Story Cubes with Toddlers

Over on Google+, John Ward introduced me to a product called Rory’s Story Cubes as an idea-generation tool for the bedtime stories I tell my daughters. I ordered the base set and the Voyages add-on. There are several ways to use the dice, but for my purposes, the three of us took turns rolling dice and making up the story, with the goal being a complete story in nine dice.

Story Cubes

Here’s a transcript of my first attempt at using them with my daughters. Given that they’re two years old, I took a lot of control, but they enjoyed rolling the dice and getting in to the story. As they get more used to making things up, I will happily relinquish the reins to them.

Dad: Okay roll the dice. [Daughter 1 rolls die.] So what’d we get? Oh, it looks like an insect, a bug. So is this going to be a story about a bug?

D1: Yeah.

Dad: Okay, so, what’s the bug’s name?

D1: It’s called Cristers. [Crickets?]

Dad: Cristers?

D1: Yeah. I want to get more!

Dad: Okay. So we have a bug named Cristers. And then Daughter 2, you pick a die and let’s find out some more about the story. Okay, roll the die. [D2 rolls die.] Uh, it’s a shrine, a temple. So we have Cristers and he’s going to the temple to pray about… What? What is he praying for? Why is he going to the temple?

D2: Because he’s um going to craaaaaassssshhhhh! Again!

Dad: He’s afraid he’s going to crash again? Okay, so we have a bug named Cristers who’s going to the temple to pray because he’s afraid he’s going to crash again. He’s obviously an airplane pilot of some sort. So I’ll roll one now. [Dad rolls die.]

D2: Glasses!

Dad: Oh, glasses… So he goes to the temple and he says to the monk, “I am very afraid that if I fly a plane again, I will crash again.” And the monk says, “Perhaps you should wear glasses the next time you fly the plane.” And Cristers says, “Glasses! Why didn’t I think of that?” Okay, pick a die. Roll it, let’s see what we get. [D1 rolls.]

D1: Stars!

Dad: Oh, stars and a wand. So let’s think what happens next. At that moment, a fairy godmother comes down and says, “Cristers, you have one wish. What will it be?

D2: My turn!

Dad: Okay. And Cristers says, “I wish for a pair of glasses that will allow me to see a hundred miles away.” Now you roll the die. [D2 rolls.] And you got, hmmm, looks like… a trap door in the floor with stairs going down? And the godmother says, “Okay, I will give you the glasses, Cristers. But first you must go down the Flight of a Thousand Stairs into the darkness.” And then what happens next? Cristers goes down the stairs into the darkness and he finds… [Dad rolls.] A pyramid! A pyramid deep under the earth. So he goes into the pyramid—

D2: My turn! My turn!

D1: A castle. I bring a castle!

Dad: It’s D1’s turn. So he goes into the pyramid and… Roll the die. [D1 rolls. Dad gasps at skull and crossbones.] Oh no. And he walks into the pyramid and he discovers that there is a curse and it says, “Anybody who enters this pyramid will surely die. And then D2 rolls. Oh, a fountain. And Cristers would die, except he discovers the Fountain of Life, and he reaches into the fountain and he pulls out… [Dad rolls.] A goblet. And he uses the goblet to drink from the fountain.

D1: A trophy!

Dad: Oh, is it a trophy? Okay, he gets a trophy that says, “You survived the Pyramid of Death by drinking the Waters of Life. Your reward is a pair of glasses that allows you to see a hundred miles away.” And Cristers put on the glasses and he got in his plane and he flew away and he could see perfectly and he flew and he flew and he landed fine and he didn’t crash and he was happy. The End.

Future History: DreamTV

The year is 2034. Scripted television is a thing of the past. Reality TV has played itself out. The final niche documentary show—Ozark Raccoon Celebrity Matchmakers, which detailed the love lives of a small group of genetically engineered, intelligent raccoons—was canceled by Animal PlanE!t in 2031 after five strong seasons. Once that show went off the air, there were no further demographics left that had not already been documented by a reality TV show.

