Some magic items bear curses that bedevil their users, sometimes long after a user has stopped using an item. A magic item’s description specifies whether the item is cursed. Most methods of identifying items, including the identify spell, fail to reveal such a curse, although lore might hint at it. A curse should be a surprise to the item’s user when the curse’s effects are revealed.
Attunement to a cursed item can’t be ended voluntarily unless the curse is broken first, such as with the remove curse spell.
So that means cursed items have a few important parts.
1. The item ‘bedevils’ the user
2. Most methods of identifying the item do not reveal the curse
3. A curse is supposed to surprise the user when it’s effects are revealed
4. Attunement cannot be ended voluntarily unless the curse is broken first
Benjamin: Cursed items have the same issue as Mimics, or, The Mimic Problem. Once they know they are in play there is a permanent apprehension to whatever that thing is. They can no longer trust things like the identify spell.
Kevin: Curses that give a choice and you know what it is before are the most interesting.
Jarred: You want to do what you can to avoid the “gotcha and then remove curse” cycle. If the curse is so bad the player just wants to get rid of it, then nothing fun happened. It was just a quick resource tax.
Kevin: Issue with curses that are worth the curse is that they’re usually campaign ending abilities.
Benjamin: There's a table in the DMG that only works in specific scenarios. Like it only works on a full moon. Or costs 100 gold to use the item.
Kevin: The idea of that for a magic item is nice, but is it a curse? As it’s less of a curse and more just a situational magic item.
Jarred: If you make the situation limited it can be interesting. Example is an item that turns you into a werewolf but just on a full moon. So now the party can use that to their advantage buuuut they have to deal with being a werewolf.
Benjamin: There is space for Gotcha items but it has to be an inopportune time. It can’t be at a time where it’s easy to unattune to it. Something like a mega dungeon.
Will: This lets you break the standard DM relation for a short period. You can tell everyone that in this dungeon “The kid gloves are off” and it’s possible things are cursed. Outside of here, don’t sweat it.
Kevin: If a cursed item is given when betraying the party it can be a good “gotcha”
Benjamin: If the party knows they have a cursed item they can trick a bad guy with it or get revenge.
Jarred: Once a party has a cursed item and KNOWS they can then give it to someone else. It lets them get in on the “gotcha”
Benjamin: Once you introduce a cursed item your party will now agonize over every item they get. So you have to be careful with it or just tell the party “No more cursed items. That was the last one”
Kevin: The loadstone is a nice subtle curse.
Benjamin: A lot of times just telling the player that they are cursed and then they are in on it but the rest of the party is not can be good.
Everyone: Items like the Stone of Ill Luck can be odd as players may not ever figure it out if the dice are behind a screen. You can have it subtly shown with other instances of bad luck too.
Benjamin: Had a curse where you couldn’t say the bad guys name. A player ended up getting it.
Jarred: Curses with thresholds. So an item that restores HP but as it restores more HP, at certain thresholds, bad things happen alongside it. Maybe small things at first. But as it increases, you also start to learn more about the item and maybe even find ways to try and break the curse but you need to progress the curse as well.
Benjamin: Cursed items that fill a hole in your party that they almost have to rely on.
Jarred: Adding lore to the item makes the character care about the item and the story behind it. And maybe they want to unlock that info as well.
Kevin: Cursed items that add quests are going to be more interesting as well.
Benjamin: A dungeon crawl with almost exclusively cursed items but they were told 1 or 2 of them were really good. So now they just have to try everyone.
Kevin: A cursed item that needs to be appeased is also nice. Because then as long as you’re doing what it needs it can do a lot.
Kevin: Cursed items that need to be destroyed can be a good direction. The Wand of Orcus has been found and the only way to destroy it is to attune to it for 100 days. And as the days pass it corrupts them.
Benjamin: Ran a campaign like this. The artifacts corrupted the players. And they each had 1 shard for most of the game. But then they got a 5th and someone had to hold 2 and they had to switch off who was carrying it. Players would now choose who would have to deal with it.
Jarred: Can you mimic the “burden to bear” curse aspect. Or is that not possible in D&D where destiny is fickle
Kevin: It generally doesnt translate well.
