Monday, August 15, 2016

Invisible Sun Kickstarter Musings

So, everyone's got something to say about Monte Cook Games' latest Kickstarter: Invisible Sun. The most common "something to say" seems to be: "Holy shit that's expensive! What in Great Gygax's Beard is he thinking?"

From what I can gather Invisible Sun is a kind of singular stand alone RPG that uses props, hand outs, some element of real time, and direct contact with the game creators in an evolving metaplot. Based on the video, it claims to overcome real life problems that prevent game play - conflicting schedules, play style differences, and absent players. That's quite a bold claim - and it doesn't quite feel like it's possible. Real life is real life, and with a promise like that I feel like Cook is implicitly claiming to blur the line between real life and RPGs.

The rest of the video makes such vague statements as "If you like characters, you'll love Invisible Sun." As if we were going to say "No, Monte - I hate characters." The whole thing feels like MCG is taking their own stab at a Mage: The Ascension style game - but adding a whole lot of extras and props. I love props and high production value as much as the next gamer, but the Invisible Sun feels like it's making vague promises and trying way too hard to come off as a game that will revolutionize and forever change the hobby.

I have to admit, it's ambitious. I'd be lying if I didn't also think it was a little arrogant. With a minimum buy in of $200, Invisible Sun isn't for the casual gamer. It's that very price point that I believe will prevent the game from changing the hobby. It prevents mass involvement in something revolutionary and new. The last game which I recall that truly changed the face of the hobby was Vampire: The Masquerade. It did this by tapping into a new market - goths and punks. It took gaming out of the dungeon and didn't measure a session in combat rounds. This made it approachable to a new subculture and, in my mind, also gave the game more feminine appeal.

Do I think the price point is ridiculous? Actually, no. If you're a devotee of Cook and you've got faith in the guy then a $200 buy in isn't all that bad. To me it's no different than +Greg Gillespie's Kickstarter for Barrowmaze: The Forbidden Caverns of Archaia. Greg's asking about $75 USD for a hardcover megadungeon. Like Cook's crowd funding project, it's a bit pricey. But I happen to have every faith that Greg will create a product worth every penny, so I have no problem with his asking price. Cook should be treated no differently simply because I prefer OSR games.

However, claims that Invisible Sun will somehow change the very way roleplaying games are played smacks of hubris in my mind. But, if fans of Cook have got the faith (and the cash) to invest in Invisible Sun - and judging by the fact that the game's almost funded in less than eight hours, they do) - then by all means, let them enjoy their investment.


  1. It makes me want to get into the ENnies in the same category with MCGs again but this time be the less expensive nominee that enjoys better mainstream market appeal. :)

    Seriously though I wish him well. I like seeing new ideas get the packaging and extras to see their creators vision realized. See Steve Jackson OGRE Designers Edition as an example of that (minus the paradigm shifting sales speak).

  2. I'd probably buy a huge $75 book from Monte based on the same promises Invisible Sun makes. I really like his work. But $200 is a tougher sell for me -- specially when I don't know much about the game and it comes in this HUGE box with all this stuff. I don't like fiddly games at all, plus getting people to play a regular RPG is hard enough already sometimes.

    I just wish they had a PDF option. I love reading games, even if I never get to play them. But buying a huge box of manuals and various components just to read is hard to justify I'm afraid. : (

    1. I'd love to have a PDF option too. I'd really love to see how development mode works to mine it for ideas for how to handle downtime in other games.

    2. Oh, and I'm in a situation where I can't afford the minimum buy-in outside of a group purchase, and I don't think that's going to happen.

  3. I like the production values of MCG and would love to have the disposable income to join the KS. I wish we had more props sold with games similar to how infocom packaged their text based PC gamesqith "feelies" in the 80's. I don't know about a revolution, but I know that if FFG can manage to sell games in the $100 price range this may be only a small step for some. I'm curious to see what happens.

  4. I also suspect the real value is to be had at the $500 pledge level, especially if you consider it a year-long event rather than a game.

    The main enticement I think are the secrets of the setting that allow you to do magic. Probably biased towards finding other owners of the game and trading for their secrets. Which is why the "all the secrets" level at $1000 sold out almost immediately. The $5000 version is moving a little slower, but still moving.

    As far as game mechanics are concerned, according to the pre-release announcements by MCG people it is rather simple so as to not get in the way of role-playing. All the juice is in the setting I suspect. Which for most people will be unknown in the beginning. [One of the biggest complaints were the fanboys asking why it isn't Cypher (although it does use the Cypher-style descriptors I believe to define characters).]

  5. This thing is definitely a big risk. In an RPG market divided between rich professionals and struggling college students and liberal arts graduates, aiming something so exclusively at the upper end poses risks. Maybe that's why this Kickstarter pitch features more hyperbolic marketing language than their previous ones; they feel like they really have to sell it.

    That said, the mechanics could deliver on the promises (caveat, I haven't watched the video yet). MCG has already produced a critically acclaimed game (No Thank You Evil) that was designed to be played by families, including children and grandparents. So they have a background in finding ways to successfully accommodate diverse audiences.


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