“Did you say c-c-c-cursed?”
Welcome back to 8-Bit WedNESday! Today’s topic: Cursed Magic Items! To kick things off, I’m going to start with a little tale about a cursed magic item, then we’ll get into how you can torture your players with them too.
My craziest, dumbest, favorite character was Ray Rae, the rogue. He wasn’t the sharpest arrow in the quiver, but, he was occasionally, very lucky. So, when he thought he found a bag of holding, he started stuffing all his ill-gotten gains into it. Lo and behold, when he tried to retrieve said ill-gotten gains, he nearly lost his hand. As it would happen, this was no bag of holding, but it was a cursed BAG OF DEVOURING!
Thankfully, I had a forgiving GM, who loved when games would get a little gonzo. So, when I proposed Ray Rae taking the feat Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Bag of Devouring, he was all for it; even after Rae Ray used his sneak attack to jam the bag over some unsuspecting guard’s head.
So, what’s the point? A cursed magic item became a key component in how my character tackled future problems. It became a unique magic item, and not just something that needed thrown away for being useless.
Designing Cursed Magic Items
A few weeks ago, I wrote about making magic items. If you haven’t read that blog post, you can find it HERE.
One of the ways to make your cursed magic item interesting is also something that applies to normal magic items, and something I forgot to mention a few weeks ago. You can make you items more interesting with a theme. This theme may be just for the item, or the setting.
- Item Specific Theme: A theme for the item is pretty easy to pull off. Most of it can be done in the description of the item. “This black dagger has bat wings for the guard, and is dotted in rubies,” kind of gives off a vampiric weapon vibe doesn’t it? But, your theme might also be in the powers the item has. If something gives you a bonus to your Armor Class, bonuses to your saving throws, and lets you cast Shield, it’s a pretty safe bet that the item’s theme is all about protection.
- Setting Specific Theme: A magic item, or cursed magic item, might also be tied to your setting. If you’re running a post-apocalyptic, sci-fantasy game, replacing a shiny +1 longsword with a rusty +1 chainsaw is a little more fitting. Or, to fit our 8-Bit world a little more, imagine that little green mushroom that gives you an extra life. Now, all the sudden, it kills you instantly. Show of hands, who's fallen for that? I know I have!
Tricking Your PCs
The most important part of a cursed magic item is getting those player characters to actually use the cursed item. How else will they find out its cursed!?
- Fake: The easiest way to trick you players is to lie to them. The wizard only thinks it’s a magic hat that will increase her intelligence. Little does she know, it’s actually something that will lower it!
- Mostly Reliable: Maybe you’re cursed item works as normal most of the time. Secretly, the GM is rolling for every use, waiting for that one time it might do something awful to the PC. It stinks when that +1 longsword, turns out to be a backbiting +1 longsword, but only on critical hits.
- Deal with the Devil: Some cursed magic items are just so useful, despite the curse that you want to use them. “Yes, I want to use the items Wish Oh, it also summons a demon for every wish? What kind of demon……?”
Help Your Fellow GM
Have you got any advice on creating cursed magic items? What’s been the most interesting story of cursed items you want to share? Let us know! You can comment on this blog post, or reply to the social media post where you saw this article.
I Need Something Cool, Now
Don’t have time to make your own cursed magic items? Looking for something you can just pull from to tempt your PCs? Check out Epic Level NPC’s Corrupted Magic Items of the Necronomicon: Plague-born Pouch. Corrupted magic items gain power as the player gains experience. This power reveals itself in the character with manifestations and stains associated with the item. The item also gains manifestations as they gain power, but, the player does not suffer a stain or drawback for the item’s power.
In this specific instance, the Plague-born Pouch acts like a bag of holding, but, the user also spreads the plague while carrying it. It’s one of those “deal with the devil” kind of items we were just talking about!
That's it for this week. I'll see you all again real soon.
Your pixelated GM,