One journaling game that I found more than one reference to Princess With A Cursed Sword. So, after trying out a some very obscure games (and journaling games are already obscure), I knew I had to try Princess.
Short version: I liked it.
The game is a classic example of Exactly What It Says on the Tin. You are writing the story of a princess who has to cope with a cursed sword. The princess has come to some ruins to try and get rid of the sword.
In addition to writing materials, you will need a tarot deck (honestly, one where the minor arcana is illustrated) and two coins that have distinct heads and tails.
Set up consists of answering a few questions to define the princess and the sword (which includes why is she barefoot and what pronouns to use) Then you move to scenes.
Shuffle the tarot deck. Each suit has a general theme with different options and you also use the picture on the card to develop the scene.
A scene doesn’t have to have conflict. If you decide for it to have conflict, you flip one or two coins and the number of heads determines the level of success. No heads, failure and the princess barely survives. One head, barely succeeds but with great cost. Two, almost inhuman success. And you only use two coins if the princess’s past has prepared her OR if she uses the cursed sword.
You decide which card the game ends on and you decide if she is able to successfully give up the sword or not.
Okay. What makes Princess work as a journaling game? It has a neat theme, which is a good start. But honestly, it’s the Tarot deck that actually give the game so much potential. And that’s simply because it’s 78 possible prompts that can be interpreted multiple ways.
I have played games where the prompts are so vague that they just be ‘write something’ and games where I felt like I was told precisely what to write. Princess is a comfortable balance between the two. It has a lot of potential for one page of rules. I’d like to try it again using Piranesi (either the book by Susana Clarke or the actual artist) or Gormenghast (even though I’ve never finished even the first book) as inspirations.
That said, it isn’t a game I’d use in the classroom since I don’t think I could get away with a Tarot deck in that setting.