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Tabletop Game / Invisible Sun

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Just another ordinary day in the Actuality...

Invisible Sun is a surreal Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game created by Monte Cook of Ptolus and Numenera fame. The game revolves around the Actuality, a dreamlike realm that until recently was hidden away thanks to a great and horrific magic war that caused many to flee to the non-magic world of Shadow. Characters have discovered they are vislae, or magic users, and with that comes access to Actuality, its nine suns note , and the fantastical City of Notions, Satyrine, which is starting to rebuild itself in the post-war period. Vislae work on settling into their new magical lives, which might simply involve intrigue and helping to rebuild the recovering Satyrine and go all the way to an epic journey that takes the PCs to all nine suns.


All characters are summed up with a statement consisting of four parts: "I am a [Foundation][Heart] of the Order of [Order] who [Forte]", each of which establishes an important part of the character's nature. The Foundation is the character's background and dictates their physical existence, such as where they live, what they do, and who they know. The Heart dictates which one of temperaments a character roughly falls into and the symbols they use. Order is one of the fournote  Orders of the Invisible Church a vislae can be a member of and rules over how they call on magic. And finally, a Forte grants further talents and abilities that are unique to the character and can reflect how they manifest themselves to the world.

Along with its emphasis on an eldritch reflection of our own world, Invisible Sun also experiments in mixing conventional tabletop gaming with modern life; when it can be hard to get a gaming group together for regular sessions, games can continue with missing players and outside of the game table itself through e-mail, phone, or smaller group sessions. The game is ideally supposed to be original and flexible. In addition, supplemental material is further provided by Monte Cook through a concept called Directed Campaign, where plot elements, prompts, and even physical props periodically continue to arrive that can change and alter the direction of play.


This game provides examples of:

  • Alien Geometries: Buildings in Satyrine stretch in impossible directions and streets wrap around themselves like Mobius strips. Structures move, and avenues repeat. Places trail off into seeming nothingness. Until you really know your way around, getting lost in Satyrine is practically a given.
  • Alternate Self: Vislae have different aspects—literally versions of themselves that coexist but operate independently on different levels of reality, so vislae are properly referred to as they.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Demons are, by definition, the worst things in the world. Vile, hateful, spiteful things, they revel in pain and corruption. There is no act too hideous and vile for them.
  • Appropriated Appellation: The name of Satyrine's Hollows district comes from an old slur for the poor in the city. Since then, the people of the Hollows have claimed the term as theirs and sometimes refer to themselves as hollows.
  • Artifact of Power: The vislae of the Order of Makers are masters of making these, channeling their magic through tools and objects of their own creation. Since this is Invisible Sun, just making items out of simple metal or wood is often too mundane; Makers might prefer to work in anything from living flesh to dreams.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Members of the Court of Nous were mortals who transcended a material existence and became pure thought.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Those that are executed by hanging in the Gallows Forest remain trapped there, unable to pass into the Pale.
  • Barrier Maiden: Nem, warden of the Dark, keeps demons of the Dark from swarming into the realms of the suns.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: The Celestial Bazaar is almost certainly the largest, greatest and most extensive marketplace in the Actuality. This being Satyrine, people can shop for ideas, emotions, magical ingredients and materials, ephemera and objects of power. It's difficult to think of anything unavailable in the Bazaar.
  • Bizarrchitecture:
    • Satyrine's streets can move or shift. A district might be larger or smaller than the actual space it occupies. Architecture does not conform to expectations or anything resembling physics or engineering needs. Just for starters, Satyrine boasts buildings made of origami or smoke, or held aloft by butterflies.
    • The buildings of Phthisis are organically grown and shaped by the inhabitants, and then infected by the Red. They heal and grow at a rate that more or less matches the decay, and end up looking like huge cysts, tumours, rot and pustulant sores.
  • Black Sheep: Apostates are vislae who refuse to align themselves with one of the four Orders of the Invisible Church; they can wield magic of any type and make their own discoveries, but lack the refinement or benefits that being a member of an organized Order grants. It can also make it hard for them to get along with dedicated members of an Order.
