What D&D Taught Me About Finance

I admit it: I’m a geek. I’m not a hobby geek who only geeks on the weekends. I’m a full-fledged, licensed and certified geek. I am a geek about so many wondrous things that it’s hard to list them all. My wife knows, my kids know. It’s not much of a secret. One of my many geek qualifications is my sordid history of gaming. Role-playing, tabletop only. If that’s gibberish, it’s okay. Nobody needs to understand my geekitude but me.

I started playing Dungeons and Dragons more than 15 years ago. There were no live chickens or human sacrifice. Just a small group of geeks, proto-geeks, pseudo-geeks, and the occasional nerd playing DnD in a poorly lit room for several hours. We laughed, we cried, we fought evil, saved the world, and raised the stock price of an assortment of caffeinated beverage companies.

As the man said, I told you that, so I could tell you this:

DnD taught me many things.  It taught me THAC0 calculation, dice-identification, and the fact that no woman, anywhere, considers tabletop roleplaying to be an alpha-male trait.  “I’m a level 73 kinder warrior-mage-thief” is not a pickup line anywhere in the world, even Gen-Con.  Remember that.  Also remember, the singular of dice is die.  If your are talking about one, it’s a die.  Get it wrong and I will throw a bag full of dice at you and make you dig out the purple, sparkles-like-a-vampire, 27-sided die from among the hundreds of other dice.

DnD also taught me some surprising things about the world of personal finance, which is not a part of a planar campaign.

All the best toys cost too much. At the current exchange rate of 10 silver pieces(sp) to 1 gold piece(gp), potions of extra healing will drive you into debtor’s prison.  Just as a sword of extra-slaying +10 will cost you everything you earned raiding that castle for the last 6 Wednesday evenings, so will a big screen TV set you back a full month’s salary.  Don’t risk your life or sell your life’s energy for something fleeting, just because it’s “the best” or the newest gadget, geegaw, or artifact.

Pretty Lady

Never sell your soul for a castle or a horse. When the Baatezu come to offer you a “no money down, 0% for a year, all-expenses-paid, surrender-your-first-born” deal for a castle or the prettiest horse in the park, take a cue from the former First Lady.  Just say no.  Spending money today that you have to pay for tomorrow is almost always a bad idea.  Don’t spend your soul, spend your savings.  Don’t buy something until you can afford it.  A Lexus or an Arabian, a mansion or a rambler.  Are any of them worth auctioning your future?

Your armor isn’t stronger just because it’s shiny.  A suit of Full-Plate of Protection-From-the-Charms-of-Bar-Wenches +5 may look pretty, but it’s not going to help against the orcs, kobolds, or trolls unless, of course, they are wearing skirts and sitting on a bar-stool above a sawdust-covered floor.  Does the shiny new iPod really provide a benefit, or is it just a shiny gadget to woo the ladies?

A good sword is necessary to keep your stuff. This is a not a call to self-defense, or mugger, err, orc-slaying–though why that’s ever viewed as a negative is beyond me.   You need to be aggressive in defending your loot.  Call your credit card companies and demand they turn over the booty, err, lower your rates.  Tell your friends to step away from the Diamond Ray of Disappearance, err, expensive outings or you will chop off their heads, err…no wait, that one can stay.  I think my friends may be scared of me.

The promised reward for completing an adventure isn’t the only way to make money. Sure, the local duke(your boss), may be willing to pay you a chest of gems(your salary) for defending the town from the ravages of the Tarrasque(your job), but that isn’t the only way to make money.  You could do your job, collect your pay, and go home at night, but why?  Don’t forget to pick up the loot along the way.  If you spot the shiny penny, grab it, whether it’s abandoned gold, a new idea for a niche-blog, or a chance to turn your leisure hobbies into money.  There are thousands of ways to make money outside of your day job.  Every one will help your bottom line.

It takes cunning to slay the dragon. When tackling your debt(dragon), wading in swinging your sword may be emotionally satisfying, in the short term, but long term, it’s just a painful method of reminding yourself that you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.  Make plans.  Have a strategy.  Come out a winner.  Then, sit down for beer and dragon steak.   Goal-less, plan-less attacks fail in the long-term.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Personal Finance.

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  • 8 comments

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    1. We play/played D&D! My favorite character ever was a half-Orc named Balkthrasha (named after the Orc god of bashing heads together). We would be in a group right now, but it’s hard to get a non-flaky D&D group together so we are in several board gaming groups instead. It’s almost as fun…plus I can talk more about real life without ticking everyone off. :-)

      I think your financial lessons are hilarious…I never “invested” in potions of extra healing either (lol). I did invest quite a but in magical weapons and armor though.

      D&D also taught me about time management…I had to fit in all of my college stuff when I could so I could show up for the impromptu gaming sessions that popped up.

      D&D and board gaming are inexpensive hobbies as well – a $50 board game every couple of months or the new versions of D&D books printed offline. Magic cards are where the big expenses pop up. I don’t play MtG well, so it’s mainly my husband’s thing. He spends most of his “fun” money on boxes and they are always a great present idea if I’m stumped. I get a kick out of watching him open new packs…like a kid in a candy store. :-)

    2. It’s been years since I’ve played. We all grew up, moved away and had kids. It’s hard to run a regular game around babies.

      From the beginning, I DM’d more than I played. It always seemed to work out better that way.

      Most of my friends got into Magic, but I always looked at it as “whoever spends the most, wins”. I bought my first deck(actually, my first 20 or so) last summer at a garage sale. All sorted by theme and in mint condition. Now, my son doesn’t want to play. :(

    3. We have 60,000-70,000 Magic cards in our house right now…about 45,000 are my husband’s collection. I sell the rest as repacks on Ebay as my husband sorts through everything. If we run low, we buy huge lots on Ebay and then start all over again.

      If your kids continue to show no interest, there is a huge market on Ebay to unload your packs. Just make sure you don’t sell off your rares too cheaply! :-)

    4. Oh, and it’s not how much you spend, it’s the combo of cards you have. My husband spends less than every other guy he plays with, but he wins about 50% of the time since he makes incredible combo decks with commons and uncommons – he doesn’t use that many expensive rares. He loves working on deck ideas as a way to relax. I don’t get it, but to each his own…

    5. I know we’ve got good decks, right now. The guy we bought them from was a bit obsessive, until all of his friends realized they had no chance and lost interest. :)

    6. Poor guy…chasing off the competition is never a good idea. :)

    7. “I’m a level 73 kinder warrior-mage-thief”

      What kind of DM lets you live that long? :)

    8. “There were no live chickens or human sacrifice.” Wait, was I playing it wrong?!?

      J/K! I recently found an old box full of my old AD&D books as well as other games like MechWarrior. Ahh good times… No dates, but good times.

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