Steal This! 5 Really Useful Cursed Magic Items
The wagon on the side of the road looks innocent enough, the merchant driving it looks very trustworthy, and the deal he is cutting you is not the kind you can't possibly pass up. Then you get down the road and discover the hat he sold you fits a little too well as it consumes your freakin' head.
Cursed items are a hoot. They've been terrifying players and giving Game Masters a sickening amount of pleasure for forty-plus years. These things are almost always detrimental, causing some manner of chaos for the owner, be it an uncontrollable bloodrage, or just perpetual intestinal distress. But there is nothing saying that these major drawbacks can't come with some manner of payoff. A cursed item makes the user suffer. A real cursed item makes the user want to suffer, because the benefit is almost worth the agony.
Today I give you 5 really useful cursed magic items. As per usual, these are system generic items that can be placed in just about any game, from D&D to Pathfinder, regardless of edition. Let's get a-cursin', shall we?
1. Everfilling Healing Potion: The life of an adventurer is brutal, and often short, and sometimes divine healing cannot come fast enough. Alchemists have devised ways of bottling the essence of the Gods to bring the hand of a healer to your very lips, but that resource is gone as soon as the contents of the container are emptied. These options aren't cheap, and merchants charge a pretty copper for these bottled miracle So when one alchemist managed to distill an endless decanter of healing juice that would continue to refill itself infinitely, she thought she had a good thing going. She was wrong.
The Good: It is, as the name implies; a healing potion that is everfilling. Empty it, and it fills itself back up again, instantly. The potion is potent. Not the most powerful mind you, but it still restores a respectable amount of health, and remains useful throught one's adventuring career.
The Bad: Every time a creature drinks the potion, they age 10 years. Sure, that doesn't sound like much, but the more one drinks, the more they age. After only three uses, the creature ages 30 years. Long-lived races would be able to utilize this for several uses, but your average human, or member of the short-lived races are looking at a very finite number of uses. This aging effect eventually culminate in the usual penalties that accompany getting old and cannot be dispelled with a simple curse-breaking spell. Nothing short of a wish or divine intervention will turn back the hands of time. It begs the question, is your health more important than your youth?
2. Breastplate of Unparalleled Protection: This simple breastplate looks like nothing special, but, the inscription of "Breastplate of Unparalleled Protection" tends to raise a few eyebrows. The claim is true, and the breastplate does offer protection like nothing else. When the owner dawns it, it immediately grafts itself painlessly to their body. That is when the fun begins.
The Good: The breastplate immediately becomes a part of the creature, fusing with them. While the breastplate cannot be removed, it feels like a second skin (transforming into a natural armor), and wearing it does not fatigue or exhaust the creature. It is comfortable and easily slept in. In combat the wearer feels no pain, even when dealt the most grievous of wounds. Whenever the creature is dropped to 0hp, the armor immediately stabilizes them and they receive a permanent +1 to AC. Once this happens 5 times, they become resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage, taking only half the damage dealt. Once this occurs 10 times, they become immune to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. These effects are permanent.
The Bad: Whenever the creature is reduced to 0hp, the armor begins to spread, turning the creatures skin into a flexible steel. This offers the unparalleled protection the inscription boasted, but also makes the wearer decidedly less humanoid. They grow cold and distant, their actions almost become mechanical. They begin to loose all sense of compassion, mercy, morality, and emotion. When they have been reduced to 0hp five times or more, their alignment becomes true neutral, and the steel skin becomes adamantine. Once the creature has been reduced to 0hp ten times, their body solidifies into an indestructible adamantine statue offering unparalleled protection from the ravages of aging, hunger, and life itself. This effect can only be reversed with a wish or divine intervention. If the creature should die while wearing the Breastplate of Unparalleled Protection, the armor consumes the body instantly, leaving no trace of the creature behind, and this, not means of a resurrection short of a wish. The only way the armor can be removed from the creature after it has bonded with it is to cut the armor off, though doing so will remove all skin around the creature's torso, effectively flaying it alive.
"When you're engaging in epic combat, always wear protection."
3. Compass of Treasure Seeking: Treasure hunters spend years searching for loot in dark places, never knowing if they place they enter will have a boast a pile of gold coins, or a stack of rusty and worthless swords. Greed can be a powerful motivator. It can drive adventurers to risk life and limb for the slightest promise of a good payout. Wouldn't it be nice to have some kind of confirmation that there is any treasure somewhere nearby without having to go through all the trouble of searching for it? So enters the Compass of Treasure Seeking. This old compass looks like it would be more at home on a ship on the high seas. It is wooden, with brass trim, but never points north.
