Why is it important to identify magic items?


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Have you ever put on a magic item without properly identifying it first? The common wisdom state that this is a bad idea and a one-way ticket to Curse Town. But think about the assumptions at work. What exactly are we trying to encourage with this style of play? Tedious identification rolls? Are we trying to emphasize the importance of Ye Olde Sage and her identification services back in town? Make the caster's skill points feel important?

I tend to think that "daring play" is more fun, but that flies in the face of "intelligent play" and the aforementioned common wisdom. So I turn to my fellow Pathfinders for perspective. Why is it important to keep item identification in the game? Is it worth it?

Comic for illustrative purposes.


As a group we never roll to identify items, and just simply know what an item is unless it's something that's rare or unusual. I think we run cursed items as usually coming with some sort of reactive check to notice that it's not normal, although we only play APs and I don't think cursed items really show up much in them.


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Never, ever put an item on without identifying it first. Never ever ever. It's not that hard to do--someone in your party is bound to have detect magic, and that's usually enough. Cursed--or merely quirky--items do turn up from time to time, especially when I'm the GM. : D

DRD1812 wrote:
What exactly are we trying to encourage with this style of play? Tedious identification rolls?

Attack rolls are far more tedious, but we tend to accept that. If you don't like rolling dice, Pathfinder is a strange choice of system.

DRD1812 wrote:
Why is it important to keep item identification in the game? Is it worth it?

Rather than answer that (since we could ask it of literally any part of the game), allow me to counter: Why not? I don't usually wake up and decide to relitigate a random game mechanic or feature without cause.

Edit: That said, it can be fun to pick up a wand with a command word etched onto it and just see what happens. : D

Edit the second: <Morbo>Rings of water walking do not work that way!</Morbo>


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think the problem with players not trusting unidentified items comes down to the fact that identification is normally really easy. To put it bluntly, most level-appropriate loot can be identified with 3 rounds of inspection under a Detect Magic cantrip by a Wizard. It's not even a roll since the default presumption is take 10. If you encounter an item that can't be identified easily, and don't have reason to believe it's an extremely powerful treasure item, that indicates there's a fairly good chance you're looking at a cursed item.

From a GM perspective, I also don't like tracking my players' statblocks for them. If they're wearing magic items of unknown and non-obvious effect, it's up to the GM to track what the item does and apply it when it comes up. That's fine if it's one item, not so much if everyone in the party has multiple such unidentified items. I don't feel it would be realistic for using unidentified magic items to become the norm.


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DRD1812 wrote:

Have you ever put on a magic item without properly identifying it first? The common wisdom state that this is a bad idea and a one-way ticket to Curse Town. But think about the assumptions at work. What exactly are we trying to encourage with this style of play? Tedious identification rolls? Are we trying to emphasize the importance of Ye Olde Sage and her identification services back in town? Make the caster's skill points feel important?

I tend to think that "daring play" is more fun, but that flies in the face of "intelligent play" and the aforementioned common wisdom. So I turn to my fellow Pathfinders for perspective. Why is it important to keep item identification in the game? Is it worth it?

Comic for illustrative purposes.

Wearing an unidentified item is a hassle. How much of a bonus do I have to... I might not even know if it's giving a bonus. The GM might have to secretly bump up every saving throw or attack bonus I make. Now multiply this by every other item the GM has given us that we haven't been able to identify.

An item is pretty useless if you don't know what it does. I don't find "testing out" what an item does to be fun, not compared to RPing, fighting, or other aspects of adventuring. I remember the miscibility table and potion identification rules from D&D 2e, which basically told me "you might as well throw away that potion".

Identify is expensive. You have to pay a permanent cost (even if it's a small one) just to use it. It's a waste if you use it on a generic item, or one you can't use. I think items should be easy to figure out unless there's a specific reason why it shouldn't.

