Richard Bucker

management by dungeon master

Posted at — Oct 24, 2016

I’ve read a number of books on management; herding cats and management by baseball come to mind but neither speak to my personal experience in management at different levels.


When I was younger I played traditional pen and paper Dungeons and Dragons. I played for many years and many variations of the game. Many times I was a player and others I was the dungeon-master. All of that fun came to an end when I was about 35 (and still playing geek games).

I read an article on the subject of “being a better DM”. The conclusion of the article was basically this. Good Dungeon Masters cheat to keep the players interested, engaged and to direct the players in the direction of the story line.  When you think most dungeons are random they are to an extent. Either you keep battling random monsters until you find your way or you die.

And so looking back at herding cats and management by baseball and debugging the development process… while sometimes you fire the rockstar for the sake of the team… there are managers who simply refuse to promote or reward the right people essentially cheating. 

The difference between cheating in the game is that it JUST a game. Where cheating in the workplace is contrary to the social and business contract between employee, company and management. As a manager you have the responsibility to be transparent; set clear career development plans and goals; and provide timely, fare and accurate reviews. And let’s not forget plenty of carrots when appropriate. As a manager if you cannot promote or champion an employee you have a responsibility to the employee and the company to “rinse and repeat” or to separate.

Management by dungeon master is not a desirable trait and in my personal experience it’s only happened twice in the same company.