Scribbler’s Saga #36 – Ideas Pt. 2, Roll the Dice

Posted: May 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

© 2017 G.N. Jacobs

Look, an actual review about Rory’s Story Cubes goes like this: buy dice, roll them, write down your interpretation of the top facing pictures on how ever many dice you roll, try to interpret them and start writing. Repeat as necessary. Like many things we do, it’s not exactly rocket science. Though maybe the part about trying to roll dice and type at the same time, might be. Or just a riddle without solution. 

Yes, even I run dry getting ideas the normal way, watch and read stuff, ask weird questions and write down the resulting idea in my idea file. I don’t usually stay dry, because the universe likes me…for the moment, but it’s nice to have a backup plan. For me that’s pull out the dice, roll and see what pops. I have other methods, apps I don’t really use anymore, random generators all over the web, but sometimes the idea is to roll the dice just to see how weird things can get.

Now the purveyors of these dice will tell you the basic game goes like this, roll nine dice, try to use all nine face up pictures. Yeah, like I’m not going to roll more dice. I used to roll D&D characters by throwing six extra dice and dropping the crappiest six rolls guaranteeing that I don’t wind up with characters like one of my first basic game victims named Alpo (I was 10 and I misspelled Apollo, good thing it turned out) with two 3’s, a 6 and not a whole lot more. But, I digress. I roll twelve story dice and drop the lamest three results or not.

Starting out with the three basic sets with nine dice each that are available everywhere, the purveyors of these dice hooked me into buying all of the three dice extension sets that are so helpfully color coded. They also hooked me into getting four of five special nine dice sets related to various special licenses: Batman, Scooby-Doo, Doctor Who and LooneyTunes. I skipped the Moomin set, largely because when you say Belgian cartoon franchise to me I think Smurfs. For all I know a Moomin might be a smurf baked in the sun too long by Gargamel (there’s an image, especially if the victim is Smurfette).

I found I had to keep the special sets segregated in separate bags because the makers ran out of new colors with which to code the dice. All of the other dice have colors that tell you what set they came from, pink for Fairytale, dark blue for Verbs and so on. The special sets are all printed in black ink like one of the basic sets insuring confusion and an inability to find the special dice when you have to cast about for the elements to an actual Batman story. Trust me, you want the die faces with Joker, Scarecrow, Catwoman, the dreaded Cybermen and Daleks right where you can find them.

At this point, I must add a word about interpreting the pictures that come face up. Is the aquamarine Man in a Tube (see picture) die face from the Interstellar set a hibernation tube, a transporter, a cloning tank, or an Auto-Doc? Is the brick red man (see picture) surrounded by the jagged field a glow in the dark guy or electrified, like an eel? And just what the Hell is that black one (see picture) a burning bush delivering the Word of God or a scary spooky demon beast as last seen in a nightmare? Like Tarot cards upside down matters with some of these dice.

I’m sure the makers of the dice and others would say “Dude, they can be either, pick one!” To be sure, when the same picture comes up even I will interpret some of these pictures differently the second time. New rule, try to interpret said pictures in the weirdest and funniest way possible.

So do I actually use these dice to write stories rather than roll up prompt cards for semi-mythical later use at a party? Yes, a few months ago I wanted to start up some Batman fan fiction in part to keep up with the narrative arms race in my comic book store writing group. But, I’ve been whining for a while that all of my good ideas that don’t require rolling dice get shunted into anything but Batman. What to do? Roll the dice.

I will have to do some writing bag/notebook archeology to find all twelve possible elements I rolled because like so many of us, I shouldn’t put projects down because it will be months getting back to that story. What I do remember is coming up with Harley Quinn, Arkham Assylum, Moses’ basket and a dark tower in moonlight, both from the Fairytale set added to the Batman set.

I have three or four chapters of a story in my Dropbox file that starts with the single bloodiest night (possibly just a regular Tuesday) in a dark Gotham alley. A young boy found abandoned has special gifts and bonds to Harley Quinn as a surrogate mother. Batman objects because Harley Quinn is by definition a psychotic Clown Princess of Murder, hardly a positive foster mother. Mayhem and epic adventure ensue. So far, the moment that tickles me the most is seeing Harley holding the boy facing down the Gotham PD SWAT team making demands, including a clown-themed onesie for the boy. God, I’ve got to find where I wrote those elements down!

Now that I’ve bloviated a bit about how I use these dice (your methodology may vary), let’s dig into why you came for the ride. What did you roll while trying to write this post? Huh? Come on, be a pal…

First up for your discriminatingly violent pleasure (or not), we have twelve elements drawn from across the regular 63 story dice. The verb to jump. Zeus tossing thunderbolts. A first aid kit. Time/clock. Tackle/wrestle/fight. Sadness/worry. A lizard. A spiral galaxy. A bear trap. A levitating box. A caped hero/villain.

Oooh! How will I ever start…

Sunlight filtered down through the clouds above Olympus gracing Zeus’s footsteps through the clouds made solid through the force of human belief. Stroking his beard and shifting his hip to get his quiver of thunderbolts to settle just right for the long hours sitting on his throne. The father of the gods cleared his throat.

“Hermes!” Zeus bellowed.

He heard the skittering of tiny feet scampering underfoot. A quickly lifted foot prevented stepping on a lizard that…

Really? I’m supposed to give you more than a few paragraphs based on any one of my rolls without you greasing me with beer, money or heartfelt gratitude?

Okay, one more. Dance. Fountain. Icarus/hubris. Ward off. Henhouse. Planet Earth. Magic flute. Evil clown. Chained in dungeon. Call elevator. Broken bone. Magic flower. Think you could come up with something? This one might be tough. It starts out with a Fellini feel about people dancing in fountains (La Dolce Vita) and winds up in the place Mozart must have been doing the Magic Flute. I guess if you want weird either roll these dice or smoke lots of weed. Doing both is probably dangerous.

I wonder what Shelley, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron could’ve pulled off with these dice. Let’s not break the spacetime continuum finding out, they were professionals needing just a dark and stormy night.

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