Cursed items are magic (or psionic) items with some sort of potentially negative impact. Sometimes they’re directly bad for the user; sometimes they’re just inconvenient. Occasionally they mix bad with good, forcing characters to make difficult choices.
Opposite effect or target
Completely different effect
Substitute specific cursed item
Delusion: The user believes the item is what it appears to be, yet it actually has no magical power other than to deceive. The user is mentally fooled into thinking the item is functioning and cannot be convinced otherwise without the help of a Remove Curse spell.
Opposite Effect or Target: These cursed items malfunction, so that either they do the opposite of what the creator intended, or they target the user instead of someone else. The interesting point to keep in mind here is that these items aren’t always bad to have. Opposite-effect items include weapons that impose penalties on attack and damage rolls rather than bonuses. Just as a character shouldn’t necessarily immediately know what the enhancement bonus of a noncursed magic item is, she shouldn’t immediately know that a weapon is cursed. Once she knows, however, the item can be discarded unless some sort of compulsion is placed upon it that compels the wielder to keep and use it. In such cases, a Remove Curse spell is generally needed to get rid of the item.
Intermittent Functioning: The three varieties of intermittent functioning items all function perfectly as described – at least some of the time. The three varieties are unreliable, dependent, and uncontrolled items.
Unreliable: Each time the item is activated, there is a 5% chance (01-05 on d%) that it does not function.
Dependent: The item only functions in certain situations. To determine what the situation is, either select a situation or roll on the following table.
Backfire: The embedded psionic effect of the cursed item targets the user instead of its intended target.
Exhausting: A cursed item of this sort resembles a normal psionic item with a power that can be freely activated, but it instead drains the user of power points whenever he activates its power.
Subversive: A cursed item of this sort appears identical to a standard psionic item. However, it holds an inner malice for the wearer, whose saving throws take a constant –2 penalty. The owner isn’t instantly aware of this penalty but may become aware after a while, when it becomes clear that he fails saves that others make with the same result on the saving throw.
Temperature below freezing
Temperature above freezing
During the day
During the night
In direct sunlight
Out of direct sunlight
Out of water
Within 10 feet of a random creature type
Within 10 feet of a random race or kind of creature
Within 10 feet of an arcane spellcaster
Within 10 feet of a divine spellcaster
In the hands of a nonspellcaster
In the hands of a spellcaster
In the hands of a creature of a particular alignment
In the hands of a creature of particular gender
On nonholy days or during particular astrological events
More than 100 miles from a particular site
Uncontrolled: An uncontrolled item occasionally activates at random times. Roll d% every day. On a result of 01-05 the item activates at some random point during that day.
Requirement: In a sense, a command word is a requirement. Nevertheless, some items have much more stringent requirements that must be met for them to be usable. To keep an item with this kind of curse functioning, one or more of the following conditions must be met.
- Character must eat twice as much as normal.
- Character must sleep twice as much as normal.
- Character must undergo a specific quest (one time only, and then item functions normally thereafter).
- Character must sacrifice (destroy) 100 gp worth of valuables per day.
- Character must sacrifice (destroy) 2,000 gp worth of magic items each week.
- Character must swear fealty to a particular noble or his family.
- Character must discard all other magic items.
- Character must worship a particular deity.
- Character must change her name to a specific name. (The item only works for characters of that name.)
- Character must add a specific class at the next opportunity if not of that class already.
- Character must have a minimum number of ranks in a particular skill.
- Character must sacrifice some part of her life energy (2 points of Constitution) one time. If the character gets the Constitution points back (such as from a Restoration spell), the item ceases functioning. (The item does not cease functioning if the character receives a Constitution increase caused by level gain, a Wish, or the use of a magic item.)
- Item must be cleansed with holy water each day.
- Item must be used to kill a living creature each day.
- Item must be bathed in volcanic lava once per month.
- Item must be used at least once a day, or it won’t function again for its current possessor.
- Item must draw blood when wielded (weapons only). It can’t be put away or exchanged for another weapon until it has scored a hit.
- Item must have a particular spell cast upon it each day (such as Bless, Atonement, or Animate Objects).
Requirements are so dependent upon suitability to the item that they should never be determined randomly. An item with a requirement that is also intelligent often imposes its requirement through its personality. If the requirement is not met, the item ceases to function. If it is met, usually the item functions for one day before the requirement must be met again (although some requirements are one time only, others monthly, and still others continuous).
Drawback: Items with drawbacks are usually still beneficial to the possessor but they also carry some negative aspect. Although sometimes drawbacks occur only when the item is used (or held, in the case of some items such as weapons), usually the drawback remains with the character for as long as she has the item.
Roll on the table below to generate a drawback that (unless otherwise indicated) remains in effect as long as the item is in the character’s possession.
Character’s hair grows 1 inch longer. Only happens once.
Character either shrinks ½ inch (01-50 on d%) or grows that much taller (51-100). Only happens once.
Temperature around item is 10°F cooler than normal.
Temperature around item is 10°F warmer than normal.
Character’s hair color changes.
Character’s skin color changes.
Character now bears some identifying mark (tattoo, weird glow, or the like).
Character’s gender changes.
Character’s race or kind changes.
Character is afflicted with a random disease that cannot be cured.
Item continually emits a disturbing sound (moaning, weeping, screaming, cursing, insults).
Item looks ridiculous (garishly colored, silly shape, glows bright pink, …).
Character becomes selfishly possessive about the item.
Character becomes paranoid about losing the item and afraid of damage occurring to it.
Character’s alignment changes.
Character must attack nearest creature (5% chance [01-05 on d%] each day).
Character is stunned for 1d4 rounds once item function is finished (or randomly, 1/day).
Character’s vision is blurry (-2 penalty on attack rolls, saves, and skill checks requiring vision).
Character gains one negative level.
Character gains two negative levels.
Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Intelligence damage.
Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Wisdom damage.
Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Charisma damage.
Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Constitution damage.
Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Strength damage.
Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Dexterity damage.
Character is polymorphed into a specific creature (5% chance [01-05 on d%] each day).
Character cannot cast arcane spells.
Character cannot cast divine spells.
Character cannot cast any spells.
Either pick one of the above that’s appropriate or create a drawback specifically for that item.
Specific Cursed Items
Specific cursed items are provided as examples of cursed items. They are given creation prerequisites, should someone want to intentionally create them (although that does not need to be the origin of the item). Note, however, two exceptions: The Crystal Hypnosis Ball and the Bag of Devouring cannot be created by any known means.
A simple Detect Magic spell yields a misleading aura and strength, often indicating that the item is a noncursed item of similar sort. An Identify spell only has a 1% chance per caster level to reveal a cursed item’s true properties, including the cursed aspect. Analyze Dweomer reveals the true nature of a cursed item.