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D&D: Curses In Van Richten’s Guide To Ravenloft

4 Minute Read
May 26 2021
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Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft aims to make curses more than just a minor annoyance. See how curses bloom within the Mists of Ravenloft.

What does it mean to be cursed? Depending on what parts of the internet you’re lurking on, it’s got something to do with low quality jpegs, but Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft wants to explore curses in D&D. Which is an interesting subject to tackle, considering they have a spell that lets you bestow a curse on someone, called, fittingly enough, bestow curse.

But when it comes to the spell, the name doesn’t exactly line up with what the spell actually does. Bestow curse might imply something that lingers on until a great task is done, but what actually happens is one of the following:

  • Choose one ability score. While cursed, the target has disadvantage on ability checks and saving throws made with that ability score.
  • While cursed, the target has disadvantage on attack rolls against you.
  • While cursed, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each of its turns. If it fails, it wastes its action that turn doing nothing.
  • While the target is cursed, your attacks and spells deal an extra 1d8 necrotic damage to the target.

And similarly, anyone with access to Remove Curse can just get rid of it. Which is a common complaint that many have about D&D and consequences: it’s hard to mimic classic story elements like “being cursed for breaking a meaningful vow” without needing DM fiat–and woe betide those of you without a reasonable DM.

Van Richten’s Guide wants to change that, and the way they’re addressing it is by making options for more powerful and thematically compelling curses in the Mists of Ravenloft. Let’s take a look.

Let’s start with this wonderful bit of level setting right here. It outlines the ideas behind each of these curses, they’re not just random afflictions, but are connected, at times poetically, to some sort of wrongdoing or other specific trigger.

In order to build one of these new and improved curses we’ll need to have certain components. In Raveloft, major curses consist of three main parts: the Pronouncement, the Burden, and the Resolution. Each of these components has its own distinct segment, let’s take a look at what goes into making a curse in Ravenloft.

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First up, there’s the Pronouncement. This is a dire warning, the “abandon all hope ye who enter here,” if you will.

As you can see, there are plenty of options that might warn someone about a potential curse–but then there’s the Burden, which is how the curse manifests. These are deleterious effects that linger on. Here’s a few examples:

  • The victim has disadvantage on attack rolls, ability checks, saving throws, or some combination of the three. This can be tied to a single ability score or applied generally.
  • The victim can’t communicate using language, whether through speaking, sign language, writing, telepathy, or any other means.
  • The victim gains 3 levels of exhaustion that can’t be removed while the curse endures.
  • When the victim finishes a long rest, they must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw, or their hit point maximum is reduced by 1d10. If this reduces their hit point maximum to 0, the victim dies, and their body crumbles to dust.
  • When the victim takes damage, they take an extra 1d10 necrotic damage. This effect can’t happen again until the start of the victim’s next turn.
  • The victim gains a Dark Gift appropriate to the circumstances surrounding the curse.
  • The victim gains vulnerability to one damage type
  • The victim’s Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution score is reduced to 3, and the victim can’t be raised from the dead while the curse lasts.
  • A monster hunts the victim relentlessly. Even if the monster dies, it rises again or a new one takes its place 24 hours later.

Finally there’s the Resolution, which is how you resolve a curse and get it ready to be taken off:

All of this goes in to making Curses terrifying in the Mists of Ravenloft.

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