So far I’ve been talking about mechanical parts of Invisible Sun, first the steps of character creation and then the basics of magical practices. Today I’m going to continue looking at what you need to start in on this game, but we’re pulling back a little to talk about the central core of the setting itself: the Path of Suns.
If you’ve seen graphics from Invisible Sun, you’ve probably already seen the Path of Suns. It’s pictured to the right and looks a lot like the Tree of Life in Kaballah with a fairly similar function. The nodes represent aspects of life and the lines between are paths to travel by. This is a symbolic pathway in Kaballah but in Invisible Sun it is a physical map through the Actuality.
Each of the nodes in this image are suns, including the eponymous Invisible Sun which is the unconnected node on the right. The Invisible Sun is the source of magic in the Actuality, hanging above the rest and shedding an invisible light that vislae use to cast spells. The light of the Invisible Sun shines on Indigo, the realm that holds the great city of Satyrine which is the default starting point for campaigns. The shadow cast by this mystical light makes a twisted, half-formed version of Indigo which is Shadow: also called the Grey Sun and the world where you’re reading this on a computer.
Indigo is in the middle of the Path of Suns and moving down the path brings you back to the Grey Sun. Keep moving down and you reach the Pale Sun. This is the realm of death, not the afterlife but a realm unto itself where ghosts dwell after their physical forms in other realms are destroyed. Beyond that is the Red Sun, a chaotic realm of destruction and chaos. The Red is populated by all sorts of demons who would love to devour you and change you into something chewed up and swallowed. Lastly, at the bottom of the path here, lies the Gold Sun which is the realm of transition, rebirth, and second chances. It is a realm of change like the Red but in the Gold it’s change to become stronger and better.
Let’s backtrack now to the Indigo Sun and Satyrine, then head along the Path of Suns in the other direction. The first sun you reach in that direction is the Blue which is the realm of thought and dreams. Continuing on from there is the Green Sun, realm of growth and life. It’s a riotous jungle of creatures and buzzing vibrance, so much so that there’s a whole collection of Leech Worlds clinging to the “underside” and… they’re horrible. The last realm is that of the Silver Sun which is the world of beginnings, even though it isn’t the beginning of the Path itself. That’s more of a mobius strip…
The Nightside Path
That’s right, a mobius strip. You may “start” the Path of Suns at the Silver Sun and travel all the way through to the Gold Sun but when you do there’s another path that flips back on itself and travels through the “night” side of each sun back to silver again. Some of these Nightside realms are the inverse of their lighted counterparts such as the Gold Sun‘s nightside of order and control or the Silver Sun‘s nightside of endings. Others are subtle shifts of the concept like the nightside of the Indigo Sun which is the pain of knowing the truth, the nightside of the Blue Sun which is atavistic thoughts of lust and gluttony, and the nightside of the Green Sun which is ravenous and predatory life. Some realms are a little harder to pin down: the nightside of the Red and Pale Suns are pretty similar to their lighted counterparts while the nightside of the Grey Sun is a flat, empty void.
While the Nightside Path is certainly the “ickier” side of magic, it’s not strictly “evil.” Magic users typically subscribe to an “equal and opposite forces” mentality to the two paths so it’s generally recommended that you use more caution on the Nightside Path but you won’t be locked up or anything.
Related to these different worlds and the cosmology of Invisible Sun in general is the idea of precepts, fundamental ideas that make this world different from our own and which should guide your gameplay. This reminds me a lot of the philosophical cores of Planescape (proably with good reason) and this chapter (in The Path if you’re looking for it) is really awesome. Here are a few choice bits from the chapter.
- The Actuality is dualistic with material parts and idealistic parts that are intertwined.
- The Silent Church is a religion which follows the remnants of creation known as the Legacy. This includes lots of things including angels and holy items.
- Coincidence is alive and real in the Actuality.
- The Noösphere is a realm created from the thoughts of every thinking creature in the Actuality.
- There are people of all different sorts from humans to near-humans and weirder.
The Sooth Deck
Last of all, when you play Invisible Sun the GM will periodically pulled from a Tarot-like deck of circular cards called the Sooth Deck. There are four families (Secrets, Visions, Mysteries, and Notions) which function like suits which relate to specific spells and characters. They each have an interpretation and they affect the game by enhancing some sorts of magic and diminishing others. You pull a card at the beginning of a session and then when big things happen like moving locations or meeting important NPCs.
This is a pretty involved part of the game with about sixty pages of card descriptions. This is definitely one of the parts of Invisible Sun that you’ll want to explore on your own, though.
This game is twisted and mysterious, definitely living up to its name. If you like that sort of thing then I recommend you bite the bullet and purchase the digital version. It’s a rich and beautiful game, though, and I think the price genuinely reflects a high production value. If you like what you’ve read enough to go for the physical version then I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
On the other hand, if you’re feeling lukewarm about this and not so impressed with surreal mysticism then this might be a pass. This is a complicated game and doesn’t exactly lend itself to one-shots. If you’re group isn’t likely to start a new campaign and/or they are generally committed to a certain game system then this isn’t an easy sell. Way how much you are paying for this game versus your ability to actually use it. I definitely will and can’t wait to explore these strange corners.