Cursed Items

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What Is A Cursed Item

This Page is taken from "Footsteps" Magazine, Issue #4, Page 31

A cursed item can be a magical or non-magical item, which has been damned by a god, devil, demon lord, dragon, alchemist or extremely high-level member of the clergy. The cursed object will inflict its evil upon the person who owns it, or who attempts to own it, manifesting its treachery within 24 hours. The duration of a curse is usually limited to the period during which it is owned, although a handful have lasting effects which must be removed by clerical intervention. Any attempt to "remove curse" from an individual who possesses a cursed object will fail. Only after the object in question has been permanently disposed of may a cleric expel any lingering enchantment. For this reason the term "ownership" must be clearly defined. Ownership means that the character not only possesses the item, but also has a claim to it as his/hers. This means that even if the cursed item is not actually on the person, placed in a container or hidden a thousand miles away for example, it still belongs to that person. Thus, the curse remains in FULL effect.

How To Break A Curse

To break the curse of these items, its "owner" must intentionally throw it away, sell it, give it away or otherwise dispose of the object. The curse will also be broken if the enchanted object is lost or stolen. Remember, some curses have lasting effects, which will continue to plague the character until a successful remove curse is performed. Likewise, any insanity that may result from a cursed item will remain until cured by a cleric or by other means. The cursed item will, of course, continue to inflict its enchantment upon every new “owner” who claims it. Removing the curse from an enchanted object is infinitely more difficult that removing its effects from an afflicted person. Clerics above 5th level have a meager one percent (1%) chance per level of experience to successfully and permanently remove such a curse. If the object has more than one curse, the process must be repeated for each. As usual, a cleric can attempt to remove the curse only once; either it works on it or doesn't. However, other priests may try their hand on the same item.

Note: This applies to all curses EXCEPT those created by gods and devil or demon lords. Curses created by gods or lords of evil are almost impossible to negate. A cleric or alchemist must be 10th level or higher and even then has but a pitiful half percent (1⁄2%) per level of experience chance to, at least, temporarily counter a curse of such supernatural power. Roll percentile dice on the following table only if a successful remove curse has been made:

TABLE I: Negating Powerful Curses

D00 Roll Effect
01-30 Curse is negated for 1 to 4 weeks.
31-55 Curse is negated for 1 to 4 months.
56-70 Curse is negated for 2 to 12 months.
71-88 Curse is negated for 2 to 8 years.
89-99 Curse is negated for 2 to 8 decades.
00 Curse is permanently removed.

Note: The magic spell or scroll "remove curse" is completely ineffective in removing a curse from an enchanted item. The use of cursed items is left entirely to the DM's discretion. However, the following are some useful rules of thumb in the application of cursed items. Remember that a curse is a magical effect that is sometimes not explainable through the mechanics of the game.

Frequency of Cursed Items

Religious artifacts and relics: 30% are cursed. Royal artifacts or heirlooms: 9% are cursed. Ancient elfin weapons and artifacts: 12% are cursed. Ancient dwarven weapons and artifacts: 10% are cursed. Holy weapons: 20% are cursed. Magical items of great power: 15% have at least one curse. Relics/Relics: 30% have one curse, 18% have two curses, and 10% have three curses. Most cursed objects, about 70%, will affect anyone who owns it regardless of that character's alignment, race or allegiance (e.g. royal family, clan, religion, occupation). However, some, about 30%, are specifically designed to affect only those of a particular alignment (good or evil), race (for example: affects any race other than elves or affects only elves and so on) or allegiance (will afflict only those loyal to a particular cause, god, religion, king, men of magic or other class and so on). Holy weapons and religious artifacts are the types of items most commonly found to have curses designed/directed to specific alignments or other conditions.


D20 Roll Curse D20 Roll Curse
1 Misunderstanding 11 Rags
2 Reduced Healing 12 Vulnerability
3 Cold 13 Insect Attraction
4 Dislike 14 Phantom Odours
5 Cravings 15 Breaking
6 Heat 16 Glow
7 Stink 17 Confusion
8 Reduced Vision 18 Glowing Eyes
9 Hallucinatory Noises 19 Mumble
10 Spoilage 20 Headaches

How to use this table: roll 1d20 for each curse, disregarding any duplication

The Curses


Often characters must deal with those of other races, speaking, or reading and writing the languages of these other races. Victims of this curse will ALWAYS misunderstand what they've read or what has been said to them in languages other than their own (usually to their detriment). Additionally, what they write or say in languages other than their own will always be misunderstood (and often taken as insults). Scrolls cannot be properly read and will not operate. Likewise mystic writings will not be able to be read by magic using classes, so they are effectively unable to relearn their spells until the curse is removed.


People afflicted with this curse will only heal one point per day, maximum, by natural means and will only receive one half of any magical healing used on them. Round down all fractions, with a minimum of 1 point healed. Spells of restoration will automatically fail to restore lost limbs or levels and even a resurrection has only a 25% chance of working successfully. When attempting to recover from a coma or from being reduced to negative hit points, the victim of the curse will have to roll as though they have received only normal (natural) medical treatment, even if magical aid is used.


The victim of this curse is always cold, no matter how many layers of clothing they are wearing or how hot it may be. If the temperature of the room or area they are in exceeds 100F°, there is a chance they may become unconscious from heat prostration (have the character make roll their CON or less on 1d20 or suffer the ill effects). If this happens and there is no one to aid them, they will lose 1-4 hit points every hour they are in this area and remain unconscious until they die. A remove curse is required to negate the lasting effects of this enchantment even after the cursed item has been relinquished.


Victim of this curse effectively becomes an irritant to all people around them and whom they meet, causing strangers to take an immediate dislike to them. Fights will break out, seemingly over nothing, merchants will not want to deal with them, etc. The victim’s CHA attribute is reduced to 4. After 6 months, there is a 44% chance of the person becoming phobic toward others and/or paranoid.


The unfortunate victim of this curse will suffer cravings for the particular kind of food or drink that the curse describes (at the DM's discretion), whether it be the most expensive food in existence or camel dung. The craving will come 1-4 times per day; to resist the craving the victim must make a successful saving throw vs. magic spell. A failed roll means they will do anything to satisfy their craving. If they are unable to do so, they will be at a -3 penalty to hit, damage and AC for 1-8 hours until the craving passes for the moment. DM's should not make the desired food or drink too rare or obscure.


The victim of this curse will always be uncomfortably warm, even if they are sitting in a cold bath. While uncomfortable, this curse has no other side effects except the person may catch a cold from wearing too few clothes. A remove curse is required to negate the lasting effects of this curse even after the cursed item has been disposed of.


The victim gains a foul body odor which is enough to make others within five feet of them gag. No amount of bathing or perfumes will disguise this stench. Remove curse is required even after the cursed item is disposed of in order to negate these lasting effects. REDUCED VISION: The victim's vision, both day and night vision, will be reduced to a maximum of 30 feet. Past this point the vision of the cursed person will become blurred; attempting to fire ranged weapons at targets past this limit will have a penalty of -8 to hit applied against them.Footprints


The victim of this curse will hear noises at odd times; such as when they are sleeping, on guard duty, listening at doors, etc. The noises they hear will always suggest living creatures or beings, such as voices carrying on a whispered conversation which they can almost, but never quite make out, the scratching of claws on stone, the whisper of footsteps, etc. They will never be sure whether what they are hearing is just a hallucinatory noise or one created by an actual creature. Rate of Occurrence: 75% chance during sleep (it will awaken the person); 60% chance when in darkness; 50% when on guard duty; 50% when listening at a door; 25% any other time. The stress will eventually lead to insanity. After the owner of this cursed item has experienced the noises for 60 days the person will acquire a phobia (fear and apprehension). Note that in this case the phobia is more like paranoia and extreme jitters rather than outright terror. Add one of the following for each month the cursed item is used beyond 60 days:

1 Darkness
2 Closed doors
3 Graveyards
4 Undead
5 Unknown places
6 Gods
7 Sleep

After one year there is a 50% chance of becoming a paranoid. Roll for each year under curse. Note that the additional phobias will remain until cured.


This interesting curse causes all food, wine and water carried by the cursed individual to spoil within 24 hours; food, even preserved food, will become a rotten mess, wine becomes sour and undrinkable, as does water. This curse is also applied to any of the above supplies carried on a horse or other creature the victim owns. The curse will remain even after the item is discarded until a remove curse is successfully applied.


The curse of rags causes any clothing and armor (including magical) carried by the cursed victim to tear and break easily, rapidly becoming nothing more than rags within a one week period of having been bought. Normal armor will become 1 point of AC worse each day until it becomes useless. Magical armor will lose 1 point in AC effectiveness each week until it becomes useless, starting with magical abilities, then magical pluses, then structural.


