You’ve always felt like this wasn’t your home, that the world was missing something. Well, you were right, you just forgot why. You need to come home, the War is over, and the Shadows are growing darker. Come back with us into the light of the Invisible Sun.

Monte Cook Games is creating waves with its new RPG Invisible Sun, on Kickstarter right now, which whispers sweet nothings of changing the way we play RPGs altogether. Head Snail-Wrangling Gnome Darcy Ross teamed up with Mika Talley, a visiting vislae from the Actuality, to pull secrets from the very mouth of Monte Cook himself.

To protect these critical nuggets of truth from the inevitable decay of the Shadow, we’ve provided both an audio recording and a slightly abridged transcription. Indeed, the decay has already started, and a portion of the audio was lost. Look to the section “The Extremely Secret Unaired Question About Secrets” to catch up after listening.


The final secret we barter for (see “Will Trade Soul for Secrets” section at the end) should take effect today or tomorrow, as the Invisible Sun Kickstarter starts winding its way back through the Nightside Path of Suns! Watch out for big changes on the Kickstarter.

Darcy: Hi, I’m Darcy from Gnome Stew.

Mika: And I’m Mika from The Actuality.

Darcy: And today we’re going to wring secrets of the Invisible Sun out of Monte Cook, co-owner of Monte Cook Games and the weird mind behind Ptlolus, Planescape, Numenera, and much more. Thank you for coming on Monte.

Monte Cook: Thanks for having me.

Elevator Pitch

Mika: So your Kickstarter has already been hugely successful hitting the funding goal in about two days despite much of the game being largely a mystery. What would be your basic elevator pitch for this game to people who haven’t really heard very much about it?

 Invisible Sun is a game of surrealistic fantasy. 
Monte Cook: Invisible Sun is a game of surrealistic fantasy. It’s a game where the player characters’ goal is to uncover secrets, which in a way is another way of saying rather than killing things, the goal in this game is to learn things, which I like as an approach. Invisible Sun tries to do a lot of other things as well. It tries to address some of the challenges that modern world players face about not always being able to get together, not always being able to have everyone at the table at the same time, but also addresses ideas that not everybody likes to play games in the same way. You know, some of us are more introverted and some of us are extroverted and we have different needs on a personal level, so Invisible Sun tries to address those as well. So it’s ambitious, I guess, and we don’t know if it’s successful on any of those things yet or not, but that’s what we’re trying.


Surreal-Tailored Mechanics

Darcy: I think we’re going to break a couple pieces of that off and delve into them, because we’re really excited about a couple of elements of the novelty that you’re presenting for us.  So, we’re Cypher System fans…

Mika: Yeah we are.

Darcy: YEAH we are.

Monte Cook: Me Too!

Mika: Imagine!

Darcy: The element of discovery is a sensibility shared between the two game systems, but Invisible Sun is not a Cypher System Game. Can you give an example where you are introducing a non-Cypher System mechanic or sensibility or element that tailors it to the surreal fantasy setting? Can you tell us your favorite one that really supports this different type of game?

Monte Cook: Wow I have to narrow it down to just one?

Darcy: (laughs) We’re happy to have you talk for more. We’re trying to give you an out.

 When those cards and symbols interact, they change the way magic works.
Monte Cook: The thing that immediately comes to mind is that this game utilizes something called the Sooth Deck. We’ve seen a few of the images so far, we’ve released a couple of the kind of weird surreal images. This is going to be a deck of 60 cards: each one has these great images but also has some things around the borders that key off of things in the game, because they’re not just for pictures they are a part of the mechanics of the game. The deck plays into the game itself when you are using magic, which can sometimes trigger a turn of one of these cards. And every time one of these new cards is revealed, you play it on the Path of Suns, which is this diagram that we have – you can go to and see it – the cards are round so they fit nicely on those cool symbols.When those cards and symbols interact, they change the way magic works. Sometimes temporarily, sometimes for a longer amount of time. It is like magic is always in flux. The thing that’s cool about that is that it’s almost always player character actions which change it, so you can almost imagine it like this still pool, and every time the player characters do something, or often when the players do something, they’re poking their finger in the pool and it’s creating ripples. You start poking your finger a few times and the ripples start to interact, so magic is always different. And it’s because of these cards.


