The most recent game of D&D 5E I ran was a version of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. I didn’t want to just run the module as-is, though; I wanted to inject a bit of myself into it. I also happened to start running it around the time the Acquisitions Incorporated rules supplement came out, and–being a fan of that franchise–I thought an excellent way to change things up a bit would be to have my players join Faerun’s fastest-growing adventuring corporation.
For those unfamiliar with Dragon Heist, a major aspect of the game is that the players come into possession of a bar early on, awarded to them by Volothamp Geddarm upon completion of a quest. I chose instead to have Volo write the party a letter of recommendation for Acquisitions Incorporated; this (plus a little schmoozing with Acq Inc.’s lovable rogue, Viari) was enough to land the party an interview with the company. Should they prove themselves worthy, they’d be granted a franchise.
That leads to the question: what does a corporate job interview look like for a high fantasy adventuring party?
Fans of the podcast Acquisitions Incorporated: The C-Team already have a pretty good idea. That show featured a magical demiplane called the Test Market, which the players had to navigate to earn their place in the company. For my game, I wanted to take a similar approach without entirely duplicating Jerry Holkins’s setup. Here’s how I handled the situation.
First off, the party met with a senior franchise who would be overseeing their application process. This was Team Grimalkyn, an experienced adventuring group who would go on to work with my players on several occasions. There was K’raxz, a rather creepy lizardfolk assassin; Bernard Burning, a massive human barbarian who was in charge of the group’s paperwork; Honey Dapplehoof, a centaur wizard who spent most of her time tinkering with magical artifacts; Orm Daggerhorn, a minotaur bard who enthusiastically served as the face of the team; and Sienna Sigoz, the half-elf cleric and team leader (my favorite quirk of hers? Any time she called for a vote to settle a dispute, she insisted that her god got a vote, too–naturally, her god always sided with her).
Team Grimalkyn asked my players a few questions, and then motioned to an apparently free-standing doorway in the center of the room. The door featured a brass plate engraved with the phrase “I. Adventure.” The party was instructed to walk through the door to begin the true interview process.
Stepping through, the players found themselves suddenly transported to some jungle ruins, which were crawling with angry gnolls… only something was clearly off. Their movements seemed clipped and awkward and they moved in set patterns. It didn’t take long for the party to understand that they were in a simulated dungeon, meant to test whether or not they were competent enough adventurers to have a place at Acq Inc.
I used gnolls, but really, this stage could have been anything–any random dungeon would work. Got a cool encounter set you’ve worked up, but can’t work into your story? Bam, simulated dungeon! For my group, it was a fun way to explore a type of environment that Dragon Heist didn’t offer (seeing as it’s a mostly urban game).
The other fun thing about this part of the session was playing with the idea of simulation in general. Everyone in my group plays a lot of video games, so there were a lot of jokes to be made about gaming tropes–the gnolls would start to flash red when they were low on health, for instance, and they all had the same ‘attack animation.’
Once they reached and defeated the dungeon boss (which was just a slightly stronger, palette-swapped gnoll), they were confronted with a second door labeled “II. Brand Identity.”
II. Brand Identity
Being a skilled adventurer isn’t all it takes to work at a place as prestigious as Acquisitions Incorporated. You also need to be able to manage the brand–that of both the larger company and your smaller franchise. What makes people engage with your brand? A good product, of course.
Door II opened into a large factory, full of assembly lines, simple machinery, and various materials. There was also a pedestal near the door, which held only a scroll reading, “A marketable product is the key to success.” Across the factory floor was yet another door; the brass plate on this one said, “III. Competitive Markets.” It was also held closed by a large padlock.
This was one of the more interesting parts of the ‘interview,’ because it forced my players to think. What could they bring to the company? How did they want the people of Waterdeep to view them? And how could they make a product that would reflect that? This area was pretty light on mechanics–once they had a product in mind, I had them roll a few different checks to craft it successfully, but the main challenge was just coming up with something and justifying why it would be a good fit for their brand.
They already knew that, should they be hired, they’d be operating out of a bar; thus, they decided to make novelty mugs featuring the newly-chosen name of their franchise: The Lords of Pour Industries. With their product complete, they were permitted to move on.
III. Competitive Markets
Alright, so they had a product–but could they sell it?
The Lords of Pour Industries now found themselves on a busy street. Before them stood a cart piled high with their novelty mugs. Across the way was another cart, similarly festooned with drinkware. The goal: outsell their competitors.
I left this one very open to my player’s interpretation. Acquisitions Incorporated is not known to be the most scrupulous of companies, so I figured anything was on the table; sabotaging the other salespeople was as valid a tactic as any. Again, this is a neat situation to put your players in because it falls a bit outside the norm for a lot of campaigns. Most adventurers aren’t regularly called on to hawk knickknacks in the street! Watching my party devise a plan to attract the most potential customers was fun–they ended up relying on the bard to draw in a crowd with music, while at the same time the rogue popped over to the enemy cart to loudly complain about the shoddy craftsmanship on display there.
Once the group had sufficiently proven their ability to move merch, the next door opened up, allowing them to proceed.
IV. Customer Service
This time, the door opened into a small, well-appointed office. The players emerged behind a desk, on which there were two items: a plaque that read “Customer Help Desk” and a piece of parchment which said, “The Customer Is Always Right!”
On the other side of the desk was a nervous-looking man with a welt on his hand. “Um, excuse me,” the man said. “Your product has caused a painful swelling in my hand.”
A pretty simple setup: the party just had to peacefully resolve the customer complaint and restore their franchise’s reputation! This was intentionally a bit of a softball; the ‘upset customer’ was a pushover who was ready to accept most resolutions the party might offer him. Once the customer was happy, the fifth door–marked “V. Customer Service [Advanced]”–swung open.
V. Customer Service [Advanced]
This room was identical to the last room, with two major differences: firstly, the parchment on the desk had changed to read, “Except When They Are Wrong.” Secondly, rather than one shy fellow, the customer side of the desk was populated by several large, angry-looking people. As soon as the players were all through the door, the leader of the ‘customers’ shouted, “Your product is terrible and Acquisitions Incorporated is terrible!” Then, the whole group started wrecking up the office.
You see where this is headed, right? I mean, theoretically, if your players wanted to find a way to solve this peacefully, I suppose they could… but that’s not how my group approached it.
Once the angry customers had been, er, dealt with (remember, this is all just a simulation, so the players aren’t actually murdering anyone), the last door (“Exit”) opened up, depositing the party back with Team Grimalkyn to go review the group’s performance.
It was a weird little adventure, and not one I expect to be broadly applicable in most people’s games. However, if you ever find yourself running a campaign that involves either Acquisitions Incorporated specifically or corporate espionage in general, maybe this odd little interview process will give you some ideas!