Cursed Items

Cursed items are rarely of the “zap, you’re dead” variety. Instead, they often appear as various forms of negative effects ranging from the merely inconvenient to the truly burdensome. Many cursed items also mix both beneficial and baneful effects and may therefore force a player into a difficult choice. If a cursed item or effect is desired, roll d% and consult the table below. The listing of specific cursed items included later in this section provide some examples of these effects in use.

Table of Common Item Curses

d% Curse
01-15 Delusion
16-35 Opposite effect or target
36-45 Intermittent functioning
46-60 Requirement
61-75 Drawback
76-90 Completely different effect
91-00 Substitute specific cursed item

Delusion: In the user’s mind the item is exactly what he or she believes it to be when picked up or used. The device actually is a mundane item with powerful deception magics placed upon it and absolutely no special powers. The user is absolutely convinced this item is a beneficial magical item of some sort and only a remove curse will allow him or her to be convinced otherwise.

Opposite Effect or Target: These items are normally beneficial items that malfunction under certain circumstances, causing damage to the user, or, to a different target instead of the intended target. They can also take the form of a weapon or item that appears to grant an attack and damage bonus but instead inflicts a penalty. Once the cursed nature of the item reveals itself the user may sometimes be able to discard it. At other times a strong compulsion is placed upon the user and he or she will not be able to rid him- or herself of it except by means of a remove curse spell.

Intermittent Functioning: Intermittently-functioning items tend to fall into three broad categories: unreliable, intermittent, and uncontrolled. Unreliable items have a small chance of malfunctioning or not functioning at all each time they are activated, usually a natural 1 on a d20. Uncontrolled items, on the other hand, have an unfortunate tendency to activate at completely random times. On a roll of 1 on 1d20 the item will activate at some random point during the day. Dependent items must have a specific condition or situation met or they will not function. A table of possible situations is included below for GM inspiration. Feel free to modify and add to this list as need dictates.

d% Situation
01-05 Day
06-10 Night
11-15 Temperature above freezing
16-20 Temperature below freezing
21-25 Above ground
26-30 Below ground
31-35 Within 10 ft of a goblinoid monster
36-40 Within 10 ft of an elf
41-45 Within 10 ft of a cleric
46-50 Within 10 ft of a magic user
51-55 Wielded by a spellcaster
56-60 Wielded by a non-spellcaster
61-65 Wielded by a specific alignment (determined randomly)
66-70 Wielded by a specific sex (determined randomly)
71-75 Underwater
76-80 At least 10 miles from a major body of water
81-85 In direct sunlight
86-90 Out of direct sunlight
91-95 User must be wearing metal armour
96-00 User must not be wearing any armour at all

Requirement: Some items have a requirement that must be met before being rendered usable. This is not a simple command word, which is considered to be a normal requirement for most magic items. Instead, the item requires a specific sort of condition to be met to trigger its function. Some requirements are a one time type of event; others are monthly, daily, or even per usage or continuous. To inspire the GM, a list of requirements are included, but in order to provide the right flavour to the cursed item, the requirement should always fit the specific item and should never be determined randomly.

Drawback: This describes items that usually mix a beneficial effect or effects with a negative drawback of some sort. Drawbacks may operate continually or may only be activated when the device is used, or held. The effects of a drawback remain as long as the item is retained. A table is included below. Again, it is stressed this is a template only and the GM should use this as an inspiration only to his or her unique needs.

d% Drawback
01-05 User’s hair grows 1 foot longer and changes to an unnatural colour, and cannot be changed thereafter.
06-10 Character grows a non-prehensile tail.
11-15 Temperature around user of item is noticeably warmer/cooler than ambient temperature.
16-20 User’s teeth turn black.
21-25 User’s skin changes to an unnatural colour and/or begins glowing the dark.
26-30 User grows a tattoo of an obscene word on forehead.
31-35 User changes sex (one-time effect).
36-40 User’s appearance changes to that of a random demi-human or humanoid race, checked daily.
41-45 Character is afflicted with a random disease with obvious symptoms, that cannot be cured.
46-50 Item whines and sulks constantly when not being used.
51-55 Item is bright pink or bright orange and constantly sings silly songs parodying its owner out loud.
56-60 User becomes obsessed others are trying to steal the item from him or her.
61-65 User becomes obsessed he or she will lose or damage the item.
66-70 User’s alignment changes (one-time effect).
71-75 User loses a level. If dual or multi-classed, player loses one level from each class (one-time effect).
76-80 Character’s vision is blurred, imposing a -2 penalty to attacks and saves.
81-85 Character must save vs spells daily or take -1 to all attack and damage rolls for that day.
86-90 Character must save vs spells daily or suffer a -4 reduction to his primary skill for that day.
91-95 User’s charisma is reduced to 3 until he or she manages to rid him- or herself of the item.
96-00 User’s height increases/decreases by 6 inches (determine randomly, one-time effect).