  • Blob Monster: Liquid dreams are made of liquid congealed from leftover dreams in the Deeps of Sleep.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: The sahira contain the nature of Indigo within them, and are utterly incapable of telling a significant lie.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: In the Pale, a surprisingly byzantine bureaucracy holds sway and strictly regulates everything from construction to marriage.
  • Chaos Architecture: The location of Mollitious Manor shifts across the Gold Sun, as do its exterior and interior.
  • Chest Burster: Larval demons, called urgeborn, can mature and grow when possessing a host. When it matures, the demon bursts forth in a material form, killing its host and feeding on its pain.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: Canossa is a circle of standing stones beneath the Gold Sun, each 15 m high and covered with glowing runes and inset crystals.
  • Color-Coded Elements: To a degree with the Suns. Most of the Suns seem to represent an element that corresponds to its color as well as concepts and ideals, but it's not known if that's due to the worlds themselves, their Wardens, or just the expectations imparted by the inhabitants or visitors. The most prominent examples are the overgrown and wild Green Sun, the cloudy and airy Blue Sun of dreams, the Gray Sun of lies and a literal shadow of other worlds, and the fire-and-brimstone Red Sun of destruction.
  • Cool Key: Wicked keys, which players can find or earn to unlock any obstacle in their way. Even things that shouldn't be able to be unlocked with keys, like people.
  • Counterspell: Only Apostates have access to counterspells, allowing them to stand up to the more established and powerful Orders.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Zilats, who are born with an affinity for a single magical talent, do not learn spells or rituals, and instead hone their sole ability to perfection. This makes them very focused and very specialised, but within their one arena, very powerful.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: There is an alternate path of the Suns to follow called the Nightside Path, with each Sun reflecting different qualities and even having a different Warden. Most vislae view this path as the "evil" one, but some point out that while Nightside deals in the darker ideas of each Sun, following it in and of itself does not make you evil.
  • Demonic Possession: A spirit can enter and take control of a physical creature, called the host. Unless specified otherwise, only spirits can possess physical creatures, and only physical creatures can be possessed. Most of the time, the possessing spirit is in complete control of the host. Physical harm that befalls the host does not affect the possessing spirit.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Some demons of the Red organise themselves like military legions, each led by a commander who has absolute authority and refer to a singular Duke that they all serve, but no one ever names him; if he actually exists, this is an extremely well-kept secret. Demons of the Dark do not organise themselves into legions; instead, demon lords claim a title referring to something they hate or war against, like 'The Enemy of Strength'. Each lord rules over a number of servants, wielding power far beyond theirs.
  • Dirty Cop: The gerents of Rivenhome have extensive police forces, who are the epitome of corruption, so crime is commonplace.
  • Door of Doom: Threshold lurkers exist only in doorways, but cannot open doors, and can take victims who open the door with them.
  • Dream Land: The Deeps of Sleep, a special part of the Noösphere, is a dark, surreal landscape formed from dreams and subconscious thoughts, inaccessible to non-sleepers. Adept sleepers or vislae, can access the Deeps of Sleep while they dream, lucidly aware amid people's subconscious thoughts.
  • Easter Egg: The game has lots of goodies hidden away within the Black Cube and its contents, rewards for those who inspect their sets very carefully or have an eye for detail. Known ones include a bonus spell, an address to a website with a purpose yet to be revealed, a code that needs to be decyphered, and hidden messages and information in the artwork and layout of the books.
  • Elemental Plane:
    • Eight of the Nine Suns are actually alternate planes of existence within Actuality that represent fundamental concepts and abstract ideals. For example, the Indigo Sun, where most vislae start out, is the realm of truth and ideas. The Green Sun represents ideals such as life, prosperity, and success, while the Red Sun covers not only destruction and alien natures, but also change as a whole.
    • The one Sun exempt from this is the Invisible Sun itself which has no world to visit and exists outside the other Suns, yet shines on all of them and connects them. It serves as the source of magic and power.
  • Emotion Eater: Demons feed on emotion, consuming it in the process. Most of the time, they feed on negative emotions, as these are often easier to create and sustain, particularly for demons.
