An Interview with David Schirduan, Creative Genius Behind Mythic Mortals

About two weeks ago, I was scheduled to record an interview with David Schirduan, but due to the recent catastrophic storms we suffered in South Carolina, I had to cancel that interview to work on my house. This “text-based” interview is the natural progression of my commitment to honor the canceled interview. David happens to live locally and we have met and chatted on several occasions. His newest game design, Mythic Mortals, just launched on Kickstarter. David provides some great insight into his game, his design choices and who he is as a designer and person.

B: Let’s start off by telling our readers about Technical Grimoire. What type of games do you design and for what genres?

DS: Technical Grimoire started as a school project to maintain and update a regular blog for 6 months. I hated it at first. Now, the Technical Grimoire is where I go when I need to create. I see it as less of a game store, and more of a workshop. I’m always working on my games, writing blog posts, fiddling with programming, or just exploring new ideas.

Right now, most of my games are pretty short, light on mechanics, and big on themes.

  • Welcome Minions is a cooperative game of scheming and backstabbing. Players must find the line between working together and getting ahead.
  • Jedi Wushu is a star wars hack of Wushu by Daniel Bayne, allowing players to create intricate and amazing fight scenes in the Star Wars universe.
  • Goodbye, Mr. Dragonfly is a word-letter game that allows families to tell stories together.
  • Kintsugi is a game where you design and create your characters as you play. The whole game fits on ½ a page of paper.
  • Hashtag: Trending is a simple card game of Social Manipulation.
  • And Mythic Mortals, my newest and largest game, is about playing as your real-world self suddenly granted incredible abilities and powers.

If you find a pattern amongst my games let me know, but I’d like to think I’m dipping my toes in a bunch of different styles and genres.

RB: Mythic Mortals, what is it and what sets it apart from other games currently on the market?

DS: Mythic Mortals is a Tabletop RPG with a heavy focus on action-packed combat. It’s easiest to just give a bullet points of my favorite qualities about Mythic Mortals.

  • Mythic Mortals uses cards and dice to customize your character. No pencils or text boxes; playing it is a unique tactile experience.
  • Rather than unlocking abilities as your level up, you start out with all of your powers, only some of which you can have active at a time. It’s more about the combinations of abilities than simply learning the best spells.
  • Character creation and setting up take seconds: your home-town is overrun with monsters. You play as yourself with incredible powers and legendary weapons. GO!
  • The fictional state of your character is directly connected to the state of the player. In the beginning, you’re learning how to play the game and control your cards, while at the same time your character is learning to control their shifting abilities.
  • The game is all about controlling your powers, creating a unique situation where you are always rolling against yourself. GMs don’t set difficulty levels, making the game really fast and easy to run. Players always know what they have to beat, and if a failure occurs, it’s temporary.
  • Your weapons, powers, and strengths shift constantly, forcing you to adapt the cards to your situation. Maybe you started out sniping foes from afar, but when your bow turns into a sword, it’s time to wade into the fray.

RB: How does Mythic Mortals model the ability for a player to play themselves? Is there anything special, mechanically, that has to be addressed during character creation?

DS: Although you play as yourself, you must still select what kinds of powers you have by choosing a class. Your class shows all of your potential powers, and how you combine those powers may be completely different from how someone else would combine them.

For example, say you pick The Hunter as your class. The Hunter is all about ranged attacks and elemental strikes. The Brute, on the other hand, is all about smashing things and grappling with foes. So even though you play as yourself, you can pick what kinds of powers you have.

Originally I had a ton of rules for creating an in-game reflection of yourself, via a long and boring questionnaire. That idea was scrapped because it slowed down the game, and wasn’t very fun.

RB: Does Mythic Mortals permit longer campaign play or short one-shots? Which do you prefer and why?

DS: I have some bare-bones rules for longer campaign play, but Mythic Mortals has been designed from the beginning to facilitate fast and furious one-shot adventures. I wanted players to have a full-fledged game experience in just 2-3 hours.

To that end, I cut out a LOT of stuff (leveling, character creation, setting bloat, complex rules) and did everything I could to make it easy to jump into a game. The cards are quick and intuitive while the rules are all summarized right there on the character sheet.

You can explore everything Mythic Mortals has to offer in just a few hours. While the experience is different for each player class, it’s not like games that still provide new content months and years later.

RB: What does the future look like for the Mythic Mortals product line now that your Kickstarter has met its funding goal?

DS: Great question! I’d like to keep making and releasing more Mats and adventures. Mythic Mortals is exactly the kind of game that I like to play; so I’ll be making content for it regardless.

What I’m really hoping is to encourage and support a thriving community of content creators. I want people to take what I’ve done and make something new and exciting! Mythic. If my continued expansions inspire people to make something, then my dreams have been realized!

As for specific plans/projects, I’d like to make a mission generator so GMs can easily create interesting and balanced adventures. A boss/monster bestiary is also in the works. Who knows what else lies in store?

RB: You rotating card mechanic is very different, can you explain how it works and how you came to include this mechanic? 