Monte: Very closely related is the other thing that comes to mind as a brand new mechanic: the way that dice rolling works in this game. Basically, when you attempt a task, similar to the Cypher System, the GM is going to set a difficulty, and the player is going to take some modifications to that difficulty and try to lower it. We don’t call it difficulty in Invisible Sun, we call it challenge. It’s the same kind of concept. The idea is that you roll a die and you see if you can succeed at that challenge, but where it gets really interesting is if magic starts to come into play.

Most of the time, magic doesn’t really affect the challenge, the number you need to roll, but it allows you to roll more dice. So suddenly you’re rolling two dice to see if you can get a six, which increases your odds. It appeals to the game designer in me, the way that works, because your odds of succeeding at a task that is more difficult with two dice is different than if the task is simpler with two dice. So that becomes a very interesting mechanic to play around with. The reason that is so significant in Invisible Sun is that the first die the die you’re always rolling is called the mundane die. The extra dice you add on are because of magic, so they’re magic dice. If you get a failure roll on a magic die, it has a different effect than if you get a failure roll on a mundane die.

 Something that is true to the setting is built right into the mechanics: if you are facing magic, you need magic on your side. 
Let’s give an example. So, you’re trying to pick a lock. You’re going to go up to the lock and you’ve got a lockpick and you roll your mundane die. And we know how that works. Now, I’m going to use a magic spell that enables me to be better at picking the lock. Cool, right? What if it’s a magical lock? Meaning there’s magic involved on the challenge side. That means that you need to get more successes. The reason that that appeals to me as a game designer is if you need 2 successes, the only way you are going to possibly succeed is if you’re rolling at least two dice. So it’s built right into the mechanics something that is true to the setting: if you are facing magic, you need magic on your side. Magic has to deal with magic. It’s built right into the very core mechanics of the game.

Darcy/Mika: Very cool. Great. Thanks so much.

Playing Vislae


 Your foundation includes your background, where you live, who your friends are, the sort of the things that makes your character a person. 
Mika: Let’s talk a little bit about actually playing the game and the characters in the world. The player characters were all once denizens of the Shadow and now they’re in the Actuality again. So, are each of the characters’ transitions unique? Will that be explored at all in the game, or is that the past and we don’t really worry about it?

Monte Cook: Developing your character’s background is what we actually formalized as a process and call foundation. It is like in the Cypher System: you’ve got a sentence that describes your character. One of the elements in your sentence in Invisible Sun is your foundation. Your foundation includes your background, where you live, who your friends are, the sort of the things that makes your character a person.

Mika: Right.

Monte Cook: And you can develop that, and maybe a big part of your background is what you did in Shadow. Maybe you were something really interesting. Maybe you were a police officer or maybe you were are a criminal, and so that plays into who you are as a person. But maybe you don’t care about that. Maybe that part is not interesting to you. The foundation becomes as big or a small a part as the player wants.

Darcy: I really like that there seems to be a through line of plurality in this game – you’re fitting different peoples’ interests in the same game.


Darcy:  I’m glad you brought up the character sentence. You guys have been slowly doling out information about what all those pieces are and what can go there. And so we’re going to try to wring a little more out of you. I just ran Planescape second edition at Gen Con had a blast.

Monte: Cool!

Darcy:  And one of the elements that I really liked with that Planescape setting is the factions and how the factions interplay. You guys have given us a little information about one of those chunks of the sentence, your order, which is who your friends are, how you’re interacting with magic, or what kind of magic you have. You’ve said that whatever order you’re in, you can advance through or progress within that realm. I was wondering if you could give me an insight into how the order plays out roleplaying-wise, or how you can see that playing out at the table. Is it a group of people that you might be interacting with, like a faction in Planescape? Is it coloring your philosophy or how you treat other people? Can you tell me what that’s going to feel like at the table?