In my current game, the GM just tells us what the item does. Our last session involved fighting seven named NPCs (although one was just an expert), netting us two really cool magical swords, a magical trident, and a hat that can turn into a boat! (Alas, the hat can only be used by worshipers of a particular evil deity. Even selling it might be difficult!)


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Kimera757 wrote:


Identify is expensive. You have to pay a permanent cost (even if it's a small one) just to use it. It's a waste if you use it on a generic item, or one you can't use. I think items should be easy to figure out unless there's a specific reason why it shouldn't.

That was in 3.5E. Identify costs a 1st level spell slot in Pathfinder. There's no expensive material component. For that matter, you can just use detect magic, which is a cantrip. Identify just grants a bonus to the Spellcraft check.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

In a game system where magic items are common and expected to heavily utilized (built into expected character abilities) identification of those items should be expected and trivial.

This isn't everyone's cup of tea of course, and many prefer a world were any magic item is a rare and wonderful thing, and in such a world it would follow that identifying them is not a simple and expected task, but that world isn't what the default rules of Pathfinder expect, and can't be achieved in this system without pretty heavy rules editing.


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Fortunately, identifying items is, in fact, expected and trivial.

Shadow Lodge

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Why? Because I have a story of a Paladin who replaced his heart with a clockwork one because it gave +4 Constitution.

If they had used Identify on the artifact he could feel was wanting him to put in his chest he wouldn't have been consumed from the inside out by the lich reforming out of it's phylactery(the heart).

Deathknight armor rules are fun.


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Why do you identify everything? One printed module I ran once had a Necklace of Strangulation in its treasure.

On the other hand, identify isn't going to save you from any artifact in Pathfinder. You do know you can't identify artifacts, right?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Which should be an alert in and of itself. If a wizard can't comprehend the magic crafting an item, his first response should be to chuck it in the fire and run like the forces of the Abyss are after him. They very likely are.


If it's an artifact, fire probably wont help. They tend to be hard to destroy.

Best method is to create a demiplane to trap it on.*

*I wont go into detail but there is a method creating a demiplane that can be made into an antimagic demiplane that can make it virtually impossible to get there. Deific magic will works, and there is some debate about if wish would work, but generally speaking it makes it very hard to get anything placed there out. It makes a great prison.

Scarab Sages

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People are aware that most cursed items can be misidentified, right? If you make the normal DC to identify the item it’s pretending to be, that’s what you identify it as. You have to beat that roll by 10 to tell it’s cursed.

Identifying Cursed Items wrote:
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.

So if that necklace of strangulation was originally an amulet of natural armor or was crafted to resemble the amulet, and you make the DC to identify the amulet, but not by 10 or more, you just think it’s the amulet until you put it on.

Cursed items are tricky like that.


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in 3.0 I had a gnome wizard that picked divination as one of his opposition schools. As a result the skill use magic device became his method of identifying. The party very quickly decided to hang out in the next room when he was "identifying" items.

I slightly lament that while you could do this in pathfinder mechanically there's no reason to, since every spellcaster has detect magic and maxed spellcraft. I don't even know when the last time I saw someone actually cast identify was. Most casters don't need the bonus and Analyze Dweomer gets around the spellcraft check completely.


LordKailas wrote:

in 3.0 I had a gnome wizard that picked divination as one of his opposition schools. As a result the skill use magic device became his method of identifying. The party very quickly decided to hang out in the next room when he was "identifying" items.

I slightly lament that while you could do this in pathfinder mechanically there's no reason to, since every spellcaster has detect magic and maxed spellcraft. I don't even know when the last time I saw someone actually cast identify was. Most casters don't need the bonus and Analyze Dweomer gets around the spellcraft check completely.

Occasionally detect magic will fail simply because level-appropriate items occasionally have caster levels drastically higher than the player's Spellcraft check. (I'm looking at you, pearl of power I.) Even that doesn't happen much unless the party has no Intelligence-based spellcaster. But for those cases, identify is there for you.


