Need help creating cursed items for my party! - Myth-Weavers

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Need help creating cursed items for my party!

Need help creating cursed items for my party!

I need some help creating cursed items for a 5E D&D game I am running for some friends. Context: There are three players (Fighter, Rogue, Sorcerer) and they are currently level 3. The party heard rumors of a swamp witch and decided it would be a good idea to venture into the swamp, even though no one had proficiency in Survival or a map of any sort. Needless to say, they got lost and barely made it out of the swamp alive. However, I expect they will cross paths with the Swamp Witch sooner or later (it’s a Hag, of course). I like the idea of the hag offering something that would seem like a gift to each of them, but has some clear detriment.

One thing to note: Two of the players have very little experience, and all three are character-driven players. None of them care much for the numbers or crunch or combat for its own sake. I want to avoid cursed items that are purely punishing (permanent stat penalties, or loss of abilities), and I don’t want to take away player agency. One of my first ideas was a sword that would force a Wisdom save or force the user to attack innocent people. That wouldn’t be fun for this group.

Now, I have one idea that I’m pretty happy with. The player of the rogue is a fan of pro wrestling and built their rogue as an Entertainer with the Tavern Brawler feat. They haven’t managed to do any wrestling yet but clearly that’s in the character. My idea for their item is the “Belt of Title,” a thick leather belt with golden studs that grants Advantage on Athletics checks to Grapple, and Advantage on Performance checks in certain situations, like, wrestling in front of a crowd or something. The manifestation of the curse is that the strongest monster in any encounter will focus on the rogue, and random people in town will appear to challenge the rogue for the belt. (Random challenges are meant to be minor encounters and mostly a nuisance, not level appropriate fights.)

Thoughts on that are appreciated.

The fighter is sword-obsessed and arrogant. Their cursed item has to be a sword, of course. My best idea now is a one-ring kind of thing where they become paranoid that everyone wants to steal the sword, and they have to make a saving throw to use any other weapon. The sword will have some benefit, of course. Maybe +1, maybe something more interesting. Not sure. Might allow the fighter to make an attack as a bonus action to buff the 3-person party. I am just having trouble thinking of a curse that is bad enough that they wouldn’t want to keep the sword but not punishing enough that time spent possessing it absolutely sucks.

The sorcerer is pretty much Good with a capital “G” and is having a crisis of conscience because they accidentally killed a bandit in a fight (first person they killed in-character). I was originally thinking of an item that would let them heal someone at the cost of their own HP, but I’m not sure if that’s more beneficial than cursed. I’m a little stuck for ideas here.

I was originally hoping each item would push the character down a path of corruption, but the belt doesn’t do that. It just seemed too funny to pass up. Either way, I think curses that create role play opportunities would be best received. Anyway, any ideas and input would be appreciated!

The Belt of Title sounds really good to me.

Suggestions for more lighthearted objects and general f***ery:

A talking sword that encourages subtlety and stealth, but which shouts "Here I am!" as loud as it can when trying to sneak and says embarrassing things in social situations. Could also be adapted into an item for the rogue. (Adapted from The Upper Caves, Fight on Magazine #2)

For more serious curses:

A magic bracelet that allows the sorcerer to heal other in exchange for a (smaller!) amount of his own hit points. This is plainly beneficial, and allows the sorc to be all noble and self-sacrificing and satisfy his desire to help people. But it's secretly a vector for minor curses that appears later on. Maybe it prevents plants and animals from thriving under that person's hand. Or they become very tasty to monsters. Useful if the party is staying around the same populated area for an extended period of time. See how many people the sorc uses it on before figuring out the truth. (adapted from Arnold Kemp's 1d20 Curses)

Magic sword, possibly a +1 (small bonuses make the cursed items harder to throw away, as we know) which, on a natural 1, causes the character to be convinced the party is hiding something from them. That player's experience gain freezes until they force the other PCs to admit exactly what they were hiding. (Adapted from Veins of the Earth, The Effects Table)

A locket containing the portrait of an attractive woman. The hag claims this will give the wearer great luck. This is true (+1 on all saves). The hag will claim the portrait was of herself when she was young and beautiful. This is false. It is the living portrait of a woman whose soul was captured by the hag. It moves and emotes, but only when nobody is looking at it. The magic that creates the luck effect feeds on the soul, and causes her extreme pain. If you put the closed locket next to your ear, you can hear muffled screams. How do you free her, or get rid of it in a way that ensures nobody will wear it again? Up to them.

Some of the nastiest cursed items involve real benefits with incomparable costs. Is intraparty conflict worth the extra to-hit? Is a general save bonus worth the torment of a sentient soul? If your party is really focused on the character and rp, and less on the mechanics, juice up the bonuses. Make them very tempting to use.

For any item which is meant to compel the player to do something, having it freeze experience gain has that effect without breaking player autonomy. You can attack all parts of the character sheet, and experience freeze gives players the heeby-jeebies like it's nobody's business. Almost as scary as level drain.

For a mild version of "cursed" items, give a wizard staff (with minor combat bonuses) to the Fighter, a title belt with an extra 1st-level spell slot to the sorcerer, and a sword (with minor stealth bonus) to the rogue. Watch the ensuing roleplaying!

Thanks for the responses so far! I’ve got a lot of ideas to work with. I might piece together a cursed sword from some of these concepts. I like the ideas featuring a trapped soul but I’ll have to think about how that would play out. And I’ve been thinking that anything I give the sorcerer would need passive negative effects because the moment they realize their item works at a cost they would just stop using it. For example, I thought about a “healing” amulet that’s charged with souls but they just wouldn’t do that.

I do want to avoid causing party in-fighting or severe penalties like freezing exp gain.

I still like the idea that the item for the sorcerer can do healing somehow. It would be tempting cuz the party has no healer and they already pissed off the local potion seller.

Hard choices are I think one way to go with the sorcerer. Using the item has a moral cost - but not using it also does.

Kieron Gillen’s DIE (comic and game) has an excellent, if disturbing, example of this.

For the fighter's sword, an idea I think would be funny and interesting would be to have the sword appear like a beautiful, mastercrafted magical blade to the wielder and his companions, but look like a crappy, rusty, goblin-worthy sword to anyone else. He could brag about it all he wants, and it would indeed be magical, but everyone else would think he's a dunce. For added fun, though this could be too much maybe, you could say that any added effectiveness to his to hit/damage from the sword feels like brilliant swordplay to him, but actually appears to others to be the result of pure dumb-luck, like his opponents slipping.

I've always liked the idea of a sword that fixes you to a certain level for BAB. In this case, level 4 or 5 for the fighter. Right now, it seems like a +1 or +2 sword, but every level they gain decreases the bonus, and when they pass that level, it's actually a detriment. Early levels, you can describe how the sword quickens their reflexes, or guides them to the right attack or parry. Eventually, you describe how it feels like it's slowing them down when they know what the right attack is, or prevents them from trying something innovative or risky.

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