Follow the link above if you’re not sure what I’m talking about here. The short version? I’m using Rory Story Cubes to create a fantasy map at random.
Here is a detailed write-up of the process I used to generate a map with 7 rolls. I used all three of my Story Cubes sets and simply grabbed the cubes randomly from the pile. The amount varied on each roll from 8 to 3 Cubes.
I started with a blank piece of watercolor paper. I use the thicker paper for mapping in case I want to lay some watercolors down on a later date. You should use whatever you like or have laying around. (My first test runs were on lined notebook paper!) For this run, I threw in two coastlines on the Eastern and Western sides of the map and then started rolling Cubes!
My first round was with 6 Cubes. After the roll, only 4 were still on the paper. I rolled, from left to right, a tower, a city or a temple, a set of scales and a pot of gold.
My eyes first went to the scales sitting right on the shoreline and in the little bay I had randomly sketched out. My first thought was a place of law and order. I went with a large walled city with rules and laws, possibly a bit conservative and strict. Right next to it was the pot of gold out just off the shoreline. That was easy. Obviously a ship wreck or some sort of sunken treasure just off the coast.
Next was the Cube with the towers featuring the Arabic architecture. The first thing that popped into my mind was a temple set in the wilderness. Perhaps a holy area for clerics to go for prayer and reflection or possibly a place for monks to train and study. I simply wrote “Temple” on the map and moved onward.
The tower was incredibly easy and I thought of a ruined tower OR a full tower that was part of a larger set of ruins. It might be in the middle of nowhere or it might be by another city. I would have to wait to see where the other rolls landed.
I used 4 cubes and 3 stayed on the map this time. A fountain, a Book, and a treasure map. Perfect!
The fountain made me think of natural springs or geysers so I went with that. I also felt that these, or at least some of these, would be magical. Next to it was the book and I felt it was as good as place as any for a city well known for a large library and scholarly pursuits. Perhaps a magical school was there as well?
Down in the lower left hand corner was the treasure map. Of course, I placed an X there and wrote “Legendary treasure.’ Perfect game adventure fodder and something to think about later.
On the third roll I rolled 5 Cubes and 4 managed to stay on the map. In the upper left was a man pushing against something, to the north east landed a goblet and a die symbol and then, in the center, a doorway.
In the northeast, I decided the goblet was the location of a historic magic item. With the die symbol along the shoreline and its location just north of the “lawful city” I had the thought it could represent a “gambling den” or maybe a small port of ill repute. A place where those of a more shadowy nature might go to get away from the stifling rules of the city. It might also serve as a nice spot for smuggling and other illicit activities.
The doorway obviously indicated a dungeon of some sort. That was simple enough.
In the northwestern corner was the man pushing against an obstruction. I thought of some sort of obstacle and decided that a large mountain range would dominate that section of the map. Harsh and nearly impenetrable it would block travel or any civilized activity. After I marked the spot, I took a moment and sketched out the mountain range.
The next roll was more bold with 5 Cubes. 4 of them stayed on the map. I picked up an apple, a light bulb, a sheep, and a lightning bolt. This was a bit tougher than the first rounds but I like a good challenge.
For the Sheep I went with pastoral farm lands. Good lands for raising livestock and selling crops. It would be a beautiful place and peaceful. I had no idea if anyone was going to actually be living there or not! The lightning bolt stumped me for a bit. All I could think of was energy so I went with what popped in my mind first, a massive scenic waterfall that would be able to generate incredible power. Later, I added an area of hills marking the pastoral farm land area.
To the north was the light bulb and all I could think of was “big ideas” which later turned into a small settlement of tinkers and/or gnomes who lived near to the scholarly city for supplies and protection. Just to the northeast the apple easily became a forest populated with hardwood and fruit trees.
For the next round, I realized that the western side of the map was not getting as many rolls so I used 4 Cubes and tried to land the rolls in that area. 4 Cubes stayed on the map and I got Danger/Poison, An asterisk/flower/star thing, A bigger person looking at a smaller person, and a satchel. This was going to be interesting.