DRD1812 wrote:

Have you ever put on a magic item without properly identifying it first? The common wisdom state that this is a bad idea and a one-way ticket to Curse Town.

(...)
I tend to think that "daring play" is more fun, but that flies in the face of "intelligent play" and the aforementioned common wisdom. So I turn to my fellow Pathfinders for perspective. Why is it important to keep item identification in the game? Is it worth it?

I'm currently GMing my first game, and removed the ability to identify non-limited-use magical items form the game. Everything but potions etc. has to be figured out trial-and-error based.* What I lose in the opportunity to use dangerous cursed items** I get back a hundredfold in the fun in brings to see the players try to figure out how to operate the item and what exactly it does. The Shaman player's reaction when he finally figured out that the magic eye amulet that was blinking sleepily but never closed at nightfall responded to Slumber hex was awesome. Even a simple magical torch (basically, an everburning torch that still produces heat) with an "on switch" command word but no off switch (you have to douse it in water) was a lot of fun!

*) Well, I used a divine vision to impart a command word, and used a Familiar when its player couldn't figure out a fairly obvious method of activation.

*) Crafting is banned, so that's not an issue.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ferious Thune wrote:
People are aware that most cursed items can be misidentified, right?

While this is true, there are some obvious tells that could tip you off. For instance, it requires a DC 25 spellcraft check to misidentify a Ring of Clumsiness as a Ring of Feather Falling (DC 35 to correctly recognize the curse), but it takes only a DC 16 spellcract check to correctly identify a real Ring of Feather Falling. This is true of most cursed items, where they are much harder to ID than an item of their purported type should be.

This means that difficulty identifying an item is itself strong evidence that a curse may be in play. There are a few exceptions, for instance metamagic rods are really hard to ID for some reason so that's perfectly normal. Now it is possible to simply overshoot and not even notice that the DC was inflated, but generally by the time you can take 10 on a DC 25 check removing a curse isn't that big of a problem.

Scarab Sages

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I'm not entirely sure you use the cursed item's caster level for the false identification and not the normal CL of the item it's pretending to be. But it isn't clear.

Even if you do use the higher caster level, how do you know you failed to identify a Ring of Feather Falling by rolling a 20, if you don't identify the ring? It could just as easily be a Ring of anything with a CL6 or higher. You didn't identify it. That's the point. And a DC 20 or 25 isn't that's high, given identifying things starts at DC 15+CL. That would put identifying a Ring of Clumsiness at DC 30, not 25, if you use its Caster Level.

I think it would work like this in that situation. Ring of Clumsiness pretending to be a Ring of Feather Falling.

DC 16 (15+1CL of Ring of Feather Falling) - Ring is falsely identified as a Ring of Feather Falling
DC 26 (16+10 for cursed) - You can tell that the ring is cursed.
DC 30 (15 + 15CL of Ring of Clumsiness once you know it's cursed) - You know how the ring is cursed.

Most of my arcane casters can take 10 for a 25 spellcraft long before they can reliably Remove Curse on a CL15 curse. Although I'll admit, it's a little unclear what that DC would be. I'm usually at a +15 spell craft around 6th or 7th level on an Int-based caster, so even if it's straight CL check vs CL, there's still a 35-40% chance of failure. Not to mention how few casters actually have a Remove Curse prepped. Off a scroll, you're looking at CL 5 for the Remove Curse.


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DRD1812 wrote:
Have you ever put on a magic item without properly identifying it first?

I was in a campaign where the party took possession of magic item without identifying it. It turned out that the item had a Symbol of Scrying on it, the BBEG was using it to spy on us so she always knew where we were, what we were doing, and what we were up to. He kind of stole it and forgot about it, so we never did figure out exactly how the BBEG was spying on us until she destroyed the world, and the GM told us.

Always Identify everything that radiates magic.


