January 15, 2019

9 Cursed Magic Items

Magic Items
Notes from the Nails: these items all come with a big 'buyer beware' warning label. They're powerful, but they have some serious side-effects! Also two of them were written by the Finger. Can you guess which?

9 Cursed Magic Items

I love the idea of cursed magic items. They're such a staple of fantasy stories and, when done properly, can create a huge amount of dramatic tension all on their own. Unfortunately, most of the cursed items in the core books are so detrimental that they end up being more like 'gotcha' traps - and once a cursed item has been identified, it usually just gets discarded. Who would bother attuning to an Armor of Vulnerability or putting anything into a Bag of Devouring?
     Therefore, I have decided to write up some cursed items that are genuinely useful. The idea here is that they give the player a difficult choice to make, where the 'right' answer isn't at all obvious: is it worth using the item and dealing with the curse, or not?

Amulet of Openness
Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)
This ostentatious amulet would suit someone with an extroverted personality. While attuned to it, you are the life and soul of the party, gaining magical insights into the wants and needs of the people around you. You have advantage on Wisdom (Insight) and Charisma (Persuasion) checks you make to interact with humanoids, and whenever a creature must make a saving throw to avoid being charmed by you, it has disadvantage.
     Cursed. The amulet of openness is cursed, and attuning to it extends this curse to you. As long as you are afflicted with this curse, you are unable to remove the amulet or break your attunement to it, and creatures you interact with can always tell when you are lying; you automatically fail all Charisma (Deception) checks you make. You also automatically fail any saving throw you make that would prevent a creature from reading your thoughts or communicating with you telepathically, and you cannot attune to a ring of mind shielding, be targeted by a mind blank spell, or benefit from any similar effect.

Boiling Staff
Staff, uncommon (requires attunement by a spellcaster)
This black iron staff is warm to the touch and, when you wield it, you feel slightly feverish. While you are attuned to this staff, any spells you cast through it that deal fire damage ignore resistance to fire damage, and treat immunity as if it was resistance.
     Cursed. The boiling staff is cursed, and attuning to it extends this curse to you. As long as you are cursed, you have vulnerability to fire damage and you cannot break your attunement to the staff.

Boots of the Hare
Wondrous item, rare (requires attunement)
While attuned to these boots, whenever you use your action to Dash, you gain 90 feet of extra movement instead of the usual amount.
     Cursed. These boots are cursed. a fact that is revealed only when an identify spell is cast on the boots or you attune to them. Attuning to the boots curses you until you are targeted by the remove curse spell or similar magic. While cursed, your base movement speed is 15 feet and can't be increased by any means.

Émigré Manuscript
Wondrous item, rare
This ancient tome is shaped like a skull and smells of either violets or tiger lilies. Once per day, the manuscript can be used to cast the spell resurrection.
     Cursed. The Émigré Manuscript is cursed to bring nothing but misery to those who would use it. Whenever you use it to raise the dead, roll a d20 to determine the result according to the table below.

1-2The spell fails and the caster immediately dies.
3-4The target is resurrected as a revenant, seeking revenge against the caster.
5-6The target is resurrected as a ghost, but otherwise retains their memories and personality.
7-8The spell works, but the 200 humanoids nearest to the target (excluding the caster) immediately die.
9-10The spell works, but the caster must roll twice on the Indefinite Madness table, suffering both results. If the same result is rolled twice, the caster immediately dies.
11-12The spell works, but the target loses all of their memories, class levels, proficiencies (including languages) and personality traits.
13-14The spell appears to work, but the target dies again after 1d10 minutes. No magic short of a wish can revive them from this death.
15-20The spell works as normal.

Glass Fang
Wondrous item, uncommon (requires attunement)
While attuned to this charm, whenever you add an ability score modifier to a weapon damage roll, that modifier is doubled.
     Cursed. This charm is cursed and attuning to it curses you until you are targeted by the remove curse spell or similar magic. As long as you remain cursed, whenever you take damage, you are overcome with agony. You have disadvantage on attack rolls, can't cast spells, and can't add any ability score modifiers to damage rolls until the end of your next turn.

Mind's Eye
Wondrous item, very rare
This black blindfold is embroidered with arcane sigils. While wearing it over your eyes, any hit you land with an unarmed strike is automatically a critical hit.
     Cursed. Mind's eye is cursed, and wearing it extends this curse to you. While cursed, you are unable to remove mind's eye, though another creature can if it succeeds on a DC 25 Strength check and then spends 1 minute undoing the knot. While wearing mind's eye, you are blind. You cannot benefit from darkvision, blindsight or truesight, you cannot see through the eyes of other creatures, nor can you see using spells like arcane eye or scrying.