 Order doesn’t equate to D&D levels or Cypher System Tiers, but it is one way to advance your character. 
Monte Cook: Sure. Orders are another aspect where I’ve tried really hard to merge the world and the game mechanics together. So everyone is a member of an order, unless you’re an apostate, which are people who reject orders. If this is making you feel reminded of Planescape, that isn’t a coincidence. I loved Planescape. I loved working on Planescape and orders are a little bit like factions in that they are they are organizations in the world. So you can advance in degree in each of the orders. (Obviously not apostates.) But each of the other orders has a way to advance in degree. And this will give you access to interesting new character options, but it also comes with responsibility. There are roleplaying requirements as well as mechanical ones. You have to talk to the right people and see if you can convince them, because advancing in degree isn’t just something that, like in a videogame, “boom” it happens. You have to actually be promoted by other people and interact with them. However if you don’t want to deal with that, you want to be of the order of Vance, but you don’t care about advancing, there’s lots of other ways to advance your character. You can remain first degree Vance your entire career, and it doesn’t hinder you. So it doesn’t equate to D&D levels or even Cypher System Tiers, but it is one way to advance your character.

Darcy: Awesome. Thank you so much. My follow up is, which order would you be Monte? Of the ones you’ve announced so far, or is it a secret one.

 Weavers take different concepts and they weave them together. 
Monte: Well we’ve given out the names and very general attributes of all of them. I would probably be a Weaver. We talked in one of the updates so far about Vances. The spells that Vances use are very regimented and are all set out and have very clear parameters. But Weavers are the opposite of that.  Weavers can learn a few spells, but the way they primarily interact with magic is not through spells or any kind of regimentation. Weavers take different concepts and they weave them together. So Weavers have access to different kinds of concepts. If you had access to Thunder and Hatred, for example, you could weave those together and have some kind of offensive magic that uses thundering sonic energy to attack your foes or something. And so you kind of creating your magic as you go. That’s the kind of character that will really appeal to people who want to be really creative and are willing to kind of do that on the fly.

Darcy: Awesome. I really like Wheel of Time, I feel like with that and Avatar, magic is this built thing as opposed to a regimented thing. Very cool.

Different Player Types

Mika: In the Kickstarter you said that the game recognizes the differences between types of players and accommodates people who want simpler characters, or non-magical characters, even multiple characters. I was wondering if you could expand on that a little bit? Does the Development Mode help that mechanically?

Monte Cook: Yes and no. The people who want really simple characters, this option is really more for… Let’s say you’re getting ready to have a game on Friday night and your cousin is visiting from out of town. Everyone has all these well-developed characters, and you want to insert her into the game. Well, what you would do is create what’s called a shadow character which is a really simple character to make and play. It takes just like two minutes to put together a shadow character. That character is not going to have a lot of magical options or whatnot, but it’s a character with agency that can do things and still act in the game and has abilities, but they’re pretty simple straightforward abilities. It’s very quick and you can take this game which is sort of complex and involved and insert someone into it really quickly. That’s kind of what I mean. You know, there are going to be people who are just like “I just want to play a shadow character. I don’t want to think about it between games, I just want to show up on Friday night.” A shadow character is going be fun for that person. I don’t remember the rest of the question. I’m sorry.

Mika: That’s okay, me either. So… non-magical characters and multiple characters?

Monte Cook: Right. One of the options that’s going to be available in the game is you’ve got these characters which are all really simple to create and simple to play. So simple, in fact, that if you’re going to take that option as a long term option, it might get a little dull in comparison with the other characters. So imagine if instead of playing a shadow character, you are playing three of them, right?