The Danger/Poison was nearly off the map but I could not resist using it. I thought of maybe an area of poisonous gas coming out of the mountains, something toxic. In the end I could not resist the temptation to place a “Here be Monsters” style area.
The Asterisk/Star symbol was perhaps the hardest one of the whole project. All I could see was the symbol used for a sound in comics and that made no sense. So, I enlisted my wife and she immediately said it “was a flower.” With that, the location became known as the “Flower fields.” I pictured a vast prairie at the foot of these inhospitable mountains. Perhaps a small town there as well that either tried to mine some of the foothills or tried to work the soil. My wife was quite pleased and quickly announced that this was “HER Flower Fields” in the world. I’m thinking the place may need a queen?
To the south, at the shoreline, was a fun symbol of a large person looking down at a small person. Though this could mean either an area of halflings OR an area of giants I went with my first inspiration. GIANTS! It was near the ruins rolled earlier and so it seemed to work.
Finally, the satchel. I struggled a bit with this one as well but finally settled on a small village in the middle of nowhere known for their exquisite leather-working, making satchels, saddles and all manner of goods.
I went a bit gonzo with this round and rolled 8 Cubes and 5 landed on the map. A whip, A tent, A house, someone counting money, and a footprint. You can see in the picture that things were really starting to take shape.
For the house, I went with a small town and made a note that I thought it might be the location of a large and well-known Inn. The person counting money which landed at the southern edge of the foothills became a rich farming village on it’s way to being a larger town. It ended up being perfectly located to the west of the natural springs and a short way from the epic waterfalls. A little spot of heaven, indeed!
The tent landed on the edge of the woods to the north and I immediately went with an elven encampment of some kind, perhaps even an elven city.
The whip Cube marked trouble in the Flower Fields! A group of bandits and slavers have come into the area and are living in the wilderness north of the giants and just south of Flower Fields.
Sounds like a job for some of the Queen’s soldiers!
Finally, the footprint on the eastern coast made me think of Bigfoot. I know, I know, but I can’t help myself. In keeping with the fantasy theme I decided the area was one with a heavy humanoid population. Perhaps orcs, hobgoblins and gnolls? Perhaps they were organized enough to be a threat (or an ally) to the Lawful City?
I thought I might be done after the previous round but decided to grab three Cubes for the heck of it and give them a throw. They ended up adding some nice little details. I rolled a rain cloud, a vial, and a bird. What I liked about these was where they landed!
For the rainclouds I went with an abundance of moisture and placed a swamp in that area. Obviously, the runoff from the western edge of the hills ran down and formed a marshy, dangerous area as well as a river that ran onward to the western shore. The bird landed very close to the temple area and made me think “Raven Temple” so I simply noted that on the map. Finally, the vial landed directly on the point of the epic waterfall. I decided that with the natural springs nearby (some which might be magical) that something about the waterfalls caused them to be important in alchemical workings. Alchemists and adventurers traveled from the city to the east to gain what they needed there. It was also relatively close to the temple. Perhaps only the monks or clerics there knew of it’s powers?
I added the marsh and some other small details in the area.
With that I decided I had enough information for now and I could start working on the map. I added some other small details, roads where they made sense, marked the general boundaries of the bandits, giants and humanoids and cleaned up some of the notes and shorelines. The next step would be starting to put down ink and making things permanent.
In future posts I will show you the progress I am making on the map as well as what details I might have added to it. After that, who knows? I might have to start building an actual game world out of this thing and adding adventures as well.
I hope you enjoyed this and I hope it helped illustrate the process. This was a great way to spend an hour or so and I think it would be an incredible way to build a game world with your players no matter what their age might be. Players could take turns rolling and everyone can join in on the fun in a collaborative style.
I also have a few more ideas for the Story Cubes which will be posted soon.