Specific Cursed Items: Following is an offering of examples of cursed items. First is a table to allow random selection when generating treasure, followed below by the item descriptions. Detect magic spells will yield misleading results when determining the aura and strength of a cursed item. Identify spells are marginally useful, with a 1% chance per spell caster level of correctly identifying the true properties of a cursed item, otherwise the false result indicated in the description of that particular item will be reported.

d% Item
01-05 Amulet of Inescapable Location
06-07 Armour of Arrow Attraction
08-10 Armour of Rage
11-13 Bag of Devouring
14-17 Boots of Dancing
18-22 Bracers of Defencelessness
23 Broom of Animated Attack
24 Cloak of Poisonousness
25 Crystal Hypnosis Ball
26-27 Dust of Sneezing and Choking
28-33 Flask of Curses
34-38 Gauntlets of Fumbling
39 Helm of Opposite Alignment
40-44 Incense of Obsession
45-49 Mace of Blood
50-52 Medallion of Thought Projection
53 Necklace of Strangulation
54-55 Net of Snaring
56-58 Periapt of Foul Rotting
59-63 Potion of Poison
64-73 Ring of Clumsiness
74-75 Robe of Powerlessness
76-80 Robe of Vermin
81 Scarab of Death
82-86 Spear, Cursed Backbiter
87-91 Stone of Weight (Loadstone)
92-96 Sword -2, Cursed
97-99 Sword of the Berserker
00 Vacuous Grimoire

Amulet of Inescapable Location (any)

Identify will falsely indicate this item grants the wearer immunity from detection, location, and mind-reading. Once donned, however, the item changes from a normal appearing gold amulet with gemstone inlay into a rather large and garish piece of cheap costume jewellery. Anyone wearing the amulet of inescapable location will be 50% less likely to save vs scrying and divination spells.

Armour of Arrow Attraction (CFPR)

This armour appears to both mundane and magical inspection as a strongly magicked suit of plate armour. Only in actual use, however, will its cursed nature be revealed. The armour will function as a magical set of armour +3 against melee attacks but against any ranged attack it imposes -3 penalty to AC. After the armour reveals its true nature a red and white set of three concentric circles appear on the breastplate, over the wearer’s heart.

Armour of Rage (CFPR)

Resembling armour of command, when worn this plate +1 will cause a -4 penalty to the wearer’s charisma.

Bag of Devouring (any)

This item appears as an everyday sack and mystical means of identification will indicate it is a bag of holding. The bag of devouring actually has the same capacity for storage as a regular bag of holding but in fact the bag is a lure and feeding orifice for an extradimensional creature. Some say this horror is the result of an evil mage’s twisted experiment on a trapped mimic, or perhaps a doppelgänger, but even the wisest of sages cannot say with any certainty.

The bag of devouring senses any intrusion of vegetable or animal matter, such as an adventurer’s arm, into the bag—though 90% of the time it will ignore the initial intrusion. With each subsequent introduction of living material the bag is 60% likely to grab the offending member and attempt to draw the victim inside. The bag is quite strong and the rows of teeth revealed in the attack are designed to allow a struggling creature to move inward easily but outward only with great difficulty. Treat attempts to break free as a Major Test of Strength. The character gets three such attempts; the first when initially grabbed, the second at -10% when halfway inside, the last at -20% before disappearing into the creature’s maw.

Any living material drawn into the bag of devouring is entirely consumed in 1 round and thus attempts to raise or resurrect the victim which require a part of the corpse are disallowed. Due to the chaotic and other planar nature of the beast, there is only a 50% chance a wish, miracle, or resurrection will succeed and if that check fails, the victim is irrevocably destroyed.