  • Fantastic Ghetto: Fartown, a district of Satyrine that exists in its own Pocket Dimension and is dedicated to the vislae. Ostensibly, it's so if the vislae lose control of their magic as they experiment, they don't accidentally blow up the entire city. Although a few vislae have come close, it hasn't happened... yet.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: In the Nightside of the Red, a few demonic commanders replicated the Hell-like setting sometimes expected from the Red, abducting people from the Pale and subjecting them to nine different venues of torture.
  • Fisher King: Each Sun is a reflection of the Warden that reigns over or protects it, often with subtle guidance rather than direct rule. Some vislae theorize the reason the Gray Sun (and Shadow) is a Crapsack Only by Comparison is because it doesn't seem to have a Warden in the first place.
  • Floating Continent: The Skytower is a structure 900 m tall that floats another 300 m above the Marquis Quarter of Satyrine.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Invoked with the four types of Heart characters can be:
    • Galants are sanguine, intuitive improvisers who can keep their cool in most situations.
    • Empaths are melancholic, sensitive to the emotions of others and themselves and good listeners to boot.
    • Stoics are phlegmatic, usually contemplative, logical, and hard to shake up even under extreme duress.
    • Ardents are choleric, reactive and often temperamental, and usually prefer power over finesse.
  • Gargle Blaster: Red wine is delicious, but it burns. Drink a little and the endorphin rush that accompanies the slight intoxication is interesting. Drink too much, and you'll literally feel the lining of your esophagus disintegrating. Drinking contests with Red wine can be deadly.
  • Genius Loci: Zero is a powerful, ancient demon who transformed himself into a bar.
  • Ghostly Chill: The presence of a ghost creates a cold chill in the air perceptible to almost everyone.
  • Great Offscreen War: Not long ago, there was a great, long and terrible War that brought death and destruction across the realms, especially Indigo. Many vislae (including the player characters) fled the Actuality into Shadow to escape the War. The War is over, and 'we' won, and that's about all you'll ever get out of anyone. No one speaks of the details and certainly none speaks of the Enemy.
  • Have You Seen My God?: Quiss, the Warden of the Indigo Sun, went missing sometime before the war in Satyrine; theories abound as to their absence, including everything from them going into hiding to them being killed by some fantastically powerful weapon. Many see Quiss's absence from the realm as alarming and seek to find them and return them as Warden lest something bad happen again.
  • Hive Mind: All Yashites swallow a capsule containing a barravil which lodges in each person's brain. All barravil are part of the same creature, meaning that all Yashites exist in a sort of hive mind, connecting through the barravil.
  • Hungry Jungle: The Green is a realm of verdant, dangerous forests, fields and wilderness. Stand still too long and you might be engulfed by the growth spurt of a copse of trees or a snaking vine.
  • I Gave My Word: Demons of the Red have a code of ethics. If a vislae makes a deal with a Red demon and holds up their part, the demon will do the same.
  • I Know Your True Name: Knowing a vislae's secret name gives you power over them and them power over you.
  • Ingesting Knowledge: The ideophage eats ideas, thoughts and memories. When she does so, a visual image relating to the idea appears briefly in the emptiness in her guts. She's always hungry.
  • Invisible to Normals: The Actuality can only be seen and accessed by those who embrace magic as vislae. Otherwise, non-magic users only have access to the Gray Sun and realm of Shadow.
  • Involuntary Shapeshifter: A rare disease causes elderbrin to change their shape and appearance to match whomever they are talking to at the time.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: The Knights of the Name dedicate themselves to the ideals of charity, aid and fighting against all kinds of wrongdoing. They stand by their convictions and their principles and let nothing compromise their integrity.
  • Limited-Use Magical Device: Ephemera are items or abilities that have a single use before they are consumed utterly or disappear.
  • Living Ship: Non-vislae or those who don't want to travel from sun to sun under their own power can board a sunship. Sunships are old, sentient, and very wise.
  • Living Statue: The Gheyal is a statue of stone and urgalic steel that moves around Zardim, always taking the same winding, convoluted path. The people of Zardim climb aboard and ride it like public transportation.
  • Mage Tower: The Goetic Hall of Records has five towers (one of them is a clock tower), each decorated with carvings and statuary of leering demons, noble angels, and other spiritual beings.
