Some of us geekdads with daughters worry that our girls will grow up, well, less geeky than us. Let’s face it, our society pushes girls more toward Seventeen than it does Sci-Am. That’s a pity because there are some smart, amazing women out there who could make better role models than Hannah Montana. And while we realize we need to let our kids follow their own path, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to encourage a little geekiness. That’s where books like Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the D&D Game come in.
“Let me just lay it out here: I am a girly girl,” the book begins. The author, Shelly Mazzanoble, positions herself as a member of her target audience, brimming with lip gloss and Us Weekly. She continues: “I organize my shoes by heel height, sort my handbags by strap length, and store my nail polish on the butter shelf of my refrigerator… I am also an ass-kicking, spell-chucking, staff-wielding 134 year-old elf sorceress named Astrid Bellagio. At least I am once a week when I play Dungeons and Dragons.”
The meat of this book is an explanation of the basic concepts of playing Dungeons & Dragons — races, classes, dice & hit points. To traditional D&D players, however, this book reads like Teen People with 20-siders: diary entries, quizzes, top-10 lists, sassy section headers like, “Does this chainmail make me look fat?” and almost surreally (to me) inane dilemmas like what appetizers to make if you threw a surprise D&D party. There’s even advice on rejecting gamer mack (Mazzanoble urges gentleness; “Rejection stings no matter how many hit points you have.”)
Focusing on the girly-girl dating & makeup silliness in the book misses the point, however. Mazzanoble speaks to preteen and teen girls in their own language. The goal is to demystify and de-stigmatize roleplayers and gaming in the eyes of the reader, and it seems to be successful. My 11-year-old stepdaughter read the book and found it entertaining, but more importantly she began to understand the concepts and vocabulary of roleplaying. To package something so geeky in a way that a cool-obsessed middle schooler finds neat is rare.