I’ve always kind of been a sucker for mechanics in a game that are tied to a story in such a way that the world feels more enriched. This list includes things like Forgotten Realms’ Mythals, powerful elven rituals affecting people, geography, climate, and other things. It includes Shadowrun’s Great Ghost Dance that saved the Native American people but prematurely allowed the Horrors to cross over to our plane. It includes Dragonlance’s Trials of High Sorcery and the cost they demanded to be paid of each wizard that dared to seek for power (spells of greater than second level if I recall correctly). There are others too, but the point is that each of these caused me to look at magic as more than the “you puts in the gold piece, you gets the spell” transactional sort of approach to spellcasting that the bulk mechanics created. Not that it did not have a purpose of course (after all, doing something unique mechanically for every possible useful spell is unreasonable), but after a while, playing a spellcaster that way feels like it loses its… well, magic.
Invisible Sun’s Book M is another such book, adding to the magic cannon of the game but doing so couched in something that adds to the flavor of the overall story. Book M is a rarity, something that few know about. The currents of magic are varied and most Vislae do not understand them well, seeing their effect only in sooth cards and the winds of fate. There are, in fact, thirteen currents, and Current M is the last, the most subtle, and the most powerful of them all. These currents can be understood, tapped into, and used to power magic by those who are willing to plunder their secrets. Book M is, fictionally, the story of one of these currents.
Production and Manufacturing
One of the extra books that were released as stretch goals with the original Invisible Sun Kickstarter, Book M is 120 pages of additional magic and wonder for your Vislae to discover and turn to their will. As with the other books, the art here is amazingly evocative. I am not sure that I have ever seen a series of products outside of Numenera where the art was so absolutely essential to setting the tone and flavor of a setting and game for me as with Invisible Sun. Bear Weiter and the art team did not disappoint. Satyrine and the other suns are strange and bizarre places, and for a concrete thinker like me, it can be hard to wrap one’s head around the surreal feel of the place. The artwork is absolutely to be credited with my ability to put myself in Satyrine.
The book itself is a high-quality, hardbound book with excellent page and ink quality. Square like the other books to fit in with the “cube” theme, they sit differently on my shelf than other books, one more way that this game is different, or sets itself apart, from my others. Using the same two column with sidebar in the middle as the other rulebooks in the series, Book M, and the other “extra” books do not seem to suffer from the same convoluted organization that the core books (the Key, the Path, the Gate, and the Way) do from a standpoint of finding a specific rule or fragmented information (this piece is in this book, and this other related piece is in this other book…). This is likely due to the specific nature of the book (magic supplement).
This book could almost have been aptly named, “Book More”. The theme is: More. More options, more magic, more wonder, more weird. The first chapter of this book is mostly flavor, talking more about Book M, the currents, and going over some basic rules stuff. The second discusses magic in the larger world of Invisible Sun. It offers 12 new patrons for your Vislae character to have access to beyond what can be found in the Gate, 9 more “phenomena” in addition to the one known as a Keyfall, and 6 more curses or diseases to add to those found in the Path in case your players are bored with the weirdness they have found so far and you need inspiration for more.
The next chapter adds 13 (ironically, one for each current?) new Fortes for your players to choose from in addition to the ones provided in the Key, some of which I personally found incredibly interesting from a narrative standpoint (my friend Zach Norton might enjoy “Embodies the War” for his Hole in the World live play…). The next chapter has 29 new cantrips, 12 new charms, 15 new signs, and 29 new Hexes to add to the ones found in the Way. The following one adds more Long Form Magic to your toolbox (Conjurations, Invocations, Enchantments, and a new form beyond what was found in the Way called Assimilations), a total of 49 more along with a helpful, revised table indicating the title, level of the casting, type of casting, and the page it is located (in the Way or Book M)
There are additional Spells, 40 of them to be exact, 52 new Ephemera, 82 new Incantations, and 26 new objects of power with 200 additional cards included that can be added to the decks that came with the Black Cube. Finally, we have additional Secrets including secrets that are tied to the Changeries, an additional 58 character secrets and an additional 28 House secrets.
So, this isn’t so much a critique about Book M as it is a critique caused by Book M (among other things). I love options. I love having more options. And I love my Black Cube. I think the presentation for the Black Cube is both innovative and elegant and it is one of my “prized” gaming possessions. That said, Book M breaks it. The Black Cube was “tight” to begin with and doesn’t hold everything well from a standpoint of “gaming accessibility” The four extra books have their own slipcase (the one that comes with Book M or that you can get from their store) and that’s fine. But Book M adds 200 cards. There is literally nowhere to put them efficiently. I would suggest, as a stretch goal to a Kickstarter (perhaps as a Black Cube reprint), or perhaps its own Kickstarter to demonstrate commitment to the Invisible Sun line, a “storage solution” be designed to contain all the “extra products”. This can include the cards from Book M, the Wicked Keys, the miniatures, the pages from the Enchiridion of the Path (so that they can be put with the other player handouts), the second player handouts packet, etc… The solution should be designed with gameplay in mind, not simply presentation. It does not necessarily have to house the cloth maps, or even the books, but consideration should be given to what is “needed” for play versus what is sold from the Monte Cook Games store.
Book M is an excellent example of concentrated additional sourcebook material that is immediately useful and able to be dropped into a campaign right away. This is, in my opinion, a must-purchase for those who already own the Black Cube and are serious about playing Invisible Sun, long-term. The options, potential story hooks, and opportunities for character-driven goals are hard to ignore. Once again, we have a subtle reminder that as much as your players think they know, there is always the potential for more mystery and more wonder to be found on the Streets of Satyrine under the Invisible Sun. Happy gaming!
- Josh Walles