Roll For Insight—(Classroom) Review of Quill: A Letter-Writing RPG

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I’ve played a lot of games, but from time to time, there will be a game that really surprises me. Quill: A Letter-Writing Role-Playing Game is one such game. It’s fun, but more importantly, it is an amazing tool for academic writing purposes, perfect for weaker writers and students with dyslexia.

So, without further ado, let’s dive into this review of Quill: A Letter-Writing Role-Playing Game!

Overview of Quill

Scholar from Quill RPGI did a preview of Quill a few weeks ago. If you don’t want to read that, here’s the quick rundown: it’s a role-playing game, meaning you take on the role of a fictional character, in a fictional scenario. You have to write a letter to another fictional character, with your fictional objective depending on the scenario. At the end of the game, you tally up your total points obtained through Penmanship (handwriting), Language (vocab) and Heart (creativity) tests. These tests are done by rolling dice.

[Read our preview of Quill for more information on its gameplay mechanics]

A thematically strong game

Notice I kept using the term “fictional“? That’s because Quill is a very thematically strong game. You will constantly be reminded to use vocabulary from the “Ink Pot“, which is a table of words that you can use. These words can be inferior words like ‘mountains’, or superior words like ‘the Peaks of Vandrias’.

Structured approach to writing

If you haven’t guessed it already, I like the idea of the Ink Pot very much. It’s a highly inspiring feature, one that can be used even outside of the game (e.g. in a normal classroom activity).

The scenarios are also well-structured, with the scenario’s audience and objectives clearly laid out. This makes it easy to start writing from the get-go. In fact, the game explicitly tells you that you should have five paragraphs, with each paragraph using ONE word from the Ink Pot. Expectations are very clear.

However, on the flip side, weaker writers may struggle to hit the five paragraphs. In such a case, it may be more advisable for an adult/educator to guide them along.

One interesting thing to note is that the Ink Pot can even be used as a guide for weaker writers. On a few occasions, my students would use the Ink Pot to help them drum up ideas for the next paragraph. One of them used “the Peaks of Vandrias” and based the entire paragraph on it, describing the scenery of Vandrias. If you haven’t guessed it already, I like the idea of the Ink Pot very much. It’s a highly inspiring feature, one that can be used even outside of the game (e.g. in a normal classroom activity).

Motivates one to write

Ink Pot from Quill RPGBecause Quill uses a scoring system that doesn’t depend on grammar, spelling and sentence structure, it can reduce anxiety for weaker writers. Completing a paragraph, or using a word/phrase from the Ink Pot, can automatically grant you a point. Of course, this depends on your dice rolls, but that’s part of the appeal. Players Students will see it more as a game than (ugh!) an assignment.

Any drawbacks?

There was one issue that came up while playing Quillthe aforementioned point system is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it turns your typically boring letter-writing activity into a fun game. On the other, you don’t need to write well to earn points. In other words, it doesn’t reward the writer’s effort.

This may create two problematic situations. Firstly, the player may not want to put in as much effort. Secondly, a player who puts in twice as much effort may still end up not doing well due to poor dice rolls.

Possible solutions to this drawback

Luckily, with a few house-rules, this wasn’t much of a problem. One of the things I did was to grants extra points for good handwriting. Students would also get extra points/dice for exceptionally good vocabulary. This encouraged students to put in more effort, especially when the dice failed them.

Final thoughts on Quill

I’m really excited to try out more Quill with the kids. It’s an exceptional tool, and I’m very thankful to Scott Malthouse from Trollish Delver Games for creating it. By itself, it’s not perfect, but it’s a genuine trove of ideas that mean well and work well.

And the icing on the cake: Quill is pay-what-you-want.

Get Quill: A Letter-Writing Role-Playing Game from DriveThruRPG, and follow Swords & Stationery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more insights on games and learning.

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Teacher Shaun

Teacher Shaun

...is a self-professed geek and lover of all things old-school. When he's not playing Fallout or Deus Ex for the nth time, he can be found sitting in front of his laptop hacking away at his keyboard, typing blog posts like this one. He also runs a little company called Swords & Stationery.
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