Though the bag of devouring can function somewhat as a bag of holding there is a cumulative 5% chance per hour of the bag swallowing its contents and spitting them out onto some randomly determined plane of existence.

Boots of Dancing (any)

Footwear which appears to be any one of a number of magicked boots. When the wearer is engaged in or fleeing from combat, however, the boots of dancing will show their true nature. The wearer will begin to dance as if the 8th magic user spell irresistible dance had been cast upon him or her for the duration of the battle. When hostilities cease, if the character survived the dancing will stop until the next battle. Up until the first time the curse is revealed the boots may be removed at will but afterwards, only a remove curse will free the user from this malign footwear.

Bracers of Defencelessness (any)

These serve as bracers of defence +5 until the wearer is engaged in actual combat with an enemy of equal or greater level. At once the bracers lose the +5 bonus and immediately and permanently become -5 to AC. A remove curse is required to remove them once this has occurred.

Broom of Animated Attack (any)

Appears as a broom of flying to all attempts to identify. When used by speaking the command word, usually found engraved on the handle, the cursed nature becomes obvious. The broom will loop into the air and dump the rider on the ground, then begin attacking them relentlessly. The broom gets four attacks at +5 per round, striking twice at the body with the handle and twice in the face with the straw end. All attacks deal 1d6 damage and a successful hit to the face with the straw end also blinds the target for 1 round. The broom is AC -2 and absorbs 18 hit points before breaking into pieces, losing all magic in the process.

Cloak of Poisonousness (any)

Identify spells will reveal nothing but a rather sturdy woollen cloak. This article of clothing can be handled without harm but when worn the victim is instantly slain unless he or she rolls a save vs death. Once worn, the cloak can only be removed with a remove curse spell, which also completely destroys the cloak. Any means of resurrecting the victim must be preceded by a neutralise poison spell or be automatically unsuccessful.

Crystal Hypnosis Ball (IM)

This item appears as a typical crystal ball, used by many mages to assist with scrying and communication across long distances. Anyone looking into the ball will be hypnotised for 1d6 minutes, during which time they will do nothing but stare into the ball, enthralled by what is seen therein. When the viewer is released, he or she should roll a save vs petrifaction or be convinced they viewed the desired scene or individual. Further, failing to save indicates the viewer has become mentally enslaved by the actual object of the viewing, a powerful lich, arch-mage, or perhaps even a powerful other planar figure who is secretly controlling the device. With each use of the hypnosis ball the unlucky individual falls deeper and deeper under the influence of the controlling figure, until eventually the viewer becomes an extension of its will. The viewer, of course, is completely unaware of his or her waning individuality.

Dust of Sneezing and Choking (any)

To any test, this fine white powder appears to be dust of appearance. When thrown into the air this powder causes all living beings within 20 ft to be disabled by choking, treat as stunned for 5d4 rounds. Each person must save vs breath weapon or take 2d6 damage from the body wracking coughs. One minute later a second save must be made to avoid an additional 1d6 points of damage. Whether one or both saves are made, each person within the area of effect will be disabled by the choking effect of the powder for 2 rounds.

Flask of Curses (any)

This container appears as any one of a number of containers encountered during the course of an adventure. Sometimes it looks like a potion flask, sometimes as a bottle or beaker, still others as a jug. Shaking the flask of curses may yield a sound as if it were filled with liquid, still other times the flask may emit a thin stream of smoke. When unstoppered, the flask releases a gaseous cloud which causes all within 30 ft to roll their constitution or better on 3d6 to avoid being cursed. The curse causes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls and saving throws until such times as a remove curse spell can be cast on the suffering individuals.

Gauntlets of Fumbling (any)

These appear to be gauntlets of two differing types, suitable for use with heavy armour or made for use with leather armour or clothing. These obviously magicked articles detect for ability bonuses depending upon type. Heavy armour gauntlets of fumbling appear to increase strength to 18.99 or sometimes to increase ability +3 with a bladed weapon. Lighter versions will appear to increase the wearer’s AC by +2 or increase dexterity to 18. These gloves will perform as whatever item they are disguised as until the wearer is engaged in combat with a hostile foe or other life-or-death type situation, at which time the curse manifests itself. The wearer becomes butter-fingered, losing -2 dexterity, and has a 50% chance each round of dropping anything held in either hand (check separately), which continues even after combat ends. Any beneficial effects of wearing the gauntlets disappear forever then the curse appears.

