Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Power IRL Powered by D&D

I wrote this for school, but I wanted to post it here so others could use it, also, example of how I'd like to use games to explain concepts of leadership and development. -Brie

The illustrations on this page are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License by John W. Sheldon.


The best way for me to understand the different types of power was to put it into perspective of a fantasy roleplaying game. This might sound lazy, but it helps me remember it better and gives me perspectives.

Did I list druids here? Of course not - their power is more fluid in nature and depends on their interpretation of their magic, at least partially. I would consider them to have something like reward/referant. They're a weird cookie.
Some of the main archetypes or roles in tabletop fantasy games are paladins, clerics, fighters, wizards, rangers, rogues, and bards. They each have different ways of moving about the game and taking actions, and have different abilities. When reading over the types of power initially probably four years ago, the following role assignments stuck out to me:

Paladins have legitimate power. Legitimate power is "the authority granted from a formal position in an organization" (Daft, p. 370). Paladins are typically given a role of power from their chosen deity, and can occupy a position in a church, as well. They are literally assigned power. With this, they can take actions themselves, as well as call others to action. To use this power, a paladin (or someone in real life) could call back to their own authority and speak to how their actions reflect the intentions of that authority.

Clerics have reward power. Reward power is "the authority to bestow rewards on other people" (Daft, p. 371). Clerics are also religiously-based, and can give people healing or blessings with deific magic. They have the ability to reward people for heroism through those blessings and through healing and recovery. A cleric (or someone in real life) might use reward power by promising that if a certain goal is met, there would be monetary, emotional, or needs-based reward.

Sassy fighter is sassy - and coercive.
Fighters have coercive power. Coercive power is "the authority to punish or recommend punishment" (Daft, p. 371). Fighters are typically combat based and often brutal and violent. Their typical modus operandi is to go punishment first. (Shoot first, ask questions later.) Their work is mostly done with threats! Fighters (or people in real life) could use coercive power by promising retribution should people not follow their orders and satisfy their goal requirements, and follow up on it if there is failure.

Rangers and wizards have expert power. Rogues also have this power. Expert power is "the authority resulting from a leader's special knowledge or skill" (Daft, p. 371). Both wizards and rangers are experts in their fields, with deep knowledge of whatever it is they do. Wizards are academics, while rangers are more on-the-ground and experience based, and very skilled. Rogues have many skills but are more jack-of-all-trades in a lot of cases, which makes them have a lot of generalized authority because they know at least a little bit about almost everything. These type of archetypes (or people in real life) can use their power by explaining the facts and support behind the requested actions and goal-focus, and use their knowledge to propel action. 

Rogues know where it's at (in your safe, that is).
Bards have referent power. Referent power is "authority based on personality characteristics that command followers' attention, respect, and admiration so that they want to emulate the leader" (Daft, p.372). Bards are charisma based (mechanically and conceptually) and can guide people however they see fit. A bard (or person in real life) could use their power by speaking to ideals and behaviors that they hold and ensuring that others know the value of those, inspiring them to act to also carry those goals and behaviors into their work and personal life.

Legitimate, reward, and coercive power are hard power because they are all about control. If you do this, I give you or take away this. If you don't do this, the whole authority will know you defied them. They are concrete things that immediately threaten or promise things, or simply force authority on people, and that makes them almost immovable. Soft power like expert power and referent power are explanatory and guiding instead of forcing, and therefore can lead people towards success or goal-meeting without making them feel like they have no choice or making them feel like they have to do something instead of wanting to do something, because it makes sense or satisfies some higher-level need.

What kind of power would a dragon have compared to a barbarian? It depends on the dragon, frankly.

Daft, R.L. (2015). The leadership experience. (6th ed.). Stamford,CT: Cengage Learning.

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