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Everything I Need to Know I Learned from…

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons: One Woman's…

by Shelly Mazzanoble

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One woman walks the reader through her road to self-revelation and discovery? Her atlas? A Dungeons and Dragons Manual. Well, a lot of them.

Mazzanoble works among some of the top nerds of the country at Dragon Magazine, part of Wizards of the Coast [your source for Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons and much much more]. Consequently, you might expect her to be a top nerd herself. On many points, as you would anticipate, she is. However, as even I continue to discover, you can really be a girl [a proper girly girl with the shoe fetish and everything] be one.

Now, please, bear with me a moment. Normally when I write these blog entries, I have the base structure and original copy written out in a notebook and type it from there, editing as I go. If you were to compare the two, you might be surprised at the range of differences. This would be no exception, if only because I crossed out pretty much everything I wrote down. I didn't and still don't know how to review this book. It's not a biography, it's a confessional. It's not a self-help book, it's someone using D&D as a self-help book. Even then, it isn't what it is. It's confusing.

But, oh my, is it a blast.

Peppered throughout the text, which is really just her talking to you like a girlfriend over coffee at your favorite morning stop. She walks you through her compulsions, quirks, idiosyncratic behaviors, mind sets, schemes to get things right, schemes to prove herself right. She'll tell you about a contemporary issue, sling you back into some serious flash-back territory [during which, I found myself imagining them in Kate Beaton's Younger Self Comic style] then she turns around and regales you with conversations with her unabashedly nosy and rather enthusiastically helpful mother. Seriously, her mother is an intensely helpful person [to the point where the office mail person was stopping by would comment on the influx of self-help books]. There is technically no guide as to the limit of what may or may not be hyperbole, but I enjoy the mental image of Mazzanoble using a stack of the unread self-help books as a nightstand.

As much as I wanted this book to be an actual self-help guide based on Dungeons and Dragons [not that I was looking for such a thing, the idea is simply hilarious], the way she walked us through her various attempts to make Dungeons and Dragons a legitimate and relevant thing in both her life and the lives of those around her, it is still priceless. Unable to adopt any form of traditional religion throughout her life she chooses to try and follow the tenets of five of the D&D gods to give her life some sort of form. She then decides to campaign for D&D as a way to meet people [because the people who D&D are often some of the nicest you'll ever know--I speak from experience], a learning tool [imagination isn't everything here, maths and memory are key points], and so on. She also talks about doing a story in which the Real Housewives or the Desperate Housewives [not being into that kind of TV, she lost me periodically on which she was actually discussing] in a D&D session. Sadly, it is not part of the book. But her good points about the relevance of D&D are. And it is not to be marginalized, I tell you.

D&D will not lead you down the path of evil. Give it a chance and you might be delightfully surprised.

I know I was.

And now some of my favorite people are also my party members or Dungeon Masters. ( )
  LeslitGS | Mar 14, 2012 |
Shelly Mazzanoble has issues.* Well, not really, but she’d like you to think so. (With the exception of mommy issues, to which I can relate.) Indeed, overcoming those issues, via the medium of the world’s most popular roleplaying game, is the subject of Mazzanoble’s most recent book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons. Prepare, as the book’s subtitle urges (or cautions, depending on your viewpoint towards high geekdom), to “turn self-help into elf-help.” You cool kids have been warned.

Despite the fact that at the outset Mazzanoble appears to be a perfectly well-adjusted, if slightly anal, adult, the book’s premise is amusing--can one treat one’s weaknesses using D&D rather than Dr. Phil?--and Mazzanoble is a talented writer, enlivening what might otherwise be whiny or self-indulgent workaday problems with her conversational prose and storytelling skills. Mazzanoble is the master of clever turns of phrase and she’s perfected the brief, amusing, anecdote, both of which she puts to good use as she navigates the “hazards” of her overbearing mother, spirituality, lack of self-confidence and relationship troubles (to name a few; there are more). Mazzanoble draws on the wisdom of D&D to slay her demons: For instance, she observes the leadership and presentation skills of Dungeon Masters in order to learn how best to deal with uncooperative tenants in her building. All of which goes to show how D&D, when properly used, is not only a great game, but a device for the betterment of self. ‘Cause, you know, you learn critical thinking skills, cooperation with others, self-analysis, and so on and so on. All from a collection of sleekly marketed products!

That last point is significant. It should be noted that Mazzanoble is employed by Wizards of the Coast, (and in marketing, I believe) the current owners of the D&D franchise. Mazzanoble is clearly tooting her own (and her employer’s) horn (warhorn?) here, and the methods and practices she applies, gleaned from a game manufactured by a corporation, don’t seem to differ as much as she’d like to believe from the self-help books she so despises. The goals and, if successful, outcomes, are the same, and the methods aren’t entirely dissimilar; you just won’t find Oprah overcoming her weight issues by rolling a d20. Still, Mazzanoble seems genuine in her application of D&D to her problems (as genuine as one can be in such an endeavor, which is, of course, lighthearted and amusing). Think of it as writing to her audience.

And, given Mazzanoble’s writing, that audience is decidedly female. I’m not saying that men won’t enjoy this book--I did--but, were I to guess, the average male D&D fan wouldn’t. This book is definitely written for women (who are more likely to consume self-help tomes anyway). Mazzanoble does not shy away from her femininity (nor should she), and, indeed, celebrates it, discussing her love of certain shoes, pedicures, and so on. (This is obviously a particular kind of femininity.) Mazzanoble’s pop-culture references, too, of which there are many, are evidence of her “girly” tastes: Real Housewives marathons and similar fare are named often. I’m impressed by what a clever little package this book really is: A sly attempt to attract to D&D a largely untapped female market. A woman, working for Wizards of the Coast, writes for other women a self-help book mocking self-help books using D&D as her model. The book is then published by Wizards of the Coast. Very clever! Both Mazzanoble and WotC receive props for that.

I enjoyed Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dugeons & Dragons to and recommend it in particular to female gamers (or female geeks of any stripe, really). I think there’s much here for male readers to enjoy, too, if they’re open minded enough to accept Mazzanoble’s uniquely feminine style. (I think this is only an issue insofar as male geeks can be notoriously closed minded regarding such issues.) Non-gamers might have an issue with some of the terminology employed; Mazzanoble assumes that the reader has, at least, a basic knowledge of the game. (I have never played, sadly, but am familiar with the game through friends I had growing up.) Mazzanoble’s writing is really very good, and readers intimidated for any reason (“gender” or gaming, “G&G”), should know that Mazzanoble will take good care of them. She has, after all, completed a self-guided crash course in elf help.

*Issues of Dragon magazine, to which she is a contributor, stashed in her closet. ( )
  LancasterWays | Jan 7, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786957751, Paperback)

With tongue-in-cheek humor, the creator of the award-winning Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress takes on the self-help section, proving that the benefits of the Dungeons & Dragons® game goes far beyond simple entertainment.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:12 -0400)

"With tongue-in-cheek humor, the creator of the award-winning Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress takes on the self-help section, proving that the benefits of the Dungeons & Dragons? game goes far beyond simple entertainment"--

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