Cursed items

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Hello DnD community!

I was wondering if the PCs should know the curse on a cursed item when they identify it or if there is any rules that would dictate what to do with cursed items (and if there is any cursed items at all!)

Tyvm 
Prior to Mordenkainen's Emporium, there were no cursed items (as it should be).

That book reintroduced them, a colossal mistake, but since I don't own it, I can't tell you how it works.  I would presume that the curses are not revealed when the PCs identify an item, or else there is zero chance the curse will ever take effect because the PCs will just discard or disenchant the item on the spot.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
I don't have the book on hand, but my friend bought Mordenkainen's when it came out.  Personally love the cursed items, just wish the book had come out when I was doing my game...haha!

Anyway from what I remember there is nothing in the rules for the cursed items that says a PC can discover the curse.  Basically curses are like adding another "power" to an item.  So you might have a +1 fire longsword, which would work just as it normally does, but then it's cursed with the Berserker curse(I think that's one of them...).

But unless the rules do actually say something as a DM you could probably allow a really high Arcana check to discover the curse.  Or maybe they'll find out that there's another enchantment on it or even a curse but no other info so they don't know what the curse will do or what triggers it.  And if the item is nice they'll still use it possibly.  As far as going by the rules though, I'm probably 90% sure there is no way to discover the curse before it's triggered.   
Please don't say TL:DR! :P

I have given them the item (Helm of Seven Death) yesterday and I think they all salivated through the floor. I didn't tell them that there was a curse on it (of course) and I was thinking of just telling them when it occurs.

Problem is : I chose the "Scarab of death" curse (-10 to death saves) and I wouldn't want the player to know it just when he drops (which would probably just kill him). I was thinking of adding a little something when the wearer drops bloodied (either for a round or as long as he is bloodied), which would of course be the trigger to know the curse. I was thinking of telling my player something like

"As the blow hits you, you feel that your soul is absorbed by the helm. Using all your concentration, you can keep it to yourself, but you can not do much more than that. The helm is taking the advantage of your wounds to try and overwhelm you!"

It would resultate in the player being dazed for the round he falls bloodied in evey combat with either a "until the end of you next turn", "save ends" or "until you are no longer bloodied". In addition, the "scarab of death" curse would apply.

An arcana check to identify the curse would discover that the player, in order to lift the curse, must kill the creator of the helm (which would be a good fellow, to make a little RP action between good players and an "innocent" victim) so that the helm can absorb the soul and stop being "angry". No other means to disrupt this curse would be allowed, which means that the regular arcana check would simply fail.

What do yiou guys think of that? Is it too strong of a curse or, considering the strength of the helm for a lvl 4 party, it's perfectly suited? And what would you suggest as an addon to the original curse between those choices :

A) Trigger : The player falls bloodied. Result : He is dazed until the end of his next turn.

B) Trigger : The player falls bloodied. Result : He is dazed, save ends.

C) Trigger : The player falls bloodied. Result : He is dazed until he is no longer bloodied.

Thanks!
Well, and no offense, I don't think you should be adding stuff to the curses already in the book.  Not saying Wizards are masters of balancing or whatnot, but in general best to just leave it alone.  You already have one of the deadliest curses(in my mind) on the helm.  Just leave it as that.

I don't see any issue in allowing a player to make an arcana check and if they score high enough to be able to tell there's a curse on it.  You can scale it depending on either the curse, or the level of the item the curse is on or something like that.  I think that's perfectly fine.  If the players discover there's a curse maybe not tell them what the curse does or triggers off of depending on their arcana check.  Actually, I think I went over this in my previous post.

But having that curse and then adding something more by having the character become dazed for a turn when he becomes bloodied is too much.  Especially if you had it last longer than a turn.  There's really NO reason to add more onto it.

The thing with curses is that they're generally meant to surprise the cursed one.  If they don't know about the curse they're suppose to be surprised when they trigger it.  Obviously if they know about the curse before and still choose to that's a different story, but in general curses are meant to be sneaky and surprise the cursed one.

So I get you seem to feel a little bad about putting the "Scarab of death" on the item that you know the players want to use.  But maybe instead use a different curse that isn't so dangerous.  Maybe..."ease" into it a little more.  Start with something a little lighter and see how it works with the group and all.  Then if things aren't bad and you feel more confident about surprising them with cursed items, then bring out the big guns with the Scarab curse.

