The Dungeon Manager

The Dungeon Master holding court.
  • Creating a rich world that supports the campaign
  • Guiding the players in ways that align with their unique character skills
  • Obeying and interpreting the rules of the game

Product Management as World Building

Product managers can apply game mechanics to the work of product development, but more importantly they can apply the goals of a game master to the work they do each day.

Macro Arc, Micro Arcs

The Adventure Zone podcast has redefined tabletop storytelling in podcast form.

Product Vision

Like a game master, a product manager has to understand the vision and arc of a product. A few key questions to ask:

  • Where must the product go in the future to be successful?
  • What market forces (competitors, clients, etc) are at work that must be overcome?
  • How will it best serve key users?
  • Most importantly, what does the team and company unwaveringly believe in?
  • How will the product change the world in six years?

Open World

Skyrim actually procedurally generates infinite new side quests.

User Appropriation

When a product gets into the hands of actual users, unexpected things tend to happen. Users may find a feature confusing, or they may even use it differently than it was designed. Of course, a team may release a feature that no one uses.

Here Be Dragons

Here Be Dragons just meant “unknown” on the map, not necessarily danger.
Friend at the Table Wisdom.

Iterative Design

Leave space in the product. Navigation, page layouts, and text/content will change as a product team learns and builds more. Leave space for the product to grow and expand. If there’s no more space, consider breaking out the product into companion applications.

  1. Does it solve an actual problem?
  2. Can our users actually use it?
  3. What should we add to the feature now?

Leveling Up

A Dungeons & Dragons Character Sheet

User Onboarding

A good product should guide a user through the act of using it. Using tools like Intercom’s Campaigns easily allow a product to “speak” to a user as they take necessary steps to engage with the product.

Non-Playable Characters

NPCs act as signposts and delivery mechanisms to guide the player.

Humanizing the Product

Tools like Intercom, HubSpot and chatbots are quickly introducing a human element into the onboarding and engagement activities of modern products. Bots and messengers can help provide in-app signage, guideposts and helpful tips to users. They shouldn’t replace a human interaction, but can do wonders for helping remove roadblocks for users.

Steal from Everywhere

Luke, use a constitution saving throw!

No Really: Steal from Everywhere

Inspiration really is all around. Great products and apps launch every day and ideas can come from everyday interactions. Look for patterns, find what works, and find ways to incorporate similar patterns. Don’t copy for the sake of copying, but look for what solves problems that the product is currently struggling with.

And Most Importantly…

Write a story you believe in with people you care about.



I facilitate product teams towards better outcomes. I care about productivity, process, usability, personal growth, music and games. come nerd with me.

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Jon Arnold

Jon Arnold

I facilitate product teams towards better outcomes. I care about productivity, process, usability, personal growth, music and games. come nerd with me.