 You don’t have to make those two characters or two play experiences identical. You just have to make them both good. 
It’s delving into something that I’ve been experimenting with on a number of different levels which I call, and other people call, asymmetrical play. Where what you are doing in the game and what I’m doing are very different, but as long as we both having a great time, and we’re both challenged, and we’re both doing the things that we want to do, that’s a great game. You don’t have to make those two characters or two play experiences identical. You just have to make them both good.

Darcy: That’s a term I usually hear with respect to board games, right?

Monte Cook: Right.

Darcy: That asymmetrical board game play style, it feels like you’ve got a couple of elements here that are taking cool lessons from board games and bringing them into the RPG world which sounds very fun to me. Thank you.

18-Shhh-Samuel Araya

Development Mode – Play Away From the Table

(Alternate Title: When Your Mom Says To Go Play Outside)

Darcy: We haven’t talked about the third mode of play, yet, but I am just so excited by it. Let me try to explain it. The third mode of play is Development Mode, which is however you’re engaging with the game away from the table. That could be just you and the GM, it could be you and a couple other players, etc. And you’re going to have an app that supports this. You can use the Sooth Deck to generate random effects for you to interpret from and play with. Is that an accurate description?

Monte Cook: It is. Yes.

Darcy: I was curious to know how far can this go. Do you imagine that the diversity of play with this new element added is going to be pretty vast? Could you have a game that’s on hiatus for six months and have it only be played by Development Mode until later? Like, how much can this mode of play sustain? Do you think do you see it more as like a patchwork between real sessions, or do you think it can stand alone pretty strongly?

Monte Cook: I think it all depends on the players. I am a player and I have played with players who could probably play only Development Mode and have a great time. But, to be perfectly up front about it, that would be very, very much a group storytelling kind of thing. Much more. I want to be careful how I say this, but it’s almost not a game at that point, but a group storytelling thing, which I think is great.

Darcy:  It’s just different.

Monte Cook: But yeah, I can see going for a long time using only Development Mode. As we’re beginning to playtest and run it, you know I’m doing both very heavily. There’s Development Mode between every single regular session and usually, if I’m the game master I’m doing that a number of times and I’m doing it in different ways. One person is saying I want to go do this thing, so she and I got off and talk over coffee or whatever, but with another person I might be interacting with solely through email or whatever (because the app doesn’t exist yet). And that’s fine too, right? I haven’t done it, but you know you could just you could do Development over the phone or text.

Darcy: Smoke signals!

Mika: I’m so excited about Development Mode. I was in the seminar when you were talking about it, and I like welled up with tears a little bit. I was like “Get it together. You are in public.”

Monte: It really appeals to certain kinds of players.

Mika: For certain kinds of players, it’s going to be huge and it’s going to fill out the story for people that at the table might not be as chatty, or if there’s somebody that wants to railroad everything into combat all the time. (That guy is always at the table.) But you were in another interview with OCDcast on July 10th, talking about that guy at the table that’s always on his phone and how Development Modes can kind of pull that guy back in. Did you intend for it to also be available at the table, or was that just something more for that guy that’s like not quite as engaged as everybody else at the table?

 Invisible Sun comes with all these very tactile, very visual sorts of things that really make tabletop play sing. 
Monte Cook: Maybe more of the latter. Obviously when a game goes out into the wild, it gets played in all kinds of different ways. My conception of it is that Development Mode isn’t played at the table. And part of that is because we recognize how rare it is and how difficult it is to get everyone together and play around the table, we want to celebrate that. It’s one of the reasons why Invisible Sun comes with all these very tactile, very visual sorts of things that really make tabletop play sing. And so, you know you could pull out the app or use Development Mode at the table, but it may be more fun if you had all the other stuff going on and you’re rolling dice and stuff too.

