Bestow Curse says

At the DM’s option, you may choose an alternative curse effect, but it should be no more powerful than those described above. The DM has final say on such a curse’s effect.

Would "While Cursed, The target has vulnerability to a damage type of your choice" be a balanced alternative curse effect? This seems like a fair trade to me because the target gets to act normally every turn and you essentially halve its hit points, as compared to the 3rd option:

  • While cursed, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each of its turns. If it fails, it wastes its action that turn doing nothing.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ask one or the other, not both. I've edited to the real question. You can edit it back to the fake one if it gets closed as opinion-based. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2017 at 19:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I also changed the question to be asking about your idea as an alternative curse effect per the spell's text, rather than a replacement example curse effect in a non-exhaustive list. If you meant to ask about it as a replacement curse effect, please make that clear in the question. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2017 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


No, this doesn't seem balanced to me.

There are too many damage options (a Wizard with a higher level necrotic damage spell would have a field day), AND it's a one and done save.

As a suggestion though, maybe limiting that statement in some way might make the concept of vulnerability work for this.

Say, for instance, that you take your premise:

While Cursed, The target has vulnerability to a damage type of your choice.

But modify it similarly to other examples of the existing curses, as so:

While cursed, the target must make a Wisdom saving throw at the start of each of it's turns. If it fails, it gains vulnerability to one of the following damage types for that turn. Slashing, Piercing, Bludgeoning. The type of damage vulnerability is determined by the caster when the spell is cast.

This limits the effect of the curse to being a 25% chance per round (using the example of the CR24 ancient red dragon above) instead of "for the duration of the spell", and also limits the scope of the damage types to choose from.

Allowing other damage types for a 3rd level spell would cause havoc in my opinion.

Full disclosure - this is all off the top of my head with no books in front of me. I'd have to go over this version to see if IT was too OP.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another save option used commonly that would work is the "The creature can make a saving throw at the end of each turn, on a success the effect ends". I think the example I gave of a Legendary creature exacerbates the comparison since it can still do legendary actions even if it "wasted its turn doing nothing". Receiving double damage for an extended period is going to literally cut the engagement in half. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Jan 2, 2018 at 21:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ I look at the 25% chance to affect the red dragon as a 75% for the wizard to get killed. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2018 at 23:00

No it would not be balanced.

Giving the target vulnerability would end up being equal to or more powerful than the average extra 4.5 necrotic dmg from the 4th bullet:

  • While the target is cursed, your attacks and spells deal an extra 1d8 necrotic damage to the target.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to ignore the rest of the curse effects that the new one could be compared against. The necrotic damage option is by far the worst option available, what justifies comparing it against only that option rather than the best option of those listed or an average of the listed options or something? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 31, 2017 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ The others are very hard to quantify, and this is the only one dealing damage. Also, the suggestion is overpowered \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Dec 31, 2017 at 23:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ not being able to act without a wisdom save is over powered. I believe there's a new 1st level spell or class ability in XGTE that grants vulnerability for one round. Hold person lets people auto crit. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 1, 2018 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ The class ability in XGTE is "Channel Divinity: Path to the grave" available to Grave Domain clerics and it only lasts for one attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Jan 1, 2018 at 23:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @VoromirKadien The big difference is that Hold [X] allows a save at the end of every turn and only allows crits for melee attacks within 5 feet. Path to the Grave applies only to a single attack. Applying Vulnerability for 1 minute (or longer, if up-cast) of any damage type of your choice is significantly more lethal. It is neither constrained in damage type or range, and the only way to get rid of it early is to bust the concentration of the caster. So, caster gives target Vulnerability to Piercing damage, then runs away. Martial characters proceed to slaughter target from long range. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2018 at 18:30

No, it would not be balanced.

One wisdom save to lose effectively remove half a creature's HP is not similar to multiple wisdom saves to act.
As an extreme example, a lucky 6th level Wizard could remove 273HP from a CR 24 Ancient Red Dragon with one failed Wisdom throw. At 6th level it's reasonable to expect a Wizard to have +4 int and obviously +3 proficiency bonus. A DC of 15.
With +9 to Wis saving, the Ancient Red Dragon would have to roll an 6 or above to save, or 75%.
That means you are comparing

  • a 25% chance (it can still save once at the start to ignore the spell completely) to be 'doing nothing' on 25% of it's turns to
  • a 25% chance to lose 273 HP.

Pretty extreme for a 3rd level spell.

The only spells I can find with Vulnerability in the PHB are 5th level. Contagion (PHB p.227) requires 3 failed CON saves to take effect and Hallow (PHB p.249) offers a CHA save each turn and only affects them while they are in the affected area.
That makes this 3rd level spell objectively much better than a 5th level spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there's something off with the math, "roll an 8" and "85%" don't seem to match. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Jan 2, 2018 at 12:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ The dragon would have to hit a DC of 15 with a +9 WIS mod? That's a roll of 6 needed, not 8 (9+6=15). That in turn is 75% chance of making the save, not 85%. (every pip on a d20 is 5%). So a 25% chance of failure (1-5 on the D20). That, per this answer, would make it even more imbalanced... \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2018 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ A prepared party could do FAR worse. If the party knows that the Wizard can drop this curse, they'll all get melee/ranged weapons that do the same damage type. Suppose you have a Fighter, Rogue, and Monk in the party. They all pick up Piercing weapons and the Wizard tags the enemy with "Vulnerability: Piercing Damage." Now three party members are dropping double damage any time they hit the target. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 2, 2018 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just out of curiosity, how would a 6th level wizard deal 273 damage? (or 136,5 without the vulnerability) \$\endgroup\$
    – Martin
    Sep 4, 2019 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Martin It's not that a single 6th level wizard can cause that damage. It's that they can remove that amount of HP from a creature by making it vulnerable. Whether it's one round or 50, 1 character or 100. Taking double damage effectively removes half your hp pool. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luke
    Sep 19, 2019 at 4:41

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