  • Magical Society: The Invisible Church, which is not a religious group so much as an organization overseeing the use of magic in Satyrine. The four Orders correspond to the four types of vislae (Vance, Makers, Goetics, and Weavers) and each Order has its own oversight, rules, and expectations. Those who are rejected by the Orders (or reject the Orders themselves) become Apostates.
  • Mega City: Satyrine is vast, stretching for miles, and used to be the largest city in existence prior to the War. Perhaps its population numbered in the tens of millions. Now it is likely no more than one million, and much of the city is abandoned.
  • Mental World: The Noösphere is a nonphysical realm created by intelligent thought. Its streets and plazas are made of memory, and its buildings are thoughts and emotions. Everyone with a mind is a part of and (often unknowingly) helps to create and sustain this mental network, but those who understand it can tap into it as a communication or information resource.
  • Mirror Monster: Mirrors are a virus that infected reality, and seek to replicate and spread so that they can reflect more and more. Once they have reflected everything that exists, they will invert reality so theirs will become the true universe and ours become a reflection. Smart people smash every mirror that they see as a service to reality, but sometimes they disappear mysteriously when alone in a room with a mirror.
  • Misery Builds Character: A game mechanic. Characters earn Joy or Despair based on the outcomes of various events and how it impacts them. 1 each of Joy and Despair merge to form a Crux, which is spent for major character advancements. The game downplays the trope in that too much of either Joy or Despair will not get you anywhere.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • Scalopedes are some kind of intelligent insect things with wasp heads and mantis-like bodies.
    • Serpopades have the body of a leopard and the long neck and head of a serpent.
    • Swarmwolves are wolves with a swarm of wasps for a head.
    • Skerricks seem to combine the worst qualities of a lizard, a badger and perhaps a viperfish.
  • Mordor: The landscape beneath the Red Sun is jagged and brittle, like shattered glass, covered in a fine layer of dust. Volcanoes roar, the ground quakes and storms rage, all destroying and reshaping the landscape over and over again.
  • Mundane Afterlife: By the standards of the Actuality. Residents of the Pale carry on the existence they choose, in a society not unlike when they're still living, so a city of the dead end up being relatively familiar to living travellers.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Once a vislae makes it into the Actuality, magic is just a way of life.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Zero was a powerful, ancient demon who eventually transformed himself into a bar. It is said that he either gained a soul, or just had a change of outlook (a pretty fundamental occurrence, if true). Nevertheless, Zero seems to no longer have any interest in the other demons' destructive or corrupting activities.
  • Mystical Plague: In addition to familiar diseases from the Shadow, there are stranger diseases in the Actuality that can only be cured by magic.
  • Nature Spirit: Hands of the Green are a type of conceptual spirits, embodying nature, native to the Green, where they are as common as living creatures. They can easily manifest as any physical aspect of life, are wise beyond humans, and scour the Green of unwanted trespassers.
  • Only One Afterlife: Any living thing with a soul that dies transitions to the Pale.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Angels are aspects of the Legacy, left in the universe by the Absolute to watch over creation. There are many types of angels that come in many forms, both spiritual and physical. Angels often greatly value honour, benevolence and justice, but sometimes fall to temptation.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Ghost is a term for any kind of spirit of something that used to exist. Objects can have ghosts as can creatures. Even slain demons or angels can return as ghosts. In terms of people, though, a ghost is the specific form taken by a dead spirit who remains after the transition period.
  • Our Gods Are Different: God is a term without a strict definition. Gods are powerful spirits. Gods are mortals who have achieved immortality. Gods are mighty beings for which we have no other name. And Gods are definitely not to be confused with Wardens, who are extremely powerful, but also only rule over and embody their specific realms.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Everything with a consciousness has a soul. With very few exceptions, all living beings are conscious and intelligent. Sometimes, nonliving things gain souls, often because of prolonged exposure to a living being with a soul, but other events can give rise to this as well.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: Spirits are conceptual entities made from pure qualia who look upon emotions and concepts as fundamental aspects of their reality. Unlike ghosts, they were never physical creatures. Most of the time, spirits are put into one of four categories: angels, demons, dead spirits and conceptual spirits, but these categories can be a bit misleading, because all spirits are conceptual. Spirits that embody noble concepts are called angels, and those more nefarious are demons.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Vampire is not a term with a precise definition. You’ll find so-called experts who will say 'vampires are immune to such-and-such' or 'vampires can be killed by such-and-such', but the truth is, it can vary from vampire to vampire. What is true, however, is that the rules that govern a vampire typically pass to anyone they transform into one of their kind.