Unless an item that requires command words to function has a user's manual/notes found with it, Detect Magic and Spell Craft are not enough to figure out more than what the item may be by what properties are observed, Only Identify includes the ability to identify command words in it's description, Spell Craft and Detect Magic do not.


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Scrapper wrote:
Unless an item that requires command words to function has a user's manual/notes found with it, Detect Magic and Spell Craft are not enough to figure out more than what the item may be by what properties are observed, Only Identify includes the ability to identify command words in it's description, Spell Craft and Detect Magic do not.

Well, your last sentence is correct. However,

The Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (history) skills might be useful in helping to identify command words or deciphering clues regarding them. A successful check against DC 30 is needed to come up with the word itself. If that check is failed, succeeding on a second check (DC 25) might provide some insight into a clue. The spells detect magic, identify, and analyze dweomer all reveal command words if the properties of the item are successfully identified.


Claxon wrote:
*I wont go into detail but there is a method creating a demiplane that can be made into an antimagic demiplane that can make it virtually impossible to get there. Deific magic will works, and there is some debate about if wish would work, but generally speaking it makes it very hard to get anything placed there out. It makes a great prison.

I don't knows... it seems like a great position for a god to rob you of your loot.

I kind of have the assumption that gods might avoid going out to grab loot in known locations because their movements might attract the attention of other powers that could be interested and able to steal it first.

But when the item is conveniently placed into a separate plane that doesn't require travel to the mortal realm, and it is immune to a lot of the spy abilities of lesser scouts... that seems like it is the perfect chance to slip in.

I assume this is the sole reason why a high level wizard would EVER store anything in a place other than a demiplane.


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Well, a cautionary tale from more than 30 years ago:

The party had found this ring. There were IIRC 10 gems on it, they could be rotated (around the ring, not on their own axis.) Detect Magic said it was something powerful, Identify fizzled although the user knew something was up as the ring needed a target. After some experimenting they incorrectly concluded that it converted any spell cast on it into a healing spell of some kind. That persisted until they inadvertently cast a reverse gravity in the magic shop.

(In reality each of the gems could store a spell, but unlike a ring of spell storing you had to cast a new spell in to release the old. You could rotate it to select the slot you wanted. Unfortunately, it didn't work quite right anymore and would randomly turn if removed or if the wearer went to sleep--while the spell storing worked fine when you started out the day you would have no way to know what slot was up. Whoever had last used it--back when it still worked right--had been using CLW spells to call up the powerful stuff in it, there were only a couple of the big ones left. Sheer chance had resulted in the party's experiments calling up a CLW or the one Heal in it.)


Fuzzy-Wuzzy wrote:
Scrapper wrote:
Unless an item that requires command words to function has a user's manual/notes found with it, Detect Magic and Spell Craft are not enough to figure out more than what the item may be by what properties are observed, Only Identify includes the ability to identify command words in it's description, Spell Craft and Detect Magic do not.

Well, your last sentence is correct. However,

The Knowledge (arcana) and Knowledge (history) skills might be useful in helping to identify command words or deciphering clues regarding them. A successful check against DC 30 is needed to come up with the word itself. If that check is failed, succeeding on a second check (DC 25) might provide some insight into a clue. The spells detect magic, identify, and analyze dweomer all reveal command words if the properties of the item are successfully identified.

I had forgotten Knowledge Arcana, though still subject to a DM on if it applies/situational modifiers, but that last part I find odd and possibly in error as I looked up Detect Magic and no where does it include revealing command words, while the Identify spell does. Hmmm...

*edit* found the reference in magic item section, though it does seem odd in wording.(pg. 458 CRB)


DRD1812 wrote:
What exactly are we trying to encourage with this style of play?

Personally, it would be to make sure that all the magic items are distributed optimally among the party.

I agree it's pretty fun on an individual level to just put on an unidentified ring and trust the GM that it will be fun. In a homebrew campaign you could even direct items towards individual players, e.g., a small ring that only fits on the halfling's finger and an exotic weapon only one PC has proficiency to wield.

