Seven Cursed Items for Fun & Profit

The Evil Queen gives Snow White the poison apple--a classic cursed item.
Image from Disney’s 1937 “Snow White”

Greed’s Guilt – Golden coins of slightly larger than normal diameter, with a small ruby inlaid into a cavity in the center. They appear to be particularly valuable, and are likely worth more than standard gold coins if you can find the right collector for them. These cursed coins were actually made by a church of a goodly and lawful deity, whose clergy wished to punish the sin of greed by crafting an item of obvious value, which harm the owner.

For as long as these coins are within a character’s possession, whether they are currently being held, or are in a bank in the character’s name, the owner is cursed. They must roll a will save each night, with a DC equal to the number of Greed’s Guilt Coins possessed. Upon failure, the character cannot fall asleep by any natural means. They incur all of the penalties which would normally be associated with not sleeping, such as slower traveling speed, fatigue penalties on rolls, and an inability to prepare spells if they are a caster.

If an unnatural means is used to put the character to bed (such as a Sleep spell) then they will succeed in making the character unconscious. However, the sleep will not be restful at all. When they awaken, the character will feel as though no time has passed, and they will still incur all the normal penalties from not sleeping.

The Golden Quill – A fine writing implement, the size of a standard scribe’s quill, with a plume of fine golden strands, and a cap of the finest silver craftsmanship. This is obviously a piece of only the very highest quality, and is doubtless quite valuable. The origin of these quills is unknown, but the most common educated guess is that they were painstakingly crafted in the depths of the Abyss to sow seeds of discord amongst the mortal kingdoms. It is a good guess.

Once every 1d4 days, the possessor of a Golden Quill will use it to pen a letter to some friend or ally. In this letter, they will do everything they can to harm their relationship with that person. They will bring up their friend’s every failing, reopen every old wound, and curse their fellow’s very existence. Once the letter is written, they will do whatever they need to do to have it delivered promptly. If they are in the wilderness, they will store the letter pending their return to civilization. The curse of the Golden Quill allows no saving throw, and the writer of the hurtful letters will have no memory of writing them. Even if the quill leaves their possession, they will continue to ignore the letters hidden in their pack, and will dutifully have them delivered once it is possible.

Boots of Great Movement – A pair of finely crafted boots constructed from red-dyed leather and silk, with an intricate stitching of a wing on each heel. They appear to be luxuriously comfortable, and still very durable footwear. Anyone who wears these boots has their maximum movement speed increased by 15, but finds that they cannot stop moving. Every round, the character must move at least 10ft. The Boots of Great Movement cannot be removed without the use of a Remove Curse spell.

Rod of Lightning – This rod of blue glass appears to be a simple enough magic item. When directed at a foe and waggled up and down, an arc of electricity jumps from its tip to the target, dealing 1d6 damage. Targets are allowed a reflex save, DC 17, to take half damage. The Rod of Lightning is not a fancy magic item, but it does perform its task adequately.

However, if a character carrying the Rod of Lightning on their person is ever outdoors during a storm, then at least once they will be struck by a bolt of lightning from the sky, dealing 10d6 damage. It is likely that this will need to occur twice or more before the character will realize they are not merely the victim of a random occurrence. Even then, it may be difficult to deduce that the rod is responsible.

These devious items were crafted by a group of fundamentalist shamans. They wished to teach a lesson to anyone arrogant enough to think that the elements could be controlled with magic.

The Finishing Blade – This +3 longsword appears black in color, with a green shimmer if held under the light. The weapon deals an additional 3d6 negative energy damage to any target who has less than 20 hp remaining. While this at first appears to be an effective weapon, particularly when fighting against weaker opponents, it–of course–has a drawback.

Any living creature which is slain by this weapon rises as an undead monster precisely one month later. They retain all of the knowledge and abilities which they possessed in life, but gain the “undead” and “incorporeal” subtypes. Beings reanimated by The Finishing Blade’s curse have only one goal: to seek out the one who killed them, and force that person to join them in death. These creatures have a sixth sense which allows them to always be aware of their target’s current position relative to themselves. And they are absolutely relentless in their search.

Scabbard of Protection On one side of this leather scabbard, the material is dyed a deep red, whilst on the other it is a deep blue. The two colors are highlighted with gold, which is intricately shaped around the edges to create a supporting frame. The size and shape of the scabbard will change to suite any blade inserted into it. This is no mere work of mystic artistry, however. It also grants fast healing 1 to any who wear it. Upon strapping the scabbard to their body, an adventurer will immediately feel life flowing into them, and energizing them.

They may not even notice that every damage roll made against them is subject to a +5 bonus while the scabbard is worn.

The Lantern Beneath the Nose No one really understands the design of this lantern when they first lay eyes upon it. At the top, there is a hollow nose shaped from iron. A horizontal handle inside of it allows it to be held not unlike a buckler. Two chains descend from the nostrils, with a small lantern suspended about 1ft down.

