One of the themes of Invisible Sun is escape. (The other would be secrets—we’ll talk more about that soon.) The theme hit me like a ton of bricks one night in the car, as I listened to this episode of Radiolab. There’s a lot of us, I think, that would just like to escape from the insanity of our world, if only for a while. In Invisible Sun, players escape into the Actuality, which they know to be the true reality, while the “real world” is only shadows. For a short time, I toyed with the idea of calling the game “Escape!” I’d been working on a surreal fantasy setting for a while, and I’d had a lot of ideas for mechanics, but this concept brought it all together.
What it crystalized for me was that the theme would run through both the setting and the mechanics, and tie it all together. Just as the game was about people escaping a drab world to go into one of imagination and wonder, the mechanics would allow the players to do the same. The barriers to playing RPGs arise from modern life: busy schedules, work, school, family, distance, and so on. How could we overcome them? The game would have to become more fluid. It had to be playable in short bursts, in small (incomplete) groups, in casual settings, and online, through email, or over the phone. Now, I didn’t want to abandon the table. On the contrary, I wanted to really enhance table play, recognizing how special it is when we can all get together in the same room to escape reality for a few hours. This new aspect of the game to support away-from-table-play would have to be a supplementary mode—something done between full sessions.
I was reminded of when I was young and we’d play Dungeons & Dragons between regular sessions as we walked home from school. Or the campaigns I ran in college where I scheduled solo sessions for players away from regular group gatherings. I recalled talking to players who liked to muse about their character and the events of the campaign as they drove home from work, or as they relaxed at home. I remembered hearing stories about people who played MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, but spent hours simply talking to each other in character without any “action.” I thought about the players in recent years playing in campaigns I’d run who would email me long backstories, character histories, and treatises on their thoughts and feelings about the current events in the game. I knew that it was precisely those sorts of immersive, rich, internal gaming experiences, that if embraced, could help overcome the challenges created by real life.
In other words, the escapism of immersion would also provide escapism from the stuff that keeps us from playing as much as we’d like. One player missing this week? That’s okay. You can still play. Can’t get everyone together for a full session? That’s okay. You can still play. Sitting at home alone? That’s okay. You can still play. It just needed to be brought together in a single package.
That’s Invisible Sun.