Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Generals' Guidelines: S.O.P in OOTS

Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.

Today’s post will discuss Order of the Stick, a webcomic by Rich Burlew based on the game Dungeons and Dragons. In particular, across three entries, I will examine the character of General Tarquin and his extremely pragmatic approach to the running of an empire.


Let's Meet Our Hero:

We begin with some backstory on General Tarquin. A martial man, he is the father of both Elan, one of the series’ protagonists and a Bard, as well as Elan’s twin brother Nale, leader of the antagonist group the Linear Guild and a multiclassed fighter/rogue/sorcerer. Tarquin currently rules as second-in-command of the Empire of Blood on the Western Continent. Alongside other members of his former adventuring group, they manipulate the political climate of the continent in order to ensure that they are continually near the top of the hierarchy at all times and reap the benefits thereof.

Standardization Prevents Surprises:

One key element of General Tarquin’s rule is the institution of standard operating procedures amongst the city guard. In particular, he has created a manual that has been distributed to the guards with instructions for how to handle many common situations. This comes in handy when Elan, attempting to infiltrate the dungeons in order to gather information, attempts to portray himself as a “surprise inspector” to gain access. The guard recognizes the situation as one that the manual has a procedure for, verifies it, and follows the stated procedure to apprehend anyone attempting to pass themselves off as a “surprise inspector”.

The Hired Help Isn't Always Helpful:

There are many benefits to creating a manual detailing all standard operating procedures in a business, particularly in a manufacturing or service environment. By describing typically encountered situations, management can minimize variance in how they are handled by the staff through providing procedures that have been tested repeated and have their inefficiencies and undesired consequences removed. McDonald’s, as an example, has a standardized process for cooking each of their menu items. Doing so allows them to maintain the standards for delivering their products within a desired amount of time and provide the same flavour experience at all their locations.

Now, from what we see of Tarquin’s guide, he does not provide absolutely strict guidelines for these procedures and that is worthwhile in a service-based position such as guard duty. Manufacturing requires stricter controls to maintain uniformity, prevent defects, and ensure consistency amongst the products. By giving the desired guidelines for the guards to follow in standard situations, Tarquin gets to prevent common mistakes in common scenarios while allowing the guards to exercise their personal discretion in carrying out those guidelines. 

Closing Comments:

In the Dungeons and Dragons style setting of Order of the Stick, it’s especially important to note that is a world that runs on the twin principles of story and game mechanics. The particular standard operating procedures that Tarquin provides address those, recognizing the tropes for what they are and attempting to negate their effect because he knows that the heroes will use them.

Is having someone who points out the cliches in all your plans always this annoying?” –Elan (Order of the Stick, #766)

Final Rating: Good business!

Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.

P.S: Order of the Stick can be found at

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