The Good: The compass points to the nearest mass of wealth exceeding 100 gold pieces. The compass will vibrate in accordance to how much the treasure is worth. A slight buzzing means a tidy sum. A violent shake means a dragon's hoard. The compass is never wrong, and points a path to the treasure.
The Bad: The compass will show you the path to the treasure, alright. It shows the most dangerous, deadly path that is sure to inflict as much damage to the creature as possible. It there is an option between a simple, safe hallway, and a trap-riddled tunnel, it will choose the second one. The compass delights in the pain of its owner, and wishes to punish them for their avarice.
"Gets you to where you're going, every time."
4. The Ring Of Instant Attraction: Charisma get get you a lot in this world. It can open doors closed to others. It can coax information out of people whose lips are almost never loose. It can make people great, and move others to tears. This ring does that, and then some. A thin, gold band, The Ring of Instant Attraction can make even the lowliest creature seem downright irresistible
The Good: The ring makes its wearer instantly likable. The attitudes of people around the ring become immediately friendly. They want to help in any way they can, and will go out of their way to ensure the wearer gets what they want.
The Bad: Those under the influence of the ring see the wearer as the pinnacle of attraction. The wearer haunts their thoughts day and night. They become obsessed with the wearer, declaring their undying love for them. They would die for the wearer, if only they would ask. This all consuming love allows for little else in the affected creature's life, destroying any relationship with friends, family, and allies. Further more, once an affected creature learns that there is another person that has any affection towards the wearer, they become insane with jealousy, and slip into a homicidal rage, attacking the other creature with reckless abandon. If the wearer does not return the affection the affected creature shares, then it becomes deeply depressed and will either end its own life, or the life of the wearer so that no one else can have them.
"Rings. Am I right?"
5. Mortal Dread: Weapons are symbols of power and death. They can end a royal line an in instant, shape nations, and defend those that cannot defend themselves. Wielding true power often comes with a price, and mortal dread is no different. This weapon is as black as midnight, and cool to the touch, no matter how long the wielder has been holding it. Light seems to dim slightly in the vicinity of the weapon, and those facing its wielder feel apprehensive and unsure.
The Good: Mortal Dread is often a powerful weapon with a number of abilities (keen, flaming, vorpal, etc). It always takes the form of the weapon its wielder is most proficient with. In the wielder's hand it light, and feels like an extension of their body. When holding Mortal Dread, the wielder can sense all lifeforms within a 60ft. radius. Any creature struck by the weapon begins to bleed uncontrollably, further damaging the creature. This wound cannot be closed by conventional means. Only divine magic (with a difficult caster level check), or natural regeneration can stop the bleed. Creatures that are slain by Mortal Dread, or die as a result of bleed damage inflicted by the weapon, rapidly rot away, turning to dust within seconds. These creatures cannot be brought back to life by any means. The only creatures immune to this affect are those that are immortal, or already dead.
The Bad: Mortal Dread is hungry, and seeks to end all life everywhere. Once it has dealt damage combat, the wielder must succeed in a contest of wills. If the wielder fails, they fly into a focused battle trance. While in this state, the wielder gains +1 to hit and damage. This damage increases by +1/+1 for each enemy they fell while in the battle trance. The creature can make another contested save after each creature is killed, but the DC of this roll increases by 1 for each foe slain. Once the battlefield is clear of enemies, the wielder will attack their allies while in this battle trance. Each time the wielder comes out of the trance, they develop an insatiable bloodlust. They desire to throw themselves into combat for 24 hours. Their sense of mercy and compassion are dulled, and they absolutely refuse to deal non-lethal damage. They will attempt to enter combat as often as possible. While they cannot willingly initiate these combats, they will manipulate events,or sabotage diplomatic relations so that combat is the only option. If the wielder of Mortal Dread dies while wielding mortal dread, their soul is consumed and their body is destroyed. Nothing short of divine intervention can stop or reverse this effect.
"The other white Elric."
And there we have it. 5 items that are sure to spice up your campaign, and make your players lay awake at night wondering if they are really worth having. Remember, most curses cannot be identified, so many of these little darlings should come as quite the surprise. Sure, the players may call you a sick sociopath who takes sadistic glee in inflicting trauma on their poor characters. But just remind them, it wasn't your idea. The Bard made you do it!
Keep on cursing,
+Ed The Bard
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