Designing Invisible Sun

Darcy: Awesome. We wanted to pick your brain briefly about how this design process has been. I think you mentioned that you’ve had this in the works for almost two years, so it’s been on your mind for a while now. Can you tell me why this is so special to you? Like, what elements of it are keeping you up at night? That’s the thing that’s kept this in your heart for two years and the thing that’s pushing you through Kickstarter, which is a pain in the butt? Tell us why it’s so special to you.

 Kickstarter is like taking your newborn and holding it up in front of the world and saying, “OK what do you think?” 
Monte Cook: It’s funny that you say that about Kickstarter. I was thinking about Kickstarter this morning and this analogy came to my brain. When you make a product, which is what I’ve done most of my career, right, I’ve done a product and then I’ve had it printed and sent it off to the game stores. That’s like having a child and sending them off into the world as an adult. You kind of have done all you can with it. You’ve tried to make it as great as you could, but then it’s off on its own and it’s got to stand on its own two feet. Kickstarter is like taking your newborn and holding it up in front of the world and saying, “OK what do you think?”

Mika: “This is going to be great, right?!”

Monolith-Rotating-SmallerMonte Cook: You know, it’s a very different experience. It’s actually a very vulnerable experience. But anyway that wasn’t your question. Your question was the development process. So I started really thinking that this was going to be a game two years ago. It’s something that’s been sort of more on the back of my mind even longer than that. You know, in the same way that Numenera was a lot of different things that were kind of in the back of my brain and they all kind of came together. Invisible Sun is very similar.

So for me, the surreal aspect of it comes from probably the fact that when I was a kid, almost all science fiction and fantasy art was surreal in some way. Very rarely did we get exactly what’s going on in the scene of the Lord of the Rings, it was kind of presenting a metaphorical kind of thing. My kid brain wanted to take that stuff and making all literal. So I would see some science fiction book cover, and (I’m just making this up) there would be this giant hand thrusting its way out of the ground. And there’s like a city on the hand, or whatever, and I wanted to create a setting where there really was a giant hand coming up out of the ground and there was a city in the palm and that really was true. That’s always been a part of me and I love that kind of art all the time. I’m a big fan of like Michael Parks and Vladimir Kush, and all these different artists that do stuff that they probably don’t mean to be taken literally. But I like to, you know. (Lots of laughing.)

Darcy: I love this it’s like we fail at being surreal and make it real. It’s a great game.

 I feel like it is my job and the job of other game designers to start looking at what it’s like to be a gamer in 2016 and start coming up with ways to make that work. 
Monte Cook: Yeah. So that’s excited me for a long time. I have worked as a full-time game designer for almost 30 years. Throughout that time, people have said to me, “Oh I wish I could play more, but my group can only manage to get together once a month or whatever and I love playing, but things like that just kind of get in the way.” So I feel like it is my job and the job of other game designers out there to start looking at what it’s like to be a gamer in 2016 and start coming up with ways to make that work.

Because it’s different now. We’re busier, there’s a lot going on, the internet exists. It might be time for us to look past the way things were back in 1974 when Gary and Dave invented D&D, and see what else we can do.  I’m sure that other designers will come up with other and probably better solutions than I have, but Invisible Sun is my first shot at it.

Darcy: I could even see [Development Mode] even being helpful for new players, right? I feel like I run one shots for people who are new to RPGs and are super into it, and are so excited when they leave and then there’s this energy crash of trying to schedule a game and everyone’s busy. I don’t know, it would be nice to maybe let them engage with it this other way.

Mika: After Stranger Things came out, I cannot count the number of people that were like “Oh my god could you please be my Dungeon Master.” I’m like “I’m a Game Master”. I was like yeah, I would love to run a game for you, when is good for you? And they’re just like, “Well how’s next month?” I don’t know how next month is.

