Review: Teratology

Here we see Taramoc Eslin teaching in a lecture setting…

For this review, we will be continuing our look at the supplemental Invisible Sun books from the original Invisible Sun Kickstarter.  We have touched on Secrets of Silent Streets and Book M already.  Most systems, however, have some form of bestiary.  Something with monsters and things that go bump in the night to startle and challenge players.  Not because actual human-like opponents are not challenging or interesting, but often because it is easier to imagine fighting one who is not.  Think about swords and sorcery against a goblin or a dragon versus another human (however evil their behavior).  It is easier for most people to imagine themselves fighting “monsters” than another human.

Teratology is the bestiary of the Invisible Sun cannon.  In reality, however, it is more than that also.  It offers even more insights into the worlds illuminated by the other Suns on the path and the people and creatures you will find there, both to conflict with and to seek assistance from.  Written as if from the perspective of notable vislae Taramoc Eslin, it is both the journal of their travels and discoveries as much as a template for the GM to use as they make up their own entities, both in the realm of a particular sun and as NPCs in general.  Some of the personality/history blurbs are actually quite disturbing, but all serve as a sort of pattern for building more such in a surreal game such as Invisible Sun

Production and Manufacturing

This 192-page book, like the others in the extended series, is square in shape to fit with the cube aesthetic and fits equally well in the Black Cube itself or in the separate slipcase that comes with Book M or on its own.  High quality binding, paper choice, cover material, and artwork are all things that have become hallmarks of Monte Cook Games’ products and Teratology is no different.  Once again, the art choices in particular help to evoke the surreal nature of Invisible Sun as a game and Bear Weiter and his team are to be commended for their work there.

Content

Teratology, much like my comments on Book M is a sourcebook with “rules material” that adds flavor to the setting as a whole.  Unlike other bestiaries that you might find in other game systems, however, this does not simply add “monsters” or things for your players to “fight”.  It also adds setting material, similar to the way Secrets of Silent Streets did, except to the suns in general, not just to the city of Satyrine.  It is more a supplement to The Path than anything else.  The Path contains both information about the other Suns (and their nightsides) and a small sampling of the denizens that one might find there.  Teratology adds setting material for each of the Suns as well as many more of the creatures and people one might find at each of them.

The very first chapter gives an overview of the entries in general, but then goes on to discuss how to think about playing these beings in your Invisible Sun narrative.  Pages thirteen and fourteen give some guidance about how to think about these beings and what to consider as you fit them into your stories.  Then, in another useful addition, a series of Angels and Demons are given with specific names, personality quirks, and their desires as a help for GMs of players who are Goetics so that they do not necessarily have to make up their own summoned beings or even potential patrons.

Following this, each of the suns is treated in turn.  The beginning of each chapter details some new locations that one could use in their narrative, should their players opt to go there (this includes new places on Indigo that are not Satyrine).  Following that, there is a short list of several “simpler” creatures and entities that one might find in that Sun.  Beyond that are the “major” creatures and entities.  Each of these is given in more detail than the “simple” ones.  Think of it as similar to the difference between “mooks” and full, statted NPCs.  It’s not quite the same, but the analogy serves.  The book even covers entities that belong to the Invisible Sun (entities that can be found anywhere among the Suns since the Invisible Sun has no realm) and entities from the Dark (which is new for this book)*.

What really struck me with regard to the entries was the amount of assistance the descriptions were in understanding the individual being portrayed, particularly with the “major” ones.  Several of these entries were profoundly disturbing (for instance, the entity on page 52 from the Blue Sun known as ‘?’).  The narrative way each was described seemed to me to be the equal of much of the artwork in conveying the feel and the eeriness of the setting and its creatures.

Critique

This book, like some others, will only get one critique from me:  Give me more.  There are so many story seeds and plot hook ideas in each of these unique worlds, locations, and creatures or entities that can be dropped into one’s existing Invisible Sun game.  I absolutely adore the level of detail work done in such a non-prohibitive, non-canonical way.  But as a GM, I will never, ever turn down more ideas, more hooks, more fodder for me to riff off of in my games.  So to the Monte Cook Games staff I say this:  I sincerely hope you are not finished with your Invisible Sun line, because I, and many others that I know, want more.

Summary

Teratology is one of the five additional books from the Invisible Sun Kickstarter reached through stretch goals (Book M, Secrets of Silent Streets, Teratology, The Threshold, and the Nightside).  It adds new locations on each of the Suns of the Path of Suns to visit and describes many new denizens to find there and interact with.  An extremely high-quality product, this book is a must-have for anyone serious about running Invisible Sun long-term.  It has incredible value for your narrative and a wealth of options and hooks for you to use to make the Actuality come alive for you and your players.  Happy gaming!

  • Josh Walles

* Correction (2021-07-05): A special, Angel’s Citadel thanks to James Fellows for pointing out my error. There are, in fact, two creatures described in the Black Cube corebook the Path that originate from the Dark. The Enemy of Time (the Path, p. 128), and Mister Agon (the Path, p. 142) My quick scan missed them. – Josh

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