The Invisible Sun roleplaying game Kickstarter is yet another innovative offering from Monte Cook Games. Fully funded and smashing through stretch goals, the Kickstarter is almost over, running through Friday. Monte Cook Games has a track record of releasing quality, content-rich games, on time, and as promised. Games such as Numenera, The Strange, and No Thank You, Evil! have all offered solid rulesets with intriguing settings.
Invisible Sun appears to be another solid offering. I can’t do the setting justice here—you should really visit the Kickstarter page to delve into that—but, in short, here is how they introduce us to the setting.
The place where you sit, reading this right now, is a place called Shadow. Despite what you may think, this is not the real world, but a shadow of it. The real world is a place called the Actuality. This is a strange, surreal setting where magic is real and the impossible is entirely possible. It’s a dark place of demons, ghosts, and far stranger things, but it’s also a place of wonder and light—angels of the Legacy and continually shapeshifting elderbrin—where magic can do astonishing things.
What caught my attention though is more in the design of the mechanics of the game. My biggest obstacle in gaming is getting everyone together to actually game. What interests me about Invisible Sun is that the rules are designed to handle players coming and going, casual gamers popping in, remote players, and even gaming as individuals or small groups without the game master. Through the concepts of flashbacks and side scenes, players can continue their characters’ stories and involvement between gaming sessions and even if they miss a session.
This is handled by the game having three different modes. Action Mode and Narrative Mode are familiar to most RPG players. Action Mode is focused on detail with players taking turns each game round, and Narrative Mode is more of a discussion with players and GM discussing what is going on in the game without much need for turn taking or detailed tracking. The third mode however is new: Development Mode.
You don’t use dice in Development Mode. Even character sheets probably aren’t really necessary much of the time. This mode might involve the player(s) sitting down with the GM, or it might be handled through texts sent back and forth. In Development Mode, one or more players decide to take an action that can be resolved away from the table.
Development Mode offers all manner of new play opportunities. Players can play the game between full table sessions if they want. A player can use Development Mode as it fits into their personal schedule. Even if they can’t make it to the regular session, they can still move their character’s story forward. If one or two players can’t make it to a scheduled session, the group can still play using Development Mode, focusing on side issues rather than the main narrative. Players can play even if the GM isn’t available.
It’s this Development Mode that I really want to see and delve more into. In discussing how Invisible Sun came to be Monte Cook describes:
It all starts with my childhood. When I was in about eighth or ninth grade, after school I’d walk with my friends to one of our houses. We’d invariably start talking about the D&D campaign I was running. Discussion would quickly become statements of “I’d go to the Empress and say this…” or “I’d like to learn what power this new magic ring has.” Soon, I’d be replying, “Well, the Empress’s chamberlain pulls you aside to say something,” or “Nothing you try with the ring on your own produces any effect, but you could go to a sage to decipher those inscribed runes.” In other words, right there on the sidewalk, we’d be playing the game. If we needed a die roll, we’d have to wait until we got to my friend’s house, but truthfully we didn’t need those that often. We were just handling all the narrative elements of the story as it developed. —Monte Cook
My kids and I have played many a roleplaying game this way, and have even developed a dice rolling scheme so we don’t have to wait until we “get to a friend’s house.” In my regular group sessions as gamester and player, between games I often provide side stories for my players, or hound my game master with ideas and actions I want my character to take, or just work on and think about the events and my character on my own. Development Mode as offered by Invisible Sun is extremely exciting to me in that it can offer “the rest of the game,” that I’ve only ever tangentially been able to experience.
Invisible Sun does carry a pretty high price tag for a Kickstarter, but as an owner of both Numenera and No Thank You, Evil! Kickstarter rewards, I can attest to the high production quality of Monte Cook Game products, and look at all of this content you’ll be getting!
Invisible Sun is a tabletop roleplaying game of surreal fantasy. It’s dark. It’s moody. It’s adult. It’s also perhaps the most deluxe and amazing roleplaying game product ever produced. Inside the specially designed cube you will find four books, a folding game board, a resin monolith, a metal medallion, four special dice, player handouts, tokens, and hundreds of cards to enhance your gameplay. —Invisible Sun Kickstarter Page.
Invisible Sun is a very special product, with a lot of high-quality components but quality like this comes at a premium. Some people will want to consider buying the Black Cube as a group. —Invisible Sun Kickstarter Page
So, whether the game mechanics appeal to you or the surreal and magical game setting do, go check out the Invisible Sun Kickstarter page. It is rife with information about the setting, the rules, and all the stretch goal content you’ll be getting as a pledger.