Gauntlets of Fumbling can only be removed by means of a remove curse, or wish spell.

Helm of Opposite Alignment (any)

This helm appears as a finely made piece of armoured headgear fashioned by a master smith, even to one who knows little about armour. If detected for magic, the helm radiates a faint dweomer of indeterminate origin. Once placed upon the head the wearer must save vs polymorph on the spot or immediately change to the alignment diametrically opposed to the wearer’s current alignment. Therefore LG becomes CE, LE becomes CG, and so on. Truly neutral characters will roll 1d4 with 1=LG, 2=CG, 3=LE, 4=CE.

This shift in alignment is a complete metamorphosis of heart, mind, and soul and any character undergoing this change will feel as if he or she has just “seen the light” and will strive to the utmost to live life according to this new philosophy. Any attempt to return the character to the original alignment will be viewed with revulsion and resisted by any and all means available. Any character making the saving throw can wear the helm without effect as long as they wish, but if removed and subsequently re-worn another save is required. The helm of opposite alignment loses all magical properties after successfully cursing a character, which means the helm cannot be used to return to one’s original alignment.

Incense of Obsession (C)

These faintly magical cones or blocks of incense appear to be an aid to divine spell memorisation in like manner to incense of meditation. In essence the incense of obsession causes any cleric using it as an aid to acquiring spells to become completely convinced the incense has granted him or her superior divine magic using ability. The user will seek the flimsiest of excuses to use a spell at every opportunity, even if unneeded or useless. This obsession lasts until all memorised spells have been expended or 24 hours has elapsed.

Mace of Blood (ACFPR)

Functions as a mace +3 but only if coated with the blood of an opponent it has slain every day. If it is not, the +3 bonus fades away until it is again bathed in blood. Any character wielding the mace must save vs aimed magic items once every 24 hours or become chaotic evil.

Medallion of Thought Projection (any)

This cursed medallion appears both to be proof against detection by scrying or magical thought reading and a device for reading the thoughts of others. Instead of reading the thoughts of all creatures within the area of effect, the medallion instead transmits illusory thoughts of a muddled and confusing nature, requiring a save vs spells to focus into coherent thoughts. The false information gained will always seem plausible to the wearer but may, in fact, be dangerously misleading. Unfortunately, while the medallion of thought projection is tricking the user it is also broadcasting the user’s thoughts to all creatures within a cone shaped emanation up to 60 ft in front of the user and alerting them to his or her presence. Thought transmissions can penetrate barriers, but 1 ft of stone, 1 in of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 ft of wood or dirt will block it.

Necklace of Strangulation (any)

This extravagantly beautiful necklace appears to be made with the finest craftsmanship and flawless gems, usually diamonds. Short of extraordinary means such as a wish, this necklace appears innocuous until worn. Once placed around a character’s neck the gems turn a ghastly purple as the necklace constricts around the wearer’s neck, inflicting 6 points of damage per round. This infernal necklace can only be removed with a limited wish, wish, or miracle. Otherwise it will remain clamped around the victim’s throat, even after death. After about a month, when the victim has decayed into a dry skeleton, the necklace will resume its normal appearance and loosen its hold on the victim’s skeleton in order to await the next victim.

Net of Snaring (AFPRT)

While not technically a cursed item, the net of snaring may only be used underwater, thus rendering it less than useful to most adventurers. The net grants a +3 bonus to underwater attacks and can be commanded to launch from the user’s hand and ensnare a creature up to 30 ft away (as the 1st level druid spell ensnare).

Periapt of Foul Rotting (any)

This item is a semi-precious, ornately-engraved gem of little apparent value beyond the artistic. Any character retaining possession of this pestilential stone for more than 24 hours, however, contracts a horrible rotting skin disease. The disease inflicts a permanent cumulative penalty of -1 each to the user’s charisma, constitution, and dexterity each week the disease progresses. When the character’s constitution reaches 0, he or she is in a coma. The following week the character will die. The periapt and the disease it caused can only be removed from the victim by a application of a remove curse spell, then cure disease, then one of the following: heal, limited wish, or wish. An alternate method of undoing this foul curse involves crushing a periapt of health and sprinkling the dust upon the cursed character. After 1 round, the character will be completely healed and the periapt of foul rotting will crumble to dust.

