Sunday, June 2, 2013

The time I took a telemarketer on a dungeon crawl

Image from iStockphoto (obv)

Image from Detras de la Pantalla
Recently, I was telling a good friend of mine about the time a telemarketer called me and I took her on an impromptu dungeon crawl. I have spent a lot of time thinking about ways I could have done a better job of it, so when my friend suggested that I blog about it, I decided it was time to revisit this geeky moment in my past.It was the summer after I had graduated from college. I was looking for jobs, though perhaps not as hard as I could have been, and mostly living in my mom's house and playing video games. I was getting a lot of telemarketer calls. I usually just hung up, but eventually I decided that I would try to take the next telemarketer on a dungeon crawl. According to urban legend, telemarketers aren't allowed to hang up when making calls, so I figured the telemarketer would have no choice but to go on my adventure. Here's what happened next.

I picked up the phone, and the caller started asking about my credit cards or car insurance or whatever. I didn't ask if she was interested in going on a dungeon crawl; I simply launched into the scenario I had prepared in my mind.

The telemarketer was caught off guard, of course, but surprisingly she went with it. She was probably used to being cursed at or hung up on, so a bit of fun was a welcome change. After a few minutes, the call suddenly cut off, so I imagine her manager had come by and ended the call, possibly after she had pushed some sort of panic button.

Here are some things that worked and some things that didn't, in case you feel like trying it for yourself. You probably only have a minute or two, if the telemarketer plays along at all, so the most important thing is to keep things moving forward!

- Don't do the "nerd voice." For some reason, I thought this would make it funnier, but really it just made it hard to understand what I was saying. (Then again, maybe the telemarketer is more likely to stay on the line if he/she thinks you are a harmless, lonely dweeb desperate for someone to talk to.)
- Introduce the scenario quickly. "The king has sent you on a quest to recover an ancient chalice from within a nearby dungeon. You are standing at the entrance to the dungeon..."
- Let the telemarketer know that he/she is a brave warrior, armed with a sword and shield. Otherwise, he/she might think that his/her character is the same person as him/her in real life.
- Along those lines, describing the character as brave will hopefully make the telemarketer more likely to take on the challenge, rather than saying "I go home and leave it to someone else" (which was my telemarketer's first reaction).
- Give each challenge an obvious approach and an easy solution. For instance, have a belligerent, drunken orc guard approach her, rather than a whole patrol.
- No matter what the telemarketer does, keep the story moving forward. When I asked my telemarketer what her battle cry was, she hesitated, so I continued with "You slay the orc in grim silence."
- Have answers prepared. "What's an orc?" "Have you seen the Lord of the Rings movies?" "I love those movies!" "You know those big green bad guys they fight?" "Oh yeah!" "Those are orcs."

Just having a telemarketer engage with the story seems unlikely enough, and it seems even more unlikely that any telemarketer would keep going for more than a minute or two. But just in case, here are some ideas for some challenges the telemarketer's character might face:
- A room with an obvious trap: a stone on the floor is raised up higher than the others and is a different color. If the telemarketer thinks that he/she is supposed to push it, you can interpret this as "You wisely keep a safe distance away and push down on the plate with your toe."
- A splintery old door with a large, simple lock. Can be kicked down or have its lock picked. If the telemarketer says "Oh well, I don't have the key," you can have his/her character recall that he/she saw a keyring on the guard orc's belt.
- A cauldron full of bubbling green slime, with a vicious giant rat nearby chained to the wall. The hero can taste the potion (in which case it gives the hero enough strength to slay the rat), or feed the stuff to the rat (in which case it's poison and kills the rat), or tip the boiling cauldron onto the rat.

You get the idea. These days I don't have a land line, so I can't take telemarketer calls because they would cost me minutes, but if you get a chance to try this, let me know how it turns out! Happy adventuring!

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