Plenty of players have done it – beaten the boss monster, looted the lair, and found a glimmering, glittering new toy. A helm perhaps, or a ring, or a necklace, bright with power and magical capabilities. And then, the fools that they are, they put the thing on.
Curses! Literally, I mean. The item wasn’t an item infused the arcane protection, but a cursed token of an evil wizard, who wanted to ensure that no one would get their hands on his treasure. And now the player has become stuck with whatever unfortunate effect lingers on the item. Oops.
Cursed items are just as much a staple of Dungeons and Dragons as their more benevolent counterparts, magical items. And they can be just as much fun, too, introducing plot hooks, new challenges, and interesting mechanics for your players to solve, utilize, and investigate.
Here are 5 of our favorite cursed magical items in Dungeons and Dragons:
Incense of Obsession
For clerics, wizards, paladins, and even druids and bards, the use of incense is instrumental in meditation and studying of the magical arts. So much so, that powerful variations have been enchanted to help with their calming, focusing effects.
Incense of Obsession is not one of these, though it has been carefully crafted to look as such – specifically, Incense of Meditation, the use of which ensures that all cleric spells cast within 24 hours are done at their most potent. Instead of actually increasing the power of spellcaster, however, the use of this item merely increases the caster’s confidence. An unfortunate victim of the item must spend the next 24 hours using their spells as often as possible, even without good reason or sense, filled with pride in their art and a burning desire to show it off.
Medallion of Thought Projection
This clever imitation of a Medallion of Thoughts looks exactly like a particularly useful tool that allows you to read the minds of those you look at. And it does cause you to hear muffled, murmuring voices of some kind. Unfortunately, those are not the thoughts of the wearer’s foes. They’re illusory voices created by the medallion itself, though sense can sometimes be made of them with enough effort, and they always seem a fairly plausible thing for such a creature (no matter exactly what such a creature is) to think.
While the false mind-reading results are difficult to deal with in their own way, especially if they are relied upon in dangerous situations, that’s not all. The real effect of the medallion is to project your thoughts to anyone within your line of sight. This can be disastrous for stealth, diplomacy, and all manner of more delicate plans.
Loadstone, or Stone of Weight
If your players are prone to taking every last bit of loot they can find in a dungeon, they’re pretty likely to fall victim to a Loadstone. This small, smooth rock would be perfect as slingshot ammunition, or perhaps might resemble a Sending Stone to an eager party. And while it appears perfectly harmless (it weighs a normal amount, and has no strange runes or dangerous markings), having it in a character’s possession cuts their movement speed in half.
Worse, once the stone has been acquired, it cannot be gotten rid of through means other than curse removal. Throwing the stone away, gifting it to someone else, and even smashing it with brute force are all useless. It will simply reappear in that character’s inventory, as though it was never gone.
While they can be exceedingly powerful, books (magical or otherwise) are usually afforded a category of their own when listed among items in DnD. Sometimes they hold information powerful or important enough to be considered magical, and sometimes their information can lead a character to a new adventure or even greater treasure. Vacuous Grimoires, however, are not so much a book as an imitation of one.
These tomes, which shift to mimic the books among which they are placed, are often used as deterrents against spies or rogues stealing valuable diaries, ledgers, or other important volumes. This is because reading a single rune in one causes the reader to immediately lose both part of their intelligence and part of their wisdom, draining their mind in a truly vicious manner. Worse still, the effects of the books are not finished once they are read. Repeated attempts at reading the volume have the same effect – permanently. The only way to destroy a Vacuous Grimoire is to case Remove Curse on it while it is burned.
Bag of Devouring
Does this really count as an item? Well, yes, although it’s really a lure. And it’s an effective one too, since it mimics one of the most popular magical items in Dungeons and Dragons, the Bag of Holding.
Instead of safely storing your valuable in an extradimensional space, the Bag of Devouring does exactly what it says on the tin – devours them. It’s not a manufactured item at all, but a luring device used by some kind of unknown extradimensional monster that feeds off of those foolish enough to put their things in it, or stick their hands in to get something out.
There are many Bags of Devouring littered about the Forgotten Realms. And they’re all thought to be the mouths of the same creature. The same dangerous creature.
Have you ever given your players a cursed item in Dungeons and Dragons? Have you ever received one as a player? Did you enjoy using it, or discovering how to get rid of the curse? Let us know in the comments below!