Pig-Faced Orcs: Design Lessons from Old-School Role-playing Games

Can designers learn anything from old-school role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Traveller? Sure!

Designers of all kinds are getting comfortable applying principles of game design to non-game applications. Many of those principles date back to the early days of role-playing games, from Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson's first edition of D&D in 1974 to less well-known games like Runequest and Traveller. Game designers have been revisiting these early works and extracting wisdom from them, and I'd like to bring some of those lessons to the user experience community.

In this deliciously nerdy talk, I'll present user-experience lessons from old-school gaming, including the role of showmanship in constructing an experience, how imperfections and missing pieces can increase engagement, and the difference between sandbox and railroad designs.