Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Instant Adventures, Artifacts, and NPCs With Rory's Story Cubes

I've heard a lot of good things about Rory's Story Cubes and their application for RPG play, so I broke down and bought a set for myself. For those who have never heard of them, the Story Cubes are 9 dice-sized cubes with a different picture, icon, or symbol on each face (that's 54 different images). By rolling the cubes, you're given an assortment of iconography that can be used as a kind of "imagination spark." Kids can use them to create their own tales. Teachers use them as a teaching tool. Writers use them for creative prompts. And I've been using them for spur-of-the-moment Mutant Future creatures, NPCs, artifacts, and adventures. I've found I get best results when I grab three at random and force myself to use whatever pops up upon a roll. For example, let's roll up an artifact and an NPC:

ARTIFACT: Let's see. I turned up a tree, an airplane, and a turtle. Off the top of my head, I picture an "arborbot" programmed to protect and nurture a long-forgotten public park. It floats slowly and lazily over the park, watering, replanting, and otherwise tending the lands.

NPC: OK, same set... How about a mutant plant -- a tree, of course -- with a hard, shell-like outer bark? It can either fly or move incredibly fast...or both! So "Steelbark" the mutant oak has the quickness mutation as well as natural armor.

New roll, and this time we'll come up with a Village and an Adventure Hook:

VILLAGE: This round, we have a teepee, a crescent moon, and a set of measuring scales. So our village is a primitive culture, still nomadic and moving from location to location. They value justice above all else, so they're incredibly lawful in alignment. Perhaps they see themselves as "the law in the lawless lands." Let's make this village nocturnal as well, so the people who live there are only active at night. (And their reversed biorhythms could be a story hook as well!)

ADVENTURE HOOK: The village shaman has approached the PCs asking for them to investigate an odd nightly occurrence. It seems the villagers are slowly growing scales over their bodies. (See what I did there?) Each morning when they awake, they find even more of their bodies are covered with this patchy fish-like skin. Is it a new mutation? Perhaps the Cephalopoids are to blame? The PCs are told a medicine man who lives alone in a campsite miles away may have a cure -- or at least an answer.

I'm getting a lot of use and inspiration out of these, so I recommend them for your own gaming table. Heck, keep them behind the screen and toss a few if you're stuck for an interesting plot twist or NPC. Rory's Story Cubes are available all over the place. (I got mine at Walmart for less than $8, in fact.)


  1. Be sure to get all three sets: The Original,Actions, and Voyages. Voyages is especially useful for RPGs, as they have a bit of a fantasy theme.


    1. Actually, I do have Voyages. I didn't want to "muddy the waters" of this post. Saw Actions, but it didn't really interest me...

  2. I, too, have all three. I thought the action set was the least useful, and true — I've used them the least. However, in combination, I was surprised that the action cubes have been GREAT! I'm glad I have all three sets.

    Fun stuff!

  3. I picked up the app version of this and it's great, just obviously not as tactile. Stuck in traffic, passit to the kids in the back and have them make up stories, otherwise whip it out at the game table.

    The story cubes app that is.