Thursday, 24 May 2018

Rory's Story Cubes: A great tool for Storytelling, Roleplaying and Wargaming.

Today I received a package I was expectantly waiting for. And as I was giddily opening it up like Christmas come early, I realised I hadn't talked about these on the blog before.

The items in question are Rory's Story Cubes which are basically, sets of dice with simple images on the faces used as inspirational prompts in a game of storytelling.

I can see that look on your face, but look at the title of this post once again and once we get to the end I'll have tried my best to make these points.

But first...

What I got in the post:


In my little parcel I got 3 of the "Rory's Story Cube: Mix" sets which are little themed expansions. And the Collector's Box to house all my cubes.

Which meant I could finally get rid of these little blighters, because I was forever knocking them off my shelves in a cascade!

All the collection so far, in one place, easy to transport and to store on my board game shelves, lovely. And there's space left for the last 3 Mix sets which are coming sometime during 2018 to complete the box.

This box is a really nice addition to the collection, you can see that all the cubes are organised by various themes. The orange set in the centre is the original core box and we'll be using these later in the post. 

How do you play? :

As I stated above, the cubes are used as inspirational story prompts. At it's most basic you look at the image on the cube and it's like word association, whatever word/s pop into your head you use to string together a narrative.

It doesn't have to be exactly what you see on the face, but what the image inspires by association. I grabbed a couple at random as a quick example.


Tower, castle, palace, parapet, turret, keep, defence, fantasy, medieval, damsel, kingdom, fief. 

Arrow, point, straight, go, move, away, lost, speed, length, travel, cursor, click, marker, direction.

As you can see I just typed single words that popped into my head and that's fine. But it doesn't have be a single word. It could be a word that inspires a sentence. A word, that inspires a sentence, that inspires a paragraph... You get where this is going...

This works because our brains are hard-wired to recognise symbols and try to make sense of them.

But seriously how do you play? :

There are numerous ways to use the story cubes. We'll stick to just the core set (orange box) for a moment.

- 1 player or several players each taking a turn - Roll all 9 cubes, figure out a story outline and tell your tale from beginning to end.

- 3 players - Each player gets a turn to roll all 9 cubes in a beginning/middle/end format tying in the previous elements of the other players to complete a story arc.

- Multi-player - Each player takes a turn rolling the 9 cubes and telling a portion of the story, then nominating who is the next player to follow. Creating a vast epic of a tale!

Now switch it up:

- Each player only gets 3 of the 9 for their beginning/middle/end format.

- Each player takes a different set of 9 cubes.

- Use 12 cubes instead of 9.

- Mix different sets into new sets of 9.

- Pull 20 random dice from the entire collection out of a bag!

- Roll the entire collection of dice onto the tabletop and have the players fight Thunderdome style for them or just snatching like Hungry, hungry hippos all the dice they want for their part of the story like a bunch of lunatics!!! (maybe don't do these ones, they are rather silly)

Those are just a few ideas, there really is a vast amount of ways a storytelling game can be implemented using these cubes.

Your imagination really is the limit on this one. Create the storytelling experience you want!

I really love Rory's Story Cubes, my kids love them (I bought them sets of the maxi-sized cubes for their own play too), several members of my gaming group love them.

Now I know I probably already lost some readers before this point, or you're at the point now of "Meh... What's the point in this..? They're a bit twee and childish!"

Just have a little more patience, look beyond these cutsie symbols for just a little while longer... What you need is THEME.

My example of play:

It takes a heck of a lot longer writing this down than actually coming up with a story sat at the table and telling your tale to your friends. But here's my example of a story.

Right... it'll be a short story... I'll stick to the 9 cubes in the core set just to show their versatility. Now I just need a theme...

*look to the left at the new Necromunda rulebook I've been reading*


That'll do nicely! That's right, I'm gonna tell a Necromunda short story using these weird, cute little picture dice!

I took the 9 cubes from the original set (orange box) and rolled them to get my set of symbols for this story.

After a minute or so I had the basic outline of my story. I will now tell that story and highlight the words and/or phrases these symbols inspired like this


Night Watch: A Necromunda short - powered by Rory's Story Cubes

The lumen globes around the settlement were at their lowest now, those that still function at any rate. The Hive's artificial night cycle had started some time ago and the shadows stretched long and thick with the promise of hidden enemies and the sounds of scuttling vermin.

Arlan had drawn early watch this time around. Even after several exhausting  days slogging through the wastelands of the Underhive, busting in and searching all the local hide-aways and bolt holes, he was glad.

He'd just have to stay awake a few hours longer than the rest of the gang and then could hopefully sleep without disruption when the next watch took over.

The Orlock ganger's face was a carefully cultivated impassive mask, even though his thoughts were a turmoil of fear and worry over recent events.

But better to not to let the settlers under their gang's protection think there was anything wrong, or that they couldn't handle the situation... Just in case they got ideas about trying to find protection elsewhere...

He sat heavily on the rusty ledge around the water still, paint chips flaking off as he settled down to rest his weary legs. He shifted his battle weathered autogun into the crook of his elbow and took a long drag on his Lho stick, enjoying the sensation of the warm smoke filling his lungs and swirling from his nostrils as he exhaled.

