Deck of Stories, a GM playing aid by Critical Dice

From: Critical Dice
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Deck Of Stories

From: Critical Dice
Type of Game: RPG Playing Aid
Game Components Included: 50 cards, plus 3 blanks and an instruction card
Retail Price: $14.99

Deck of Stories is a new RPG Playing Aid from Critical Dice.

I got something in the mail yesterday.  Critical Dice is a company that came out to MACE 2018 and to be honest, I totally missed them.  Being the gaming coordinator, I was simply too busy to check out every vendor at the dealers room.  However, Jeff Smith talked big about them and I heard more and more about them afterwards.  A lot of people  talked about their high quality and innovative products and ideas.

The Deck of Stories is their latest idea that we plan to thorough play-test at MACE West 2019.  It is a playing aid to help a GM come up with a plot on the fly, when say the characters go off on a different and unintended direction (which never happens, right?) or the GM needs an idea for a quick one shot.  Since I got them, I have been shuffling and flipping these cards while I sit at my desk at work, imagining what kind of stories I could create with them.  They are quite interesting.

From the website:  “Adventure in 15 Minutes”

As said, there are only 50 cards.  My first thought was that it leaves a lot of opportunity for expansion.  Despite that, there are plenty  of story potential in these fifty cards. There are two parts to each card – the Hook and the Next Steps.  The Hook is the story idea for the card – one or two short sentences to inspire your imagination.  The Next Steps ask questions stemming from this idea and help you formulate and round out the idea.

The general model the card system is based on is called ORC.  O is for Open.  Cards with this letter on them can be used as an opening scene idea.  Hook examples are:  “Take the River is your fastest route. Many Creatures Lurk Along the Riverbanks.” … or … “Everyone in the town begins speaking gibberish.  Communication is impossible.”  R is for Rise.  These are rise in action, the change in the story, or the plot twist that take it to the next level.  Example: “Your team meets another group that seems strangely familiar.” C is for Climatic action.  It represents the hook that will bring things to a close, the boss-fight or the epic ending.   Example: “To save the life of a party member, a deal must be struck with a being from a lower plane.”   With those examples alone, I am already formulating a plot for a simple village encounter.

The players have just come down a river after a big fight, once of horribly injured.  They seek help at this village but suddenly, all in the village speak a foreign tongue of another plane.  They do not understand and can not get help because the people do not understand the party.  What’s happening?  Why?  Who is at the center of this confusion?  Has the enemy from their last fight returned or does he have allies?

Cards can have one, two or all three letters on them.  For cards with multiples, this means it can be used for any of them.  The questions in the Next Steps are great because they really help you formulate the idea in your head.

From the website:  “No railroading, no over preparing”

 At MACE West 2019, we had a big game of 4 tables.  GMs run 1 hour with one group using the cards, and then the GM moves to the next table.  We had everyone running D&D 5e, to keep things simple. Everyone seemed to have a great time.  By all accounts, the games were all a great success.   I think the Deck of Stories was received very well.


A few weeks later at my home game, I had to come up with some visions for each of my players.  I whipped out my Deck of Stories and pulled a single card for each vision.  It worked perfectly.  It was awesome and now I have new story elements I can work into the campaign.

In conclusion, these cards are awesome.  They are very inspired and I do hope they expand on them.  Perhaps a more sci-fi or horror oriented version or something like that. They are diverse and just fun to throw down to get the creative juices flowing, at the very least.  If you want to use them as intended, I recommend sitting for about 5 to 10 minutes before your game, and throw down a couple of cards for each letter – O, R, and C and think about the story you want to tell some.  It doesn’t take much, just a little though before actually running the game.  I am glad I got to review them and I highly recommend them.

For more details on Critical Dice and their new RPG Playing Aid Deck of Stories” check them out at their website

Codex Rating: 18