Benjamin: The advantage of fiction is you know the end before you start. In a TTRPG you just don’t
Jarred: It works better when it’s not a person but an artifact. Something independent of the PC specifically. And when they hold it they get hit with the curse.
Benjamin: A curse where the player had a shard of iron near their heart. Any time they did a bad thing the iron grew. At the end of the game, they needed a sword that could only be held by someone without any evil in them. They ended up taking the iron out so there was a brief time the player held no evil!
Jarred: Being more vague on your curses allows players to interpret it in fun ways.
Benjamin: If you want new spooky monsters, dig into the Pathfinder bestiary. All of the undead have a hook attached to them that lets you write a ton of backstory easily.
Spooky Monsters continued:
Kevin: We find these monsters are used so often as they’re familiar.
Jarred: They’re basically comfort food for D&D
Turns out like everything has a skeleton
Usually vulnerable to bludgeoning damage. One of the few times we see a vulnerability!
Running them as mobs and minions can be nice once PCs are at mid level and you just make it so 1 hit with bludgeoning kills em. 2 if you use anything else.
There’s not really much to say on “how to use them”. They’re fairly classic and there’s only so much you can do that’s new.
Prewritten actions it has a shortsword and a shortbow. But you can easily change that based on what they had when they died.
A giant pile of skeletons that can do a skeleton avalanche of bones. Which is exactly what it sounds like. Just bones falling.
When it dies it just falls into 12 more skeletons.
“This is having your cake and eating your skeletons too”
And it’s such a good visual with a bone tower trying to hit you to the ground. Then when it finally collapse the bones shake and reform into 12 skeletons.
Skeleton crossbone. Useful in sieges with the Juggernaut as skeletons just shoot other skeletons out of crossbows.
Resistant to most damage and conditions. Can shut down a low level party with no magic items.
They can also possess party members on a bad CHA save. Which can really swing the fight as the ghost is either really weak and ripped through quickly. Or, the ghost possesses a party member and then everyone has to attack the party member and the ghost doesn't get hit until it’s out of their body. So you may drop your party member to 0 hp before even attacking this thing.
Withering touch is a ton of damage as well. So it’s easy to kill a party with that.
Horrifying visage can age the party. We’ve talked about age in the Sphinx episode.
Ghosts are great as mid level minions for a boss. As they can just take someone out of the fight for the entire fight. You may want to change the possession rules to give them a chance to get out if your party doesnt have anything.
Made a big tower that had some Legendary actions that could add more ghosts, go ethereal, make attacks. The stat block isn’t perfect by any means. But it was a fun fight.
Just angry spirits. Ghosts can be friendly Spectres cannot be.
Note to reader. I am losing steam here. I usually stop my notes much earlier.
Their only cool thing is the fact that they are hard to kill because once they drop to 0 they get to make a con saving throw and potentially have 1 hp left.
20ft of movement seems too high.
They also have no way of transferring the zombie outbreak. They are JUST reanimated corpses.
Any time you use zombies you can also use skeletons.
Like zombies but in better shape. They’re demon created zombies.
DC 10 Con save when hit or you’re paralyzed for a turn. It’s such a low DC that it barely ever comes up.
Basically the same as ghouls but they’re stinkier and stronger. DC 10 con saving throw if you’re within 5 feet or you’re poisoned. But it’s only for 1 turn and if they succeed they’re immune for 24 hours.
The lore of these all revolve around Orcus but if you want to ignore that the just ignore it.
They’re nice to use cause...they’re just scarecrows. Everyone knows what they look like. Easy to put around hag lairs.
Vulnerability to fire damage! Another vulnerability. Hooray!
Jarred learns what it means if you can’t go Unconscious
It has claw attacks which don’t do that much damage. But they can frighten a creature on a DC 11 Wis ST. It can also scare and paralyze with it’s gaze.
All of them use Terrifying Glare until it succeeds and then all of the scarecrows just swarm the one paralyzed.
Also make a big scarecrow. Just like 20 feet tall. MAKE EVERYTHING TALL.