But I'm guessing most of the time you just end up with some moderately generic items that multiple PCs could use like a +1 mace or ring of protection, and you'll want to know exactly what it is to distribute optimally.


Well, different characters often use different types of weapons. I also use Automatic Bonus progression, so there is no Ring of Protection, and there aren't any must haves either. As the characters are fully operational without equipment, most items fall under the "more cool than practical" category, and thus don't need to find their way to the "right" character ASAP.

Outside the big 6, items tend to have more notable effects. You might need to get a bit creative with descriptions, of course - you could describe that the character feels the weight of their gear be lessend, when they put on Muleback Cords, for instance, and for an item that needs a target, the user might see the aviable targets before their mental eye or something.


At our table we are just given all the loot detail and we never had cursed items.


Because death and other bad effects could happen if you don't identify an item, some can even lead to a tpk.


First off, Identify because Cursed items. Period. While many vanilla adventures as written don't have these in their treasure hoards the option exists for any of them to be added or subbed in for their more benevolent counterparts.

Secondly, the rules are vague in the Spellcraft skill:

Spellcraft wrote:

Determine Properties of Magic Item

Attempting to ascertain the properties of a magic item takes 3 rounds per item to be identified and you must be able to thoroughly examine the object.

Retry? When using detect magic or identify to learn the properties of magic items, you can only attempt to ascertain the properties of an individual item once per day. Additional attempts reveal the same results.

So you're trying to ascertain the properties of said items. For some GM's interpretation this may not equate to a 1-1 of player knowledge on what the magic item is. In other words you might know that you've got a helmet that magically allows you to read and understand languages around you, not necessarily that you have a Helm of Comprehend Languages.

I brought up the second point because, again, GMs have free reign over their games. What if, for example, a GM decides to customize a helm in their world that combines Comprehend Languages with Speak with Animals? The player wouldn't know what a "Helm of ALL Languages" is but if in the properties they ID'd was a note about understanding ANY language, including those of beasts, they might have a greater appreciation of the item.

So this brings me to "quirks" like Blaphers mentions above. When a magic item is ID'd, do players learn these unique traits or not? Spellcraft says you learn the properties of the thing - a Helm of Comp Languages lets you read/understand languages, that's it's property. However if, when this PARTICULAR helm was crafted the kobold sorcerer who made it subbed in, say, the skull of a baby dragon for the standard metal-and-leather headgear, perhaps this threw off the resonant frequency that languages are heard with meaning that this PARTICULAR helm requires an annoying DC 12 Fort save any time it's used to understand spoken languages around you or else the user sustains a splitting migraine (Fatigued) until the device is removed.

A kind GM, such as myself, would warn the PC, rewarding their investment in lots of points in Spellcraft. A less benevolent GM however might rule that quirks fly under the radar.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
when this PARTICULAR helm was crafted the kobold sorcerer who made it subbed in, say, the skull of a baby dragon for the standard metal-and-leather headgear, perhaps this threw off the resonant frequency that languages are heard with meaning that this PARTICULAR helm requires an annoying DC 12 Fort save any time it's used to understand spoken languages around you or else the user sustains a splitting migraine (Fatigued) until the device is removed.

I am so going to steal that idea! That's exactly the kind of drawback that I love for my "trial and error" identification system.


Always always always Identify. Hell hath no fury like a cursed item you can't get off until you find a Wish or Miracle to get rid of it.


blahpers wrote:
Fortunately, identifying items is, in fact, expected and trivial.

Well sure. But then why isn't identification automatic? You mean to tell me that we've got to pause and make a dozen non-interesting rolls on every dragon hoard, all on the 1/100 chance that an item might be cursed?

For my money, I'd rather default to "you identify it" and then leave the curse foreshadowing in the item description. That way we can treat item descriptions like room descriptions. Telltale clues hint that the phrase "I search for traps" would be useful. Why not apply the same logic to curse detection?


