Friday, December 30, 2016

Surreal - Word of the Year

Strange Days
I want to take a moment to recognize a recent, fun bit of news.  Surreal was chosen as word of the year by Merriam-Webster.

There is some discussion of the meaning of surreal - with a focus on its dream-like aspect.  Slightly more interesting, there is also a discussion of when use of the term spiked in mass media.  No, not with the MCG announcement or the kickstarter campaign - sadly.  Instead, we get a brief discussion of various events that journalists often described as surreal.

The description of political violence as surreal reminds me of a personal experience with the surreal.  Back in the summer of 1996, I was visiting friends where we watched the movie Strange Days (totally underrated movie - check it out if you have the chance).  We finished the movie and the VCR switched back to the local broadcast.  We had been watching the olympics.  When we switched back the coverage showed smoke rising from rubble, panicked people on the street, and the confusion following the bombing.  Over all of this was the olympics coverage banner.  It is only mild spoilers to point out that Strange Days ends with scenes of violence on crowded, rubble strewn streets.  To switch back to see that in reality created a sense of surreality.  The coverage of the bombing seemed unreal, despite the clear video coverage, because of the contrast between the movie and the news.

The description from Merriam-Webster combined with this memory gave me a new way to express surrealism.  A simple (therefore incomplete) definition could be "a vivid yet unrealistic portrayal - as in a dream."  This is just another way to think about surrealism and how to fit surrealism into your RPGs (Invisible Sun or others).  Describe elements in great detail but with a sense of impossibility/unrealism.

Also, the Skunk Anansie song was awesome :)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Incantations Episode 8 - The Blue Sun and Surreal Dragons

We're back onto the Path of Suns this episode, and we also discuss how we might make surreal dragons.

Show Notes

Segment One - The Blue Sun (The Careful Gaze of the Grigori)
  • The Blue Sun -- link
  • The Sandman -- link
  • Midnight Nation -- link
Segment Two - Surreal Dragons (Reflecting a Different Truth)

Follow us at: @drscottrobinson and @tex_red on Twitter.

We can be contacted via email at

You can also get in touch with us on the Invisible Sun G+ community.

Music in the episode was drawn from the song "Beyond" by Wes Otis and Plate Mail Games. It is available at DriveThruRPG.

Invisible Sun is the intellectual property of Monte Cook Games.
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Friday, December 16, 2016

Automatism and Surrealism

Monte Cook Games sometimes describes the tone of Invisible Sun RPG as "surreal fantasy."  In keeping with that description, this post further explores the origins of surrealism as a school of visual arts.  In the last post, I discussed Dadaism as one of the precursors of (self-identified) surrealists.  It is important to remember a couple of elements from the Dada movement.

  1. The Dadaists questions traditional sources of authority -- from politics to religion to art
  2. Reason, itself, was implicated in the horrors of WWI
From this milieu emerged a particular set of artists who took the attack on reason and authority quite seriously - led by Andre Breton.

Andre Breton in 1924
Breton proposed that the conscious creation of art allowed for reason to pollute free expression.  Every deliberate act - including the creation of art - was contaminated.  This led to a natural question.  How does one create art without conscious intention?  His proposal was automatism

Automatism involves the use of automatic (rather than consciously controlled) movements to record expression.  In an extreme case, consider randomly hitting keys.  The surrealists applied this technique to drawing and painting.  The artist sketched in a seemly random fashion paying as little attention to the page as possible.  This means more than simply not looking at the page on which one is drawing - one had to try not to think of the page at all or the emerging image.  If an image did emerge (surely, there was not always an emergent image), it was thought to represent subconscious -- and to a surrealist, truer -- form of expression.

Breton applied automatism to other activities as well.  He worked with automatic writing in which a writer records every passing thought with as little self-editing as possible.  The goal was to produce a dream-like sequence of images or thoughts on the page.  The connection between dreams and surrealism here becomes clear.  Automatic drawing and writing was intended to provide access to the raw unconscious - just as dreams were thought to express.  