Plate Mail of Vulnerability (CFPR)

To any magical means of detection, this armour appears as +1, +2, or even +3 magic armour. As soon as a blow is struck in anger against the wearer however, the true nature of this cursed item reveals itself. The armour will actually be -2, -3, or -4 and the curse prevents the suit of armour from being removed. A hit with a natural 20 will cause the armour to fall to pieces, releasing the victim from its curse but leaving him or her AC 10 in the midst of mortal combat.

Ring of Clumsiness (any)

Looks, acts, and responds to detect magic exactly like a ring of feather falling until placed on the finger, then the wearer becomes very clumsy. The victim of this curse takes a -4 penalty to dexterity, and magic spells requiring a somatic component have a 20% chance of failure when cast.

Ring of Contrariness (any)

A cursed item that renders the victim unable to agree with any suggestion or order. The ring can only be removed with a remove curse spell but, naturally, the ring’s influence will cause the wearer to resist any such attempts. The ring of contrariness will also grant the wearer one of the following abilities from the table at the end of this entry.

“Reverse psychology” type commands given in an attempt to get the wearer to remove the ring (example: Do NOT, under any circumstances, remove that ring!) or harm him- or herself will not succeed. If the ring of contrariness grants the secondary ability of spell turning (see the following table), casting a successful remove curse upon the wearer can be a formidable task.

d12 Result d12 Result
1-2 Flying 7-8 Shocking Grasp
3-4 Invisibility 9-10 Spell Turning
5-6 Levitation 11-12 Strength (18.99)

Ring of Weakness (any)

This dreadful ring reduces the strength and constitution ability scores of the wearer by 1 point per round until both are at 3. This cursed effect is disguised by the ring granting the wearer the ability to become invisible at will as per the ring of invisibility, but becoming invisible doubles the rate of ability score drain. The loss of strength and constitution will not become apparent until the wearer attempts some action, such as combat or bending bars, that requires strength or endurance. When both abilities reach 3 the victim will be unable to function in his or her class. The ring of weakness can only be removed if a remove curse followed by dispel magic is cast upon the ring.

After removal, the victim of the curse will regain 1 point each of strength and constitution for every complete day of rest. There is a 5% chance the curse will be reversed, causing the ring to instead be a ring of the berserker. In such a case the victim will gain, rather than lose, one point each to strength and constitution each round (double that rate if the ring’s invisibility power is used). If a fighter, roll for percentile score above 18 for strength when 18 is reached. When both ability scores are at 18, the ring-wearer will melee any opponent he or she sees, regardless of any other circumstances. Removing the ring of the berserker will cause immediate loss of gained strength and constitution bonuses and the victim’s ability scores will be returned to normal. The ring of the berserker will work only once on each wearer.

Robe of Powerlessness (IM)

This magical robe appears to be a beneficial magic item, usually a robe of protection +2. As soon as the robe is worn the character takes a penalty of -3 to strength and intelligence, possibly forgetting spells and magic knowledge or becoming over-encumbered accordingly. Note that neither attribute may be reduced to less than 1. The robe may be removed at will but the effects may only be dispelled by a remove curse followed by heal.

Robe of Vermin (IM)

This robe radiates strong protective magic, as a robe of protection +4, until the curse is revealed. When the person wearing the robe attempts to concentrate in order to cast a spell against an opponent, the wearer is assaulted by a multitude of bites and stings from the vermin magically infesting the robe. The pain and distraction of the biting insects render all attempts at spell-casting unsuccessful unless a save vs spells is made and the wearer takes a -3 on initiative and -2 to attacks, damage, and saves.

Scarab of Death (any)

Though this small oval pin appears to be any one of the many beneficial jewellery items known to exist, it is actually very dangerous. If carried, held, or worn for more than 1 round by any living creature the pin turns into a burrowing beetle-like monster. The beetle will immediately rip through the wearer’s clothing and into the flesh, burrowing its way into the heart in 1 round and killing the victim. The victim has one chance to grab this burrowing horror by saving vs death magic but even if successful 3d6 points of damage are caused by the attack. If the victim successfully tears the beetle away before it burrows out of sight it will revert to its scarab form. For long term storage the scarab can be prevented from coming to life by placing it in a container of bone, ceramic, ivory, metal, or wood.

