Welcome back, dice fondlers! Thank you for rejoining us as the winter finally seems to have loosened its grip on my home state of Michigan. So, as one parting shot to the time of the year that drives people up here indoors, this week we’re going to talk about the RPG, Quill. Quill is a single player RPG about writing letters. Confused by the concept yet? Well, it’s significantly more clever than it may sound on paper (see, what I did there?).
Let’s dive right in.
The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword
Quill is a game about writing letters. No, wait, let’s amend that. Quill is a means of entertainment based around composing correspondence. By default, Quill assumes a quasi-medieval setting where letter writing is an activity that can ruin delicate political relationships or curry great favor depending on your elegance and immaculate penmanship.
Choose Your Avatar
Our avatar in this world has three stats: Penmanship, Language, and Heart. These can be rated Poor, Average, or Good. The quality of a stat determines how many d6 dice you roll; Poor only provides a single die, Average two dice, and Good, three dice. Rather than choosing these individually, you can choose a character archetype from choices like Knight, Monk, or Aristocrat. Each archetype gives a little backstory about your role in society and assigns a ranking in each stat.
Next, you choose one Skill from a list of three. Skills provide one extra die on a specific roll. You have to choose which Skill you’re taking before you start.
Now we come to the actual mechanics of Quill. Your letters are being composed according to various scenarios, a sampling of which are at the back of the Quill RPG manual. These scenarios have a Profile, which contains:
- A description of the character you are writing to
- Rules of Correspondence that detail which tests must be rolled twice
- Archetypes that may receive bonuses during certain tests
- An Ink Pot with words to use in the letter to score points
- The Consequences section.
Each letter is composed of five paragraphs. As you write these paragraphs, each time you want to use a word from the Ink Pot, you must roll a Language test. A 5 or 6 means you get to use the evocative form of that word, called the Superior Word. A failure means you must use the Inferior version instead.
The difference between failed and successful Language rolls are the difference between “Young Harold of Whent scaling oaks before attending the mass performed at the Cathedral of Light” and “That young boy climbing trees before going to church.” Every Superior Word is worth a single point.
Additionally, you may choose to roll a Heart test before rolling your Language test in order to add Flourishes (adjectives and adverbs) to your Ink Pot Words. A success means, your modifier word is added, while failure results in nothing. However, these Flourishes come with risk, as only Flourishes on Superior Words score an extra point. Flourishes on Inferior Words reduce your total score by one apiece.
Finally, at the end of each paragraph, you must roll a Penmanship test with the relevant dice. If you roll a 5 or a 6, you succeed and gain a point. Failure gives you nothing. Once your five paragraphs are finished, you total up your points. In the Consequences section, we discover that there are four possible outcomes from our letters – beginning with grave negative consequences (like our letter recipient cutting off all communication with us) and ranging to the wildly positive (like the art dealer we are negotiating with giving us the art piece we want as a gift.)
Tell A Story In Other RPGs
Now, there are only a handful of scenarios in the back of the book for Quill, and that may seem limiting. However, running through them multiple times as different archetypes, from different perspectives can be a great writing exercise. Beyond that, there is another little trick I’ve used… Bring Quill into your favorite RPG. The characters need to implore an ally for help and are choosing to write a letter or email to them? Pull in Quill!
For example, with DnD, you can determine Heart, Penmanship, and Language by comparing them to Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence, respectively. Any trait with a negative modifier equals Poor, a modifier of 0 to +2 is average, and a +3 or above is Good. As DM, you can provide them a set of bullet point words for them to hit, paired with words the character they’re writing to would find off-putting. And voila, you have a letter-writing persuasion system that’s more interesting than simply roll a single Charisma check.
That’s the end of this tale. Come back next week and we’ll explore a new RPG! Until then friends, make sure to…