It is the emphasis on dreams that may serve as the strongest connection between early surrealism and the Invisible Sun RPG.  The images associated with the game and the discussion of the Actuality as being more real than what we know as reality (much like Breton's notion that the sub-conscious is more authentic than anything consciously created) provide some insight into the philosophical and aesthetic inspirations of the RPG.  

Friday, December 9, 2016

Incantations Episode 7 - The Invisible Sun Kickstarter ARG

We've got another single topic episode for you this week. We're talking about the Invisible Sun Kickstarter ARG, the puzzles, the solutions, and where things are at now.

Show Notes

Segment One - Invisible Sun Kickstarter ARG (A Distant Light Pierces the Mist)
  • Alternate Reality Game (ARG) -- link
  • Path of Suns website -- link
  • G+ Invisible Sun community -- link
  • Kickstarter puzzles
    • Clocks
      • Our Kickstarter History -- link
      • The Invisible Sun Kickstarter Is Different -- link
      • Deluxe Games -- link
      • Group Purchases -- link
      • Shipping -- link
      • Changing the Way RPGs Are Played -- link
      • The Directed Campaign -- link
      • The Active Sun -- link
      • Details of the Contents -- link
    • A Solid Door
      • The door was made known with the Green Sun update -- link
      • Solution #1
        • The first solution was figured out based upon Paladin Revenant’s theory about the clocks -- link
        • Putting the clocks in hour order and taking the roman numeral the minute hand is pointing at will give you the key: 376298415
        • Door leads to Are You a Spider or an Ant? -- link
      • Solution #2
        • Clue about the clocks dropped in the Indigo Sun update -- link
          • “There is more than one way for clocks to be keys”
        • Ryan Chaddock and Robert Marino seemed to have figured this one out -- link
        • Putting the clocks in order of the minute hands and taking the roman numeral the hour hand is pointing at gives you the key: 841793265
        • Door leads to Are You an Ant or a Spider? -- link
      • Solution #3
        • Memory stick, The Blade, was found in a cache with an image of Wrong Cat and a text file. -- link
        • The image had white text on the transparent background which read “If you are looking for lies, use Grey”
        • What Also Opens the Door.txt had the following text: To see that the door is opened by a lie, you may need an extra eye.
        • Another hint was dropped in a Tweet, which I cannot locate. It was an image of a clock, and I thought it was pointing at the fourth hour.
        • Hour four on the clock is incorrect: IIII instead of IV
        • Entering IIII in the door opens it
        • Door leads to Fartown -- link
      • Spiders and Ants
        • The solid door puzzle leads to two different pages about Spiders and Ants.
        • There has been much discussion about what Spiders and Ants are, but no solid conclusions yet.
        • Monte is a Spider -- link
      • Geocaches
        • Several updates included GPS coordinates to geocaches
        • Some of the caches had USB memory sticks that contained files that predicted keyfalls
        • Digital contents of the caches -- link
        • Two images were found
          • Changery image asks about the solid door -- link
          • Wrong Cat pointing to the third Solid Door puzzle -- link
          • Clues were hidden in the background of the images
          • Looking through the bytes of the images revealed no further hidden information
      • Current state
        • Shanna stated in the Kickstarter comments that there are two or three puzzles that have not been solved -- link
          • This was before the third solution to the Solid Door puzzle was found
        • Not all of the caches have been recovered, or reported on the G+ group
        • Nothing conclusive was determined about Spiders and Ants

Follow us at: @drscottrobinson and @tex_red on Twitter.

We can be contacted via email at You can also get in touch with us on the Invisible Sun G+ community.

Music in the episode was drawn from the song "Beyond" by Wes Otis and Plate Mail Games. It is available at DriveThruRPG.

Invisible Sun is the intellectual property of Monte Cook Games.

Subscribe: iTunes | Google Play | RSS