Shield -1, Missile Attractor (CDFPR)

This shield’s armour penalty negates the advantage to AC carrying a shield gives. Worse, the bearer of the shield is twice as likely to attract missile fire when the group he or she is in is subjected to non-directed missile fire.

Spear, Cursed Backbiter (ADFPR)

This +2 weapon is suitable for either melee or use as a missile. If the user rolls a natural “1” when attacking a foe in anger, however, the cursed nature of the backbiter causes the shaft of the spear to curve back upon the wielder and strike him or her for damage, instead. If the backbiter was thrown and the attack roll was a natural “1” the missile will double back in mid-flight and unerringly strike the thrower for double damage. After the first time the nature of the cursed backbiter becomes obvious, a small inscription reading “L. LaFleur, Master Smith” will be visible on the weapon’s shaft, close to the spearhead.

Stone of Weight, or, Loadstone (any)

A egg-shaped, dark, and smoothly polished stone. The loadstone frequently appears as onyx, hematite, pyrite, or lapus lazuli. Anyone picking up the loadstone will immediately suffer a 50% reduction in movement speed. Once picked up the stone cannot be discarded by any means either mundane or magical. No matter the method of disposal: thrown off a cliff, smashed into dust, sold to a greedy merchant, or given away; it always reappears somewhere on the person of the cursed individual. A remove curse will allow the victim to forever rid themselves of the stone, but there are no known means of permanently destroying the stone or the curse it contains.

Sword +1, Cursed (AFPRT)

This weapon appears to be a normal sword of the magic +1 variety until the weapon is drawn in combat. At that time the owner of the sword will find the cursed weapon magically fastened into his or her hand and unable to disengage from combat until either he or the opponent is dead. After combat is resolved the owner will be able to let go of the sword but unable to discard it by any means. Even if the owner throws the weapon away or attempts to fight with a different weapon, the cursed sword will magically reappear when combat is engaged, once again welded to his or her hand, and again the wielder must attack until dead or the opponent is slain. An exorcism by a good aligned cleric is the only way to rid oneself of the weapon.

Sword -2, Cursed (AFPRT)

This exceptionally beautiful and well made weapon performs as a +2 weapon in practice. When employed in actual combat, however, the sword inflicts -2 on all attack and damage rolls. The sword’s ego is very powerful and it will cause its owner to always use it in combat over any other weapon, including missile weapons. Even if the owner intends to draw a different weapon he or she will involuntarily find the cursed sword in hand. Only a remove curse, limited wish, or wish will rid the unlucky owner of this sword -2.

Sword of the Berserker +2 (AFPRT)

This rather plain looking longsword is not particularly eye-catching, but anyone with a knowledge of weapons will immediately recognize this ancient blade to be of high strength and durability. The sword of the berserker grants a +2 bonus in combat but also causes the wielder to enter a berserk frenzy and attack the nearest creature, whether friend or foe, and continue fighting until no living creatures is within 30 ft. While in his or her berserk rage, the wielder of the sword is +2 to strength and constitution, +2 to saves, -2 to AC, and moves at double speed. The increased constitution grants 2 temporary hit points per level and any damage inflicted is subtracted from these points first. The extra hit points fade away after the rage runs its course. It should be noted that the more violent civilisations scattered throughout the realm see this weapon as blessed rather than cursed.

Vacuous Grimoire (any)

This vile tome is thought by some sages to be the prison for a low level malevolent entity, an imp or quasit, perhaps. When the book is placed with other books it tends to alter appearance to blend in with the surrounding volumes and the title, scribed in gold on the spine and on the front, tends to appear as a subject of interest to the person viewing it at the time. This, the sages conclude, indicates some sort of evil intelligence. Anyone opening this infernal manual and reading even one word must immediately roll two saves against petrifaction. The first is to prevent a permanent -1 to intelligence, and the second to prevent a permanent -2 to wisdom. The book may be freely discarded either before or after reading, but the effects of the curse are permanent. One wishing to destroy the book must cast a remove curse upon it while it is being burned.