Cursed Items

Cursed items are magic items with some sort of potentially negative impact. Sometimes they’re directly bad for the user; sometimes they’re just inconvenient. Occasionally they mix bad with good, forcing characters to make difficult choices.

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

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 help of a remove curse spell.

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 described—at least some of the time. The three varieties are unreliable, dependent, and uncontrolled items.


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

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

The item only functions in certain situations. To determine what the situation is, either select a situation or roll on the following table.


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.


In a sense, a command word is a requirement. Nevertheless, some items have much more 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 item with a requirement that is also intelligent 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).

d% Drawback
01-04 Character’s hair grows 1 inch longer. Only happens once.
05-09 Character either shrinks ½ inch (01-50 on d%) or grows that much taller (51-100). Only happens once.
10-13 Temperature around item is 10°F cooler than normal.
14-17 Temperature around item is 10°F warmer than normal.
18-21 Character’s hair color changes.
22-25 Character’s skin color changes.
26-29 Character now bears some identifying mark (tattoo, weird glow, or the like).
30-32 Character’s gender changes.
33-34 Character’s race or kind changes.
35 Character is afflicted with a random disease that cannot be cured.
36-39 Item continually emits a disturbing sound (moaning, weeping, screaming, cursing, insults).
40 Item looks ridiculous (garishly colored, silly shape, glows bright pink, . . .).
41-45 Character becomes selfishly possessive about the item.
46-49 Character becomes paranoid about losing the item and afraid of damage occurring to it.
50-51 Character’s alignment changes.
52-54 Character must attack nearest creature (5% chance [01-05 on d%] each day).
55-57 Character is stunned for 1d4 rounds once item function is finished (or randomly, 1/day).
58-60 Character’s vision is blurry (-2 penalty on attack rolls, saves, and skill checks requiring vision).
61-64 Character gains one negative level.
65 Character gains two negative levels.
66-70 Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Intelligence damage.
71-75 Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Wisdom damage.
76-80 Character must make a Will save each day or take 1 point of Charisma damage.
81-85 Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Constitution damage.
86-90 Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Strength damage.
91-95 Character must make a Fortitude save each day or take 1 point of Dexterity damage.
96 Character is polymorphed into a specific creature (5% chance [01-05 on d%] each day).
97 Character cannot cast arcane spells.
98 Character cannot cast divine spells.
99 Character cannot cast any spells.
100 Either pick one of the above that’s appropriate or create a drawback specifically for that item.

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

Roll on the table below to generate a drawback that (unless otherwise indicated) remains in effect as long as the item is in the character’s possession.

Specific Cursed Items

Specific Cursed Items are provided as examples of cursed items. They are given creation prerequisites, should someone want to intentionally create them (although that does not need to be the origin of the item). Note, however, two exceptions: The crystal hypnosis ball and the bag of devouring cannot be created by any known means.

A simple detect magic spell yields a misleading aura and strength, often indicating that the item is a noncursed item of similar sort. An identify spell only has a 1% chance per caster level to reveal a cursed item’s true properties, including the cursed aspect. Analyze dweomer reveals the true nature of a cursed item.

Table: Specific Cursed Items
d% Item Market Price
01-05 Incense of obsession 200 gp
06-15 Ring of clumsiness 500 gp
16-20 Amulet of inescapable location 1,000 gp
21-25 Stone of weight 1,000 gp
26-30 Bracers of defenselessness 1,200 gp
31-35 Gauntlets of fumbling 1,300 gp
36-40 -2 sword, cursed 1,500 gp
41-43 Armor of rage 1,600 gp
44-46 Medallion of thought projection 1,800 gp
47-52 Flask of curses 2,100 gp
53-54 Dust of sneezing and choking 2,400 gp
55 Helm of opposite alignment 4,000 gp
56-60 Potion of poison 5,000 gp
61 Broom of animated attack 5,200 gp
62-63 Robe of powerlessness 5,500 gp
64 Vacuous grimoire 6,000 gp
65-68 Spear, cursed backbiter 7,500 gp
69-70 Armor of arrow attraction 9,000 gp
71-72 Net of snaring 10,000 gp
73-75 Bag of devouring
76-80 Mace of blood 16,000 gp
81-85 Robe of vermin 16,500 gp
86-88 Periapt of foul rotting 17,000 gp
89-92 Sword, berserking 17,500 gp
93-96 Boots of dancing 30,000 gp
97 Crystal hypnosis ball
98 Necklace of strangulation 60,000 gp
99 Cloak of poisonousness 62,000 gp
100 Scarab of death 80,000 gp
Amulet of Inescapable Location