Overdrive Bangle
Wondrous item, legendary (requires attunement by a spellcaster)
This bangle is set with glowing gems in many colors. While you are attuned to it, any damage dealt by a spell you cast of 1st level or higher is maximized.
     Cursed. The overdrive bangle is cursed, and attuning to it extends this curse to you. As long as you are cursed, you cannot remove the bangle or break your attunement to it, and whenever you cast a spell of 1st level or higher, you must expend an additional spell slot. The additional spell slot can be of any level. If you only have one spell slot left, you cannot cast any spells other than cantrips.

Ritual Straps
Armor (leather), rare (requires attunement)
You have a +1 bonus to your AC while wearing ritual straps. Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 hit points while attuned to this armor, you regain hit points equal to four times the creature's CR (rounded down).
     Cursed. The ritual straps are cursed, and attuning to them extends this curse to you. While you are cursed, you are unwilling to remove the straps, staying attuned to them at all times. Whenever you reduce a creature to 0 hit points while cursed, you experience a rush of euphoria that leaves you incapacitated until the end of your next turn.

Ring, artifact (requires attunement by a sorcerer)
Inspired by the raw destructive power wielded by raging barbarians, the creator of Wring sought a way for spellcasters to mimic their fighting style. The item was a partial success, enabling its user to sling deadly spells at incredible speed and with single-minded focus, but at significant cost to their health.
     Anyone who uses Wring in battle requires constant support to keep the ring from draining their energy completely, as well as help doing anything that cannot be accomplished by magic alone. As long as they have this support, however, they are a veritable engine of arcane destruction.
     Magic Ring. Wring is a magic ring that grants a +3 bonus to spell attack rolls you make while wearing it. It also functions as a ring of free action.
     Random Properties. Wring has the following randomly determined properties:
  • 1 major beneficial property
  • 1 major detrimental property
  • 1 minor detrimental property
     Arcane Conduit. While attuned to Wring and in combat, you regain one sorcery point at the beginning of each of your turns.
     Warp Speed. While attuned to Wring, you are permanently under the influence of a haste spell. Furthermore, you can use the additional action to take the Cast a Spell action, and gain a +10 bonus to initiative rolls. If you ever remove Wring, the 'wave of lethargy' effect lasts for 8 hours.
     Cursed. Wring is cursed, and attuning to it extends this curse to you. As long as you remain cursed, you are unwilling to part with Wring, staying attuned to it at all times. Your natural lifespan is reduced by 10 years as soon as you attune to Wring.
    As long as there is a hostile creature within 120 feet of you, you cannot take any actions other than to Cast a Spell or Ready an action to cast a spell.
     Wring Out. Whenever you cast a spell while attuned to Wring, it attempts to devour some of your life energy. You must make a Constitution saving throw against the spell save DC for your sorcerer spells, taking 2d6 necrotic damage on a failure.
    Destroying Wring. Wring can only be destroyed by a wish spell cast by a creature. However, if Wring is destroyed, the creature that provided the wish must roll a d20. If the result is odd, the creature is instantly killed and cannot be resurrected by any means. If the result is even, the creature loses all spellcasting abilities and can never cast a spell again.

Changelog: 01/16/2019: Glass Fang now works with all ability scores
Mind's Eye downrated to very rare
Émigré Manuscript: Table changed to give a greater chance for successful restoration


  1. Sorry for the late post! Your friendly local Finger of Vecna is swamped with work this week.

  2. It's the Minds Eye and Overdrive Bangle, isnt it Nails?

    1. Bzzt, wrong! Both of those are mine. Mind's Eye is inspired by an item from Shadow Hearts, and Overdrive Bangle is inspired by Final Fantasy.

  3. So, just to be clear, are the randomly determined properties the features listed below or are they the DM's choice? If the features below are a list of choices what counts as a minor detriment? I only ask because it seems to me that having all of the features at once might be both overpowered and completely evil. Unless of course that was the point.

    1. The 'random properties' are rolled on tables in the DMG, and the item has those in addition to the unique properties listed. That's standard for artifacts, and yes, they're meant to be stupidly powerful. There's no balance point for artifacts.