  • Precursors: In a time period best described as 'who knows how long ago', the city now known as Satyrine was founded by people or beings known as the arabast. Eventually, the arabast disappeared, and the human founders of modern Satyrine settled in the abandoned ruins left behind by the arabast.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: Satyrine is prone to keyfalls, or rains of keys. Most of the keys that drop are worthless, but occasionally storms will drop wicked keys, which have the potential to unlock any hindrance.
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: Physics doesn't have much meaning in the Actuality, because it implies a single set of inflexible rules governing all of reality, which doesn't exist in the Actuality. Change and variation are as much a part of the Actuality as structure or reliability, if not more so. Gravity pulls you down, unless it doesn't, typically for a reason, but sometimes that reason isn't obvious, or even knowable.
  • Ritual Magic:
    • The Order of the Vance are vislae who rely on learned and established spells to cast magic; many actually believe the spells to be intelligent in and of themselves and will only allow themselves to be wielded effectively by one who shows the proper respect to them.
    • Certain kinds of magic, called invocations, are available to any vislae as part of their Ephemera. Even the unstructured Weavers appreciate them since it never hurts to have a reliable spell to call on in a pinch.
  • Serial Killer: Morath, possessed by spirits of murder and at least one powerful demon, stalks the Quiet Lake and murders people.
  • Shadow Dictator: The Deathless Triumvirate rule over Satyrine and hold absolute power; their word is law. However, they rarely speak. For rulers with limitless authority, they do very little and do not make public appearances. The Triumvirate is distant, entirely unknown, and thought of the way one might think of an indifferent god.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Lieutenant Fisk is a veteran haunted by the War. Bringing up the War is likely to trigger strange effects in him, and he begins to babble nonsensical things about battles and death.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet: The dead adorn themselves and their structures with symbols of death (skulls, bones and so on), out of respect.
  • Soul Eating: All souls gained by demons are temporary and eventually consumed, so they are always on the lookout for new ones.
  • Summon Magic: The Order of Goetica, who can call on angels, demons, and other creatures of the abstract to do their bidding.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: Satyrine, the main city of Indigo and setting of Invisible Sun, was a Merchant City before it was completely destroyed by the War. Its residents who have returned to the Actuality are working on rebuilding it, but between miles of desolate ruins, extremely dangerous magical objects called cysts that spread hate like cancer, and a few other forgotten secrets, it's harder than it looks.
  • The Speechless: For reasons known perhaps only to them, the nomads living on the shores of the Lake of Lost Tongues have lost the power of speech.
  • Spider Limbs: Anything can suddenly contract spidering, causing it to sprout eight spidery legs, become interested in hunting, and develop an arachnid mouth and a venomous bite.
  • The Spook: A man known only as ???? roams the streets of Satyrine, and is described as such in The Path:
    You see a man walking toward you on the street. You've never seen him before. His appearance is not at all striking. You know nothing about him. But you are instantly convinced that he is the worst thing you've ever seen, and he will utterly destroy you and everything and everyone you love. If you confront him, he says nothing and attempts to get away. Perhaps, if you're quite clever and resourceful, you can somehow learn his name. It sounds a lot like your own name, but garbled.
  • Stable Time Loop: The uncreated creator appears at some point in the middle of the timeline, which is still in the future. Without a creation, there is nothing and no creator. Creator must have creation, but creation must have a creator. The world mind is, in itself, emergent. The world creates itself.
  • Star Scraper: The Temple-Tower of Al Ru Stam rises many hundreds of miles into the sky, disappearing into the clouds. If it has a top, it's not been seen by mortal eyes.