This device is typically worn on a chain or as a brooch. It appears, to magical analysis, to prevent location, scrying or detection or influence by detect thoughts or telepathy. It seems to be an amulet of proof against detection and location. Actually, the amulet gives the wearer a -10 penalty on all saves against divination spells.

Moderate abjuration; CL 10th; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse; Price 1,000 gp.

Armor of Arrow Attraction

Magical analysis indicates that this armor is a normal suit of +3 full plate. However, the armor is cursed. It works normally with regard to melee attacks but actually serves to attract ranged weapons. The wearer takes a -15 penalty to AC against any attack by a ranged weapon. The true nature of the armor does not reveal itself until the character is fired upon in earnest.

Strong abjuration; CL 16th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bestow curse; Price 9,000 gp.

Armor of Rage

This armor is similar in appearance to armor of command and functions as a suit of +1 full plate. However, when it is worn, the armor causes the character to take a -4 penalty to Charisma. All unfriendly characters within 300 feet have a +1 morale bonus on attack rolls against her. The effect is not noticeable to the wearer or those affected. (In other words, the wearer does not immediately notice that donning the armor is the cause of her problems, nor do foes understand the reason for the depth of their enmity.)

Strong necromancy; CL 16th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bestow curse; Price 1,600 gp.

Bag of Devouring

This bag appears to be an ordinary sack. Detection for magical properties makes it seem as if it were a bag of holding. The sack is, however, a lure used by an extradimensional creature—in fact, one of its feeding orifices.

Any substance of animal or vegetable nature is subject to “swallowing” if thrust within the bag. The bag of devouring is 90% likely to ignore any initial intrusion, but any time thereafter that it senses living flesh within (such as if someone reaches into the bag to pull something out), it is 60% likely to close around the offending member and attempt to draw the whole victim in. The bag has a +8 bonus on grapple checks made to pull someone in.

The bag can hold up to 30 cubic feet of matter. It acts as a bag of holding type I, but each hour it has a 5% cumulative chance of swallowing the contents and then spitting the stuff out in some nonspace or on some other plane. Creatures drawn within are consumed in 1 round. The bag destroys the victim’s body and prevents any form of raising or resurrection that requires part of the corpse. There is a 50% chance that a wish, miracle, or true resurrection spell can restore a devoured victim to life. Check once for each destroyed creature. If the check fails, the creature cannot be brought back to life by mortal magic.

Moderate conjuration; CL 17th; In effect, this is a creature and cannot be created; Price n/a.

Boots of Dancing

These boots initially appear and function as one of the other kinds of magic boots. But when the wearer is in (or fleeing from) melee combat, boots of dancing impede movement, making him behave as if irresistible dance had been cast upon him. Only a remove curse spell enables the wearer to be rid of the boots once their true nature is revealed.

Strong enchantment; CL 16th; Craft Wondrous Item, irresistible dance; Price 30,000 gp.

Bracers of Defenselessness

These appear to be bracers of armor +5 and actually serve as such until the wearer is attacked in anger by an enemy with a Challenge Rating equal to or greater than her level. At that moment and thereafter, the bracers cause a -5 penalty to AC. Once their curse is activated, bracers of defenselessness can be removed only by means of a remove curse spell.

Moderate conjuration; CL 16th; Craft Wondrous Item, mage armor, bestow curse; Price 1,200 gp.

Broom of Animated Attack

This item is indistinguishable in appearance from a normal broom. It is identical to a broom of flying by all tests short of attempted use.

If a command is spoken, the broom does a loop-the-loop with its hopeful rider, dumping him on his head from 1d4+5 feet off the ground (no falling damage, since the fall is less than 10 feet). The broom then attacks the victim, swatting the face with the straw or twig end and beating him with the handle end.

