As her mother factors into the book, we speak with Judy Mazzanoble about raising her daughter.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Dungeons & Dragons (released this week) concerns Shelly Mazzanoble’s search for self-help through the game of D&D. As her mother factors into the book (she’s in fact the one pushing Shelly to find that self-help, whether she needs it or not), we spoke with Judy Mazzanoble about raising her very special daughter.


Wizards of the Coast: Would you say Shelly was a particularly screwed-up kid growing up? What are some of the strange things you remember her doing?


Judy Mazzanoble: Everything she did was strange. I realize that in hindsight now. I know she told you about her imaginary dog, Woofie, right? Did she tell you about how she used to roll around on the front lawn “playing” with him? And stood on the porch yelling down the street, “Here Woofie! Come here! Good boy!” The neighbors used to give me that I’m so sorry look. We thought she’d grow out of it.

She also had this little vanity with three mirrors so she could see her reflection indefinitely. That little weirdo named everyone of those reflections and sat in her room talking to them all day long.

Then there was the curious case of the Mustard Monster. Tom (her father) was at work, Mike (her brother) was at school, so it was just us at home. I had a beautiful cake I made for dessert and was frying up ham for Mike’s lunch. When I came downstairs there was yellow mustard all over the kitchen. Everywhere. On the ham, on the cake, on the refrigerator door. Big, sloppy, yellow S’s. When I asked her why the hell she did that she stared at me all calmly and asked, “Do what?”

“Squirt mustard all over my kitchen!” I shouted.

And again with that calm look on her face, she said, “I didn’t do it.”

To this day she swears it was the Mustard Monster.

I could go on. Maybe I’ll write my own book. I’ll call it, “The Neighbors Were Wrong. She Won’t Grow Out of It.”

Wizards of the Coast: How about as an adult—did she ever strike you as especially odd, deranged, or outright dangerous to herself or others?

Judy: Yes.

Wizards of the Coast: Could you elaborate?

Judy: Well, okay, maybe not dangerous but definitely odd. Like how she gets attached to inanimate objects and reveres animals more than humans. And she names everything she owns. Her car, her favorite sweater, her condo. And she gets all of her friends to refer to these things by their names. When people go to her house they don’t go to Shelly’s. The go to Betty. We all know her condo as Betty.

Wizards of the Coast: While Shelly positions D&D as a huge source of guidance, surely you as her mother had some hand in her upbringing. What kind of guidance did you try and give her?

Judy: Of course I did! As weird as she was and no matter what the other mothers told me, I never tried to squash her imagination. I encouraged her to be a free spirit. To think freely. To not be stupid, because stupid will come back to haunt you. I told her she could do anything she wanted and go wherever her heart led her. I kind of regret that one now because she’s 3,000 miles away in Seattle, but still I’m proud that she’s so independent.

I also told her to never appear “hungry” because men could sense that. Her friends never listened. She listened too well. I’m almost too old to enjoy my grandchildren when they finally get here.

Wizards of the Coast: Did you ever think that Shelly would find guidance in a game like Dungeons & Dragons? When it comes to games, how skillful would you say she is (we hear she’s pretty good at Words with Friends)?

Judy: Who said she’s good at Words with Friends? Did she tell you that? I had an off day, okay?

As for D&D, yes I can believe it now that I understand the game. I never knew what it was about. Her brother didn’t play it and neither did his friends, but now I see how perfect a game like that is for kids like her. And adults. She loves making up stories (Mustard Monster) and creating characters. You wouldn’t believe the elaborate stories her brother and her came up with for their stuffed animals. Froggy was cheating on Greenie with Lovey who had Knuffles’ illegitimate son, Robin, but Greenie was really a man, which was only discovered when she lost her memory from getting bonked on the head in a freak hurricane. I guess I shouldn’t have let them watch soap operas when they were home sick.

Wizards of the Coast: Now that Shelly’s getting married (on 09/10/11, as a matter of fact), which moves beyond the scope of the book, what sort of advice would you give her about married life?

Judy: I tell her to hold on to what she holds dear which later this month better include her husband. Always put your family first. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Have a sense of humor. Don’t be too proud to say “I’m sorry.” And for the love of god, please hurry up and give me those grandkids. I’m not getting any younger here.

A Bonus Interview

A conversation with Zelda (a.k.a. The Great Zeldini) author of the new book, “Everything You Really Need to Know You Can Learn From a Cat.”


Humans exist to serve you. If they are not living up their end of the bargain then you can shank them in their sleep.


Dogs are not part of the family. Make sure they know that. Always.


Those naps aren’t going to take themselves. Work hard at sleeping. The more you nap the more tired you become and then the more you get to nap.


A friend is someone who scratches your head. An enemy is someone who stops scratching your head (see: shank them in their sleep, above).


Cats love wet food (you think it smells like rotten turkey guts baking in the sun; we think it tastes almost as good at the skin on the backs of your calves), your lap, sticking our butts in your faces when you’re trying to eat, walking/sleeping on your computer’s keyboard, laying in the sun, using our litter boxes right after you clean them, making humans sneeze, making humans feel inferior, making humans get a new glass of water because we stuck our faces in the one they were drinking from, pretending we don’t know our names, and forcing humans to sleep like Cirque du Soleil contortionists.

We do not like that voice you use when talking to us. Why is that so hard to understand?


Worship us. And we’ll all be happy.