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I have never really used cursed items in my campaigns, but I'm considering doing so for my latest one. For the most part, cursed items seem pretty straightforward except for two things:

  • How do you price out a cursed item? Is it the same price as the equivalent normal item?
  • If a player finds a known, cursed item and casts 'remove curse on it', does the item become useless? Does it work as a normal item of its kind?
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It's a different matter to break the curse on a person affected by an item (freeing them from it), and to break the curse on the item itself ("fixing" it, if it isn't destroyed in the process). The former is much easier than the latter. Could you edit your question to clarify which one you're asking about? Or to ask both explicitly? –  SevenSidedDie Oct 6 '11 at 19:23
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I've tried to make the question more explicit now :) –  NT3RP Oct 6 '11 at 19:49
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The 'remove curse' spell has no effect at all on most cursed items. The ones that are effected have language along the lines of "cannot be removed without Remove Curse" which clearly state what effect it has, and it has only that effect. 'Remove Curse' is for removing spell effects such as 'Bestow Curse', not for removing the crappiness from items that, by accident or design, were made crappy instead of useful. The issue is that no one at these game companies seems to own a thesaurus. (I'm not the first to make this point. See giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html ) –  Matthew Najmon Nov 15 '13 at 1:41

4 Answers 4

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A Specific Cursed Item generally costs a fraction of the real item to craft, often around 10% (Incense of Meditation 4,900 gp, Incense of Obsession 500 gp) or 20% (+2 Sword 8,315 gp, Cursed -2 Sword 1,500 gp). An exception is if the item is especially useful, such as the Scarab of Death (80,000 gp) which could be given to an enemy to kill him in one round.

A normally functioning item with a drawback or dependent curse condition (e.g. only works in the hands of a creature with a particular alignment) should reduce the cost by around 10% to 30%, or more depending on severity. The crafting guidelines state that an item reduces in price by 10% if they require the wielder to have a certain skill, and 30% to have a certain class or alignment. You shouldn't let players pick this as a drawback while crafting, since a wizard can just create himself a staff only usable by wizards for a big discount at no penalty.

The spells remove curse and break enchantment only free a person from a cursed item, but do not turn the item into an uncursed version of itself. Since the price difference between a cursed item and its uncursed version is significant, a single spell shouldn't be enough to repair it permanently, although wish can repair items at an XP cost. A wizard with the correct item crafting feat could probably repair a cursed item by paying the difference.

Note that bestow curse does remove a curse from any item except a weapon, shield or armour, it doesn't necessarily turn the item into a properly working version. The item may have been created cursed by accident, or have broken somehow and lost its original power.

An alternative way of creating a cursed item appears in Dragon Magazine #348, October 2006, in the article "Bestowed Curses". The spell bestow curse can turn a weapon into a cursed item of its kind, so a +4 sword becomes a -4 sword. Since bestow curse is a Permanent duration spell, rather than Instantaneous, an item temporarily cursed in this manner returns to its original form when the curse is broken.

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A cursed item is worthless if you want to use it,...

I wouldn't go that far - it depends on how the cursed item is applied.

In one D&D party I was in, our dwarven fighter came to own a cursed +4 short sword. The curse was that if anyone wielded it, they went bezerk and attacked anything in sight. Only after all targets were dead did the curse break and they could put down the sword.

In one fight our party was getting beat badly and the dwarf fighter was the only one left with any appreciable hitpoints left. To save the rest of the party, the dwarf commanded the rest of the party to flee the area (they were in a dungeon and came across a large room of 'bad guys'). When they were out of sight, he dropped his regular sword and drew the cursed +4 sword. With the additional to-hit bonus, he mowed through the remaining enemies quickly and as soon as the last one dropped, he returned to his normal self. He then gingerly slid the sword back into the scabbard and went to find the rest of the party.

In another instance, we were greatly outnumbered and fleeing for our lives. The party escaped through a trapped door in the floor, but the dwarf carefully laid the cursed sword beside the door as he went through. As our pursuers entered the room, they saw the trapped door and the sword. The DM rolled to see if one of them would pick up the sword (it had a silver inlaid handle), and one did. That single "enemy" became our best ally and stopped them from following us. (Yes, we did re-enter the dungeon and retrieved our handy cursed sword.)

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This is an awesome personal account of how cursed items can be a lot if fun, even if it doesn't answer the question. :D –  SevenSidedDie Oct 13 '11 at 6:17
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This is probably a good application of the "cursing someone else with it" case. I'd price it as a +4 magical item with a good discount because it is useful and dangerous at the same time :) –  edgerunner Dec 4 '11 at 13:27
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Fantastic story of the good use of a bad sword :) –  Rob Apr 15 '12 at 14:49

A cursed item is worthless if you want to use it, may be priced as a magical item of equivalent potency if you intend to curse someone else with it, or may be priced as a regular item if someone is trying to trick you into buying it.

And that would probably depend on what the curse was in the first place and how it is broken. If a sword is cursed to fail you at the most critical moment, it may just shatter at the most inappropriate time, ending the curse, its own integrity, and maybe your life, all at the same time. The same sword may well keep functioning as a regular sword if it is detected and the curse is dispelled.

There isn't/can't/shouldn't be a hard rule for this. Use your imagination.

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Yeah, it ultimately depends on what the curse does and how creative your people are at mitigating it and if they're evil or just don't care, pawning it off to some shmuck is a good way to make some gold off of it. Removing a curse fully from an item is tricky and usually ends up being a good adventure hook in itself, if the item is powerful, but has an equally devastating curse.

And bare in mind, the Dungeon's master guide IS just a guideline with some suggestions, you can make whatever kind of cursed items you want with whatever rules you want as long as you and the players have fun with it.

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