The real question is: Do cursed items add anything positive to the game? Is there any reason to even have them, apart from enabling a jerk GM to have a "gotcha" moment at the player's expense?


Derklord wrote:
The real question is: Do cursed items add anything positive to the game? Is there any reason to even have them, apart from enabling a jerk GM to have a "gotcha" moment at the player's expense?

I guess some players like to be had...but I think most of us wouldn't miss them if cursed items disappeared.


A lot of this comes from a more "old school" approach back when Identify in another notable rpg required a 100 gp pearl as a material component. Part of that meant that, particularly early on, it was often cost-prohibitive to identify. The flip side was that Identify generally worked when used.

As the game has evolved of course, there has been increasingly less emphasis put on things like material components and accounting. There's much more emphasis put on "just play on" which is understandable. Ultimately though a lot of this comes down to what your group prefers. There's no right or wrong answer to this. Rolling to identify items doesn't take much time. In fact, my players can usually give me the result of their spellcraft rolls much quicker than their attack rolls.

As for cursed items, I am a bit old school in that I do like the occasional cursed item. I think it can bring a fair amount of fun to a game, and I've experienced it both as a player and a GM. One of the more entertaining series of sessions I had as a player was when another character had obtained a ring of contrariness. It lead to a lot of fun at the table as we had to navigate how to get the character to do what we wanted him to do. Made more complicated by one of the other characters just not being overly bright and often interfering. That said, I also understand that not every group is going to enjoy that. Some groups just want to bash skulls. Others just don't want to have to worry about their new shiny being cursed. Nothing wrong with that.

One final note: Someone upthread mentioned that "if you can't identify a magic item, its a pretty good indication its cursed". This is certainly accurate. However, keep in mind that this is also metagaming. Just because you don't think its a powerful item, doesn't mean it isn't. Again, as with all things, there's nothing wrong with metagaming if your group is ok with it. At the same time though, a lot of groups would have an issue with this, and I know plenty of GMs who will, for example, modify a number of monsters in their campaigns simply to avoid metagaming.


Gargs454 wrote:
One of the more entertaining series of sessions I had as a player was when another character had obtained a ring of contrariness. It lead to a lot of fun at the table as we had to navigate how to get the character to do what we wanted him to do.

You make a good point - I was thinking more of items like Necklace of Strangulation, Boots of Dancing, or Bracers of Defenselessness. When properly used, relatively harmless items could still exist. Indeed, if the players aren't paranoidal making sure to completely identify every item they've found, it's easier to use the more harmless, fun-for-the-players cursed items.


Derklord wrote:
Gargs454 wrote:
One of the more entertaining series of sessions I had as a player was when another character had obtained a ring of contrariness. It lead to a lot of fun at the table as we had to navigate how to get the character to do what we wanted him to do.
You make a good point - I was thinking more of items like Necklace of Strangulation, Boots of Dancing, or Bracers of Defenselessness. When properly used, relatively harmless items could still exist. Indeed, if the players aren't paranoidal making sure to completely identify every item they've found, it's easier to use the more harmless, fun-for-the-players cursed items.

I am not, per se, opposed to utilizing the more dangerous cursed items, but I do agree those should be relatively rare. The cursed hat of disguise can be fun too. ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
DRD1812 wrote:
Well sure. But then why isn't identification automatic? You mean to tell me that we've got to pause and make a dozen non-interesting rolls on every dragon hoard, all on the 1/100 chance that an item might be cursed?

Ordinarily you will take 10, and the entire procedure is handwaved accordingly with the GM just letting the players ID everything they can and then only addressing items that they failed to ID on a take 10.

In fact, this process does little to protect against curses. Unless you're rather high level, a take 10 on a detect magic is not sufficient to determine that an item is cursed. It's just that the process is so simple and easy that there's no point in not doing it.

DRD1812 wrote:
For my money, I'd rather default to "you identify it" and then leave the curse foreshadowing in the item description.