  • Surreal Horror: The game plays largely into the concept that things like logic and order are frivolous notions in the Actuality, and anything can go from normal to abnormal in the blink of an eye. Invocations can cause characters to do anything from growing screaming mouths all over their body to coughing up poison or disease into a ball they can then fling at an enemy. The artwork for the vislae signature characters emphasizes this, with a thief that literally twists and melts into the shadows, an armored summoner that has extra arms growing from their own flesh, and a woman whose head is half flesh, half book.
  • Too Important to Walk: Minister Aug Fullan is unable to walk on her own and rides in a circular sedan chair carried by huge, brutish thoughtforms.
  • Transflormation: Those who cause widespread harm to trees develop the xyloid plague, an infectious disease which turns victims into trees.
  • Turtle Island: Built upon the back of the Cadallish, a mile-long, ten-legged snapping turtle, is a small city of gold and black towers and minarets.
  • Underground City: The Undersling is located beneath the Confederacy of Cloisters and part of the Palindrome in Satyrine. Played with in that rather be in a cavern or sewer system, it is hung from hundred of wires, ropes, and chains beneath the structure of a city and over a deep void. The only way there, other than by specialized magical vehicles, is a very rickety bridge that has to be constantly rebuilt since it keeps collapsing.
  • Urban Segregation: Satyrine is a very stratified city, with great distinctions in the lives of the wealthy and the poor. Different classes typically live in different districts or at least different neighbourhoods.
  • Vancian Magic: A Vancian spell must be prepared and stored in the Vance's mind before being cast, and when it is, it is gone until it is prepared and stored once again, unless the Vance chooses to spend Sorcery points to keep it in their head. The preparation and study process takes a Vance about an hour.
  • Variant Chess: The Spider's Game, a vislae version of chess routinely played by members of the Order of Weavers to keep their magic weaving skills sharp. It involves anywhere from four to nine boards and a complex array of pieces and moves that anyone outside the Weavers are likely to find incomprehensible.
  • Voice of the Legion: Cherulis, warden of the Green Sun, claims to be a multitude given singular form, speaking with many voices at once.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Elderbrin and demons have fluid forms and no true appearance.
  • Weird Currency:
    • Orbs are made of literal thoughts, memories, and ideas; fleeting thoughts or easily forgettable memories are worth the least while important secrets and significant ideals made solid are considered extremely valuable. Obtaining the memory used to make these can cause the person who spawned them to lose it. Some vislae avoid certain areas of town where the minor varities are "harvested" to be made into currency for fear they'll have something important taken.
    • Bloodsilver appear to be normal coins, but no normal individual will accept them. That's because every coin is cursed, and the more coins you carry, the more cursed you become. There are some that accept them as payment out of bravado because the more bloodsilver you can hold and still maintain your stability, the more powerful you look. Others use them to test potential assassins they're about to hire; if the assassin refuses to accept the coin as payment, they may be considered too fearful or not enough of a risk taker to suit the task at hand and are subsequently rejected.
  • Weird Weather: Satyrine has strange weather systems, but none hold a more significant place in the minds of its inhabitants than the storms that bring keyfalls, where keys rain from the sky.
  • Wild Magic: Vislae of the Order of Weavers consider rituals to use magic too stifling and decide the best way to use it is mix two kinds together and see what happens. Rather than end up with a Random Effect Spell, good Weavers learn which types work best for their purposes and can get a useful effect out of the result.
  • Wizarding School: The headquarters of the Order of the Vance is the Vancian Campus, where Vances take or teach classes. Among the hundreds of classes offered are psychology of the living spell, spellbook upkeep, advanced spell mechanics and so on.
  • The Worm That Walks: Slipping Jack is a human shell filled with spiders who control every action with near flawlessness.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Rivenhome, home to Satyrine's working lower class is not generally regarded as a happy place, with its sombre, oppressive, uniformly grey buildings, where crime is commonplace.
  • Yandere: Part of the Captive Beloved's philosophy is that if you love something, you need to secure it so it can never be taken from you or leave of its own volition. The temple of the Captive Beloved is rumoured to kidnap people loved by the worshippers and hold them against their will.

Example of: