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If a character is already cursed and berserk, such as by a sword of vengeance in battle, do they flee in battle under the effects of a fear effect, or does the curse control them?

Curse. This sword is cursed and possessed by a vengeful spirit. Becoming attuned to it extends the curse to you... In addition, while the sword is on your person, you must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw whenever you take damage in combat. On a failed save you must attack the creature that damaged you until you drop to 0 hit points or it does, or until you can't reach the creature to make a melee attack against it...

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The curse doesn't say anything about blocking conditions, so the fear ability would work normally. (Same as with things like Blinded or Poisoned)

This might be an effective way for a Berserk character to get out of their Berserk state.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You mention the magic item doesn't block the fear conditions. Do you have an example of language magic item effect blocking conditions? Otherwise, one could just as easily state that the condition doesn't say anything about blocking curses. \$\endgroup\$ – Tim Grant Sep 12 '17 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ The condition actually doesn't block, though. You're still cursed while under the fear effect; they just can't approach the target of the curse anymore. They will still try to attack them; but they won't be able to approach the target. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 12 '17 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ would the curse cause you to unwillingly move closer to the target? \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Sep 12 '17 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ No, because you're not allowed. The curse would probably cause you to throw something heavy at the target with disadvantage, though. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 12 '17 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TimGrant The Ring of Free Action is an example of a magic item explicitly preventing certain conditions. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Sep 12 '17 at 15:06
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DM's have absolute authority over Magic Items. Apply the natural reading.

Here's the key: the WoC editors were super-specific about spells and class features, because players are clever little maniacs who will scour the PHB looking for every advantage and synergy that they can. But MM and DMG content are written as guidelines for the omnipotent DM. DMs don't have to rules-lawyer and have no interest in min-maxing. So relax - the effect of the item is exactly what the DM says it is.

The spell descriptions in the PHB are generally very specific and call out every detail in well-defined game terms such as Bonus Action and Reach. If the editors had been as picky in the descriptions of the magic items, the DMG would have been as thick as a dictionary (and about as readable). The editors used natural language and omitted most of the niggling details. It's up to the DM to apply some common sense to get at the RAI.

In this case, the curse says that the character must attack until one or the other is at zero hp, or the character can't reach the other. Note that "attack" and "reach" aren't capitalized, as they would be in a spell description talking about Attack Actions and Reach. Here they have their common sense meaning - the character will approach the enemy and try to beat him with the cursed weapon until dead, and the only way to stop this short of death is to put the target beyond the character's reach (e.g. interposing a wall, levitating into the air, etc..). Merely forcing him away temporarily is not the same as putting him out of reach, as long as the character can still strive towards the goal.

There is ambiguity about how long the target has to be out of reach and to what extent the character will expend resources to get to the target. (e.g. would the character cast a Dispel Magic to get past a Wall of Force created by the target?) The DM should have some general idea about these questions before he puts the item into a treasure trove. Whatever the DM decides is the correct answer.

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The frightened condition says:

Frightened

  A frightened creature has disadvantage on Ability Checks and Attack rolls while the source of its fear is within line of sight.

  The creature can’t willingly move closer to the source of its fear.

One could argue that the curse makes you do things you would ordinarily be unwilling to do (e.g. continue attacking someone when you really should run away), therefore the portion of the fear which prevents you from moving closer would be suspended.

However, one could also argue that just because the person is cursed, they are still frightened, and cannot move in spite of the curse.

It comes down to which one is stronger: the curse or the fear.

Since you had to make a Saving Throw for each, personally I would say whichever you failed by more is the stronger one, but ultimately your DM will have to make the call.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Rather than down vote, could people explain why my answer is wrong? Especially since pokep's answer comes to the same conclusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Shem Sep 12 '17 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ It wasn't me, but speculation: while both your and pokep's answer state that it's up to the DM ultimately, pokep emphasizes that the rules in question cannot be applied in a rigid manner while yours appears to try to come to a rigid conclusion within the system. You also suggest a way of handling it rigidly (based on level of failure), even though this suggestion does not come from the rules themselves. I have no idea if your suggestion causes mechanical problems in the game, but if it can, that may also be a reason. \$\endgroup\$ – jpmc26 Sep 13 '17 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your answer reads like speculation, rather than being based in experience (and explaining what happened when you did it), which is generally not the kind of answer people want to see here. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Sep 13 '17 at 5:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it is logical to simply compare the two DCs, the fear DC vs. the Berserk DC, and the higher DC is what controls the character. Fear normally motivates one based on self preservation. The sword cancels the self preservation, therefore, fear is the most logical thing it is canceling. I would probably give the possessing spirit of the Sword its own Save at +5 or 7 to assert control (8+2+5= 15), like a jockey trying to calm their horse when spooked. Comparative DC's is most logical and fast. \$\endgroup\$ – Tristian Sep 13 '17 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tristian You may want to turn that comment into an answer to your own question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 13 '17 at 19:08

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