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David Schirduan
Nerd, Beach Bum, Storyteller, and "Professional" Game Designer
Nerd, Beach Bum, Storyteller, and "Professional" Game Designer

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Hey! This is my G+ page; I use it for game design questions, ideas, and rants.

At my website ( you can find:

RPG Reviews - Over 40 games reviewed in a paragraph or two.
Mythic Mortals - Play as yourself granted incredible powers.
Clink - A non-linear RPG of Mysterious Drifters.
Kintsugi - A simple game where failure only makes your stronger.
Jedi Wushu - Fast-paced combat that makes you feel like a Jedi.
And more! Go see for yourself.

Every year I host the #200WordRPG Challenge, a light game design competition. Learn more at

I'm writing a longer review, but here are my initial thoughts:

Field Guide to Hot Springs Island had a ELECTRIC effect when it hit the table.

The Dark (GMs book) is beautiful and packed with content. But it's the Field Guide that really brings the players into the world and gets them excited about it.

They LOVED looking up creatures, identifying plants, and puzzling out the rumors from the truth.

It was not cheap ($60 for GM book, $40 for player book), but I can honestly say it was worth it. I plan to use these two books for YEARS, and having a really solid setting with cool player aids is worth the investment.

Seriously check it out if you want to add a fresh new element to your games.

The effects and skill on display in some of these youtube video essays blow my mind.

Example: 1:46-1:59
Those seconds were added and created by kaptainkristian and have so much nuance and detail. He didn't need to do that; a simple cut from the film or a few images from the comics would have worked just fine.

Instead he made these beautiful moving images that seem to bring these comic images to life. Just. Wow.

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Clink, a game of non-linear western storytelling, is coming along beautifully!

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I bought the GM book first, with no intention to buy the Field Guide. But after reading the GM book and seeing how the Field Guide complements it...

Well my copy arrives this weekend, and I could not be more excited.

My players, especially, are excited to get a glimpse into the world beyond my simple descriptions.
"Why would a player ever buy [A Field Guide to Hot Springs Island] if the GM doesn't have it?"

Why hello!

I'm going to tell the full story here.

There is a theory that the glorious boxed set settings of the 90s featured heavily in the "death" of TSR. That theory makes logical sense to me because look at table top RPGs when compared to video games.

If you have something like, let's say, World of Warcraft, if there are 5 players grouped up and running a dungeon that means that 5 people have bought the game (and in this specific case are also paying a subscription).

But in table top RPGs, if you have 6 people sitting around a table running a dungeon (1 DM, 5 players), only one of those people is ALLOWED to buy the setting/adventure. If the players buy the adventure, and read it, it SPOILS their experience.

I'd read some things that indicated that disappointing sales of the aforementioned super deluxe boxed set settings really hurt TSR.

Since players CANNOT buy content, the only option has seemed to be for the table top companies to sell them RULES. Huzzah splat books.

But you see.. I fucking hate rules. Hate them. I especially hate how the function in the table top RPG space in the form of additional rules for players.

So you've got your 6 players from before. The DM has bought all the core rule books. And, perhaps more importantly, they've spent TIME reading and digesting the information so they can use it to run games and adventures. This is kinda mandatory in order to even get a game going. Of the other 5, some may have bought the core player rule book, and then when splat books began making their appearance, some of the players may have bought and read splat books relevant to their interests. This is good for the gaming company (an opportunity for sales!), but it can be shit at the table. Because now the DM who was already forced to buy and process multiple core books, has to deal with new rules. And because those rules come from the authority of the game company they have to be dealt with. And there are tons of fail states associated with this. The DM could feel compelled to spend even more money and time. The players may be bad communicators and "surprise" the DM at the table with their new character builds, but the player didn't think this would be a problem because they used "official material". And the new rules could directly undermine content the DM had prepared to use during the game and deflate their desire to continue creating their own content. And, imo, the worst thing it can do is trigger a fight between the DM and player. Player declares they do something (normally something during combat). DM says you can't do that. Player says "OH BUT I CAN because I have the X feat that lets me do Y and then the Z sword that can multiply its effect and blah blah blah blah blah".

Sooooooooooooooooo.... with all this tucked away in the back of my head, I said "what the fuck could you sell players that would make things better for everyone at the table?"

And the Field Guide started to take shape. A lot of it comes from a place of "what if I give players the monster manual? But no stats. And the combat and ecology info may not be 100% accurate?"

