A World Where Anything Is Possible

A world where anything is possible.

For some, this is a curse. Undirected, the human mind can wander and loop, coming back on itself and going nowhere. For others, it is a dream; unfettered the imagination can soar and bring others to new, more interesting places. Roleplaying games are a framework upon which we hang our characters, concepts and ideas and let them fly for others to see. Structure is important—motivation, direction, conception. Without a clear structure, players get lost…

How do you handle this in a game where literally anything can happen?

Playing in the world of Invisible Sun, I’ve captured a thoughtform in a wrought iron bird cage and told it to be silent. I’ve disassembled a ghost-door by undoing the hinges, ignoring the spirits that clawed at my mind while I did it. I’ve insulted the best-dressed 40-eyed demon I have ever seen at a dinner party inside someone’s head. And yet, I never felt lost, or out of place, or without direction.

For Invisible Sun, the core framework upon which you fly your character is the Actuality.

In the Actuality—the real world or magic beyond the “world of shadow”—anything can happen. Magic is real. Walls can gibber and weep. A bar can be a demon. It can rain keys. Houses keep an eye (or a thousand eyes) on themselves. Anything you can imagine can happen. So, how do you not lose your place as a player?

It’s easy really. The surreality of the setting and the clarity of the rules create a perfect balance where anything clever is possible; but abusing the system is difficult. The game is not about combat (though there is combat), but about uncovering secrets, digging in and locating the bizarre and strange, and expanding your character’s understanding of the world of the Actuality. After all, you were in Shadow for a long, long time. The world we—the players—live in, is the shadow. It is as blank and fake as a TV sitcom; and sometimes, just as darkly entertaining. The PCs in an Invisible Sun game were in Shadow for a long, long time.

By making the player characters those who “have returned from Shadow,” Monte places the player in a great position, and also gives the GM a wonderful out. “You don’t remember this place in the Actuality,” the GM might say, “but it reminds you of something you saw once, in Shadow.” Players also are given a safety: “do I know what this is?” “Have I seen this place before?” The structure puts the player in the driver’s seat to explore the world without feeling foolish or uninformed.

The framework of the Actuality is what makes the surreality of Invisible Sun infinite, vibrant, and most of all clear to the players. Be clever, and unafraid to push the boundaries of “normal” in your character’s pursuit of secrets.

Dennis Detwiller
Dennis Detwiller

Dennis Detwiller is an author, artist and video game designer (he also makes a mean French Toast). Since 1992, his books, card games, and video games have included work on Magic: The Gathering, the [PROTOTYPE] series for Activision, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for Nickelodeon, as well as Delta Green, GODLIKE, and Wild Talents. He lives in Bothell, Washington with his wonderful wife Hilary, two awesome kids, and his lap-warming dog, Huckleberry. Dennis is the Managing Editor at Monte Cook Games.