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D&D: 5 Cursed Items That Make Life Interesting

5 Minute Read
May 8 2019
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Magic Items are a rewarding part of any adventure. Not these ones though. Here are five magic items that put the curse in cursed image.

If you’ve never had the thrill of finding a cursed magic item as part of your treasure in an RPG, then odds are good your table is full of good people. You’ve probably never had to wonder what you’re going to do now that the party’s burned down the orphanage, or had to “learn the hard way” that every NPC the DM introduces to you is secretly out to rob you, betray you, murder you, or some combination of all three. You probably also started playing D&D in 3.x or later, when design philosophy had migrated away from “how do we punish these fools for being careless” to “what if people actually played our game and had fun?”

For those of you who never discovered the “joys” of using a magic spear that you can’t get rid of until it starts stabbing you in the back:

This is to all tests a magical spear with a +1 bonus (or at the DM’s option +2 or +3). It may even function normally in combat against a deadly enemy, but each time it is used in melee against a foe, there is a one in 20 cumulative chance that it will function against its wielder. Once it begins functioning in this way, you can’t get rid of it without a remove curse spell. The character always seems to find the spear in his hand despite his best efforts or intentions. When the curse takes effect, the spear curls around to strike its wielder in the back, negating any shield and Dexterity bonuses to Armor Class, and inflicting normal damage. The curse even functions when the spear is hurled, but if the wielder has hurled the spear, the damage done to the hurler will be double. Once the spear has returned to him, the character will again find himself compelled to use the spear.

Ah the cursed backbiter spear, feels like victory. But, 5th Edition has its fair share of cursed items, but there’s always an interesting trade off to them. They might not end friendships, but they will make your games a little spicier. Here are five cursed items to casually toss onto your next loot tables.

Berserker Axe

I love this item because it exemplifies a great way to do a cursed item–one of the biggest things you want is to feel like you’re getting something cool (something that makes it worth not going and immediately casting Remove Curse) because it’s cool to be the hero that battles with a cursed magic item of some kind. But it has to feel worth it. And the Berserker Axe is exactly that. Sure, if you fail a saving throw there’s a chance you’ll go berserk and start killing enemies until there’s no one within 60 feet of you, but you get +1 to attack, damage, and your hit points per level. So. Maybe it’s time to invest in increased move speeds for your party.

Demon Armor

This “cursed” suit of armor is +1 plate armor that also grants you the ability to understand Abyssal and has clawed gauntlets that turn unarmed strikes with your hands into magic swords, basically, since they use the same stats as a +1 longsword. However, the curse is twofold: for one, you are at disadvantage to attack demons and make saving throws from their spells and abilities. And two: you can’t actually take the armor off until you cast remove curse. So, hope you have disguise self or you’re always going to be tromping around looking like a mid-to-high-level villain.

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Shield of Missile Attraction

This one isn’t so much a curse, as it is a tactical opportunity to consider. It’s a magic shield that grants you resistance to damage from ranged weapon attacks, but when someone makes a ranged weapon attack against a target within 10 feet of you, you’re the target instead. It doesn’t automatically hit you, so your shield can still help, and you have resistance. It does mean that if you’re in melee with a target, your friends with ranged weapons can’t actually shoot them–but as mentioned, this is an opportunity, not necessarily a curse.

Scorpion Armor

This is definitely one worth doing the math on. The Scorpion Armor out of Tomb of Annihilation is pretty swanky–it’s plate armor with a plethora of perks:

 

  • The armor improves your combat readiness, granting you a +5 bonus to initiative as long as you aren’t incapacitated.
  • The armor doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
  • The armor doesn’t impose disadvantage on saving throws made to resist the effects of extreme heat

There is one downside though. When you put it on or take it off, you make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, taking 10d10+45 (or if you’re using average damage 100) points of damage on a failure, or half as much on a success. Depending on your level/class that’s possibly enough to kill you. Or at least knock you unconscious until you can rest up.

 

Bracelet of Rock Magic

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Finally this bracelet out of the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan is a fantastic example of an unusual cursed item: you’re immune to being petrified, you can cast flesh to stone three times before the bracelet loses the ability to cast that spell and grants you stone shape instead. That one you get to cast 13 times before the bracelet becomes a hunk of lead. Where does the curse come in? Well if you try and cast the spell on a creature strongly affiliated with the earth or stone, like an Earth Elemental, Stone Giant, or Dwarf, they make their save with advantage. And if they succeed, the bracelet immediately de-attunes and the spell is cast on you instead.


Cursed items don’t have to all be about causing the most grief–as you can see from these five, sometimes Cursed Items can be a great way to make things interesting around your table.

Do you use cursed magic items? Let us know in the comments, and Happy Adventuring!

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