The broom gets two attacks per round with each end (two swats with the straw and two with the handle, for a total of four attacks per round). It attacks with a +5 bonus on each attack roll. The straw end causes a victim to be blinded for 1 round when it hits. The handle deals 1d6 points of damage when it hits. The broom has AC 13, 18 hit points, and hardness 4.

Moderate transmutation; CL 10th; Craft Wondrous Item, fly, animate objects; Price 5,200 gp.

Cloak of Poisonousness

This cloak is usually made of a woolen material, although it can be made of leather. A detect poison spell can reveal the presence of poison impregnated in the cloak’s fabric. The garment can be handled without harm, but as soon as it is actually donned the wearer is killed instantly unless she succeeds on a DC 28 Fortitude save.

Once donned, a cloak of poisonousness can be removed only with a remove curse spell; doing this destroys the magical property of the cloak. If a neutralize poison spell is then used, it is possible to revive the victim with a raise dead or resurrection spell, but not before.

Strong abjuration; CL 15th; Craft Wondrous Item, poison, and limited wish or miracle; Price 62,000 gp.

Crystal Hypnosis Ball

This cursed item is indistinguishable from a normal crystal ball. However, anyone attempting to use the scrying device becomes fascinated for 1d6 minutes, and a telepathic suggestion is implanted in his mind (Will DC 19 negates).

The user of the device believes that the desired creature or scene was viewed, but actually he came under the influence of a powerful wizard, lich, or even some power or being from another plane. Each further use brings the crystal hypnosis ball gazer deeper under the influence of the controller, either as a servant or a tool. Note that throughout this time, the user remains unaware of his subjugation.

Moderate divination; CL 17th; In effect, this is a minor artifact and cannot be created; Price n/a.

Dust of Sneezing and Choking

This fine dust appears to be dust of appearance. If cast into the air, it causes those within a 20-foot spread to fall into fits of sneezing and coughing. Those failing a DC 15 Fortitude save take 2d6 points of Constitution damage immediately. In addition, those failing a second DC 15 Fortitude save 1 minute later are dealt 1d6 points of Constitution damage. Those who succeed on either saving throw are nonetheless disabled by choking (treat as stunned) for 5d4 rounds.

Faint conjuration; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, poison; Price 2,400 gp.

Flask of Curses

This item looks like an ordinary beaker, bottle, container, decanter, flask, or jug. It may contain a liquid, or it may emit smoke. When the flask is first unstoppered, all within 30 feet must make a DC 17 Will save or be cursed, taking a -2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, and skill checks until a remove curse spell is cast upon them.

Moderate conjuration; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse; Price 2,100 gp.

Gauntlets of Fumbling

These gauntlets may be of supple leather or heavy protective material suitable for use with armor. In the former instance, they appear to be gloves of Dexterity. In the latter case, they appear to be gauntlets of ogre power. The gauntlets perform according to every test as if they were gloves of Dexterity or gauntlets of ogre power until the wearer finds herself under attack or in a life-and-death situation. At that time, the curse is activated. The wearer becomes fumble-fingered, with a 50% chance each round of dropping anything held in either hand. The gauntlets also lower Dexterity by 2 points. Once the curse is activated, the gloves can be removed only by means of a remove curse spell, a wish, or a miracle.

Moderate transmutation; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse; Price 1,300 gp.

Helm of Opposite Alignment

This metal hat looks like a typical helmet. When placed upon the head, however, its curse immediately takes effect (Will DC 15 negates). On a failed save, the alignment of the wearer is radically altered to an alignment as different as possible from the former alignment—good to evil, chaotic to lawful, neutral to some extreme commitment (LE, LG, CE, or CG). Alteration in alignment is mental as well as moral, and the individual changed by the magic thoroughly enjoys his new outlook. A character who succeeds on his save can continue to wear the helmet without suffering the effect of the curse, but if he takes it off and later puts it on again, another save is required. The curse only works once; that is, a character whose alignment has been changed cannot change it again by donning the helmet a second time.

Only a wish or a miracle can restore former alignment, and the affected individual does not make any attempt to return to the former alignment. (In fact, he views the prospect with horror and avoids it in any way possible.) If a character of a class with an alignment requirement is affected, an atonement spell is needed as well if the curse is to be obliterated. When a helm of opposite alignment has functioned once, it loses its magical properties.