Strange as it appears, however, adventurers who discover it are quickly excited by its power. When the handle is gripped, the lantern immediately lights up, and magically fills the entire room the wielder is in with light. Regardless of its size, or the position of objects which would normally create shadows. The entire room is magically illuminated.

As the light fills the room, however, it also casts a spell of greater invisibility upon any creatures of evil alignment.

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8 thoughts on “Seven Cursed Items for Fun & Profit”

  1. Cursed items are delightful. Especially when they’re unconventional. I believe either the Core Rulebook or APG has something called “Gravesoul Armor”. It looks like it has the power to control undead. However, whenever this ability is used, everyone nearby must succeed on a will save, or believe *they* are undead for 24 hours. They don’t get any powers, but if they think they’re a vampire they’ll try to bite necks, avoid garlic and refuse to cross running water. “Zombies” will shamble around mindlessly, etc. With a group willing to ham it up, there’s probably a good session of non-combat fun to be had.

    Other ideas:
    Inverted girdle of Opposite Gender of Giant Strength: You believe everyone around you is of the opposite sex. You also get +2 to your strength.

    Freudian Slip: An undergarment. When worn, every time you speak to someone you are attracted to, you must roll a DC 18 Will Save or accidentally say what’s *really* on your mind. I recommend giving this cursed item to a quest giver who implores the PCs to remove it. The curse I mean.

    Wayfinder of Whimsy: Appearing to be an ordinary Wayfinder, the needle points just slightly east or west of North that you get lost. -4 to survival checks to determine location. In spite of this, the person who holds the Wayfinder of Whimsy is utterly convinced that he knows where he’s going, and is insulted any any insinuation to the contrary. He must succeed a DC 16 Will Save to attempt navigation without the Wayfinder. He must succeed on a DC 20 Will Save to stop and ask directions.

    Sceptical Scimitar: This is a +5 keen vorpal scimitar (technically impossible, I know). However, it just seems so badly worn and poorly made that no one really believes it has these powers. Someone who wishes to pick up the scimitar must succeed on a DC 30 Will Save to avoid discounting it as junk and leaving it where it is. Someone attempting to wield the scimitar must succeed on a DC 35 will save or discard the scimitar in favor of a more “useful” weapon. They must then succeed on the DC 30 save if they wish to pick it up again.

    I think a lot of cursed items in the handbook rely on the idea that “This looks like a good item, but in actuality imposes penalties.” I much prefer either “This looks like a good item (and maybe *is* a good item) but also has weird side effect”, or “This looks like a good item, but you’ll never be able to actually use it”. You just know someone is going to spend all game trying to use that scimitar, even though they’ll never make the save.

    One other variant which I really try to work on is “This is a really good item, but I really don’t want to use it.” I was intrigued by one random minor curse in the rulebook: “Item makes embarassing noises”. I liked the idea, but they player won’t care unless they *actually* have to deal with those noises. I keep toying with the notion of the “Sword of Orgasm”. It’s a solid sword, probably with expanded crit range. However, on a critical hit, the sword makes loud orgasmic cries. If they player doesn’t roleplay the sound, the sword is silent, and only deals normal damage.

    Of course, when you play that card, you can guarantee the one guy at the table with no inhibitions is going to wind up with the Sword of Orgasm.

  2. The most memorable cursed item I ever gave to a player was “gauntlets of ogre strength and ogre stupidity.” We were playing AD&D at the time, so the gauntlets conferred an 18/00 strength and a 5 intelligence and wisdom. The player who found them had the gauntlets removed with a remove curse, but then kept them hanging from his belt for whenever he needed them. Sometimes a situation calls for nothing but brute strength. It helped that he (a paladin) roleplayed them very well.

    1. I’m honestly kinda surprised I never heard of that cursed item before. It seems so obvious, why isn’t it more common?

      I may need to use them in one of my games sometime.

  3. What happens if you (accidentally or purposefully) use the Finishing Blade to kill yourself?

    If you retain all your memories when you rise, then you know you are your killer. Are you compelled to try to off yourself again, or are you free to be undead and functionally immortal?

    1. That’s a good question!

      I think, in the name of game balance, it would be only sensible to say that if you kill yourself with it, then you’re compelled to destroy yourself.

      But if I was running it, I would be tempted to allow the player to just free to act however they wish as an undead, incorporeal, immortal. That has its own, much more interesting downsides I think. Over time they’d become too rotted to interact with living society at all. They’d start facing clerics who try to rebuke them and such. Could be good times!

      1. I like it! Either option (or a combo of both) could make for some really memorable play.

        Also, in this instance, your companions immediately looting your gear would actually be helpful.

        If they didn’t, then when you rose and were compelled to destroy yourself again, the closest weapon at hand would be the FB, and you’d go into a recursive suicide loop until you rotted away.

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