Curses! This month’s RPG Blog Carnival theme is “Curses! Cursed Items, Spells, and Campaign Stories,” chosen by Johnn Four over at Roleplaying Tips. This is one of my favorite themes yet!

Recently I designed 100 common magic weapon properties and 100 common wondrous items. These two posts are currently the most popular ever in this blog’s history. Since I love designing cursed items and people seem to love reading about them, I thought for this month’s theme I’d design another 100 magic item properties – this time it’s all about curses. This post includes the first 20 properties, which can be added to weapons.

Designing Curses – You Take the Good, You Take the Bad

When it comes to cursed items, I find it helps to mix the good in with the bad. For instance demon armor on page 165 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide has a lot of beneficial properties, but also has a curse associated with it – the user cannot remove the armor without a remove curse spell after donning it and and suffers penalties against demons in combat. This presents an interesting conundrum for the player. Should the character wear the armor to gain its awesome infernal benefits, but know that whenever its time to doff a 3rd-level spell better be waiting and that combat with demons is extra deadly? Or is it better to wear some normal armor without awesome magic claws and a bonus to AC?

I understand wanted to create a purely cursed object with no benefits whatsoever, but once the players get over the shock and surmount the curse, then the item is pretty much done. If the item has some sweet benefits they may keep that bad boy and that makes the game and the item’s story more layered.

With that in mind I’ve created a bunch of cursed magic item properties which can be added to any existing magic items (homebrew or published). Of course, if you prefer to have a purely cursed item for your game, go ahead and simply add a cursed property or three to an existing item.

Cursed Item Properties

When giving a magic item (or a non-magical item) to your players, you may choose to add a cursed property to the item. These cursed properties are in addition to any other properties the item may already have. To give an item a cursed property, first determine if the item is a weapon, armor, spellcasting implement, consumable magic item, or non-armor wearable item (such as rings, cloaks, boots, etc.). Then roll or pick a cursed property for the item on the appropriate table.

Cursed Weapon Properties
d20 Property
1 When you score a critical hit with this weapon, it deals 1d12 psychic damage to you. This damage cannot be reduced in any way.
2 After attacking with this weapon for this first time it becomes grafted to one of your hands. While the weapon is grafted to you, you cannot drop or sheathe it and you cannot be disarmed. In addition any ability checks you make which require the use of both hands are made with disadvantage. Only a remove curse spell or similar magic can undo the grafting.
3 When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with this weapon, roll the weapon’s damage as if you had hit. Instead of the creature you attacked taking the damage, it heals for the damage amount you rolled.
4 When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with this weapon, you become poisoned until the end of your next turn.
5 When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with this weapon, you become blinded until the end of your next turn.
6 When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with this weapon, you become frightened of the creature you attack until the end of your next turn.
7 When you roll a natural 1 on an attack roll with this weapon, you become incapacitated until the end of your next turn.
8 This weapon only deals half damage to creatures of a certain type (chosen by the DM).
9 You have disadvantage on attack rolls made in sunlight with this weapon.
10 Whenever you miss an attack with this weapon, you fall prone.
11 When you draw this weapon it cannot be put away or dropped until it has damaged a creature. While the weapon is drawn and hasn’t dealt any damage yet, you cannot be disarmed. In addition any ability checks you make which require the use of both hands are made with disadvantage.
12 If you carry any other weapons on your person while you wield this weapon, attacks made with this weapon are made with disadvantage.
13 Each time you draw or pickup this weapon you take 1d6 psychic damage. This damage cannot be reduced in any way.
14 When you use this weapon to attack an enemy while you can see another enemy of a higher challenge rating, you have disadvantage on the attack roll.
15 This weapon cannot reduce a creature to 0 hit points. If a damage roll made with the weapon would normally reduce another creature to 0 hit points, that creature is instead reduced to 1 hit point.
16 When you roll a natural 1 with this weapon, you are charmed by the enemy you attacked until the end of your next turn. The creature you are charmed by is aware of this effect.
17 When you attack a creature with a higher Strength score than you with this weapon, the attack roll has disadvantage.
18 Creatures not native to the Material Plane are drawn to your weapon and wish to claim it for themselves.
19 In a combat encounter when all of your enemies are defeated, if you are carrying this weapon, you must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or see all conscious allies as hostile enemies for one minute. You can repeat this saving throw at the end of your turn, ending the effect on a success.
20 Roll twice on this table.

