A curse can not be dispelled with dispel magic. It can only be removed with the 'remove curse' spell. However, what does this mean for cursed items? Dispel Magic states that

If the object that you target is a magic item, you make a dispel check against the item's caster level. If you succeed, all the item's magical properties are suppressed for 1d4 rounds, after which the item recovers on its own. A suppressed item becomes nonmagical for the duration of the effect.

As far as I am aware, a cursed item is a magic item. And technically, I am not removing the curse. Merely suppressing it. Would this work? Would this then allow a person to remove a cursed object even if the object does not normally allow this (Such as a servant ring)?


3 Answers 3


The most likely interpretation is that if an item states that it cannot be removed without remove curse, then it cannot be removed without remove curse.

Reason 1: Specific beats general

The principle of "specific beats general" is stated as follows in the Rules Compendium (2007):

A general rule is a basic gudeline, but a more specific rule takes precedence when applied to the same activity. For instance, a monster description is more specific than any general rule about monsters, so the description takes precedence.

While dispel magic in general can suppress magic items, specific cursed items can override this with specific properties.

Reason 2: Item descriptions

Cursed items are usually explicit when naming the spells which will counter their curse. For example, consider the Gauntlets of Fumbling (emphasis mine):

Once the curse is activated, the gloves can be removed only by means of a remove curse spell, a wish, or a miracle.

The item text is very specific: the item cannot be removed, except by one of the three named spells. It does not say what happens when you try any other method or spell, only that it will fail.

Note that this particular curse only prevents removing the item. It may still be possible to temporarily dispel a cursed item's other magical properties.

Reason 3: Primary source rule

According to the D&D 3.5 errata, when two rules come into conflict, the Dungeon Master Guide takes precedence over the other rulebooks when it comes to rules for magic items and cursed items, since the DMG is the primary source for those rules.

(However, this is not a watertight argument, since by the same token, the Player's Handbook is the primary source for rules on spells, such as dispel magic.)

Reason 4: Adjudication by similar rules

The Dungeon Master's Guide gives the following advice to DMs adjudicating ambiguous situations:

When you come upon a situation that the rules don't seem to cover, consider the following courses of action:

  • Look to any similar situation that is covered in a rulebook. Try to extrapolate from what you see presented there and apply it to the current circumstance.

In other words, it's reasonable for a DM to interpret an ambiguous rule by inferring a solution from other related rules. The closest similar situations I can find are as follows:

  • The spell bestow curse says that "the curse bestowed by this spell cannot be dispelled". This supports the idea that curses are specially resistant to dispel magic.
  • The Loadstone, a cursed item, will return to your possession even if you destroy or throw it away. This suggests that even if you temporarily outsmart a cursed item, it will return.
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Could you explain why the specific removal requirements override dispel magic? As I see it, Dispel Magic turns a magic item into a mundane item, and as a mundane item, it would no longer have these requirements. Is this an incorrect interpretation on my part? \$\endgroup\$
    – Arthaban
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 16:38
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've updated my answer to hopefully offer a better explanation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think these rules about cursed items are taken directly from the stories which helped inspire the rules in the first place. Part of the 'horror' factor of cursed items in almost every store involving them, is how they twist your desires into horrible shambles of your intent (monkey's paw) or always return to you (various Poe stories), or cannot be removed (dancing slippers) without strenuous effort. This is what makes cursed items memorable, this is why they are scary. Note that apparently they cannot be disjoined, either, which may be an oblique support of this idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Arthaban Well, in D&D rules, specific almost always overrides general. Plus, see my other comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    Commented Jan 30, 2018 at 19:22

A dispel magic only makes an item normal for 1d4 rounds and them it returns to exactly the way it was before the dispel happened. You can not dispel a magic item or curse and then destroy it or be un-cursed. The spell states after the 1d4 rounds it recovers. In the case of a ring it would reappear on your finger as soon as the dispel time ran out. A curse would be suppressed for 1d4 rounds and then return. A magic item would be "normal" for 1d4 and then would return to exactly the way it was before the dispel, even if you destroy the "normal" version. Remember, dispel is for SPELLS, not for enchantments, enchanted items or curses. It is for the temporary not the permanent. Other spells are designed to have power over the permanent.


I would say that it won't work. A curse is a relationship to the world-at-large. That world-at-large knows about magic already and will counteract the spell in order to preserve the order of, what could be called, "karma" -- a higher magic that keeps the order of the world itself.

You could say the gods keep this magic in place. This also gives way to understanding or creating larger story arcs with cursed objects, because of the implied history.


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