Tag Archives: medieval

Dungeons, Dragons and Lawyers

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Zack Carlson, 28, is a district court attorney by day. Come the weekend, he’s a dungeon master. One of the Omaha native’s favorite pastimes—Dungeons and Dragons (D&D)—allows him to swap his suit and tie for imaginary armor.

D&D requires a group of players to simulate fictional characters of their own devise in a fantastical setting. Popular styles of play incorporate elements of board-gaming, such as moving token pieces around a game board and rolling dice. Carlson compares the game experience to being in a Game-of-Thrones-style world in which one’s friends can also participate and make decisions. “It is awesome,” he says.

D&D1The game, first published in 1974, shares themes with mainstream fantasy staples such as Lord of the Rings and World of Warcraft. For many players, including Carlson, playing D&D is about more than just an interest in the fantasy genre—it is about the community of individuals who share in that interest. Carlson explains that D&D differs from playing online games because “It is in the flesh. You have to physically be there.” In-person presence creates a social atmosphere that appeals to many players.

Carlson considers D&D a catalyst for friendships that transcend the game. “I have made many friends this way,” he says, noting that he has played with people from many different professional backgrounds. His D&D gaming friends include a doctor, financial professional, research scientist, military personnel, and a police officer. His college fraternity house even had a D&D group (his first). He says that his gaming groups have not been gender exclusive, despite the prevailing stereotypes that D&D is for guys.

According to Carlson, the many misconceptions that persist today about D&D are not as misguided as they have been historically, when some concerned observers likened the game to a cult. Popular contemporary television shows, such as The Big Bang Theory and Community, now depict D&D players as nerd chic, geeky hipsters rather than Satanists—but nerds nonetheless. Players are thought of as people who are “not charismatic,” according to Carlson. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth,” he says. “D&D is a social activity.”

D&D2D&D requires that groups of players collaborate to devise creative solutions to problems they face in the game. They might work together to defeat a monster. Characters might also clash sword-to-sword. “There is a competitive aspect to it,” says Carlson. Role-playing a character requires ad-libbing. “It can be kind of like improv comedy,” Carlson explains. “You get into ridiculous circumstances by everyone building off of one another.” Social interaction is the vehicle that drives the plot forward.

Carlson reports that D&D uses much of the same skill set that he uses when practicing law. He explains that in both law and D&D, an arbiter settles disputes on the rules and interprets those rules when necessary. He notes that lawyers and players must be able to think on their feet. In law practice there is a real element of chance/randomness to any lawsuit, because it is impossible to know exactly what an attorney will find in discovery or what will happen at trial. In D&D chance is simulated with dice, which generates suspense.

Still, Carlson says his co-workers joke with him about being a nerd. “But it is good-natured,” he says. Although he does not go around telling people he plays D&D, Carlson does not deny it either; he even recruited another attorney from his office into his current D&D group. Carlson says, “nerd culture is becoming mainstream.”

Visit dnd.wizards.com for more information. B2B

The 2016 Misery Olympics

I love the term “Misery Olympics” and wish I’d thought of it first. Google it and you will get “about 660,000” results, but who has time to get to the bottom of that rabbit hole? Basically, the Misery Olympics represent the braggadocio of overachievers.

Laura Vanderkam wrote an article in the May 16 edition of The New York Times that references this phenomenon with statistics from the June 2011 Monthly Labor Review. The MLR, a publication of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, found that people estimating 75-plus hour workweeks were off, on average, by about 25 hours—in other words, they WAY overestimated. It turns out, based on self-reported time tracking, many people work far less than they think they do.

Why do we brag/lie/misestimate/overestimate about working so many hours? Wouldn’t working fewer hours be much more brag-worthy? Are we still so chained to 20th century ideas about work and self-sacrifice that we believe the Misery Olympics are worth winning?

I coach many entrepreneurs who are especially stuck in this cycle of over-work—real and imagined—that is entirely of their own making. They find no solace in their “gold medals” anymore. The thing these entrepreneurs worked so hard to avoid has become just that: a job.

Is it possible to boycott the Misery Olympics?

Important question. The famed millennials may have the key. They don’t “get” the correlation between productivity and time spent in a cube because they produce differently: faster and simpler. They leverage technology and, most of all, put family and friends first. The lines between work and play, socializing and networking, are much more fluid. And their lives are—based on my own four millennials—much less miserable.

Ready to boycott the Misery Olympics? You can!

I’m working with a client in Philadelphia whose primary goal in 2016 is to run his contracting business entirely from his boat, a salty 43-foot trawler named “Slow Poke” that he sails in Chesapeake Bay.

A long-time client and old friend has structured his market-leading commercial cleaning company so he can spend much more time with his wife and five children (ages 3-13) and much less time in the office. He and his family are now writing a book and launching a website to help other families follow suit.

I took my own advice and experimented with my own business—I wrote this article from a beautiful medieval town in northern Italy where I have worked and played all summer.

So, how does it feel to be a big loser in the Misery Olympics? Pretty terrific. B2B

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, a coaching, consulting, and search firm.

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, a coaching, consulting, and search firm.