Reality competition shows had ended when the extended family of contestants from MTV’s Real World/Road Rules franchise had taken each other out in a true Last Man Standing event, with the final contestant dying of liver failure soon thereafter. The resulting lawsuits from family members and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Game Show Contestants had such a chilling effect on other competition shows that they all closed up shop en masse, stranding some contestants on deserted islands or in foreign countries.

Luckily, Dream TV stepped in to fill the gaping hole in the TV landscape left by the dissolution of every single other form of entertainment. Born out of technology that took its first crude steps into dreamland in the early 21st century, DreamTV allows viewers intimate access into the dreams of the rich, famous, imaginative, and depraved.

 Excerpt from a DreamTV advertisement: “Let’s face it, you don’t remember your dreams, do you? Or if you do, it’s that one where you’re walking around the office naked, or you’re taking a surprise math quiz even though it’s been years since you’ve been in school. Why suffer your own petty, shallow dreams and nightmares when you can watch the creation of professional dreamers, with fresh content provided daily on thousands of channels? With DreamTV, only the best dreamers are chosen to take you into exotic landscapes of the mind where action, adventure, exploration, romance, and a mixed bag of fascinating neuroses await! Each Dream Creator lives a life of luxury by day, and spends each night hooked up to a Quantum Imager that translates detailed scans of their brains into audio-visual extravaganzas for your viewing pleasure.”

 Excerpt from the paper ’zine Hide Your Dreams: “Is everything copacetic in Dreamland? There are rumors that the so-called Dream Creators are actually unwilling prisoners subjected to an endless regimen of bizarre stimuli, images, music, and hallucinogenic drugs in order to, in effect, program the dreams that DreamTV writers have written for them. So are you watching real dreams or has the Writer’s Guild of Earth simply found a new way to write and produce new fiction shows with a cast and crew of one? Are the supposedly spontaneous and free-form stories that each Dream Creator shares each night actually programmed in ahead of time?”

 Clip from 20/20/24/7 News:

DreamTV spokesman John Shale : “We strenuously deny these vile rumors that have no basis whatsoever in fact. Our dreams and nightmares are 100% created in the subconscious minds of our Dream Creators. Have you watched these dreams? To suggest that they are the purposeful work of a group of writers is ridiculous.”

20/20/24/7 Correspondent Alicia Wilde: “Still, the rumors persist, as do those that the United Nations Security Division is extracting information from dissidents not through torture, but simply by recording dreams and sifting through them for nuggets of fact. If our dreams are no longer our own, sacred playgrounds, a place where we can work out our imagination and explore our hopes, fears, and anxieties without worrying what someone else will think about us, if they can be visited by government spooks or by anyone who owns a TV set, what refuge is left to us, dear viewers?”

The year is 2036. DreamTV ended in scandal when it was revealed that the rumors had been true. Entire prison complexes of forced dreamers were found and most of the so-called Dream Creators were insane beyond the point of rehabilitation by the time their plight was confirmed. The head of the UNSD stepped down amidst the revelations that he was personally responsible for funding the program, which provided the “Dream Creators” to DreamTV after the UNSD was down strip-mining their dreams for intelligence.

Luckily, by the time DreamTV collapsed, the children of the original Real World/Road Rules contestants had come of age. As part of their winning lawsuit against MTV, they received the right to have a competition show of their own. The age of reality TV was born again.

[I was working on an unrelated short story all day Saturday and it wasn’t until the end of the night that I realized I had no Sunday blog post ready. I had been thinking of writing about current technologies that could one day lead to the ability to view one’s dreams, perhaps using some improved form of functional magnetic resonance imagining. The post I started to write was kind of dry and bland, so I figured, hey, only one or two people at the most (Hi Mom, Hi Jeff!) will read this anyway, so I might as well have fun with it. It is meant to be silly but contain some real questions about where such technology might be problematic.]