Solo Roleplaying D&D: Make full character sheets for NPCs

When playing solo D&D, try making full on characters for the major NPCs. This can be more fun because (a) making characters is fun, especially higher level ones, and, (b) you get more faceted NPCs instead of just stock, one-dimensional characters.

I’ve been playing through Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden and I applied this one of the duergar dwarves, Durth. In the published adventure, he’s a Duergar Mind Master. Instead of sticking wiht that, I decided to flesh him out a bit, making him a 5th level Artificer. This gave him a steel defender companion and access to interesting spells. I’ve never really played an artificer or looked at that class next, so it was fun to imagine that out. And, then, when it came to the encounter on the ferry in Easthaven, I had a lot more options than what a Mind Master would give.

This investment in time and imagining also creates a closer bond your NPCs. My theory here is that this will make their role in your adventure more interesting and genuin. You might get attached to them and want them to live. And, if you’re less likely to let them die and/or make dumb moves, they’ll be more interesting than just routine combat and encounters.

All of that takes extra time, of course, but one of the principles I follow in solo roleplaying is that it’s all part of playing. You take on the role of the DM, for example, which has all sorts of out of game work like this. And, you know: the point is to have fun! So if this seems like a drag at any given point, I just won’t do it.

Enterprise AI is a feature, not an app

An enterprise AI strategy probably means adding AI to your existing apps and workflows, not just standing up a stand-alone AI app. We experience generative AI as chatbots in the consumer space - and they’re great! - but this doesn’t seem like the best approach for business applications. Think about search. We don’t even notice it now, but at work, search is built into existing apps, it’s not usually a stand-alone app that tightly integrates with and links into existing apps. I think Enterprise AI will be the same. We’ll see!

I did a video series with O’Reilly going over my advice for surviving and thriving (“working,” I guess) in a big company. “You should watch it, it’s really good,” raves the man who made it.

So, you should check it out.

IncrativeOps - or notes from a recovering thought-leader

If you can’t be at DevOpsDays Des Moines later this week (or stackconf in Berlin next week) to see the final version of this presentation, here’s my first time running through it. It container about 20 minutes of…uh…bonus material.*

  • Meaning, things I need to cut.

I tried to get ChatGPT to summarize VMware Explore 2023 for me. I don’t know, it wasn’t that great. Also, a peak into my Dungeons and Dragons “ChatDM” obsession.

We try the Marks and Spencer Roast Beef and Onion Crisps, or Chips as us Americans would say.

why pair programming improves how large organization develop software, a case study

Pair programming has been around since the late nineties and boasts ample research and anecdotal evidence proving its effectiveness. It’s not limited to programming, either; it can also be valuable in roles such as product management. However, despite its benefits, it remains less commonly practiced than one might expect.

Pair Programming in the Department of Defense (DoD)

A great case study for the value of pair programming comes from the Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S.’s collection of military branches. They face challenges typical of large enterprises that can be mitigated by this technique.

Common Challenges Addressed by Pair Programming

One frequent issue within the military, as in many large enterprises, is a skills gap among programmers. There’s often a need to quickly train new arrivals, who typically do not remain in the same positions for long.

Moreover, software is critical for running operations, and there’s a constant need for innovative solutions and rapid software delivery. Also, organizations require high-quality software—free of bugs, well-designed, and easily extendable—to maintain agility and ensure continuous growth. Pair programming offers solutions for these common challenges.

Advantages of Pair Programming

Pair programming provides an environment conducive to continuous learning. By pairing people up, it fosters knowledge exchange. This is particularly effective when pairs are rotated frequently, a practice perfected over 25 years at VMware Tanzu Labs, formerly Pivotal Labs. Rotation exposes team members to a variety of perspectives, ideas, and techniques, while also facilitating relationship building within the team.

This method also helps address the problem of employee churn. Knowledge about the system is disseminated across the team, fostering generalists rather than specialists. As team members come and go, the collective knowledge base remains intact.

Innovation and Quality through Pair Programming

Pair programming supports innovation, thanks to the diversity of ideas brought by different team members. It breaks the silos typically seen in software development teams, promoting a culture of shared responsibility.

Quality assurance is another area where pair programming shines. Techniques like having one person write unit tests before another writes the actual code ensure thorough testing. Different perspectives brought in by pairs often result in novel ways of testing—and breaking—the code.

Enhancing Satisfaction and Scaling Success

The benefits of pair programming extend beyond technical advantages. Many people at VMware Tanzu Labs have reported a deep sense of satisfaction when moving from solo to pair programming. This positive impact on employee satisfaction can greatly aid in retaining and hiring talent.

Large organizations like the military, banks, insurance companies, and manufacturers can find an added advantage: a built-in way to scale and spread change. By moving successful pair programmers to new teams, you can promote trust in new ways of working and effectively spread this positive change throughout the organization.


Over the past decade, I’ve witnessed the benefits of pair programming and the positive impact of rotating team members across different teams while working at VMware Tanzu Labs. It not only improves code quality and encourages innovation but also helps tackle one of the hardest aspects of software development: adopting new practices and scaling them across the organization.

Pair programming is just as applicable to any large organization as it is to the U.S. military. For a more detailed exploration of how the military has leveraged this technique, you can access an extensive write-up linked here. Additionally, my book, Monolithic Transformation, available for free download, delves into how large organizations can improve their software practices and scale those changes to their full extent.

Webinars are great - how to make good webinars, and how to watch webinars

Webinars have a bad reputation. They’re usually boring presentation that require you to give over your email address. I do a lot of webinars and watch a lot of them: they don’t all have to be crap! Here’s my take on why webinars are great, how they can go wrong, how to make them interesting, and how to get value from them as an audience member.

Here’s some more marketing stuff from my newsletter. And, here’s the three part webinar series I mentioned if you’re curious.

Take care of your legacy software before it kills your ability to innovate

I want to try a new video format: the Quick Comment. Just one “fact” or idea and 45 seconds or so of commentar. We’ll see if I like it and/or keep it up.

Avoid cloud lock-in with Kubernetes, findings from the 2023 VMware State of Kubernetes Survey

76% of respondents in our State of Kubernetes 2023 survey say they use multiple clouds - they’re multi-cloud. I look at the driving forces behind multi-cloud adoption, most notably the desire to avoid vendor lock-in.

For more insights into multi-cloud strategies, Kubernetes benefits, and the challenges being tackled by your peers, check out the VMware State of Kubernetes 2023 survey.

Check out the video,, @cote,,