THE STORY ENGINE deck of endless storytelling prompts + book

Created by Peter Chiykowski

Deck of story prompts for writers, teachers, GMs, DMs & tabletop RPGs + a new book of piercing postcard stories from The Shortest Story

Latest Updates from Our Project:

Album of stories to preview + next set of stretch goals announced
about 2 months ago – Thu, Sep 26, 2019 at 01:46:00 AM

Hello backers!

Thanks for continuing to share the campaign, and your enthusiasm for The Story Engine. It's been incredible to see it continue to grow, and to hear backers' ideas for expanding the campaign and finding new uses for the deck! I'll start assembling an FAQ in time for the next update.

 In the meantime, I wanted to share a new album of my postcard stories I just posted to imgur, in case you'd like to read it for a preview of what's to come in The Story Engine book. Many of these stories appear in the collection, and others are gathered from my website, and last year's monthly postcard mail-out subscription.

If you have a moment, please feel free to go take a look! You can also help share the album on Facebook and Twitter.

As we approach $60,000, I am absolutely thrilled to unveil the next set of stretch goals, which will include more cards being added to the deck, as well as a French-language translation of the deck led by guest author Benoit Chartier and made available to all backers as an option for the digital print-and-play PDF.

I am also excited to announce that at $120,000 I will be releasing a new science-fiction expansion called Distant Worlds and Near Futures, focused specifically on prompts and images designed to help tell sci-fi-driven stories. Physical copies will be available as a physical add-on and all deck backers will receive a free digital print-and-play PDF.

Thanks, and I'll be back with more news soon!

Backer questions, ladies' cut shirts available, and a new special guest author!
about 2 months ago – Tue, Sep 24, 2019 at 01:25:08 PM

Hello backers!

As we approach the $50,000 stretch goal to add 5 new cards to the deck, bringing the size to 160 cards, I wanted to go through some of the questions I've been asked about the project so far, and introduce to a new special guest author who has just joined to write a guest story for the book: Sebastian A. Jones, creator of Niobe and The Untamed, currently on Kickstarter and being developed by HBO for a new epic drama. 

Sebastian will be contributing an original guest postcard story. You can check out more of his work on his Kickstarter campaign, which features the latest instalment in his epic storytelling universe, Asunda. Sebastian started out creating his world to bring a greater breadth of representation to fantasy storytelling, exploring it first as an RPG and LARP setting, later through comics, and next through television. It's very exciting to have him on board!

Now, on to the Q&A!

How many pages will the print-and-play deck be?

I designed the original 150-card deck to print at full-size (3" x 3") on 25 sheets of paper, but I am aware that a lot of teachers and community groups are looking forward to this deck and want a more economical way to produce their print-and-plays.

As such, I'll also be releasing a scaled-down version with 2.5" x 2.5" cards that will be printable with 13 sheets of paper.

Additional cards unlocked by stretch goals will mean additional pages for the PDF.

 Will the T-shirt be available in ladies' cut?

Yes! You will be able to choose any size from S-3X in men's cut and S-2X in ladies'. The shirts will be 100% cotton. I will confirm the manufacturer before surveys are sent out through BackerKit to determine which size and cut you would like.

The T-shirt is available through the $80 reward tier and as an add-on for $30 CAD (~$23 USD).

Who will have access to the French print-and-play?

A French translation of the deck is a stretch goal that will be unveiled in the next run of goals, probably around the $80,000 or $100,000 mark. 

If we reach it, any backer of any deck tier will be able to email me to request access to the French print-and-play. I will be assisted in translation by bilingual science fiction writer Benoit Chartier.

Send me your questions!

Please send me your questions to let me know what else you'd like to know about the deck and book! I will be travelling for the next 5 days and will round up answers in my next update when I return.

Thanks so much for your ongoing support!

Over $40,000 with new stretch goals!
2 months ago – Tue, Sep 17, 2019 at 12:15:00 PM

Hi again everyone!

It's been an unbelievable week! We've just passed $40,000 after 5 days of the campaign, and we're coming up on 700 backers!

I've also just launched a new YouTube channel for The Shortest Story, where you can see more of my postcard stories read by Cecil Baldwin and animated by Mathias Semmann. Here's another sample story.

If you want to help boost the signal on this project, you can also follow along and help spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I want to thank the people who weighed in on the stretch goals. It sounds like there's a lot of excitement to see the main Story Engine deck expanded, so I've made some updates to the stretch goals to make sure you're able to get what you're most interested in.

I'll summarize the changes below, but here is the updated stretch goal list, with 2 new interstitial stretch goals at $45,000 and $55,000.