Now was a good a time as any to indulge while he tried to keep his nerves under control. They were a little hard to come by down here, but he'd won a pack in a recent card game from the juve who called himself Bullseye. Really lived up to his name, poor kid.

The still was one of their prized possessions. A source of clean-ish water, albeit very metallic tasting and with a bit of an oily sheen. But still, clean by the standards anywhere else nearby in the Underhive, hardly any radiation.

It wasn't just a water source, the gang's income depended on it heavily. Settlers, travellers and merchants would pay good credits for access to clean water. And that's why they had to keep it secure.

The still was also a source of envy for many other gangs nearby who would like to take it for themselves.

And they'd got complacent,cocky. A crazed mob of Redemptionists raided the settlement attempting a take-over and the gang got caught sleeping, literally in some cases. They came in heavy and loud.

Shaking his head at the memory, Arlan knew he was lucky to survive. If he hadn't have woken up at that time and gone out to relieve himself. He'd have still been inside that gang bunkhouse when the frags went off inside.

First rule of survival in the Underhive, go nowhere unarmed, especially the outhouse. Arlan had emerged into a hell of smoke, fire, screams and spraying bullets. He managed to plug three brethren from behind before they realised he was there.

With the other gangers that tumbled out of the drinking hole and those that sprang from the hovels where they were "visiting" the local girls, they managed to rally a defence.

But it was the return of the rest of the gang that were escorting a merchant caravan that turned the situation. With their added firepower and the hired-guns of the caravan the Redemptionists were driven off. If they hadn't arrived when they did, well he wouldn't be sitting here now.

Up until now the gang had been doing well and their ranks were swelling. Now more than a dozen members were dead or badly injured, not to mention the settlers caught in the crossfire.

There are still twice that many gangers still alive and fighting fit, but it was a heavy blow nonetheless.

Those Redemptionists were well equipped and informed. Someone is hiding them and someone is supplying them.

The gang have had to call in all outstanding favours and owe a few more, they have contacts following leads and gathering information from Hive Bottom up to the Lower Hive.

So now it's a waiting game. On full alert in case of another raid, waiting for the information they need and the call to roll out.

When they find out where those Emperor bothering sump-suckers are hiding out or who's supplying them... Then it's gonna be payback time, no holding back.

Arlan allowed himself a slight grin at the thought. He groaned as he rose back to his feet, dusting the rusty paint flecks from the back of his pants, before throwing the Lho stub aside and carried on with his patrol.


Okay, but what does this have to do with RPG's and Wargames? :

Look at the basic synopsis of that story above, just the basics without all the wordy narrative.

"A group defending a precious resource recently came under attack from a rival group being supported by mysterious benefactors. If/when the group find the information they need they are going to war and possibly causing an awful lot of turmoil in the local vicinity in the process"

If that doesn't sound like a great set-up for an RPG session or a Tabletop mission for players to get involved with then I don't know what does.

You bolt on your preferred system, genre, characters. And you can be ready to go.

And just from rolling a bunch of dice with little pictures on.

There's numerous ways that you can implement the story cubes into RPG's and Wargames.

RPG:
- Need a quick backstory for your PC or NPC, grab the cubes.
- Players ask you if there are any rumours going around the town or for historical events in the area, grab the cubes.
- After a long days adventure, the players are sitting at rest in the local tavern, a  bard begins to sing a plaintive song about... Grab the cubes!

Wargaming:
- Need to quickly generate some descriptions of different planets in a system for a campaign, grab the cubes.
- Putting a bit of effort into naming characters in your army but stuck on a backstory, grab the cubes.
- Just playing a pick-up game of Warhammer with a buddy, but would still like a bit of narrative behind the encounter... Seriously, grab the cubes.

I'm not saying these are a must have for everyone and I was being intentionally facetious with that last section.

I'm just trying to get my initial point across from the post title and discussing what I love about these fun little items. Which is pretty much their intended purpose.

They are a wonderful imagination/inspiration prompt. A simple yet versatile tool that may come in useful if you ever get stuck with a creative/narrative block. Like the Storytelling section above, your imagination is the limit.

And just in my personal opinion, I think that's what makes Rory's Story Cubes: A great tool for Storytelling, Roleplaying and Wargaming.

YMMV

Take care

4 comments:

  1. My wife keeps the original box in her purse for impromptu kid entertainment, but I have often thought they would be great for RPGs. Your mega set seems like it would be even better, with the voyage hero and other additions.

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    1. My 2 youngest kids (8 & 11 yrs) are wanting me to run an RPG campaign for them. They've had a couple of one off sessions and really enjoyed it.

      I simplified D&D somewhat for them and I'm thinking of adding the story cubes in for a bit of interest, maybe for random events etc.

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  2. Loved the story, and yes they do make good imagination guides if yours freezes up or if you're looking for inspiration.

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    Replies
    1. Unless you're Greg. Then you look at the scattered dice upon the table and scream "Turtle!".

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Comments and critiques are always welcome.