If you are a GM who gets tired of dealing with greedy players in your fantasy RPG campaign, this article is for you! You know the kind of player I’m talking about, the kind who’s always first to dive into that treasure chest, looking for what they believe is the bestest most powerful magical item. These “magic hoarders” always place an emphasis on maxing out their characters, and trying to be the most powerful member of the group, rather than realizing that maybe, just maybe, their reckless approach just might sneak up and bite them on the bum-bum one day.
The following list of cursed items will help you dear GM, to teach these magic hoarders a few lessons in humility and caution. They might also provide you hours of fun and adventure, depending on how much you wish to torment your greedy player and their party.
Each item is meant to be generic, and can be tailored to fit almost any gaming system you use. How powerful each item can be is up to you, oh honorable and devious GM. Casting “detect magic” spell only reveals the most obvious aspect of the item, and NOT the curse that lies beneath.
Also, every item or effect (except the Cask of Conversion), should prove very difficult to get rid of. Items themselves cannot be taken off, unless powerful spells are cast (Remove Curse, or an advanced Dispel Magic).
My only request is: If you use any of these items in your campaign, please please please, share those stories with me, and I will post them on my blog along with this article. (And, please feel free to share any devious items you might come up with).
Sword of Cowardice
APPEARANCE: This ornately decorated two-handed sword, has a truly nasty look about it. The hilt curves slightly around the holder’s fist, offering spikes to anyone who would try to grab it from the wielder. The pommel ends in a wicked looking head of a demon.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: This sword can cast a FEAR spell upon the holder’s enemies.
IN TRUTH: Upon engaging in ANY sort of combat, the bearer of this sword must make a saving throw VS. WILL (or COURAGE, or similar stat). GM determines range of penalties, but I suggest, at a minimum, minuses to strike and defenses, up to and including the wielder actually runs away from battle if the saving throw is bad enough.
In addition, regardless of the result of the saving throw, the demon head on the pommel of this sword starts screeching when entering battle: We are DOOMED! RUN AWAY!!! Save me MOMMY! HOW EMBARRASSING, I CRAPPED MY PANTS!!! (Be as creative and as humiliating as you want).
HISTORY: The pommel head is actually a demon that was defeated in battle, and itself was cursed to live for eternity in this sword. The demon’s main purpose in life now is to COMPLETELY HUMILIATE the warrior greedy enough to pick it up.
Sword of Warning
APPEARANCE: This long sword has a very small disk with an arrow engraved on it, where the pommel meets the handle.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: Players get the feeling that the disk and arrow are part of a warning system.
IN TRUTH: The great thing about this sword is that it can DETECT ENEMIES. Within one hundred feet of any enemy, the disk will spin until the arrow points in the general direction of said villain.
The really bad thing is that, when the party gets to within twenty feet, the sword starts hollering “DANGER, DANGER: ENEMY DETECTED!” alternating with a very loud siren, every ten seconds or so. So much for sneaking up on the enemy!
HISTORY: The poor soul trapped in this sword was once the marshal of the tower guards for a mighty mage. One day, the marshal fell asleep while on duty guarding the mages’ chambers, just as a witch snuck into the mages’ quarters. Nine months later, said witch returned, delivering onto the mage his unwanted son. And so, the marshal knows just how peeved a powerful papa mage can get.
Now the marshal must suffer for eternity, never to sleep, and always on guard duty.
Cloak of Insulting
APPEARANCE: This cloak has over 1,000 tiny words inscribed onto it, written in 1,000 different languages.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: This is a cloak of translation, and will help you understand, and speak over 1,000 languages.
IN TRUTH: When in the presence of powerful and important people (royalty, powerful allies, the one you love, you name it), this cloak will translate everything you say into the most insulting thing possible, at the worst possible moment.
HISTORY: This item was created by a renowned mage, who also happened to be the neglected right hand man of a powerful king. Tiring of always playing second fiddle to a man he considered an inferior, he created this cloak which he gave to his king as a present. The mage then sat back, and watched as chaos ensued, and picked up the pieces after the king was assassinated.
Having gained control of the kingdom the mage hid the cloak, in a since long forgotten treasure trove. And now, it has been discovered today, by your unsuspecting players.
Ring of Truth
APPEARANCE: This simple gold band has a medium sized gemstone of Lapis Lazuli.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: This is a ring of truth.
IN TRUTH: The finger this ring is on will tingle when someone is speaking the truth to the bearer. Unfortunately, when someone is lying, it will start to holler out loud: “Liar liar pants on FIRE!”, “He’s FIBBING!” and otherwise warn you out loud of the lies people say.
HISTORY: This ring once belonged to a wizard, who also happened to be a litigant. This wizard grew tired of the vagaries of the legal system, the wishy-washy nature of jury members, the vile natures of defense litigants, and even the judgy natures of judges.
Having created this ring, he then racked up the longest winning streak of any wizard-litigant that ever existed. Since this wizard was always the forgetful sort, he embedded the “ever present” nature of this ring, so that he would never lose it. The wizard has long ago perished. What adventures will your party now have with this lovely item?
Sword of Vampirism
APPEARANCE: This long sword is cast entirely of ruby red colored metal.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: When this sword is used in battle, it will add bonuses to Hit and Damage rolls.
IN TRUTH: This wicked blade not only adds bonuses to hit and damage, but also, will help the user to recover hit points and stamina whenever he has a successful “to hit” result. (% recovered is up to you oh sneaky GM).