  4. Some cool stuff here! More items to add to a campaign are always welcome. Here are my thoughts:

    Amulet of openness is nice, but its usefulness depends utterly on the magic level of the campaign. The more magic, the worse it is.
    However, for a paladin of devotion it is way better, since they can't lie anyway.

    Boiling staff is great, just the right amount of cursed to be "maybe worth it", and also a cool item to give enemy spellcasters (if the group has tieflings or something).

    Boots of the Hare RAW neglect their own ability; should probably be reworded.

    Emigre Manuscript, much like the Amulet of Openness, is only good in a really low magic campaign, where you don't have access to resurrection from other sources. And even then...

    Glass fang is really interesting. It really does make you a glass cannon. I doubt most players would take it, but it's definitely interesting.

    Mind's eye seems practically useless (even a monk wouldn't want it), while overdrive bangle seems really overpowered and really worth the curse (but at legendary, so it's ok).

    Ritual straps are interesting, though definitely not worth the curse. Also maybe make it studded leather so it can actually be a decent armor?

    One big problem with Wring: it's gonna be a pain in the ass to pronounce/distinguish it from any ring.

    1. The amulet and manuscript are definitely aimed at lower magic settings. I mean, being able to cast resurrection every day, for free, as a 1st level fighter, is awesome. Even if it only has a 5% chance of working. I was also imagining it could be interesting as a plot device, in the hands of an NPC.

      With Mind's Eye, blindness only means disadvantage, as long as you know where the target is. Which can be cancelled out if you have advantage from elsewhere. So if you're careful about how you use it, it'll double your damage output. You just have to be judicious with it, which is the whole point.

    2. won't even double your damage, only dice. And would give adv. on attacks vs you. And you'll need advantage somehow for that to work.

      But yeah, in theory it could be alright.

    3. May I suggest to make it work similarly to Sharpshooter/Great Weapon Master and give a flat +10 damage on hits? It impedes hit chance by roughly same, plus, as said, it also aids enemy attackers yet as it is the extra damage monks could squeeze out of it is only little more than half than that.

    4. +10 is an interesting proposal. I'm still drawn more towards auto critical because that has the potential to synergise with abilities like Sneak Attack, Brutal Critical, Savage Attacks, etc. I know we've written a few things that get extra riders on a critical hit, too.

    5. It cannot synergise with Sneak Attack, unfortunately - neither ranged, nor finesse. The rest frankly feels like a lot of legwork to make it worth it, and I feel like few players will create a build revolving around a cursed item. (Correct me if I'm wrong, I'm don't claim to have encyclopedical knowledge on the game or your work.)

  5. How would Glass Fang work with firearms/blasters in Weird West/Dark Matter?

    1. If you're not adding your modifier to damage for any reason (such as if you're using our firearm rules), you get essentially no benefit from the Glass Fang. 2x0=0.

    2. Ok, although I'm not 100% sure that's the RAW.

      What about stuff like Shillelagh or Hexblade curse that let you attack with another ability? You add that one twice? Because again, that's not in the RAW.

    3. Well that was my reading of the RAW. Glass Fang is one of Finger's items. For me, "as applicable" implies you multiply whatever ability modifier is applicable, so if none is applicable, you get nothing.

      As for weapons that add other modifiers, we've obviously overlooked that. I'd be inclined to allow it, so I'll re-phrase that part.

  6. Boots of the Hare and the Glass Fang where the ones written by the Finger weren't they?

    1. Question about the Overdrive Bangle. Does the spell need to be cast at 1st level, or just needs to be a 1st level spell, but can be cast at higher levels?

    2. Yes, the Finger items are public knowledge now.

      Overdrive Bangle works for any levelled spell. The only thing you can't maximise is a cantrip. The idea is, you cast half as many spells per day, but they're twice as strong. I think that's fair for a legendary item.

    3. I can't make myself see the Emigre Manuscript as anything but worse than most traditional cursed D&D items. That thing does -not- belong in this article! (It's great on its own, and everything else here is fun and works with the theme, but if that book showed up in a game I was playing in my character would go to great lengths to stop anyone from using it.)

    4. I'm inclined to agree. I've changed it a bit, giving a 30% of outright success, but it's still pretty scary.

    5. If your loved one died and there was a 5% you could bring them back, you'd be all over it, wouldn't you? I feel like people are forgetting how difficult it is for most characters to access 7th level magic and thousands of gp.

      Though it is kind of a plot point in the source material that the right-minded people don't want the manuscript to be used...