This would be entirely possible to do within the rules as written. Taking 10 is simple enough to be handwaved (heck, as a GM you know what your player's spellcraft check is ahead of time and can figure out what detect magic will reveal before the session) and will usually result in identifying the standard properties of the item while failing to identify the curse. At that point you can add in foreshadowing flavor text as desired.


Claxon wrote:
Derklord wrote:
The real question is: Do cursed items add anything positive to the game? Is there any reason to even have them, apart from enabling a jerk GM to have a "gotcha" moment at the player's expense?
I guess some players like to be had...but I think most of us wouldn't miss them if cursed items disappeared.

Different strokes.


Derklord wrote:
The real question is: Do cursed items add anything positive to the game? Is there any reason to even have them, apart from enabling a jerk GM to have a "gotcha" moment at the player's expense?

It really depends on how the cursed items are implemented, one of the gms I know makes it so a cursed item is just an item that give slightly better benefits than a normal magic item but at a cost weather it be passive penalties, x times per day it can actively try and mess up what you are doing and that sort of thing but they also still have the "item cant be removed" property imbedded into them or a when you go to draw a weapon its always the cursed weapon for when the item is a weapon.


Yeah, I was only thinking about items that can kill you in combat, not ones with non-lethal drawbacks. I actually plan on using some of the quirks and flaws in Unchained (e.g. a weapon that you can only put back when it has drawn blood, so you'd need to cut yourself or an ally for base damage if you didn't hit an enemy), and even some cursed items (like Broom of Animated Attack or Needful Doll) in my campaign.

I just don't see how an item like Armor of Arrow Attraction, or a weapon that randomly stops working in combat, is any fun. Maybe it's just that schadenfreude isn't my thing.


Derklord wrote:

Yeah, I was only thinking about items that can kill you in combat, not ones with non-lethal drawbacks. I actually plan on using some of the quirks and flaws in Unchained (e.g. a weapon that you can only put back when it has drawn blood, so you'd need to cut yourself or an ally for base damage if you didn't hit an enemy), and even some cursed items (like Broom of Animated Attack or Needful Doll) in my campaign.

I just don't see how an item like Armor of Arrow Attraction, or a weapon that randomly stops working in combat, is any fun. Maybe it's just that schadenfreude isn't my thing.

While I wouldn't necessarily say that a GM who puts an item like that in the game is being a jerk (there could have been non-jerk reasons) I also agree that I don't particularly see the fun in said item. I suppose there could be scenarios where its fun, just don't know what those are.


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Derklord wrote:
The real question is: Do cursed items add anything positive to the game? Is there any reason to even have them, apart from enabling a jerk GM to have a "gotcha" moment at the player's expense?

When the GM gives you lemons and a necklace of strangulation, you figure out a way to get Heightened Beguiling Gift and hand it to the BBEG and break out the lemonade.


Cursed Items wrote:
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.

So I've only used cursed items twice in my games over the past 10 years. I just don't put them in that much. To me it feels like the binary nature of a standard RAW trap: step 1, you identify - if not, suffer; step 2, if you identified then Remove Curse - if not, you suffer.

One cursed item was a Necklace of Strangulation but it was identified and ignored by a cleric who left it behind altogether. The other though was a custom cursed item: The Belt of the Laughing Man.

I actually spent time crafting this item. It appeared to be a belt of Dex +2 but crafted from the braids of a korred's hair by the very creature himself. If worn, it would function as intended until the first Ref save; at this point, regardless of the result of the save the hairs within the braids would come loose and begin tickling the wearer like the Animated Hair ability of a Korred, causing the wearer to be Entangled until the device was removed.

I thought it was cool for my fey-themed campaign. I gave it flavor, gave it ambiance... and my Investigator PC gave it a quick Spellcraft +13, plus 4 from his free Inspiration ability, with another +3 from Guidance and Aid Another from the party's Wizard, and hit the DC 33 that I thought was too hard for the PCs to get.

