Changing the Way We Play

Last Saturday, we gave a seminar at Gen Con where we talked about all our upcoming products—Numenera, Cypher System, and The Strange sourcebooks, a new Numenera boxed set, two novels, and much more.

We also announced a new game coming next year that we are bringing to Kickstarter on Monday, August 15th. It’s called Invisible Sun.

There are a lot of new things in Invisible Sun, but the thing that seemed to get the most attention was what we call “Development Mode” play.

In the game there are three modes of play, and you’re likely familiar with the first two. First, there’s Action Mode, where everyone’s taking actions round by round and the GM keeps close track of what each character is doing. Second, there’s Narrative Mode—another familiar one—where things aren’t tracked in rounds, everyone’s at the table, and the GM manages the various actions and outcomes (travel, investigation, rest, commerce, or talking with NPCs might be handled in this mode). Last, there’s the third mode, which we’re calling Development Mode (as in character development). Unlike the other two, Development Mode breaks away from the game table.

The Development Mode concept arose as I thought about the difficulties facing gamers everywhere. We know what it’s like to try to get a group together on a regular basis—work, family, schedules, and other aspects of that nasty thing we call real life are constantly in the way. To explain the genesis of the solution to this problem, let me tell you a story.

After school, when I was in 8th or 9th grade, I’d walk home with my friends. We’d invariably start talking about the Dungeons & Dragons campaign I was running. Discussion would quickly evolve into 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’ 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 runes.” Right there on the sidewalk, ambling down the residential streets, we’d actually be playing the game. If we needed a die roll, we’d have to wait until we got to my friend’s house, but really, we didn’t need those very often. We were handling all the narrative elements of the story as it developed.

Memories of that experience informed and inspired Invisible Sun. There are rich roleplaying opportunities that exist away from the game table. Invisible Sun encourages players to take (and resolve) actions in Development Mode, alone or as a group. If it doesn’t fit into the flow of the ongoing narrative, that’s okay. Like a novel or film, these can be flashbacks as well as side-scenes (or entire side-stories). This offers all manner of new opportunities. Play doesn’t have to stop when the session is over and everyone leaves the table. Players can keep the game going—individually or in groups—by creating side-stories that describe high level actions that their characters take. Or, they can even create a flashback side-scene that reveals actions their character has already taken. A GM can create a side-scene away from the table for one or two players to deal with a situation that only concerns them, played between regular sessions.

This also means that even if they can’t make it to the regular session, players can still move their character’s story forward. A side-scene might cover what Shanna’s character does while she’s absent from the regular session. Maybe, if the group can’t meet as often as they’d like, the game is played largely through side-scenes, with major developments occurring when the group finally finds a time to gather.

Development Mode can involve all the players, some of the players, or just one player and the GM. It’s very casual, and can be played at a coffee shop or on a stroll through the park. The GM resolves the action(s) through the turn of a turn of a card from the Sooth Deck, one of the components included in the game. There’s even a way to handle these sorts of scenes without the GM present at all.

These rules are worked right into the game itself. The Invisible Sun app facilitates all of it, and its web-based features (which allow its use on nearly any device) are designed to easily work with online play. Thus, full sessions, side scenes, or player-GM one-on-one interactions can all be done via Skype or Roll20—or even through text chat.

Of course, conventional play around a table also works great. It’s really the centerpiece of all of this. Invisible Sun doesn’t get rid of that. Development Play enhances it.

Our Invisible Sun Kickstarter launches August 15th!

 

Monte Cook
Monte Cook

Monte Cook has written hundreds of roleplaying game products, along with numerous short stories, novels, nonfiction titles, and comic books. He is probably best known for his work on such notable titles as Planescape, Ptolus, the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons (which he codesigned with Jonathan Tweet and Skip Williams), Arcana Evolved, and of course Numenera and the Cypher System. He is a cofounder of Monte Cook Games, and is our lead designer.