Strong transmutation; CL 12th; Craft Wondrous Item, creator must be 12th level; Price 4,000 gp;Weight 3 lb.

Incense of Obsession

These blocks of incense appear to be incense of meditation. If meditation and prayer are conducted while incense of obsession is burning nearby, its odor and smoke cause the user to become totally confident that her spell ability is superior, due to the magic incense. The user is determined to use her spells at every opportunity, even when not needed or when useless. The user remains obsessed with her abilities and spells until all have been used or cast, or until 24 hours have elapsed.

Moderate enchantment; CL 6th; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse; Price 200 gp.

Mace of Blood

This +3 heavy mace must be coated in blood every day, or its bonus fades away (until the mace is coated again). The character using this mace must make a DC 13 Will save every day it is within his possession or become chaotic evil.

Moderate abjuration; CL 8th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, creator must be at least 9th level and chaotic evil; Price 16,000 gp.

Medallion of Thought Projection

This device seems like a medallion of thoughts, even down to the range at which it functions, except that the thoughts overheard are muffled and distorted, requiring a DC 15 Will save to sort out. However, while the user thinks she is picking up the thoughts of others, all she is really hearing are figments created by the medallion itself. These illusory thoughts always seem plausible and thus can seriously mislead any who rely upon them. What’s worse, unknown to her, the cursed medallion actually broadcasts her thoughts to creatures in the path of the beam, thus alerting them to her presence.

Faint divination; CL 7th; Craft Wondrous Item, detect thoughts, ghost sound; Price 1,800 gp.

Necklace of Strangulation

A necklace of strangulation appears to be a rare and wondrous piece of valuable jewelry and, short of the use of something as powerful as a miracle or a wish, can only be identified as a cursed item when placed around a character’s neck. The necklace immediately constricts, dealing 6 points of damage per round. It cannot be removed by any means short of a limited wish, wish, or miracle and remains clasped around the victim’s throat even after his death. Only when he has decayed to a dry skeleton (after approximately one month) does the necklace loosen, ready for another victim.

Strong conjuration; CL 18th; Craft Wondrous Item, slay living; Price 60,000 gp.

Net of Snaring

This net provides a +3 bonus on attack rolls but can only be used underwater, thus making it a somewhat useful item rather than what most would really call a cursed item. Underwater, it can be commanded to shoot forth up to 30 feet to trap a creature.

Moderate evocation; CL 8th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, freedom of movement; Price 10,000 gp.

Periapt of Foul Rotting

This engraved gem appears to be of little value. If any character keeps the periapt in her possession for more than 24 hours, she contracts a terrible rotting affliction that permanently drains 1 point of Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma every week. The periapt (and the affliction) can be removed only by application of a remove curse spell followed by a remove disease and then a heal, miracle, limited wish, or wish spell. The rotting can also be countered by crushing a periapt of health and sprinkling its dust upon the afflicted character (a full-round action), whereupon the periapt of foul rotting likewise crumbles to dust.

Faint abjuration; CL 10th; Craft Wondrous Item, contagion; Price 17,000 gp.

Potion of Poison

This potion has lost its once beneficial magical abilities and has become a potent poison. The imbiber must make a DC 16 Fortitude save or take 1d10 points of Constitution damage. A minute later he must save again (DC 16) or take 1d10 points of Constitution damage.

Moderate conjuration; CL 12th; Craft Wondrous Item, poison; Price 5,000 gp.

Robe of Powerlessness

A robe of powerlessness appears to be a magic robe of another sort. As soon as a character dons this garment, she takes a -10 penalty to Strength and Intelligence, forgetting spells and magic knowledge accordingly. The robe can be removed easily, but in order to restore mind and body, the character must receive a remove curse spell followed by heal.

Moderate transmutation; CL 13th; Craft Wondrous Item, bestow curse, permanency; Price 5,500 gp.

Robe of Vermin

The wearer notices nothing unusual when the robe is donned, other than that it offers great magical defense (as a cloak of resistance +4). However, as soon as he is in a situation requiring concentration and action against hostile opponents, the true nature of the garment is revealed: The wearer immediately suffers a multitude of bites from the insects that magically infest the garment. He must cease all other activities in order to scratch, shift the robe, and generally show signs of the extreme discomfort caused by the bites and movement of these pests.

