simple, but most people don’t “go to that much trouble” — they maybe tweak a couple settings to start and then just play with those from then on.

Sidebar: Back to gaming in a minute, but for the marketing side of things, imagine what could happen if you threw yourself into your online business and worked on it for more hours than some people think is healthy — you’ll probably get a lot better, much faster than anyone else. And then you start tweaking the sales process, etc., using tools like split-testers and optimize your business so it’s working better than your competitors.

Most people “start an online business” and then just play with it an evening here or there and some weekends. And most people don’t do any optimization other than “I think this is better than that” — which is useless.

Very little work, and very little (usually no) optimization. And they wonder why other people are beating them? They accuse the people who are having success of cheating, of hacking the system.


Tom’s good at America’s Army because he spends a lot of time with it. And he optimizes the settings to shave off a fraction of a second here and there. He has some other tricks I won’t mention here but he doesn’t cheat.

In the next few weeks he’s going to put together some of the techniques he uses and offer them for a really low price so others can try them out and see for themselves how optimizing the system can make a difference.

Of course, spending practice time is still up to the individual. 🙂