Writing and reading letters in roleplay

Another overlooked tool, that I would like to see more of, is writing and reading letters during roleplay. But done in a certain way. By chance I played two games at Fastaval where writing letters played a role.

In Distance the game ends with one player reading out the letter, that was left from one of the husbands stationed in Afghanistan to his wife back in Denmark.

The player have to improvise what is in the letter. In the game it’s written that: if that soldier survives it can be him reading out while he was writing it, if he died it could be the wife reading it out when she opened it.

IMG_1948In Deranged two of the scenes were letter writing scenes, where first one character would write a letter and then the receiver would write a reply.

In both examples it’s important to stress, that they are not reading out a prewritten letter, but improvising and narrating the letter as their character write or read them.

But I don’t think that neither are going the full way.

It was at the theatre I saw how it should be done.

A few years ago me and Jeanette saw “Pride and Prejudice” at an open air stage in London. It was a beautiful play, and in the book letters play a big role, so of course it was also part of the play.

But letter reading was done like this:

The character writing the letter would narrate it out loud, often action on the content, especially with her voice, (sad voice if the content was sad, happy if it was good, and so on).

But (and this is the brilliant part), the one reading the letter would be standing in another part of the stage acting as if she was reading the letter, (while the other was reading it out loud) and reacting to the content.

And that is the way to do it. When I GM’ed Distance, that’s the way I did it. In our run the soldier that had written the letter was also the one who died. So I let him narrate the content and I had the player of the wife sit and “read” the letter as he “read it out.”

It was such a powerful experience, and both did it very well. This kind of connects to my post about being silent. By having one player read out and another reacting, that gives the reacting player time to really focus on her reaction, because she is not distracted by trying to figure out what to say next. It becomes like an inner monologue that another player can react to.

So the lesson is: letters in role play can be a powerful tool, if you do it like this.

2 thoughts on “Writing and reading letters in roleplay

  1. Rugerfred

    Very interesting. I’m working on a scenario right now that’s focused on a letter of one of the character, somehow procedurally generated by players choices.

    I think your example from the open air example you write is pretty interesting, also. It would be cool to see a game with a mechanic like that.

    1. Simon Pettitt Forfatter

      It work very well in the play, because you got both how the one writing felt and how the receiver reacted. In roleplay it worked even better, because the reader was free to focus on reacting, because someone else was doing the narrating. And yes i really want to do a game around this mechanic.


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