Otherwise, I think you should just leave it as the players being able to make an arcana check to discover more about the item or not, and nothing more.  If they can't discover the curse or if they can tell it's cursed but no details and still use it...that's the deal.  If the person wearing the helm drops to 0 and makes a death save, then you tell them the helm is cursed.  That's the name of the game.

Though thinking about it, it seems odd you feel bad about possibly springing the cursed helm on the players yet you want to add MORE bad things to it that will actually trigger far more often than the curse itself would.  Because people are going to become bloodied more often than they drop to 0 HP.           
This is actually pretty darn good post you got there and I didn't took any offense in that hehe.

Just to reassure you : I do not feel bad at all putting a curse on it, especially with this particular rare item which is pretty powerful imho. The fact that I wanted to put another curse on it (maybe simply changing it) is that, if I read the Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium correctly, most curses have a trigger that shows the player : "Here is the curse and this is what it does". The way I get it is that this trigger shows the player that he needs to be carreful not to (or try not to) trigger it again. 

With this particular curse (that I choose because I feel it fits with the item and the story I made up behind it),  there is no trigger, beside death itself. I would just like the player to be aware of the curse before this happens because (1) since he's the defender and that his character is really confident in his abilities, that would for a little RP so he is more caucious, and (2) would simply like the curse, which causes the item to "stick" on the head of the character, to take effect earlier than a possible death save check.

Though, I could simply state that, when he falls bloodied, he feels something is happening and that the curse takes effect. He wouldn't have any penalties, but would still be aware that now, he cannot remove the helm and he needs to be careful. Knowing this player (and his character) pretty well, I am sure it would be a good source of RP (such as him hidding from the others the real reason why he sleep with the helm on without affectign his pride).

I agree that another curse would be really too strong and I also agree that, even if WotC aren't perfect, they usually puts items/rules that shouldn't be played with.

Is this, for you, a better idea? I always love to have feedback.

Thanks again btw. ;) 
When the PC falls unconcious then the curse kicks in, and the player will know about the curse before making the first death save. At that point the party has three rounds to save their defender (which is easy. Triggering a second wind is DC 10 and stabilizing the dying is DC 15).
The only hiccup is the PC has no way to tell the other party members he is under a curse, which means they won't know anything is up. So make it perfectly clear that the item is sucking at his life force and he will die if no one helps.

The curse is painful, but it is one of the easiest curses to avoid. 

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

When the PC falls unconcious then the curse kicks in, and the player will know about the curse before making the first death save. At that point the party has three rounds to save their defender (which is easy. Triggering a second wind is DC 10 and stabilizing the dying is DC 15).
The only hiccup is the PC has no way to tell the other party members he is under a curse, which means they won't know anything is up. So make it perfectly clear that the item is sucking at his life force and he will die if no one helps.

The curse is painful, but it is one of the easiest curses to avoid. 




Thanks. I didn't know about the heal checks tbh... I know a lot of rules, but since we were using them all when I was a player, I don't know them by heart, especially the heal skill rules. 

I also think this is a baby curse, since it can easilly be avoided. Thx for the tip, I might go like that. 
I recommend getting very familiar with Heal checks. As a player they can save the day, and as a DM they can help you recover from a too-hard encounter.

Co-author on AoA 2-3 and 4-1.

When the PC falls unconcious then the curse kicks in, and the player will know about the curse before making the first death save. At that point the party has three rounds to save their defender (which is easy. Triggering a second wind is DC 10 and stabilizing the dying is DC 15).
The only hiccup is the PC has no way to tell the other party members he is under a curse, which means they won't know anything is up. So make it perfectly clear that the item is sucking at his life force and he will die if no one helps.

The curse is painful, but it is one of the easiest curses to avoid. 



I second this.  And really, I've of the mind that a player doesn't know about a curse unless they trigger it.  Or maybe allow a high enough arcana check, as I mentioned above.  So I really don't think SatLeBaron, that you should have a different trigger.  I mean I understand you're looking out for your players, and I mentioned this kinda before, but at the same time sometimes things happen.  Adversity is the name of the game, and if you warn them about bad stuff coming up all the time it loses its thrill.  At least that's how I see it.  I mean obviously warnings happen, but anyway!  In regard to the curse I would leave the curse as is.  Reg makes a great point, in that the player will know of the curse as soon as he makes his first death save.

