The warrior took the shield and sword to wielded against his foes only to learn that these items were cursed items in D&D! The warrior will now die in one day.
How many times have cursed items felt like this? Many cursed items are poorly made, and I am here to help you make them into something worthwhile in your campaign. Having an item that everyone just wants to get rid of with no benefit is pretty boring, and today we fix that!
Make your cursed items in D&D useful to the players and not just harmful. Create Cursed items as parasites that are made for a purpose.
The one ring
If you have not read or at least watched the Lord of the Rings movies do that first. You should drop whatever you are doing and read or watch these amazing pieces of fantasy even if you are holding a baby. Drop that sucker and do something far more important! Okay, that might be a little bit much but watch or read the Lord of the Rings ASAP!!
Now that you are cultured, what did you think of the one ring? This is the pinnacle of cursed items in D&D since it will destroy the world, but that thing was still used! The one ring provided many benefits and was only a bad thing once the user knew its true purpose.
Think of Bilbo. That hobbit was able to use the one ring for decades and he didn’t even know that it was cursed. Bilbo just wanted to use the one ring since it was an amazing asset. Our cursed items should be a lot more like the one ring instead of the ‘it rots your flesh instantly and is
Continuing our study of the one ring, what makes it such a good cursed item?
Cursed items in D&D are parasites
An obviously evil and cursed item would be destroyed or abandoned as soon as possible. Since it is no longer in the picture it cannot carry out what it is meant to do. How stupid is that? It is like a blacksmith created a sword and the warrior instantly threw it away. What was the point of making a sword if it won’t even serve its purpose?
Cursed items in D&D are parasites that need to be used in order to properly function. Therefore it is in the cursed item’s best interest to be useful to the user and not just evil for the sake of Dinesy evil.
If you don’t agree with this think of the blacksmith example. The blacksmith would not be happy that the sword he crafted is thrown away without ever being used. The same goes for the creator of a cursed item. They made this item for a purpose, so they want that purpose to be accomplished. It would make no sense to craft a blatantly bad object, and thus the item needs to be a parasite.
How can a parasite extend its life in order to do what it was created for? Think of the one ring. This item made the user invisible and gave a clear benefit to the user. If your cursed items provide a benefit to the user then they will not just be cast aside. If the cursed item starts to show that something bad is happening, then there will be a dilemma to get rid of the evil object because it is just so good!
Having a benefit and not being blatantly bad for the user is a great start to extending the lifespan, but what are some other ways that you can think of? Take a moment and leave a comment below stating how would extend the lifespan of cursed items in D&D before you read on.
Many people use the old ‘it won’t leave your side!’ trick and while that is okay for a good item, you can be more subtle about the negative effects of the item. Perhaps after a week of using the item the wielder starts to get some strange dreams. Dreams that involve them killing innocents, continually having to make a save against a charm effect, anything that you can think of.
The player might know that the item is doing these things, but they are minor and will not become a big issue. That is until the corruption starts to seep in. After a while, the user will start to act upon these urges little by little failing a save here or there and making the user become utterly corrupted if the item is not wrested from them.
To make matters worse, the player may have developed a symbiotic relationship with the cursed item. Remember how Bilbo was young and healthy for his age until he took of the ring? Remember how badly he wanted it back? Why not do the same for your game.
Make a belt that boosts the user’s strength by 2, but when the belt is taken off the user not only loses the strength bonus but starts to decay without the belt. In one week it is now -1 strength to not have the belt on. Next week it is -2 until the user withers away or puts on the belt.
Now the item will live on and accomplish its goal!
Why was it made?
The item now can accomplish its goal, but what is that goal? Why are cursed items made? You need to have an answer to this when the item is presented to your players.
Many times dungeon masters do not think of this, but if you can find the reason why an item is made you can generally find out what the item does. For example, if the item is made by a man who hates elves the item should reflect that hatred by making any elf that touches it want to murder children. Why murder children? To make elves look bad of course!
Your cursed items in D&D can have different effects, but their effects should serve a purpose. This purpose is one that the creator instilled into the item so make sure that the item reflects that purpose.
There are a bunch of cursed items in D&D that aren’t meant to be take seriously. These can be simple things like a ring of smiles that makes the user unable to not smile whenever someone says anything. The ring is stuck to the user and this item isn’t extremely bad, but it is slightly annoying while being funny.
Dancing boots are another fun one. These items generally make people dance when put on, but a much more interesting way of going about it would be to make the user only dance when music is played.
Why is this more interesting? The item is not an item that has to be taken off and is generally good to have on most of the time if it gives a benefit.
Make a trigger so that joke items are not just always bad, but conditionally bad. Give some good benefit, but make sure that it is more effort to get rid of the item than it is to deal with. If done well, you will partake in the joke for an exceedingly long time.
Destroying cursed items.
Taking off a cursed item that is stuck to you should be easily doable via the remove curse spell, but this will not destroy the item. The creators knew that some people might not like an item that is created for non beneficial purposes, so they will make these items hard to destroy.
You can make the item itself give a description on how to destroy itself but that is rarely intelligent. Why would a creator who didn’t want his/her item to be destroyed put how to destroy it on the freaking thing? Instead, you can make this a quest.
A diviner, arcane scholar, or some knowledgeable individual should know how to destroy the item. Point the characters in that direction.
Destroying cursed items in D&D can be as simple as pouring salt over them, or as complex as walking into M
Identifying cursed items
Always try to trick the identifier and never reveal that an item is cursed until the effect happens. Again, the creator would not let the users know that this item is bad. Make a simple veil that shows this sword is a +5 dancing vorpal blade. Perhaps not quite as ridiculous, but you want to give the players something fantastic to look forward to. If you don’t want to lie that much, then tell the players about the good side of the item and just forget to mention the bad.
Never reveal outright that an item is a cursed item. Why would anyone wear cursed items if they knew the items were cursed? Think like the creator.
I hope that you learned something about cursed items in D&D . If you did make boring cursed items, I hope that you have learned a lot and can make them an interesting part of your game.
Make your cursed items give benefits and not just be interesting. You made these items. You want them to be used after all so give your players an incentive to do so.
I will talk about intelligent items in the future sometime, but for now, I hope this guide on making cursed items has helped you out.
This has been Wizo and keep rolling!