Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game (or “How to make letter-writing fun”)

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Adult: “Okay, let’s do this writing exercise now.”
Kid: “Huh? Now?! Can we do something else instead?”

This scene should be familiar to parents and educators. Many students I know can’t even stand the idea of putting their pen to the paper, much less spend an hour and a half doing it. Unsurprisingly, it’s because writing can feel like a chore.

Functional writing (which is a structured form of writing that addresses a particular audience, and can include letter-writing) is worse. Most of the time, students don’t have the creative freedom to develop interesting ideas. Instead, they are expected to stick to the points provided by the visual stimulus or background information. Because of this, it’s harder for students to find joy in functional writing. It becomes dry, rote, and boring.

Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game may just be the answer to this problem.

What is Quill

quill letter writing fun scholar

Quill is a unique role-playing game in which you’re supposed to… well, write a letter. Before starting the game, you will choose from 6 different character types, each with different levels of Penmanship (handwriting… sort of), Language (vocabulary) and Heart (creativity). You’ll also need to choose a skill specialty, which can grant you a boost to Penmanship, Language or Heart.

Once your character’s done up, you will need to choose a scenario, each with its own audience and objective. One scenario may involve you writing to a person that you have a crush on; another may involve you writing to an art dealer, to inquire about her artwork.

The scenarios are rather typical, but what makes Quill unique is that it’s a game. You will need to get as many points as possible by making use of good vocabulary, and by rolling dice to succeed in Penmanship tests, Language test and Heart tests. Successful dice rolls add to your final score, which determines how “well-received” your letter is by the other party. When the game ends, you should have five paragraphs, which is a good number for most forms of writing.

Using Quill in a classroom setting

letter writing boring

Because of the point-based system, I can imagine this doing wonders for unmotivated students, as well as those with learning challenges like dyslexia. Instead of trying to hit the minimum number of words or a passing grade, students will be trying to attain the maximum number of points.

The structure of the game is also very clear: you get points when you hit certain milestones (by adding special phrases, for example). This provides immediate feedback for students, which is very helpful in letting them know that they are on the right track.

Quill’s scenarios also provide helping words in a section called the “Ink Pot”. By using words and phrases from the “Ink Pot”, players and gamers… I mean students and writers can get more points. In fact, enhancing these words from the “Ink Pot” with extra adverbs/adjectives can multiply that! This can be especially helpful for dyslexic learners, who often struggle to come up with good vocabulary while writing.

Because of the point-based system, I can imagine this doing wonders for unmotivated students, as well as those with learning challenges like dyslexia. Instead of trying to hit the minimum number of words or a passing grade, students will be trying to attain the maximum number of points.

Thoughts on Quill

It’s still too early to say how much Quill can actually help my students in their functional writing, because I haven’t had the chance to try it out with them. I discovered this game in 2016, but only had the opportunity to introduce it this year. However, all the students whom I had introduced the basic concept to were extremely eager to try it out.

I’m serious.

They’re actually requesting to do letter-writing.

That being said, I personally am excited myself to try it out in class, and I’ll post a more detailed review soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to try it out yourself or with your child, you can download Quill on DriveThruRPG. Let me know what you think of it after you’ve read through the rules!

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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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