Review – Rory’s Story Cubes

I’m working on creating my very first adventure for D&D 5th Edition.  I have to say, there’s a LOT of work that goes into putting even just a smaller adventure.  In fact it’s a bit intimidating for a new DM, like myself, to sort out all of the details.  How many characters?  What are the motivations for the NPCs?  How does it all end?  What happens to bring the PCs from beginning to end?  Who are the NPCs?  Why are they important?  Where does all of this take place?  What areas will the PCs be able to explore?  Are there multiple paths to get through the adventure successfully?  And so on.   My adventure is only for a single character, and will be fairly short. Yet, there’s a ton to sort out before I even start planning all of the technical details for combat scenarios and such.

To help me out with some of these things, I picked up Rory’s Story Cubes as a creativity aid.  There are nine dice in each set of cubes, each die having six unique pictures on them.  You roll the dice and then attempt to connect each of the pictures that come up with a story.  The instructions inside of the lid say to choose three sets of three dice to construct a beginning, middle, and end to your story.  You can also mix and match sets together to add variety.

Story Cubes 1I snagged the full set of all the main Story Cubes:  Original, Voyages, and Actions.  There are also a few mini sets out there, like Enchantment, Clues, and Prehistoria.  I may end up picking up Enchantment and Clues to help create mystery adventures and get some magic mixed in a bit.  It also looks like there are a few other mini sets out there, but they’re difficult to find anywhere.  They’re on the Story Cubes web site, though, and include Intergalactic, Medic, and Score.   Perhaps pick three dice each from a different set and see what you end up with to build your story.

The intent for these cubes is to encourage storytelling.  Whether that’s with parents and their kids, between adults, or however people want to play with them.  Essentially, what great story can you conjure up!

I’ve seen these dice recommended by writers, so I’m thinking this will be a great way to come up with random adventures and one-off encounters.  Sometimes I tend to put too much pressure on being overly creative and coming up with something epic, when it’s completely unnecessary.  So, I hope this will be helpful in not only curbing that urge to create only something totally awesome, but also to open up my brain to being more and more creative.  If you have to weave a story through all of the pictures, it gets your mind some exercise.

On a side note, the product itself is of excellent quality.  The dice are nicely etched with good weight to them, almost like a good poker chip has some weight to it.  The pictures are etched in and colored.  I don’t anticipate the images wearing off anytime soon.  They’re also color-coded to each set.  If you do mix them together, they’ll be easy to separate again.

So, how are these Story Cubes supposed to work?  Let’s take my first-ever roll as an example and see where it takes us. The images are: fountain, apple, bridge, square with L, magnifying glass, castle tower, fish, a word bubble, and a mask/alien..?

Here goes nothing..!

Story Cubes 3“One day, a long time ago, there was a young maiden. Her father forbade her to go outside, and so she spent countless hours sitting in her room, looking out the window and dreaming of what lay beyond the horizon.  She could see far and wide, for her room was at the top of one of the castle towers.

Around the castle, she could see ships passing in and out of the city port. Large ships, with all sorts of cargo, traveling from far away lands across a vast sea to bring goods to her people.

One day, the maiden received a letter.  It was from a mysterious admirer, asking her to meet him in the nearby orchard. She debated with herself, thinking how she would sneak out of the castle to meet this person. She finally decided to disguise herself as one of the maids, wearing worn work clothes she borrowed from their quarters to sneak past the guards.

As she crossed the bridge to reach the orchard, she saw a man standing by the orchard.  As she approached, he went up to her and spoke to her, introducing himself as a prince from the neighboring land.  He had written her a letter because he had seen her before, being struck by her beauty, and wished to meet her. She found him handsome, and so they walked together, making idle chit chat, getting to know one another.  As they walked along, they came across a fountain that the people used to wish for good fortune, tossing in small coins for luck.  They decided, as a couple, to toss in a coin for the both of them for good luck.

The princess finally snuck back into the castle, enamored with her newfound prince.  She carefully convinced her father to let her meet him.  They eventually were married in right in the very courtyard where they fountain was, living happily ever after.”

Of course, I went down the cliché fairy-tale route.  But, these cubes can be interpreted in any way you want.  So, the apple could just be an apple, but it could also represent food.  I chose an orchard.  The bridge could just be an actual bridge, but it could also represent a metaphorical bridge.  Something mental or emotional that had to be crossed to move on.  I had interpreted the alien/mask to represent disguising oneself, and the fish to represent the sea the ships travel on.  The block with an L on it was a little tricky, but I decided it represented a letter, as a play on what’s literally in the picture (the letter L).

Even if your final story turns out to be silly, who cares?  The idea is to work your imagination.  Just like with muscles, if you don’t exercise your brain, you’ll start to lose your ability to imagine all sorts of creative things, regardless of what you’re trying to come up with.  Why do you think there are all of those brain teaser apps out there?  And these would be great for just about everyone: kids, adults, writers, DMs creating adventures, and so on..  As I continue to delve into writing adventures, I hope these can help me come up with some really creative twists and turns to keep my players intrigued.

I’ve run across some various examples of others using these to write D&D adventures. Have you used Story Cubes to build adventures?  What sorts of things have you come up with?  I’d love to hear how these inspired you!

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