 Development Mode allows us to engage with somebody in the way that they want to engage 
Monte Cook: Right right. Yeah yeah. That’s just something that we all face. Development Mode allows us to engage with somebody in the way that they want to engage, which is what Development Mode is all about. You are talking about just their character, which is often what Development Mode is, where you’re really kind of focusing in. I think there’s a level of immersion that gets achieved there. There is a level of involvement. And so suddenly in addition to that being way more flexible than “let’s all get together on Friday night,” I think that what we’ll see is people starting to say “Well, you know I was going to do this other thing on Friday, but I’m going to cancel that because I really want to make it to this game and I’m really invested into this character now.”

Designing Difficulties

Darcy: Something to look forward to. My other design question is just a simple one. I’m curious, what the hardest part of designing this so far has been? Is there some element that you’ve played with a lot of different ways, or that just emotionally feels difficult to find the perfect version of for you?

Monte Cook: You know obviously there’s always big challenges with the design. Lately…So one of the things that’s actually surprisingly difficult in game design is coming up with the terminology.

 Invisible Sun has it’s own kind of flavor. 
You’ve got to come up with something that makes sense, that is intuitive, that isn’t used in a million different ways in other games. For the Cypher System, for example, you know I pulled in my partner Shanna Germain, and we tried to figure out what we should call Edge. And we worked on that for a very long time and went through a number of different iterations and this sounds like such a small thing, right. What do you call this thing? Actually, it’s super important because it’s a word that people are going to use a million times over and over again. So I have been struggling with some of the terminology because Invisible Sun has it’s own kind of flavor. And you brought up Planescape, which had its own sort of flavor.

Darcy: And words are so important for it.

Monte: Yeah. Right. And so you’ve got the Planescape cant and this sort of Victorian London but in the multiverse thing going on, and when Planescape really works, I think, is when it’s truest to that. Invisible Sun has something different. It’s sort of more…  I don’t know quite how to describe, but there’s an elegance to it. There’s a sophisticated kind of… an intelligence that doesn’t talk down to players. Invisible Sun assumes that you’re smart, which I personally always love. I like it when creators, you know make something that assumes that I’m smart and they’re smart and

Darcy: capable.

Monte Cook: Right. I think we are all smarter than we give ourselves credit. We all deal with that. And so I think that Invisible Sun has that and so the terminology has to fit that. I maybe have mentioned one of the stats, one called Qualia.

Qualia is this concept sort of in philosophy, of how information goes in your brain and becomes an idea.  There’s this whole cool concept that it is all deeply involved in consciousness and everything, and so extracting that into Invisible Sun seemed appropriate. That’s a term that I am in love with and worked hard to get there. So, the terms, I guess is the short answer to your question here.

GMing a Smart, Surreal-Flavored Game

Mika: Speaking of difficulties, there’s a growing concern that I’ve noticed in communities of writing for Invisible Sun from a GMing aspect because it is so surreal, it’s SO it’s so surreal. I’m already writing for Invisible Sun just so that I have like enough information that I can draw and be like oh and then this happens. Are you planning on having anything for GMs to help them get that surreal taste, like the Weird Deck in Numenera?

 The Sooth Deck is a mechanic in the game, but also an idea generator.
Monte Cook: Absolutely. In addition to the books having long discussions about this… Somebody asked a great question at that seminar you mention: how do you manage to keep things surreal without getting cartoonish? I’m going to talk about that and whatnot, but to inspire people, to get really to the heart of your question, one of things I’m really happy about is that you use that same thing that we already mentioned: the Sooth Deck. It’s a mechanic in the game, but also an idea generator. Each one of those images, if you look at it closely, has a lot going on. There are a lot of things that the game master can and say “Oh OK. So this person, has a face like a Raven right.” In the same way that the Weird Deck is this interesting creative prompt, the Sooth Deck (which you already have that table, which you’re already turning these cards over) will serve that as well.

Mika: That’s great. Yeah that’s wonderful. I’ve been seeing a lot of people that are just like I’m not weird enough for this, I want to be that weird, but I’m not.

Darcy: But we’re looking up at your baby and we’re panicking because we can’t read the GM advice section!

Monte: Ha ha ha.

