Rory’s Story Cubes (Product Review)

The Perfect Aide for Beating Writer’s Block

Today’s RPG product review is on Rory’s Story Cubes. (You can visit the company’s Home Page here). [This post contains affiliate links]

“Now wait a minute! These aren’t an RPG product,” I am sure some of you are thinking already.

You’re right. These were made as solitaire/party game.  Rory’s Story Cubes were designed to be a story-telling board game for 1-12 players. There are 9 d6s with a total of 54 different images. The Story Cubes are a multi-award winning product, including Dr. Toy “10 Best Games Winner.” There are many different ways to play this game, and I am sure you will find more information on board game review sites (such as https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/20545/rorys-story-cubes).

So… how do these relate to RPGs and Writer’s Block? (Review & Usage Notes)

Rory’s Story Cubes make a claim that there are over 10 million combinations. Let me do some quick math… and I come up with almost 20 million possible different face and order combinations (I’m not a math whiz, so there might be an error to my method). The pictures on each shape are simple and easy to decipher. If you can’t come up with even a few basic story elements to work from, I don’t know what to tell you. There are more combinations and ways to use them than anyone could ever actually do in a lifetime. Combine that with the fact that even the same result spawn vastly different story concepts, and I just don’t know how you couldn’t find these little things useful.
There are many ways to use these dice for RPG story-tellers, but I will leave you with a few of my favorites.

1) Random Quest/Narrative Plots

Whether you are running a pre-made adventure or one of your own crafting, there is a good likelihood that something will go awry. Like that last game. You know the one. Your PCs were supposed to go searching for someone or something, but then the party got side-tracked. For spite.
Well, now you are stuck trying decide whether to railroad them, take a break (possibly end the session) while you come up with a new plan, or just wing it and hope for the best. For most good GMs, you have contingencies in place (sometimes).
Or… You can break out your story cubes. That’s right. Let’s do what GMs do best when they are stumped, roll dice until something makes sense! Roll your story dice one or more times and see what comes up. You will be surprised at how these simple graphics instantly jumpstart your brain to weaving stories for random short quests or even tales for the player characters to listen to at their local tavern. 

2) Character Backstory

Hey, these dice are for all storytellers (even those not running the game). Though there are lots of great guides out there for creating unique characters, Pathfinder’s Ultimate Campaign, D&D’s 3.0 Hero Builder’s Guide, and amazing community suggestions such as from High Level Games, sometimes you will find the advice and options overwhelming (or limiting your own creative juices).
During these times where you just need help with an idea, give it a shot. Just now I rolled a tree, a foot, a fish, a key, a book, a lightning bolt, a sea turtle, a happy face, and a quote box. Without taking much time to consider deeper into the meanings or the order, I have an image in mind of an aquatic, talkative, happy-go-lucky druid who loves to share his/her knowledge and stories about his/her travels. Now I have a great branching off point to flesh out my character. I can roll more sets (or single dice) to fill out my backstory, or I can take off from there now that the creative juices are flowing in my brain (despite the lack of a second cup of coffee).

3) Full Adventure Writing (Writer’s Block)

Even I find it difficult to decide on what the next adventure I want to write will be. Sometimes, it is hard just finding a starting point to build from. That is where these story dice can help.

Taking another roll, I have: a little boy with a demonic shadow, an eye, greek tragedy masks, an abacus, a walking cane, a sheep, a house, a key (again), and a flashlight. Quickly a story idea pieces together in my mind.

 A small village experiences a great mix of despair and prosperity. Children are going missing at night even when safely locked up at night. An old, mute shepard’s flock of sheep seems to grow in numbers almost daily. This influx of sheep makes the man as well as the town richer. Though the old man can barely walk, the town grows suspicious of him. The problem is that no one can prove how he is kidnaping the kids and changing them into sheep. The adventurers are charged with uncovering the truth; unbeknownst to the old man, his prayers for prosperity were answered by a shadow demon.

Can you see where the dice fall into that short synopsis?

It really took me much longer to write the idea than to think it up. The best part, I had to stop mid-writing to help someone, and when I came back, the dice were still there to remind me of my basic story idea.

Review Scores

Cost vs Value — Coming in as a board game with lots of replay under $10 is great. Add in the fact that you can carry these with your other dice and use them in a crunch, amazing! 20 points
Art — The graphics may be simple, but because of how easy it is to identify all 54 images and that they can be used for virtually any genre of storytelling, these get an “A” from me! 9 points
Readability — These dice easily spark the imagination with easy to decipher pictures. The rules for the game itself are simple and very straightforward. 20 points
Mechanics — Because of the different ways to use these dice (both for the game and your own usage) the mechanics are mostly left up to the user. The rules are customizable and there is nothing you have to memorize. 15 points
Stand-alone-ability — Well, seeing as how this is a stand-alone game that can be played alone or with up to a dozen friends (probably more) I really can’t take anything away from this product. 15 Points
Originality — There are other dice and randomizer-based story games abound. I really haven’t followed the trends nor know what came first. Based on this history of Rory’s Story Cubes, it started with the faces on a Rubic’s cube and changed to dice after some playtesting and events. This probably the only area I feel that I can legitimately steal some points away from. 8 points
Overall Score — 87 out of 100 points 

Now you might be thinking, B+? Well, I was trying to be conservative, but this simple-seeming product (not even designed for RPGs) really set the bar high. What the dice lack in originality, they more than make it up for in other areas. It is no wonder that Rory’s Story Cubes won several toy and game awards. Make sure you grab some from your favorite local shop. For those that would rather order them, you can find them on Amazon and a plethora of toy and game sites online.

Have you used Rory’s Story Cubes before? Let me know what you think of them.

I also challenge you to craft up a character based on either dice results found in the review. I’ll share my favorites next week. Be sure to sign up for The DM Doctor’s e-mail list. I will be announcing this month’s giveaway on Friday.

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