It was... disheartening.

So then I tried to make removing the curse interesting. The PCs were only level 4 at the time so nobody had Remove Curse yet. I gave the stipulation that finding another korred and convincing the thing could remove the curse. I was going to make a whole side-quest out of it... but I forgot that hiring someone to make a scroll was a thing and that the Investigator had a UMD +13 thanks to some traits. So, after some gold was exchanged for a Remove Curse scroll and a CL check was succeeded, the Belt of the Laughing Man was just a Dex Belt +2 and another incremental plus on the Investigator's character sheet.

I guess my point is: when did cursed items get so boring? I mean I don't use them OFTEN and when I do it's usually thematic. I just wish I could actually affect my players with one once in a while.

Also... do magic item Quirks get identified when they roll their Spellcraft checks, or do they I.D. like curses?


There certainly have been a lot of player-friendly changes over the years, but you can still potentially make it work. One avenue is artifacts of course. They don't even register as magic. After the early levels though, it will be fairly hard to catch the party with a cursed item. Though there are some instances where you might still be able to make it work.

In a recent campaign, I handed out a ring that gave positive effects to the wearer, with the only drawback being . . . the wearer absolutely refused to ever remove it. The party of course figured out it was cursed in this regard and eventually did a remove curse on it (though all the time prior it still only seemed beneficial). The real curse, as it were, was that it was crafted by the evil archmage that was the ultimate BBEG. His purpose in creating it was to be able to scry on whoever had it in order to gain information.


Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
I guess my point is: when did cursed items get so boring?

1974? I'm not even sure I'm joking here, binary effects are rarely fun. Everythign was new and there wasn't anything back then, and nostalgia keeps a lot of things-that-should-not-be in vogue.

Mark Hoover 330 wrote:
I just wish I could actually affect my players with one once in a while.

I can only wholeheartedly suggest you try out what I'm doing. The PCs are only 7th level, but my system of ABP plus trial-and-error-identification (plus no magic item stores) is working extremely well so far, even better than I expected. If I would drop Bags of Devouring and Scarabs of Death on the PCs it would probably lead to mutiny, but by not misusing the players' trust, I actually can hand them cursed items if I want to.


Elaborating a bit more for our campaigns something like a vicious weapon would be a cursed item getting a boon at the cost of a drawback.


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How about cursed cursed items? Picture a flubbed bag of devouring that just noisily tastes whoever reaches into it (making it a standard action to retrieve an item from it), briefly glomping their arm with a toothless "mouth", making "mmm-MMM!" sounds and leaving the arm covered in extradimensional slobber. Or a robe of vermin that is supposed to cause concentration-affecting bites but instead causes the wearer to attract any nearby mindless vermin to simply hang about as if fascinated, with the expected social ramifications.

doomman47 wrote:
Elaborating a bit more for our campaigns something like a vicious weapon would be a cursed item getting a boon at the cost of a drawback.

Indeed, the very best cursed items are the ones that have a unique benefit.


Those false-cursed items are hilarious, blaphers.


blahpers wrote:

How about cursed cursed items? Picture a flubbed bag of devouring that just noisily tastes whoever reaches into it (making it a standard action to retrieve an item from it), briefly glomping their arm with a toothless "mouth", making "mmm-MMM!" sounds and leaving the arm covered in extradimensional slobber. Or a robe of vermin that is supposed to cause concentration-affecting bites but instead causes the wearer to attract any nearby mindless vermin to simply hang about as if fascinated, with the expected social ramifications.

doomman47 wrote:
Elaborating a bit more for our campaigns something like a vicious weapon would be a cursed item getting a boon at the cost of a drawback.
Indeed, the very best cursed items are the ones that have a unique benefit.

Unique benefit or just trades a slightly more powerful bonus for a penalty elsewhere I would give specific examples but the person who made the items is writing a book which will contain said items so I don't wana step on any toes.

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