Darcy: As information trickles down, I’m like, it’s okay, they’ll hold my hand like they did with Numenera.

Mika: It’s gonna be fine.

Monte: No I mean one of the things that I will say is, I can speak only for myself but for me I’m very inspired visually. The great thing is that there is so much great art. Some of it is older, right, those 70s book covers from science fiction fantasy, but newer cool stuff too. In Invisible Sun we’ll provide this big long list of artists to look up. The internet’s such a great way – you can literally see the complete works of every artist you’ve ever wanted to see with a few keystrokes, right? So there’s a lot of inspiration out there if you look for it.

The Extremely Secret Unaired Question About Secrets

Mika: So secrets are a huge part of the game – it’s sort of like the crux of the game, like social currency almost. In most roleplaying games, when one character learns something, they immediately share with the group. They do a spot check tell everybody “Look it’s a bug bear”. Or they discover something, like somebody has an ulterior motive, and they they warn the group immediately, with the exception of a couple of very fun players. It’s pretty standard. But there’s this idea that secrets are so important and that maybe this is the secret is going to bring you higher in your order or something like that. Do you think that there’s going to be less disclosing things between players, and do you see that being more difficult for gameplay, or do you think that’s just going to be all in the fun?

Monte Cook: I hope so. In my concept of the game, it’s not so much players keeping secrets from each other, except where it’s really fun. If you watched the gameplay video, one character, Jen, goes off and has a side scene in Development Mode and then comes back. She has the secret to get past this barrier, and gets to have the spotlight on her for a moment to reveal, “I know how to do this!” and it’s this weird visual thing she gets to do and describe. That revelation of the secret is a really cool moment in the game for the player. What I don’t see is players keeping a lot of secrets from each other, although some people will get off on that I guess.

Darcy: They’re going to do it whether you plan for it or not.

Monte Cook: And if they do, there’s room for that in Invisible Sun and it’s fine and I don’t think it will get in the way of gameplay, at least not any more than normal. Maybe even less actually – if you’ve got a lot of stuff going on in side scenes and the rest of the group never knows, it doesn’t actually hurt the group game play, it just enhances your own.

 You have freedom to have individual goals and stories and story arcs that maybe no one else is ever involved with.
You know that’s actually one of the things that I’ve been thinking about. We focus in role playing games on group stories so much and group motivations, to the point where sometimes you have to minimize individuals and individual play. You don’t want to focus on this one character too much because then everyone else is getting bored. But with Development Mode, you’ve got this whole way of focusing on that. You have freedom to have individual goals and stories and story arcs that maybe no one else is ever involved with. And what’s wrong that. Right. That could be kind of cool.

Keeping Track of Side Stories and Development Mode

Darcy: That leads into one more question I had. You said elsewhere that this Development Mode is giving us opportunities to be more like a TV show or a movie, where the camera can follow different groups. You can have a solo scene, you can go have a duet, and we don’t have to railroad it to where everyone must be in every scene at every time.

I think my players will eat this up, but my concern currently is that it could get a little overwhelming if things start fractal-ing out a bit. I’m nervous as a GM that I might give out some secrets in certain scenes and then I don’t know who really brought up to speed on what. I’m sure sometimes it can be a side plot, but if I am giving out some main plot information in Development Mode, do you think it potentially poses an issue for a GM to bring all those secrets together? Or is that just kind of going to be on the players to deal with? I think players are going to be happy they have secrets, but I go back and forth like “This will make my life so much easier” and “Oh my god I can fractal this out to infinity and get totally overwhelmed.“

Mika: I’m going to need spreadsheets and diagrams of secrets.

Box-Opening-SmallMonte Cook: It is interesting that you bring that up because one of the things that goes into the Black Cube that we haven’t really talked about much at all, just because there hasn’t been time… People have criticized us I think a little bit, like “Oh you haven’t told us everything about the game.” That’s just because there’s so much to tell! We’re not intentionally being cagey or anything.