More to Come

You’ve probably noticed the four other four categories of curses are missing. Stay tuned for those on Thursday! It’s Labor Day weekend here in the US so the blog post is a little shorter than usual as I’m spending time with friends and family.

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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Comments
  1. Hi! I really love your stuff. It always has some great ideas I could exploit to better my games. And for many reasons (first being, I do not have internet where I DM, so I cannot use web browsers at all), I really, really appreciate it when you put out a pdf of your posts so I can use them away from the net.

    Thank you, I will use this as it seems on point with my player’s non-stop bickering about a ring of magical importance.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lorathorn says:

    I think I like the design theory behind this a lot more than I tend to for most cursed items. Instead of it being a detriment that simply makes the item an inconvenience from start to finish, it instead challenges your players to potentially face the curse and use it to define their character (should they struggle and overcome it for the purpose of using the item).

    I wish that I could find the post or article, but I saw another DM talk about a cursed sword that none of his players wanted, as the curse required them to change their character’s name. It was tempting… but not tempting enough, and that seems to be a more interesting item than one that gives you a penalty on each swing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jim says:

    I almost always do collaborative World Building with my group. For magic items, each player gets to roll 1d100 magic items (50% known, 50% lost), then 1d20 of the magic items are cursed. We then add them together to get the total magic/cursed items in the world at start. They can roll all cursed items.

    As DM, of course, I decide what the items are, control who has them, and where they are. I also roll for how many newly created or destroyed items there are. For me, this is one great aspect I enjoy keeping track of over time. Players really feel like they added to the world.

    All that to say, these are really cool cursed item properties. I find cursed items to be the more difficult items to create. I will use these.

    Thanks James!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jim!!! Your method of Worldbuilding sounds really cool. I’d love to see how you handle other stuff too. Do you have a blog or document somewhere?

      Like

      • Jim says:

        Sorry no. I have terrible time management skills, so it would happen so erratically.

        I can say that my players have enjoyed collective geography mapping & magic item quantity building most, and collaborative pantheon & political parties building least. We have done combined history building with success as well. I have players who never DM, so this satisfies a bit of DM control for them, and I can kick back a bit and just drive the process. We might have 1 session-0 for world building, and then 1-2 session-0’s for collective character and party building (me asking a ton of decision questions). I make them tell me why they are together, rather than me tell them or hope they stick together.

        Here are a couple more:

        Geography – I give each player a single poster board or paper and a pile of pencils/markers (erasers are a must). Then they get to roll for what type of land mass, then 1 dominant land feature and 2 lesser ones, 1 dominant climate feature. Then they place draw on the boards. They can overlap edges if they want to. They can add other land & climate features, but cannot overshadow the main ones. I also have them roll d10 city/town names, then they place them on their maps. I then stitch everything together. As a DM this really gets your brain going for what they want to play.

        History – I usually break up historical eras/epochs by number of players. Then they roll for which era they get to define. Again, usually a dominant and a couple lesser events/items. I control 100% of the current epoch history.

        Economy, politics, weather, wildlife, organizations, religions (usually), and races, are my purview unless they define a strong history epoch that the table agrees upon.

        When players hear/see stuff they create during the story, it really keeps them immersed. If a new player comes in, I also have them go through the process to add land and items.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Nice!!!! These are really cool. You should definitely be sharing this stuff. It’s gold!

        Like

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