DS: Wow, that’s a great question. I could ramble on about this for a LONG time. Instead, I’ll give you the short version.

Dungeon World has been a major influence for me, and the game I have played more than any other. One of my biggest criticisms is that many of the cool abilities on a dungeon world character sheets are unlocked by leveling up over time. For a longer campaign, this isn’t a big deal, but in my group we only run one-shots and short games.

The end result is a bunch of really cool moves that we never got to use. So I came up with a way for players to have access to a bunch of really cool abilities that all get to be used throughout the course of a 2-hour game. In order to prevent players from being overwhelmed with 20 new abilities, the card mechanics allow players to only have a handful active at any given time.

Mythic Mortals isn’t about unlocking and learning the best abilities. It’s about mixing and matching different combinations of weapons, flaws, and powers to best fit your current situation. It’s a game that provides a lot of variety and complexity without being overwhelming.

RB: Is there anything the Kickstarter campaign has taught you about being a publisher? Maybe lessons learned so far? 

DS: Being a publisher is hard work. The hardest part has just been managing everything. Making sure that I’ve got artists, that we’re all on the same page, and that the timeline is being followed. Working with an editor to re-write the rulebook. Designing a cover image without the artwork (since it won’t be ready until the artists are done). Making sure the layout of the book works with the art style and tone of everything. Managing backer questions and concerns. I could go on, but I won’t.

I’m not a Kickstarter expert, but I knew it would be a lot of work. I reached out to a lot of KS veterans who were able to help me prepare. I have a lot more respect for publishers and a lot more respect for Kickstarters.

One last thing: It’s easy to look at a Kickstarter like mine and say, “Whoa! David made over $2000! That’s like 8 Xboxes! I wish I had $2000.” But ALL of that money goes right back into the game. If the campaign ends right now, I’m making a little less than $150 profit on the whole thing. It really is about getting the money you need to make a quality product, not about getting rich. I’ll get rich once MM is available on store shelves!

RB: Mythic Mortals aside, let’s talk about David Schirduan the game for a moment. What type of games do you enjoy and why?

DS: I spent most of my life playing video games. I love long, grindy RPGs, shooters, old-school arcade games, tough platformers, and fighting games. I used to think that board games were stodgy and old-fashioned. After all, how can monopoly compare to Smash Brothers?!

But as time has gone on, video games have begun to focus less and less on couch games (games that multiple players can all play together, like goldeneye or Mario Party. Many of the video games today rely on internet lobbies and online match-making.

That’s not a bad thing, per say, but when I want to play something with my friends, video games are no longer the best choice. Over the past 2-3 years, I’ve discovered the wonder of board games and tabletop RPGs; and it’s been really exciting to explore this new realm. I’ve taken to it like a fish to water.

RB: What does the future hold for Technical Grimoire? 

DS: I hinted at some vague plans for Mythic Mortals earlier, but I honestly can’t think much past this Kickstarter right now. One thing at a time!

RB: In what ways are you connected to the industry apart from being a principle in Technical Grimoire?

DS: My primary community is on G+. It’s a great place to collaborate on games and ideas. Aside from that, I have a store page on DrivethruRPG, but my blog and G+ are the main places to find my tabletop side.

RB: Will we see you on the convention circuit this year? If so, where can our readers meet, talk and more importantly, game with you this year?

DS: I usually don’t make it out to conventions because of travel or money reasons. However, my wife and I will be at PAX south 2016 in San Antonio, which we are VERY much looking forward to!

I also run a weekly Mythic Mortals game online (usually on Saturdays.) Games are posted in the MM G+ community.

RB: Please tell our readers what three industry or hobby personalities you would love to see interviewed by Rolling Boxcars and why. 

Ds: Hmmm….Alright, here are my picks:

James D’Amato of One-shot. He is an excellent GM, and runs a very tight ship for his podcast One-Shot. The brilliant twist is that James is an improv actor AND a GM. So he runs games with a lot of his improv friends, and the result is a fun, clever adventure. I’d love to hear more about how he got started, and how improv improves his games.

Rickard Elmaa is a smart man. He’s written some fascinating blog posts on the philosophy of games, and the cycles of play. I’d love to hear more about how he approaches games, what games interest him, etc.

Lastly is Tod Foley. Tod has been recently working on a sci-fi OSRish game called DayTrippers. What fascinates me is that he created DayTrippers as a solid game at it’s core. But then he released extensive GM guides, tools for creating adventures, tons of theories and methods for running games, etc. It’s some impressive stuff, all to support this solid core game. I haven’t seen that before.

As you can see, David is an interesting person with some great innovative design ideas. David ran Mythic Mortals at Storm-Con this past summer and the reaction by players was amazing. One always expect some mixed reviews when a little-known game is introduced at a modest sized convention for the first time, but we (the staff) were pleasantly surprised by all the really positive comments we heard. I am excited to see that he has taken the next step and brought his game to Kickstarter for the rest of the world see what makes it great and innovative.

~ Modoc

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