A game master has to have a way of measuring those story arcs.
One of the things in the Black Box is this thing that just gets called the GM notebook. But that isn’t just a blank notebook for the GM to take notes right, it is for exactly what you’re talking about where you are organizing the plot lines. One of the things about Invisible Sun is that characters don’t really go up like in level or in the Cypher System in Tiers. But they advance because each person has their own individual story arcs. So a game master has to have a way of measuring those story arcs. And along the arc, everyone has got these particular “story points.” So you reach a point, and then get a thing, so we’ll have to have a way to manage all of those things, in my vision. (It only exists in my brain now.) This notebook will have a lot of prompts and ideas for like, if you have with character who really likes this sort of thing, why not set up a story arc for that? So this kind of person loves to join groups, right? Why not have this particular group approach them. So in the notebook, we have almost a madlib right, we’ll have a term that stands for character who likes to join things and you can just fill in and so it’ll help guide things along as well as manage things.

Darcy:  Super cool!

Mika: Yeah this is a first time I’m hearing about it-

Monte: It’s the first time I’ve talked about it.

Mika: Oh my god and I’m so excited about it because I was definitely like I’m like there’s going to be spreadsheets. I’m just going to have like a whole Google Drive of Madness.

Darcy: You can still have that.

Mika: Oh, I will. That’s happening now. Now there will also be a notebook.

Darcy: Yeah. Thank you so much. You’ve given us a ton of information and I feel really good about this. We’re really pumped.

Mika: So excited.

Will Trade Soul for Secrets

Darcy:  But, I think we have to end with that I hear there’s there’s a currency of soul trading in Invisible Sun. If we were to loan you out a portion of our soul would you give us a secret?

Mika: I can give you a lot of emotions, I hear they’re pretty good currency too.

Monte: They are actually! You guys really have been reading a lot.

Mika: Oh, that day after the seminar I stayed up till 4 in the morning pulling apart the code on your website.

Darcy: I’ve been getting a lot of audio fiction in my email. It’s been great and terrifying.

Mika: We’re very scary people over here.

 So there will be changes to the Kickstarter when we start going through the Nightside Path. 
Monte: Ahhh. OK.  So you want a secret. Well I think I guess, in a way I just sort of gave you one with that notebook, because I haven’t really talked about that. You know, it is actually kind of a point of frustration, (maybe that’s too strong of a word) but when there’s so much information out there and everybody just wants everything encapsulated…  “Give me the elevator pitch,” right, “that encapsulates it.” Well, we’ve got an elevator pitch, but that doesn’t come close to encapsulating everything.

So here’s a secret – it’s about the Kickstarter. We’ve got the Path of Suns, I’m sure you’ve noticed. You know the Suns are changing, we’re moving our way down. But part of something that we have hinted at with the Path of Suns is that there is also a Nightside Path where you go through the Path backwards. So there will be changes to the Kickstarter when we start going through the Nightside Path.


Darcy: Awesome. That’s a good secret.

Mika: That’s a great secret.

Darcy: What emotion would you like?

Mika: I could probably cry with joy right now if you’d like.

Darcy: A half pint of joy.

Mika: I’ll send it in the mail.

Stay Tuned for More Invisible Sun Secrets

Darcy: Excellent. Thank you so much Monte. This is fabulous. We’re so pumped and thanks for spending the time with us.

Monte: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Mika: Do you want to do the plug of “and you can see us at” …

Monte Cook: You can go to the Invisible Sun Kickstarter, or you can go to and get the link there and some articles that we’ve been writing. In fact, just today [August 23rd] we published an article that I wrote about how Invisible Sun approaches introverts, of which I am one. So it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart.

Darcy and Mika: Great. Thank you. Thank you.

Darcy: And you can find me @darcylross on Twitter and such.

Mika: And I’m @hireimika –  it’s in Japanese, nobody can spell it.

Darcy: It’s going to be in the show notes, it’s going to be great.