Unfortunately, the more a warrior uses this sword, the more they suffer the other effects of being a vampire: Sensitivity and damage when in sunlight, inability to gain sustenance from mere food, craving to drink blood, reduced reflections in mirrors and pools of water, you name it.
As well, the longer the sword is used, the more likely these changes will be PERMANENT.
Oh, did I forget to mention, the percentage chance of ADDICTION to using this sword increases with each use?
As well, this curse can’t be removed with a mere dispel magic spell, oh no, that would be too easy! Once someone uses this lovely item, ONLY THE DEATH OF THE VAMPIRE WHO CREATED IT will be the cure.
HISTORY: Larry was once a very powerful but essentially lazy vampire. The whole “conversion thing” became so boring, but still necessary, that he decided to create a device to assist in creating his ultimate “army of darkness”. Who knows how many of these swords lay about these lands, but certainly, now at least one member of your party has to deal with Larry in order to avoid joining his army of blood suckers.
Amulet of Ultimate Peace
APPEARANCE: Amulet that looks like a dove made of opal.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: This amulet will soothe any savage beast it comes near to.
IN TRUTH: Any combatant within fifty yards diameter will find their weapons and spells no longer work on flesh. Rather, all damage goes directly to other weapons and armor. If an inanimate object is not dangerous, for instance, like normal clothes, kitchen ware, houses, bridges, are also safe. ONLY weapons and armor will suffer magic or physical damage.
HISTORY: This item was created by a powerful magician, who was also chief negotiator for his kingdom. Tired of having his advice constantly being ignored at the peace talks he was in charge of, he would hand out these cursed items to all participants, a small gift for at least temporarily putting down their weapons.
If the peace talks then failed, the more violent minded noobs who departed would have a difficult time doing any real damage, while the wiser minds gained time to craft a more permanent and peaceful solution.
Ring of Warmth
APPEARANCE: This large band of gold has an engraving on it that looks like a small campfire.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: This ring can cast a spell of WARMTH when necessary.
IN TRUTH: This sneakily dangerous item actually slowly robs its bearer of body heat, and transfers that heat to itself! The ring becomes nice and cozy warm, but the user, not so much.
The bearer will then require that the curse be removed, or, continual spells of warmth will need to be cast upon the wearer: Otherwise hypothermia, and then death, will ensue. (The speed at which this happens depends on you, oh mighty GM!)
HISTORY: This item is actually a reject from Wayne’s Wizard World. Needless to say, the student who created that object got an “F” for that project!
Rations of Ravenousness
APPEARANCE: These rations look very much like modern day army rations, and have a big bold label that states “POWER RATIONS”. Instructions on the back read: Throw these small packets of specially preserved food on the fire or in boiling water for fifteen minutes. Tastiness guaranteed! Strength and vitality renewed or your money back!
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: Highly nutritious and super compact packets of magically enhanced food.
IN TRUTH: Just one bite from these cursed packets of food, starts a domino effect of ever increasing hunger, no matter what food is consumed thereafter. Even worse, no nutritional or caloric value is absorbed either. So, no matter how much one eats, one just gets thinner and thinner. Death will eventually ensue: How quickly, or slowly, is up to the GM.
Once a person eats one bite of the rations, they can only be cured by drinking holy water, or via DISPEL CURSE, or CURE DISEASE spells.
HISTORY: A down and out shaman had to beg for food when he was younger. The abuse he suffered at the hands of the wealthy left him permanently embittered towards the rich and powerful. When this shaman grew in stature and power he never forgot this experience: He created and then sold untold packets of these expensive “power rations” to any unsuspecting travelers and adventurers that treated him badly. To this day, the unused and deadly rations continue to turn up in the strangest of places.
Variation: This shaman also created “Rations of Silence”. Eaters of this special delicacy will find themselves mute, until they quaff holy water, or someone casts DISPEL CURSE, or CURE DISEASE spells on them. If a party discovers both types of rations (Ravenousness and Silence), they could be seriously devastated! (Ever try to cast a CURE DISEASE spell, when you, the spell caster or priest, have gone MUTE? Not easy if a spell or prayer has a verbal component!)
Cask of Conversion
APPEARANCE: Very plain and small wooden cask, like the kind you might see on a Saint Bernard dog.
DETECT MAGIC SPELL REVEALS: Magical cask of storage that can hold much more water than it has any right to. You could say, it is a “cask of holding”. Also, the water you pour into it also will be converted to have special recuperative powers.
IN TRUTH: This extra-dimensional cask has the insidious effect of converting water into a highly alcoholic beverage that tastes and feels exactly like water. No effects are felt as it goes down the gullet, or into the stomach. But then, you start to feel good, REALLY good, and then, within minutes, everyone drinking from it becomes BLINDINGLY DRUNK! Everyone SAVE versus STUPIDITY!
Note to GM: You determine the severity of effects, length of duration and saving throws required, depending on how vicious you are feeling that day, or depending on how silly your players are behaving. And the hangover the next day: Oy vey!
This nifty item although cursed, unlike the other items in this list, is easily avoidable. JUST DON’T DRINK FROM IT! Unless the party WANTS to party of course.
HISTORY: This item comes to us courtesy of Marvin the Marvelous. Being an excellent drunkard as well as dedicated druid, Marvin tired of having to haul his collection of spirits, as his party traveled the land battling spirits, monsters, and other nastiness. Marvin’s spirit has since moved onto another plane of existence, but his spirits can still be found in our mortal plane.