Thursday, September 20, 2007

REVIEW: Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress : A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game, by Shelly Mazzanoble

Released: September 2007. Click on the cover to buy.
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast

Are you a woman (or do you know one) who's never played Dungeons & Dragons but has always been curious about it? Do you have a friend/husband/boyfriend who plays, but you were intimidated by the stereotypes about nerds and geeks, or thought it would to be too hard, or have too many rules, or take too much time? Well if so, Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress is the book for you.

Author Shelly Mazzanoble writes from the point of view of an extremely (even hyper-) girly-girl young woman who loves to shop, watch soaps and get mani-pedis- and who also loves participating in the ongoing campaigns of Astrid the elf and her band of adventurers. She wants to convince women that D&D isn't all about smelly geeks in a basement casting arcane spells and speaking with cheesy British accents while dressed in chainmaille and Ren Faire outfits. Her thesis is that it's just about groups of friends coming together on a regular basis for a fun, wholesome activity that fires the imagination, fosters social skills and helps participants gain confidence.


Let me just say up front that I am exactly the sort of person towards whom this book is aimed. My husband is an avid D&D player, as have been many of my male friends throughout my life. I always thought it was a boy thing- a little seedy, a little smelly, and just a little weird. I was in college before I knew any women who played, and they weren't, uhm, people I could relate to. So I just thought, this isn't for me, and put it aside. So when this book came along I thought, okay, let's see if this woman can sell me on D&D. Cause if she can sell me, she can sell anyone.

Most of the book consists of a girly primer on the basics of D&D. She writes about spells, points, character sheets and dice; she includes cute illustrations and quizzes, and even some recipes of suggested appetizers to serve at your own D&D party. The tone is light and breezy, and peppered with pop-culture and fashion references, and the dominant color is pink. It's cute. It's informative. I enjoyed reading the story of how she came to play; she seems like someone I can relate to. Even though the stereotypes aren't the whole story, there is still a lot of truth to them and they do put people like me off the game. I mean, most of the reason I've rejected the idea of playing is that I think I just wouldn't fit in in most groups. But maybe I'm wrong.

As far as actual game-play, the rules and regs don't seem that intimidating or difficult. And I like the idea that it's not competitive. I like Mazzanoble's tone and style, and I think the information is presented in a way that's easy to understand. Her "I'm an outsider who became an insider" approach helps. And there's lots of humor and silliness. I love the little features like "Top Ten Spells Every Woman Should Know", quizzes, cute recipes and the appendix with a sample character sheet. All in all a fun little read. But did she sell me on playing D&D? Well, let's just say I'm not as hostile to the idea as I used to be. And every once in a while I catch myself checking out dice...