The wearer takes a -5 penalty on initiative checks and a -2 penalty on all attack rolls, saves, and skill checks. If he tries to cast a spell, he must make a Concentration check (DC 20 + spell level) or lose the spell.

Moderate abjuration; CL 13th; Craft Wondrous Item, summon swarm, creator must be at least 13th level; Price 16,500 gp.

Ring of Clumsiness

This ring operates exactly like a ring of feather falling. However, it also makes the wearer clumsy. She takes a -4 penalty to Dexterity and has a 20% chance of spell failure when trying to cast any arcane spell that has a somatic component. (This chance of spell failure stacks with other arcane spell failure chances.)

Strong transmutation; CL 15th; Forge Ring, feather fall, bestow curse; Price 500 gp.

Scarab of Death

This small pin appears to be any one of the various beneficial amulets, brooches, or scarabs. However, if it is held for more than 1 round or carried by a living creature for 1 minute, it changes into a horrible burrowing beetlelike creature. The thing tears through any leather or cloth, burrows into flesh, and reaches the victim’s heart in 1 round, causing death. A DC 25 Reflex save allows the wearer to tear the scarab away before it burrows out of sight, but he still takes 3d6 points of damage. The beetle then returns to its scarab form. Placing the scarab in a container of wood, ceramic, bone, ivory, or metal prevents the monster from coming to life and allows for long-term storage of the item.

Strong abjuration; CL 19th; Craft Wondrous Item, slay living; Price 80,000 gp.

Spear, Cursed Backbiter

This is a +2 shortspear, but each time it is used in melee against a foe and the attack roll is a natural 1, it damages its wielder instead of her intended target. When the curse takes effect, the spear curls around to strike its wielder in the back, automatically dealing the damage to the wielder. The curse even functions when the spear is hurled, and in such a case the damage to the hurler is doubled.

Moderate evocation; CL 10th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bestow curse; Price 7,500 gp.

Stone of Weight (Loadstone)

This stone appears to be a dark, smoothly polished stone. It reduces the possessor’s base land speed to one-half of normal. Once picked up, the stone cannot be disposed of by any nonmagical means—if it is thrown away or smashed, it reappears somewhere on his person. If a remove curse spell is cast upon a loadstone, the item may be discarded normally and no longer haunts the individual.

Faint transmutation; CL 5th; Craft Wondrous Item, slow; Price 1,000 gp.

-2 Sword, Cursed

This longsword performs well against targets in practice, but when used against an opponent in combat, it causes its wielder to take a -2 penalty on attack rolls.

All damage dealt is also reduced by 2 points, but never below a minimum of 1 point of damage on any successful hit. After one week in a character’s possession, the sword always forces that character to employ it rather than another weapon. The sword’s owner automatically draws it and fights with it even when she meant to draw or ready some other weapon. The sword can be gotten rid of only by means of limited wish, wish, or miracle.

Strong evocation; CL 15th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, bestow curse, and limited wish or miracle; Price 1,500 gp.

Sword, Berserking

This item appears to have the characteristics of a +2 greatsword. However, whenever the sword is used in battle, its wielder goes berserk (gaining all the benefits and drawbacks of the barbarian’s rage ability). He attacks the nearest creature and continues to fight until unconscious or dead or until no living thing remains within 30 feet. Although many see this sword as a cursed object, others see it as a boon.

Moderate evocation; CL 8th; Craft Magic Arms and Armor, rage, bestow curse; Price 17,500 gp.

Vacuous Grimoire

A book of this sort looks like a normal one on some mildly interesting topic. Any character who opens the work and reads so much as a single word therein must make two DC 15 Will saves. The first is to determine if the reader takes 1 point of permanent Intelligence drain. The second is to find out if the reader takes 2 points of permanent Wisdom drain. To destroy the book, a character must burn it while casting remove curse. If the grimoire is placed with other books, its appearance instantly alters to conform to the look of those other works.

Strong enchantment; CL 20th; Craft Wondrous Item, feeblemind; Price 6,000 gp.