September: Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium
Well, we wanted to finish with a bang. As has recently been announced, Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium has returned as a print product, and it's jammed full of items -- magic items, to be sure. You'll find plenty in the book for every character, whether you're looking for the armor of dogged grit, robe of useful items, or even plate mail of etherealness; new superior weapons, flame tongue or frost brand swords; or wondrous items such as a decanter of endless water, crystal ball, or Daern's instant fortress!
But wait, there's more!
You can add new artifact and story items, mundane adventuring gear, and hirelings and henchman to your game.
But that's not all.
You'll also find cursed items in this book. For fans of items with some extra roleplaying potential, here's how they'll work.
Cursed magic items were a mainstay of older editions of the Dungeons & Dragons game, much to Dungeon Masters' delight and players' occasional frustration. Items that hold curses seem just like normal magic items. They are, in fact, perfectly useful magic items in their own right. Under certain conditions, however, the dark magic of an item's curse causes the item to fail or malfunction in some spectacular way.
Cursed items should never be placed maliciously in a game or treated simply as a way to thwart the players. Such items can be a useful tool for the Dungeon Master, leading to interesting roleplaying opportunities and adventure hooks.
Item Curses in the Game
Each item curse described here is a quality that makes a cursed item of that kind seem as though it's another magic item of the same general sort. For example, a character might don a ring of the ram that turns out to be a ring of weakness, or purchase hero's gauntlets that are actually gauntlets of fumbling.
A cursed item functions normally until its curse is triggered, and it becomes a fully functioning beneficial magic item after its curse is lifted. When its curse is triggered, a cursed item imposes penalties or effects upon its wielder that run the gamut from irritating to deadly.
A cursed item looks and functions like a normal magic item, and it is the same level as the item on which the curse has been placed. Cursed items cannot be detected by any means; a character can use a cursed item normally -- sometimes for weeks -- until its curse is triggered.
Once the curse on a cursed item has been triggered and identified, the curse can be removed. Most curses can be lifted with a successful Arcana check (see below). You might also assign alternative methods of lifting the curse (which become known to an item's wielder when the curse is studied). They could range from bathing the item in the breath of a red dragon, to completing a skill challenge in the arcane foundry where the item was crafted, to taking the item to a powerful magical nexus where its curse will be cleansed. When a party undertakes a specific activity to lift a curse from an item, you should make lifting the curse a minor or a major quest.
A cursed magic item can be destroyed with the Disenchant Magic Item ritual, but the curse's presence halves the amount of residuum collected. A cursed item can be destroyed by other effects that would destroy a normal magic item, including the attack of a rust monster, powers that specifically target items (such as disintegrate), and so on.
Removing an Item Curse
A character can use expertise in magical lore to try to remove the curse on an item, but first the character must know that the item is cursed. Normally this knowledge is gained only when the curse is triggered, for there is no tried-and-true way of detecting curses.
To remove an item curse, a character must spend 1 hour in study while the cursed item is within arm's reach. At the end of the hour, the character makes an Arcana check (hard DC of the item's level). If the check succeeds, the curse is broken, and the magic item functions normally. If the check fails, the magic of the curse lashes out, causing the character to lose a healing surge, and everyone must wait 24 hours before trying to remove the curse again using Arcana in this way.
Using Cursed Items
Cursed items can be placed in a campaign as an ad hoc additional challenge. A cursed item does not create the same degree of challenge as an entire encounter or even a single creature, but any encounter in which an item's curse is activated might have an additional story XP reward based on how much the curse increases the challenge of the encounter.
Each item curse has a statistics block, just like a normal magic item. This statistics block explains the trigger and the effect of the curse, which functions in addition to the item's base powers and properties. When an item's curse is triggered, the curse stays in effect until the end of the encounter.
Once an item's curse is triggered for the first time, the item's owner cannot be rid of the item until the curse is broken. A cursed item that is being worn cannot be physically removed. A cursed item that is being wielded (including an implement, a shield, or a weapon) can be put away on the owner's person, but it cannot be discarded.
If a cursed item is removed by extraordinary means (such as by an unusual ritual), the item magically reappears in its owner's possession in 1d4 days.
The owner of a cursed weapon or implement can choose not to wield the item, but if the item's curse has been triggered, he or she must succeed on a saving throw in order to attack with a different item. If the saving throw fails, he or she must use the cursed item and must do so for the rest of the encounter.
Curses are typically named for their most commonly found form. Many of them can be imposed on other items, as indicated in the item's statistics block. The berserker's axe curse, for instance, might be applied to a greatsword or a scimitar. The periapt of foul rotting curse can be embodied in an Ioun stone, an amulet, a scarab crafted from a single gem, and so on.
It is said that the primal power of the Rashena barbarians is imbued in this curse, though those people saw such power as a boon, not a thing to be avoided. Most warriors who inadvertently pick up a weapon bearing this curse have a different opinion -- particularly those whose own companions fall to their accursed bloodlust.
In addition to its normal properties and powers, a weapon that has this curse harms its wielder when an enemy scores a critical hit on him or her.
Berserker's WeaponItem CurseA sudden frenzy overtakes you, blinding you to everything but battle.Weapon: Axe or heavy bladeUtility Power (Charm)Encounter (No Action)Trigger: While bloodied, the wielder is subject to a critical hit.
Effect: Until the end of the encounter, the wielder gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls and takes a -4 penalty to all defenses. All the wielder's attacks using this weapon must be melee basic attacks or charge attacks. Additionally, the wielder chooses a random creature as the target of his or her attack each round. If the wielder cannot attack, he or she takes 1d10 damage, and the penalty to all defenses worsens to –6 until the start of his or her next turn.