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The default Pathfinder setting is a place where (given enough time in a big enough city) one can buy a +5 Vorpal sword or a Staff of Power. In such a world surely one can also buy Boots of Dancing or a Poisonous Cloak.

It seems there's no official price for them. Do you have/use/know of a system you recommend for pricing them?

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I would tend to assume that cursed items will be used offensively, i.e. somehow get your enemies to use them. Whatever system you use for pricing them, price them with that in mind. It’s not hard to imagine a market for cursed items; after all, plenty of real-world people have sought out those who claim to be able to create them for the purposes of cursing others. –  KRyan Nov 12 '13 at 22:50
Be careful with cursed items. It's easily possible to create a character who specialises in making them by giving them no more than 1 rank in spellcraft. –  GMJoe Nov 13 '13 at 4:17
@GMJoe That's not usually profitable, because they'd still have to pay the cost of the regular item they "intended" to make, and that'll usually be more expensive than the cursed version. Better to just make one directly by having it be the item you're going for in the first place, and thus using the cursed version's price to determine the price of your materials. –  Matthew Najmon Nov 15 '13 at 11:17
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4 Answers

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I don't really know much about Pathfinder, but if I had to make up some prices, I'd assume that, if the players want to buy it, it's because they have a use for it. Thus, I'd start from the same price as for the corresponding uncursed item, on the assumption that they'll be about as useful in the hands of a clever player, and then maybe reduce that a bit (say, 10% to 30%) if there seems to be no obvious way to turn the curse into an advantage.

Note that the above is for players deliberately seeking to buy a cursed item. It might be possible to find disreputable merchants trying to pass off a cursed item as the real thing, possibly at a considerable discount, but such merchants would be unlikely to advertise the item as cursed or openly reveal its nature (since they wouldn't expect most buyers to actually want a cursed item).

Similarly, since there presumably isn't much market for such items (except perhaps in very disreputable circles), I wouldn't expect most merchants to want to buy them. Indeed, there might even be laws, or at least strong societal norms, against selling cursed items. (Just try to deliberately buy some unsafe machinery or hazardous waste IRL, and see if anyone will sell you any.) Thus, players looking to sell an item known to be cursed should only be able to do it at a very significant discount, if at all, at least unless they just happen to know the right kind of people (or unless they can pass it off as uncursed).

Indeed, depending on how involved you want to make this, finding the kind of people who engage in trading cursed items (and/or convincing them that you're genuinely interested in buying them) might constitute an interesting subplot in and of itself, and could be used to generate future plot hooks by giving the players some connections to the not-quite-so-public side of the local economy. Or, if you'd rather not to go there, you can just abstract it away and say "yes, you can buy it, but it'll cost almost as much as the uncursed kind."

Edit: I did find something in the Pathfinder rules that sort of talks about the price of cursed items, namely a remark that "Cursed items can be sold, if the curse is not known to the buyer, as if they were the item they appear to be."

This at least implies that, if the players are unscrupulous enough, they might be able to sell their cursed items at full price simply by not revealing that they're cursed (and getting away before the buyer notices). Of course, if the buyer decides to identify the item and beats the DC by 10 or more, the players might have some explaining to do.

This also suggests that an equally unscrupulous trader might be willing to pay a reasonable fraction of the full price even for an items they know to be cursed, on the assumption that they'll be able to trick someone else into buying it for the full price.

It also suggests that any merchants (more or less) openly selling cursed items should not be willing to sell them for too much less than the full price, since they could presumably always either try to pass them off as uncursed themselves, or at least find a buyer willing to do so. The exact discount, as compared to the price of an uncursed item, should depend on the risk and consequences of being caught doing that, and would seem likely to vary between vendors.

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When considering Cursed Items price, one thing to take in account is their source. Some possible scenarios for On Sale cursed items:

  • Curiosity vendor: Sold by somebody that knows it is cursed as a curiosity or collector item. Might drive prices up, depending on rarity.
  • Ignorant vendor: Sold by somebody that does not know it is cursed, selling it as its non-cursed counterpart.
  • Swindler: Sold by somebody that knows it is cursed, selling it as its non-cursed counterpart, either at the counterpart price or at a suspiciously low price.
  • Desperate people: Sold by somebody that knows it is cursed, at a suspiciously low price. Possible scenario for people that want to get rid of the item but for some reason cannot simply drop it.
  • Specialised Vendor: Sold by somebody that knows it is cursed, at a variable price. This is the source of cursed magic items that are either made cursed in purpose to be used offensively or "normal" cursed items sold for the same purpose. Prices in these cases are often subject to negotiation, but depending on the power of the item (and its curse) they may start being high.
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I have never actually run into this, but I suspect the price would depend entirely on the strength of the curse. In that case, (in respectful disagreement with Ilmari), I would expect a cursed item to cost considerably more than a non-cursed version. It won't cost less because you started with the non-cursed version to make the cursed one and then added more stuff too it.

As others have pointed out, the cursed version is likely also going to be illicit. Illicit goods very often come at a premium becuase of the dangers involved to the seller (both in handling the goods and at evading law enforcement).

The cursed version, used correctly by a person morally willing to do so, can also be a powerful way of weakening or eliminating foes that they could not otherwise defeat. Look at some of the cursed items in Myth and Fiction. It was after all a poisoned cloak that finally led to the death of Hercules, something none of his enemies could manage in a direct fight.

The short answer is that I would price the cursed item as though it were a +1 equivalent, +2 or even more if it is a particularly nasty curse that is in some way harder to rid yourself of than others.

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That would make sense if the curse was deliberately placed on the item. Apparently, however, most cursed items in Pathfinder are supposed to be the result of ordinary magic item crafting gone wrong (so they're really not so much "cursed" as "broken"). –  Ilmari Karonen Nov 13 '13 at 23:02
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Most Cursed Items function identically to their non-cursed counterparts most of the time and only have drawbacks for a fractional portion of their usage. Thus, the price of any given piece should be close to the price of the non-cursed version, and be modified appropriately from there.

How much should it be modified? Well, it's very hard as a game master to determine this perfectly, but on the bright side... it's also very hard for the NPCs to determine, in-universe, as well. The typical NPC will probably cut the price by 10% or 20% just for the sake of being a nice round number, and call it a day. Since they are certain not to have made it themselves - the very fact that the pricing rules are missing means that there are also no rules for crafting - they won't have to worry about what it is to overcome crafting costs.

In other words: There are no rules, but that's okay. This is the perfect situation to improvise and estimate whatever numbers you'd like.

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