  • The $40,000 stretch goal used to be for 5 limited-edition promo cards being added to reward parcels receiving the deck. Instead, given the feedback, I'll be designed 5 new, core cards for the engine, making the deck 155 cards. If there's still an appetite for limited edition/promo cards, let me know in the comments I'll consider re-adding some for stretch goals down the line.
  • The old $50,000 stretch goal was moved to $55,000 to make room for a new $50,000 stretch goal adding another 5 cards to the deck, bringing The Story Engine to 160 cards.
  • The $60,000 stretch goal for the Written in Dragonfire expansion has been updated so all backs are receiving the full, final deck as a print-and-play PDF (and not just as a demo).
  • A new $45,000 stretch goal for Jonathan Sims, the writer and voice of the Archivist on The Magnus Archives podcast, to record and narrate his guest story "White Sheet" for the book.

With 160 cards, the number of possible basic 5-card prompts would grow to 17.2 billion (and that doesn't include all the alternate patterns and card spreads). I think writers, teachers and RPG storytellers will be able to get some incredible mileage out of this deck and system.

You have been my strongest and earliest supporters, and while I have my own vision for the growth of this project, I'd like to make sure your feedback shapes how this project grows, so thank you for weighing in.

As for stretch goals beyond $60,000, I have some fun stuff brewing, including:

  • More spreads and patterns for the deck
  • A translated French print-and-play of the deck
  • Additional cards for the deck
  • Additional expansions for the deck made available as free print-and-play PDFs to all deck backers
  • A new guest voice actor for the book
  • Bonus stories and print upgrades for the book

As we approach $60,000 I will release the next wave of goals with specifics!

Thanks again for all your support!


Unveiling the first wave of stretch goals
2 months ago – Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 01:12:04 PM

Hello backers, and thanks again for your incredible support!

I just wanted to drop you a quick update to unveil the first wave of stretch goals for The Story Engine (the first of which we've already unclocked)!

I'm thrilled to announce share that Cecil Baldwin, the voice of Welcome to Night Vale, is reprising his role as narrator of my postcard stories. He will be reading six postcard stories for the book, available to listen to through short URLs listed below the stories' titles.

As a sample, here is one of the stories he narrated for my last book, Postcards From Impossible Worlds.

I am also thrilled to unveil the full list of stretch goals, including promo cards for The Story Engine, an upgrade to gold foil book covers for all book backers, and even the first Story Engine expansion deck: Written in Dragonfire.

Written in Dragonfire will contain 60 cards for prompts specific to fantasy storytelling. This deck has been written and is currently being playtested both as a limited-function standalone deck and an optional supplement to the main deck.

It will be made available as a purchasable add-on, but also given out as a free demo PDF to all Deck backers.

I have more stretch goals to share as we progress, but for now I am just grateful to see the incredible momentum of this campaign continue.

Onward to good things, my friends!


Looks like we're going to need some stretch goals soon!
2 months ago – Thu, Sep 12, 2019 at 02:15:09 AM

Hello, supporters old and new!

Wow, it's been a day. Thank you all for your Day 1 support, and for your enthusiasm for The Story Engine. It's been such a labour of love for me, and it really feels like I brought the last 10 years of my career full circle today. I couldn't be more thrilled to have you here to share in it.

I genuinely think that even with all the time I've spent fine-tuning this deck, I've only scratched the surface of what The Story Engine can do. In the right hands, and with the right mindset, these cards could populate entire worlds in a matter of minutes. 

I'm putting a lot of thought into that as I finalize the project's stretch goals, which I should be unveiling soon. I want this deck to be help you spin yarns, plan campaigns and improvise story moments, even 30 years from now, because the cards keep showing you new opportunities to create.

For now, as we sit 12 hours into the campaign at 83% of our goal, let me just say thank you so much for your support, and share a little something with you.

Below is the first draft of the title story for the book. It's a little bit different from my usual stories--a little longer, and a little more indulgent with imagery--but it's an important one for me.

Note: This is a draft, and not the final version.

Late 2018 and early 2019 was hands-down the most difficult period of my life, but it also became an acid test for a theory of mine: that humans are organisms that have evolved to consume the present, however difficult it is, and turn it into the past.

And in ways, that's what storytelling is. It's taking all the things we deal with in day-to-day life and metabolizing them into something that fuels us, rather than weighs us down.

This project is one of the things I made out of a very difficult year, and it's been humbling to see the reception so far.

Thanks for believing in The Story Engine.

I think our story together is just getting started.