If an adventuring party is particularly unfortunate, they may come across a hinged wooden box, of rough make, of a size that would be useful for holding a pair of shoes. The box has a simple latch of twine, which is sealed with yellowed wax. An odd sign, pictured below, has been pressed there.
If the box is opened, all present must make a save versus Magic. However, only some will be the true target’s of the box’s curse. It falls upon those who have conceded the agency of their actions to another. Men and women who rise in the morning to do the bidding of another, and fall asleep in the evening only when the tasks given them are complete. This is primarily henchpeople, hirelings, slaves, those under the command of a geas, or those who have sold their soul.
All others who fail their save may think that they have been affected by the box’s malice, but they are merely experiencing its rejection of them. They will retch and vomit until they have nothing left inside of them, and then continue for an hour more. They take 1d6 damage, and if your game uses any sort of stress or sanity mechanic, they ought to get a shit ton of that as well.
Everyone else who fails, (the henchpeople, hirelings, slaves, etc.) do not suffer any vomiting, damage, or psychic torment. They are, however, cursed like a motherfucker.
There is a stage of acute radiation sickness that is grimly referred to as the “Walking Ghost Phase.” At this stage, the bone marrow of the afflicted is gone. Their body can no longer produce white blood cells, their insides are melting. They are turning to goo from the inside out, and they feel absolutely fine.
Sometimes they mistakenly think the worst is over, when in point of fact they are already dead. Their body has completely given up and very shortly they will experience an agonizing death. Nothing can be done to help them.
That is how you should consider those who fail their save against the curse of the box. The save they just made was a save versus Death, and they are now dead. But it will be a very long, very interesting death.
Within the box are nails, which the cursed will fixate upon. They become addicted, and like any addict, they have an amazing talent for feeding their addiction. There is, functionally, no way to prevent the cursed character from getting to the nails when it’s time for a fix. They will pick pockets, sneak into locked rooms, bribe, threaten, and fight. Short of encasing the box in cement, dropping it in the ocean, and keeping the addict under lock & key with 24 hour surveillance on the other side of the world, you’ll just have to accept that the addict will get a nail whenever they want a nail.
When they want nails will be whenever they obey an instruction from their employer. They won’t disrupt or delay their task–being of good service is part of the pleasure of it–but as soon as they have a spare moment they’ll go get one of the nails and hammer it into their body. Favorite locations are into their skulls, their ears, their eyes, nose, between their fingers, into their knees, and eventually just wherever they still have room. Regardless of where they are placed, the nails do not affect the abilities of the character. Someone with nails in both eyes can still see, for example. None the less, it is a grizzly sight to behold, and once the nail is in, it grows roots of iron. It can never be removed without completely destroying the body part it is attached to.
With each nail inserted into the body, the addict’s maximum hit points are lowered by one, and a randomly determined ability score (Str, Con, Dex, Int, Wis, or Cha) is raised by 2.
As per usual, no individual ability score can every rise higher than 18. If a nail would cause that to happen, the ability score is instead raised to 18 (if that was not the case already), and the addict rolls on the following table to determine what happens to them:
- The addict becomes a pedophile. If children are nearby, the addict will use any spare moment to seek them out.
- The addict gains an expertise of 6-in-6 in a randomly determined skill.
- The addict becomes a cannibal, and is compelled to feast on the flesh of their own kind anytime it is available. At least once a week, if not more often.
- The addict gains the ability to fly anytime they wave their arms as though they were a bird.
- A desire for the pleasures of sadism overwhelms the addict. They become fascinated by torture, and will employ it on anyone they have within their power.
- Punches and kicks delivered by the addict strike with inhuman force, dealing 1d12 damage.
- The addict becomes an unmanageable gossip. Any secrets they are privy to will become common knowledge almost instantaneously.
- The addict gains a Fighter’s attack bonus.
- The blood of the addict takes on a very particular, very pungent scent. One that can be smelled from miles away by vampires. At least one such creature with 2d4 hit dice will appear each month.
- The addict becomes powerfully telekinetic, and can either move small objects with great speed and precision, or move heavy objects very slowly and clumsily.
- The addict becomes haughty and insulting to an extent that would be considered untoward even if it was coming from the prince of a wealthy and powerful kingdom.
- The addict gains the ability to grown and shrink at will, from the size of a great oak tree to the size of a baby mouse.
- The addict is afflicted with incontinence, and will shit themselves frequently.
- X-RAY VISION
- The addict becomes very fond of the sound glass and ceramics make when they are shattered, and will break any glass they find.
- The addict’s carrying capacity is the stuff of legends. Anything small enough to fit in a backpack can be carried without penalty. no matter how much of it there is. If you keep handing the addict bricks, they’ll keep shoving them in pouches and pockets without any strain on their body until you run out of bricks. Even if you disassemble a whole village worth of houses to do it.
- The addict addresses every speaking creature that the party encounters in a boorish, sexually suggestive manner. Never in a nice way either. Less “Your hair glistens in the moonlight like the waters of a fragrant meadow” and more “You smell like a dirty fuck, lemme see that asshole.”
- The addict refuses any form of compensation for their efforts, and will direct all pay to their employer. Service is its own reward.
- The addict’s pleasure from being subservient rises to the level of sexual fetish. They respond with uncomfortable amounts of pleasure when given commands, and can often be found masturbating after being scolded, or told to do something. They seem to think their employer is complicit in their fetish, and cannot be convinced otherwise.
- The addict’s kiss can heal 1d6 hit points.
Because this addiction feeds on subservience, it will never occur rto the addict to leave their employer of their own volition. If they are fired, they will demand to be given the nail boxc as severence. They will not take “no” for an answer, and will attempt force if necessary. In that event they will resent being forced to stand up for themselves (in contradiction to their throbbing need to act subservient). This resentment will likely give rise to a merciless thirst for violences worked upon the one who wronged them.
If they are unemployed and have the box, they will immediately seek out a new employer. Any work, for any amount of pay is acceptable. They may even sell themselves to slavery, so long as they retain access to their nails.
Given their (likely) vile disposition and (probably) great ability, employment will be easy to find with disreputable folk.