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Cursed Items

Table: Common Item Curses
d%Curse
01–15Delusion
16–35Opposite effect or target
36–45Intermittent functioning
46–60Requirement
61–75Drawback
76–90Completely different effect
91–100Substitute specific cursed item on Table: Specific Cursed Items

Cursed items are magic items with some sort of potentially negative impact. Occasionally they mix bad with good, forcing characters to make difficult choices. Cursed items are almost never made intentionally. Instead they are the result of rushed work, inexperienced crafters, or a lack of proper components. While many of these items still have functions, they either do not work as intended or come with serious drawbacks. When a magic item creation skill check fails by 5 or more, roll on Table: Common Item Curses to determine the type of curse possessed by the item.

Identifying Cursed Items: Cursed items are identified like any other magic item with one exception: unless the check made to identify the item exceeds the DC by 10 or more, the curse is not detected. If the check is not made by 10 or more, but still succeeds, all that is revealed is the magic item's original intent. If the item is known to be cursed, the nature of the curse can be determined using the standard DC to identify the item.

Removing Cursed Items: While some cursed items can be simply discarded, others force a compulsion upon the user to keep the item, no matter the costs. Others reappear even if discarded or are impossible to throw away. These items can only be discarded after the character or item is targeted by a remove curse or similar magic. The DC of the caster level check to undo the curse is equal to 10 + the item's caster level. If the spell is successful, the item can be discarded on the following round, but the curse reasserts itself if the item is used again.

Common Cursed Item Effects

The following are some of the most common cursed item effects. GMs should feel free to invent new cursed item effects to fit specific items.

Delusion: The user believes the item is what it appears to be, yet it actually has no magical power other than to deceive. The user is mentally fooled into thinking the item is functioning and cannot be convinced otherwise without the casting of remove curse.

Opposite Effect or Target: These cursed items malfunction, so that either they do the opposite of what the creator intended, or they target the user instead of someone else. The interesting point to keep in mind here is that these items aren't always bad to have. Opposite-effect items include weapons that impose penalties on attack and damage rolls rather than bonuses. Just as a character shouldn't necessarily immediately know what the enhancement bonus of a noncursed magic item is, she shouldn't immediately know that a weapon is cursed. Once she knows, however, the item can be discarded unless some sort of compulsion is placed upon it that compels the wielder to keep and use it. In such cases, a remove curse spell is generally needed to get rid of the item.

Intermittent Functioning: The three varieties of intermittent functioning items all function perfectly as intended—at least some of the time. The three varieties are unreliable, dependent, and uncontrolled items.

Unreliable: Each time the item is activated, there is a 5% chance (01–05 on d%) that it does not function.

Dependent: The item only functions in certain situations. To determine the situation, select or roll on the following table.

d%Situation
01–03Temperature below freezing
04–05Temperature above freezing
06–10During the day
11–15During the night
16–20In direct sunlight
21–25Out of direct sunlight
26–34Underwater
35–37Out of water
38–45Underground
46–55Aboveground
56–60Within 10 feet of a random creature type
61–64Within 10 feet of a random race or kind of creature
65–72Within 10 feet of an arcane spellcaster
73–80Within 10 feet of a divine spellcaster
81–85In the hands of a nonspellcaster
86–90In the hands of a spellcaster
91–95In the hands of a creature of a particular alignment
96In the hands of a creature of a particular gender
97–99On holy days or during particular astrological events
100More than 100 miles from a particular site

Uncontrolled: An uncontrolled item occasionally activates at random times. Roll d% every day. On a result of 01–05 the item activates at some random point during that day.

Requirement: Some items have stringent requirements that must be met for them to be usable. To keep an item with this kind of curse functioning, one or more of the following conditions must be met.

Requirements are so dependent upon suitability to the item that they should never be determined randomly. An intelligent item with a requirement often imposes its requirement through its personality. If the requirement is not met, the item ceases to function. If it is met, usually the item functions for one day before the requirement must be met again (although some requirements are one time only, others monthly, and still others continuous).

Drawback: Items with drawbacks are usually still beneficial to the possessor but carry some negative aspect. Although sometimes drawbacks occur only when the item is used (or held, in the case of some weapons), usually the drawback remains with the character for as long as she has the item.

Unless otherwise indicated, drawbacks remain in effect as long as the item is possessed. The DC to save against any of these effects is usually equal to 10 + the item's caster level.

d%Drawback
01–04Character's hair grows 1 inch longer every hour.
05–09Character either shrinks 6 inches (01–50 on d%) or grows that much taller (51–100). Only happens once.
10–13Temperature around item is 10° F cooler than normal.
14–17Temperature around item is 10° F warmer than normal.
18–21Character's hair color changes.
22–25Character's skin color changes.
26–29Character now bears some identifying mark (tattoo, weird glow, or the like).
30–32Character's gender changes.
33–34Character's race or kind changes.
35Character is afflicted with a random disease that cannot be cured.
36–39Item continually emits a disturbing sound (moaning, weeping, screaming, cursing, insults).
40Item looks ridiculous (garishly colored, silly shape, glows bright pink).
41–45Character becomes selfishly possessive.
46–49Character becomes paranoid about losing the item and afraid of damage occurring to it.
50–51Character's alignment changes.
52–54Character must attack nearest creature (5% chance [01–05 on d%] each day).
55–57Character is stunned for 1d4 rounds once item function is finished (or randomly, 1/day).
58–60Character's vision is blurry (–2 penalty on attack rolls, saves, and skill checks requiring vision).
61–64Character gains one negative level.
65Character gains two negative levels.
66–70Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Intelligence damage.
71–75Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Wisdom damage.
76–80Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Charisma damage.
81–85Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Constitution damage.
86–90Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Strength damage.
91–95Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Dexterity damage.
96Character is polymorphed into a specific creature (5% chance [01–05 on d%] each day).
97Character cannot cast arcane spells.
98Character cannot cast divine spells.
99Character cannot cast any spells.
100Either pick one of the above that's appropriate or create a drawback specifically for that item.