And I don't know about your group, but in mine when a player fails the death save everyone knows it.  So it's not like the other players wont know the pally has failed one, or two, death saves.  And even if you play where the other players don't know when one of their team fails a death save it's pretty obvious to the party that the pally isn't getting up so they should go heal him.  I wouldn't really be too worried.  Yeah, the curse can be avoided by not dying, and yeah when dying the curse is devastating, but players can save the pally fairly easily.

And if nothing else, for whatever reason if the curse kills the pally then that'll be a lesson to the players.  Not every shiny bauble that's found should just be immediately used without at least an attempt at discovering if there's any curse or something on it.  Could be a very important lesson.

Also, Reg is right.  Heal skill is nice to read up on, very important!     
I just re-read the whole thing and I would like to than you guys for your time. I think I will do as you suggest and just wait for the player to be dying to tell him (and make it obvious to everyone else) about the curse. The cursed item is very strong anyway and I just think that, once they are out of trouble, it will be a nice RP session.

Thanks again for your help about this! 
The archived forums had several threads about Cursed Items.  Carefully poach ideas from there; most were overpowered.
Useless Magic Items was a funny thread:
PC: I feed the lich a Potion of Healing
DM: You do know that undead can't drink, don't you?

Most of the 3.x Cursed Items were designed to nerf a character into uselessness, then inevitably kill him while the DM (and maybe his friends) laughed.  Not fun.  However, a lesser Curse can provide a moment of surprise or comic relief.  Consider the following:

Boomerang of Returning
You throw this weapon at an enemy.  If you miss the target, roll to hit every possible target along the return flight path (including your allies).  If you miss everybody else, the Boomerang automatically hits YOU.  (You might not find the curse if you are normally high-accuracy, until you roll a '1'.)

Cursed Magic Wand of -Spell-
Placed where thieves can find it, this item will perform normally if they get it off the owner's estate.  However, if the PCs try to use the wand to shoot at the owner, his household servants, or his guards, the wand will backfire - the PC shoots himself with the power stored in the wand.  If the PC is shooting at the owner at the time, use the owner's stats to figure out to-hit and damage rolls.

Cursed Gem of Pseudo-Stealth
Also placed where thieves can find it, the person in question cannot succeed on a Stealth check (or anything else to go un-noticed) unless he rolls a natural 20.  However, the thief believes he has succeeded.  This effect ends when somebody else comes into possession of the gem.

I would have the PCs make an Arcana check DC Hard (the item's level) to find out that there is a curse on something.  They may have to go on a quest to get the curse broken.  Or they might have to donate the cursed item to a Temple of Good / Wizard's College to get rid of it.  Make sure the PCs can get an un-cursed item back after a little bit.

Again, cursed items should not be an automatic death sentence, they should be something you want to tell about and laugh over later on.

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Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.

 

{BRJN} If Bhaal approves of The Joker, does he approve of Jack Nicholson's portrayal or Heath Ledger's protrayal more?

{Stigger} That question is utterly classic, and completely on target.

 

Prepped ahead of time:

I started the 4e thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (now lost in that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.

 

(News bulletin: Updated thread to be posted after I review the 5e DMG)

 

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none at present; gotta work on somebody from below !

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Tiefling Bard - party "face", skillful, future business master (using 3e FRCS background material) and patron to beginning adventurers.

Barbarian w/Tough feat, to be nearly indestructible

"Truenamer" cleric - all spells are Verbal

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC / BBEG version is going to become a beetle version of a Worm That Walks.  (See the 4e MM picture of a Lamia.)  Because lichdom is so cliche.

 

I made once cursed item in my game(before curses or the cursed items of Mordenkainen were released).  It was a greater ring of invisibility(which I couldn't remember if it was an actual item at the time), but I thought the item existed and the power just let you become invisibile.  But the curse was that when the player used it he would yes turn invisible, and stay invisible until the curse was removed.  He was a monk, but the player was always the type who generally liked to be sneaky.

It was powerful in that it would've left the character invisible, but the point was that all their gear was also invisible and would remain invisible until the curse was lifted.  So if he went to bed and took off his pack and such, he would have to search for it in the morning.  Or if he dropped his weapon in combat he'd have to try and find it afterward.  Just a fun little idea to mess with the player.  My original idea which wouldn't have been nearly as powerful was that the player would use the ring and they'd turn invisible just like the power said(for a turn or till they attacked I think).  But then after that all their equipment they had on their body at that time would become invisible.  Meaning their clothes, armor, etc.  So it would basically leave them naked which would've been funny especially since at the time they had no access to a town to buy new clothes.  Kind of an Emperor's New Clothes scenario of sorts. 
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