On top of that, Hot Springs Island is a sandbox, and running sandboxes is fucking hard, and I personally think that's because it's often harder to get "buy in" from the players, which is imo is often because of a combo of a lack of information and choice paralysis.

If I tell you that there are ogres living on the island, that doesn't spoil anything. If I tell you that the ogres are suspected of kidnapping female adventurers and you should be careful, not only does that not spoil anything, I think it can potentially hook you (or your character) into investigating, and bam... there's now a reason for adventure. Or at least a reason to investigate and explore.

If I tell you there are birds with feathers made of actual gold, or at least there used to be, maybe. And you decide you like that, I think it empowers your character by giving it a tie to the world. Now see, if I tell you what hex they're in, that spoils it. If I tell you that they're all dead, or confirm that they really are alive and do exist, that spoils it too. But if I tell you what people have supposedly said about a thing, I think that's a pretty great way to encourage you to go bumping around the island trying to confirm or disprove it.

And now you have a reason to do shit that's more than just "find treasure". And it doesn't rely on players coming up with an elaborate backstory (not that there's anything wrong with that) and the DM having to work said backstory into the game itself.

And finally, why would a player ever buy that book if the GM doesn't have it... that's really the big experiment. There're some short stories in the front of the book, and a novella in the back of the book, and tons of illustrations, so it may be fun to have if you're into fantasy books in general. Also, if you're the type of person who's always wanted to support the game makers, but didn't want your play experience spoiled, this is for you!

And again, because it's a sandbox, there's no right way to play, and there's no scripted victor for the faction wars happening on the island. So the island can be played again with a "well, what if we side with the fire guys instead this time", and the Field Guide is a good way for a player to "anchor" their metagame knowledge if they'd like to.

But yeah. We'll see how it goes.

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Woohoo! So glad Mythic Mortals was able to be a part of this awesome event.
So an update on the Harvey Relief Bundle - a whole bunch of y'all amazing folks came together, and the bundle raised $24,225 to help Houston and the Coastal Bend region.

This is frickin' amazing.

Major kudos to all of the publishers and authors who helped make this donation possible:

+mike lafferty, +Rachel Ventura, Jason Nelson, +Jacob Hurst, +Patrick Stuart, +Ahimsa Kerp, +David Schirduan, +Brett Slocum, +Zzarchov Kowolski, +Casey G., +Christopher Mennell, +cecil howe, +Olav Nygård, +Clint Krause, +Chuck Thorin, +Chris Longhurst, and Hydra authors +Chris Kutalik and +trey causey. (LMK if I missed tagging someone!)

+Jacob Hurst

I was thinking about the encounter-rolling app that you're working on for Hot Springs Island.

Specifically, how would you keep it from being public? After all the encounter tables are a brilliant part of the island and it would be tempting for someone to use the encounter tables apart from purchasing the book.

So how could we lock something like this down without requiring a stupid login or something?

The answer: Book Lookup.

When you pull up the Encounter Generator webpage there is a simple text-box form with questions like:

"What is the 4th word on page 124?"

"How many skulls are on page 65?"

"What plant is found in the boiling spring?"

"Who is the 4th NPC listed on page 234?"

You could easily have 100 or so of these questions with a random one being asked when the page is pulled up. That way people who own the books can use it without much trouble, while everyone else will be tempted to buy the books.

Heck, with a little work the questions could even be a sort of marketing; enticing newcomers to buy the book just for access to the app.

Take all this with a grain of salt; just my thought experiment for the day.

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NICE! This is some awesome stuff.
After the brief GenCon hiatus, Axthetable is back for the rest of the 2.5 interseasonal. In this episode Ric & Rob head to the 200 word rpg playfest to try and play as many of the competitions entries as possible (spoiler, we ended up playing too many of them all the way through to get too far!)

0031 Shuffles & Skeletons by Carlos Martins
0525 Build Your Own RPG by Andrew J. Young
0710 Manic Pixie Dream Girl by Jenni Sands
1050 Demon Dare by Daniele Di Rubbo
1457 Time To Run by Sanchit Sharma
2427 Fair Verona Burns by Adam T. Minnie

Thanks to Sanchit for playing with us and +David Schirduan for organising the competition as a whole.

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What game needs a simple reference sheet?

I've been on a roll making these things and it's been a blast. Give me the next thing to work on!

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Added a reference for Uncharted Worlds, a really cool game I hope to take for a spin soon.
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