This curse applies a penalty of -2 to all the victim's saving throws.


Insects will always attack a person who has this curse placed upon them; mosquitoes will be drawn to them, lice and ticks will love to infest their clothes and armor. Any insects in the area will be drawn towards them before anyone else. Ultimately the obvious and repulsive insects and wrappings acts to reduce the person's COM score by half and CHA by a third. After all, this is not a pleasant person to be around. Note: While an alchemist may be able to create some type of insect repellent it will not repulse lice, ticks or fleas. Flying insects will still be drawn to the person no matter what is done. This does not apply to such monstrous insects as stirges and ankhegs. A remove curse is needed to negate the curse even after the cursed item is disposed of.


The victim of this curse will smell odd and alarming odors at odd times for no reason (like when they are in an underground temple and suddenly smell burning sulphur, rather reminiscent of demons). The victim of such a curse will be unable to tell whether the odors they smell are real or just a manifestation of the curse.

After the owner of this cursed item has experienced the odors for 60 days the person will acquire a phobia (fear and apprehension). Note that in this case the phobic condition is more like paranoia and extreme jitters rather than unreasoning terror. Add one phobia for each month the cursed item is used beyond the initial 60 days:

1 Fire
2 Devils and demons
3 Darkness
4 Foods cooked by others
5 Uncleanliness (that's to say he/she will be fanatical about being sparkling clean/washed/groomed. Anyone who is not will be viewed with suspicion and dislike, as well as being lectured about cleanliness)
6 Unknown places
7 Fumes, snuff, perfumes, colognes, etc.

These phobias are permanent unless they are cured. Rate of Occurrence: 50% every hour during sleep (it will awaken the person); 80% every time food is eaten or nearby; 60% when on guard duty; 50% when listening at a door or unknown area; 35% when a stranger is met; 20% any other random time.


The victim of this curse seems to be extremely unlucky or clumsy; any breakable object they are given will somehow become broken within 24 hours of their taking possession of it, no matter how well wrapped or protected it is. For example, a potion bottle they place in their pack may be broken when they are knocked backwards and land on their pack. A crystal ball could be broken when they are attacked from behind or dropped. An arrow fired at them miraculously hits the breakable item instead of their body. This curse is extremely subtle, but very effective. A remove curse is required to negate the lasting effects of this curse even after the cursed item has been relinquished.


The flesh of the victim of this curse will glow softly with a whitish light. This light is not enough to illuminate an area or book in darkness, but is more than enough to attract attention. The light can be concealed only under heavy cloth wrappings (which tend to make the victim look rather mummy-ish). The odd effect reduces the COM of the victim by 2 points and the unusual glow tends to attract both night insects and first attacks in combat (suspicion and fear is created). A remove curse is required to negate the lasting effects of this curse even after the cursed item has been disposed of.


This curse reduces the victims INT by two points. If this reduces their INT below the minimum needed to perform the functions of their class, they will be unable to use any of their class's special abilities (casting spells, picking locks, etc.) until the curse is lifted. There is also a -10% penalty applied against all their skill percentages so long as the curse is in effect.


The victim of this curse will have his eyes glow white, yellow or red. Most people who see such a person will assume they are evil, a demon or possessed by a demon, and either attempt to kill them or drive them away, or exorcise them (while clerics may know the proper methods of exorcism, there are a lot of people who think that physical pain can drive a demon out of a person, so such a victim may be beaten, whipped, burned, etc., in an attempt by a good-hearted, but ignorant person to exorcise their "demon"). Although this curse raises a character's CHA by 4 points, it only serves to intimidate rather than cause trust. The suspicious aura that will emanate around the enchanted person will cause friend and foe alike to view this person with suspicion, fear and distrust. Unless threatening or angry, people will generally regard his/her words as lies.


No matter what the victim of this curse tries to say no one will be able to understand them because they are "mumbling". Even if the victim tries to shout it will come out as nothing more than a garbled roar. All who hear him/her speak only have a 50% chance of completely understanding what is said. Characters listening must roll for every two sentences spoken.


The victim of this curse will be afflicted by powerful headaches, normally giving them a -1 penalty to hit, damage and AC and a -5% penalty on all skills. In stress or crisis situations the headache will become sharply worse, making concentration and spell casting difficult (always the last to strike or act) and giving a -3 penalty to hit, damage and AC, and a penalty of -15% on all skills.

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