Roll for Initiative, Universe

Recently while I was perusing the comic book section of Barnes and Noble, I found a novel tucked in the shelves looking really out-of-place. It was called ‘Everything I Need To Know I Learned from Dungeons and Dragons’ by Shelly Mazzanoble, and I was instantly sold. Essentially, it is a self-help (or elf-help) book written by someone who believes that Dungeons and Dragons, not Dr. Phil, holds the secrets to overcoming life’s difficulties.

In the first chapter we are introduced to Judy, Shelly’s busybody mother who sends her every self-help novel she sees offered on television. When Shelly gets a job for Wizards of the Coast (the creators of D&D and God to many nerds), an argument about the D&D stereotype inspires Shelly to go forth and prove her theory that D&D, and not Oprah, can lead you on the path to enlightenment.

Shelly conducts an interesting experiment in an attempt to find religious/spiritual resolution. For one week, every day she is devoted to a different D&D god. Monday, Avandra (God of Change), Tuesday, Kord (God of Battle, Wednesday, Ioun (God of Knowledge), Thursday, Moradin (God of Creation), Friday, Pelor (God of Sun and Summer). While I don’t think this experiment was exactly successful, it might be an interesting one to try. Even if you don’t achieve spiritual salvation, you may learn something about your personality that you didn’t realize before by making the conscious choice to act a certain way.

The chapter on relationships was the most interesting to me. Shelly points out that you can learn a lot about a person by what character they create and how they handle different in-game situations. This can be applied to other RPG gaming as well. For example, I always play a big, badass tank who is all righteous fury, when in real life I am much more laid-back and prefer to settle my fights verbally rather than a bar brawl. When analyzing her boyfriend’s character, Shelly says that she would definitely never date him. While she loves Bart, his character is apparently an asshole. When creating a character we have to ability to focus on one aspect of our personalities and emphasize it, while detracting others. D&D is also a great way to meet new people. In another experiment, Shelly had her recently single and attractive friend go jogging wearing a D&D shirt. The first time out was apparently attracted the wrong kind of nerd, while the second time she met a really nice guy, they got along well, spent the day together- then she found out he was a Dungeon Master and it was over. đŸ˜¦

Which brings us to the next subject: “Oh Those Charming DMs” Shelly, trying to improve her own talents when it comes to winning friends and influencing people, decided to study the behavior of the DMs. She chose four DMs (who all happened to be named Chris) and observed how they conducted themselves both at the game table and when giving presentations at the office. Shelly then used these observations and was able to convince everyone in her apartment building that they needed to spend the money to make the building repairs it sorely needed. (The previous encounter ended with Shelly punching a cookies and storming out in tears.) Needless to say, the traits she observed are exactly the traits that thousands of self-help books are dedicated to teaching. Only for these people the experience was gained through a game that they love.

For people who live life by a certain schedule or who always like things to be just so, D&D can help you too. For another week, Shelly tries to live life like her adventurer, Tabitha. Instead of carting around a purse and a bonus bag just in case of a natural disaster, Shelly cleans her life of the clutter and only lives with the basics. I am definitely guilty of these over-prepared traits, and this chapter really made me want to loosen the reigns- especially when it comes to my always obese backpack! Shelly did this experiment because Bart was finally moving in, and for someone who had been living in a space for 10 years and who is already anal retentive, allowing someone else’s stuff to occupy your shelves is a big deal.

Obviously as we have discussed before on our blog is that games like D&D are empowering. Not just for adults, but for children as well. Since I am normally on the soapbox about little girls and gender-specific children’s activities, allow me to make this brief: Little girls who play D&D can learn to be strong, monster-battling heroes- not helpless maidens.

Overall, I think this a book everyone should read. Although this may surprise you, I did not give away the gory, life-changing details. I definitely recommend picking up a copy of this book, even if you aren’t in need of any elf-help at the moment.

– BatCat

PS: Shelly wrote another book ‘Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game’. I am not sure how I feel about the title, but I am willing to give it a chance.

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2 thoughts on “Roll for Initiative, Universe

    • True (about what @atoasttodragons said), ’twas originally Gary Gygax, with some formative input/collaboration by Dave Arneson, and that the original name of the company was Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), out of Lake Geneva, WI.

      Cool review though – Shelly’s certainly earned kudos for her work, in my opinion. A very(!) good tool also is her “Confessions…” book, for giving her fellow females a rational, “Hey, I get it, I understand – been there. But it’s not like that” sort of presentation of D&D. The stereotypes can be amusing when used in the right contexts, sure, but in reality, it gives me what they call in the army “a case of the ass” (kinda like being rather perturbed) to be lumped into what is largely a fictitious idea (more properly, “hallucination”) which is nothing more than another disdainful label. And we’re supposed to know better about “labels” for people by now, aren’t we? (Hint: YES)
      So then – a thousand times “Huzzah” to Shelly for her own personal myth-busting, and to you for helping to put out the word. It’s most appreciated.

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