In 2018, Monte Cook Games released Invisible Sun, a massive tabletop game where players took on the role of vislae—newly awakened sorcerers that have returned to travel across the planes of existence in order to hone their magic after exile. It was delivered in a literal black box and sold out almost immediately, becoming a treasured collectors’ item and an instant cult classic.
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A new crowdfunding campaign for a reprint was just launched—and within hours, Invisible Sun’s return was fully funded. io9 got on the phone with Charles Ryan, the CEO of Monte Cook Games, who said he was thrilled with this support. “Clearly there’s some pent-up demand,” Ryan said. “When I say we sold out, I mean we sold out… There are no black cubes at MCG, nothing in the warehouses, it was not available.” Ryan mentioned that some employees even gave up personal copies to fulfill demand.
The game is surreal and strange; our world exists on a plane, but you play the game within the other planes of existence. The game is, at its core, about subverting expectations and forcing people to ask questions about the world around them. “It’s about how you juxtapose things in an unexpected way. We’ve all seen a cat and we’ve all seen a snail. But when you combine them that’s going to give people pause,” said Ryan. “A big part of Invisible Sun is that the concrete world we live in, where everything is knowable and provable, is a lie. The actual truths of the universe are vaster than what we are a part of.”
The game evokes a sense of wonder and joy, emphasizing a strange and overwhelming beauty as characters create their own directives in this world. In order to get to that mechanically, Ryan said, “You need to have a system that allows you to have unexpected results. You have to make it feel magical. There are at least four magic systems in the game, but all are driven by the tarot-like Sooth deck that will affect aspects of magic in game.”
And because the players are all magicians, in a sense, the Sooth deck is an immediate change to the core of the characters themselves. “As you turn over these cards you will mechanically affect the world on a turn-by-turn or scene-by-scene basis.” This means, Ryan explained, that players consider what they can do “right now” rather than what their character sheet says they can do.
Another key to this game, in a kind of meta twist on the setting, is when the game occurs even outside of the explicit framework of the table. “You can create scenes away from the game table and come back, have a conversation with the DM, and advance the story narratively,” Ryan said. These are called “side-scenes,” and “players can do this together, and go to the GM, who can [use] a single Sooth card to give players a resolution.”
Invisible Sun is based on the Cypher System, first introduced in MCG’s Numenara in 2013, and it’s designed to focus on rich character building and bonds. “Characters advance by pursuing their goals,” explained Ryan. “And characters actually have to experience joy and despair in order to advance.”
The game might be intimidating, but Monte Cook and the designers worked hard to make sure there are easy ways to onboard players. There are stripped-down versions of the character sheets that allow for people to drop into the game, and the world-building allows characters to enter into the game through the various planes.
One of the new products that Monte Cook is hoping to offer could help solve that intimidation problem, since even experienced players might find Invisible Sun overwhelming to start. The Wellspring will unlock after 656 backers (which, considering at time of writing, the Backerkit was almost at 500, seems incredibly likely), and “will be based on the idea of giving you a place to start as you build these characters in that first session and develop all their hooks. [The Wellspring] will also give GMs ideas for how to use those hooks in the plotline.”
You can back Invisible Sun on Backerkit now. A free quickstart of the game is available to download.
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