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What Dungeons & Dragons Can Teach Us About Running a Great Meeting
June 8, 2020 |

As COVID-19 has turned our world upside down, people crave genuine human interaction (and treasure it) more than ever before. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dungeons and Dragons has made a huge comeback. Solidly part of the zeitgeist of today, D&D holds particular allure for the housebound masses… and I’m no exception.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer as a game master, or “Dungeon Master” as D&D refers to it, for a local games store. It has been an absolute blast, and something that we repeatedly hear is how it is a crucial outlet for people. 

After a particularly great game in which players and I had an absolute blast (there was terror, there were mysteries, and my face hurt from laughing over player shenanigans) I was struck with a thought, “This feels familiar, where have I felt this before?”


Wait really? Meetings and DMing?

Yup, really.  But not just any meeting. 

D&D is, after all, a ton of fun. Meetings are usually not. 

Except… once every blue moon, there are those highly engaging and creative collaboration sessions, the ones that you leave feeling charged and raring to take on a challenge.

While the goal of most meeting advice is "how do I make meetings useful and efficient?" which is valuable practical advice, it’s this rarer type I want to talk to you about. 

So, without further ado, here’s a few things that an exceptional meeting and a great D&D session have in common.

  1. The quiet ones have a lot to contribute, facilitate that. Some of the best contributions will come from the wallflowers. Be mindful of their presence and invite them in, but don’t force it.

  2. Working through conflicts. Emotions and conflict are real. In D&D we often crank the dial on this deliberately, but this doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. Work through it, and shared goals and struggles are the best bond. And a pint at the Inn can be worth a lot.

  3. Creativity thrives in adversity. Players are most engaged when I’m trying to kill them. Hard problems and real stakes bring out the absolute best problem solving. Don’t sugar coat, don’t flinch. Keep it real.

  4. Players will surprise and delight you… if you let them. Railroading, where the “path” that players go on is predetermined and forced, is a cardinal sin as a DM. Railroading a meeting is just as bad. If the purpose of meeting is to collaboratively problem solve, make sure it’s not all about running through YOUR preconceptions of what the problem looks like!

  5. All it takes is a good hook. As a DM, if you really have to “herd” players towards the goal you want, chances are your hook was not very good. Long winded monologue describing your overly elaborate setting? BORING. It shouldn’t take much more than a mysterious note, odd stranger, or juicy rumor to get players into the eponymous dungeons of D&D. If they would rather go shopping or try to adopt the goblin cobbler…. rethink how interesting your “hook” really is. 

It’s the same for meetings, you set the tone with your invite including the description of the meeting, and any (brief) materials you want people to the meeting having read.

I hope that gave you some inspiration for your next meeting. Looking for more thoughts on facilitating a great meeting? Check out our post on how better meetings can fuel a better culture.

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