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One of my players recently acquired, and become attuned to, a cursed Sword of Vengeance (DMG, p. 206).

The descriptive text for this item says:

This sword is cursed and possessed by a vengeful spirit. Becoming attuned to it extends the curse to you.

And also:

You can break the curse in the usual ways [...] The sword then becomes a +1 weapon with no other properties.

One of the other PCs in my game is a Cleric, capable of casting the spell Remove Curse, which says:

At your touch, all curses affecting one creature or object end. If the object is a cursed magic item, its curse remains, but the spell breaks its owner’s attunement to the object so it can be removed or discarded.

The item text says that the curse can be broken 'in the usual ways', but the Remove Curse spell text says that it will only break a creature's attunement to a cursed item, not remove a curse from the item itself.

Does this mean that:

  1. The spell Remove Curse is not able to remove the curse from this Sword of Vengeance, only free unlucky PCs from its clutches?
  2. The curse can be removed if Remove Curse is cast twice? The first casting to break attunement and remove the curse from the PC, then a second casting to remove the curse from the weapon itself (while no one is attuned to it)?
  3. Or something else?

UPDATE: For anyone interested in how I ended up deciding to resolve this - the answer, as so often happens, is that the narrative took a surprising turn and the curse was sort of 'broken' by other means.

The PC in posession of the cursed sword was killed in combat. It had been previously established that the vengeful spirit possessing the sword was diabolical (as opposed to demonic) in nature and so when the PC died the devil's master appeared and offered the PC a dark pact in exchange for resurrection. When the PC woke up the curse had been broken and, by the player's choice they'd multiclassed into Warlock (Fiendish patron).

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A single casting ends the curse and breaks attunement

The different terminologies used seem to be the issue here.

The sword's description says:

You can break the curse in the usual ways.

Remove Curse talks about "ending the curse" and "breaking attunement". "Breaking the curse" as in the sword's description is the everyday english meaning of "breaking a curse". No actual game mechanic is attached to that phrase.

If you cast Remove Curse on the sword, the curse is broken, as that is THE usual way of breaking a curse. What actually happens mechanically, is that the attunement is broken, as that is what usually happens when breaking a curse on an attuned item, as described in the spell description (see also Greater Restoration). The sword also says what happens next:

The sword then becomes a +1 weapon with no other properties

So the curse on the sword ends. It's worth mentioning that:

  1. A generic +1 sword does not require attunement.
  2. Remove Curse cannot (as a stand-alone spell) end curses on magic items. It's ability to do that here is based on an exception that is spelled out in the text for the item - specific over general. The feature is unique to the Sword of Vengeance. The Berserker Axe, for comparison, does not have the same text, and thus remove curse does not have the identical effect.
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, to be clear, you're arguing that one casting of Remove Curse should both break attunement and break the curse on the weapon itself? \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Jun 19 '19 at 12:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ In the case of a sword of vengeance, yes. \$\endgroup\$ – ammut Jun 19 '19 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Anyways, one does not need attunement to use a +1 sword. So "breaking the curse" on the sword, turning it into an usual magical +1 sword removes the attunement ... automagically. \$\endgroup\$ – Catar4 Jul 9 '19 at 5:00
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In this particular case, the sword is actually the victim of said curse.

Based on the wording, the sword itself is the victim. Using remove curse to free the blade from the spirit would be akin to using it to remove a Berserker Axe from your own character. You need to sever the link between the source of the curse, the spirit, and the target, the Sword.

Unlike other objects, the curse isn't put on you by the item itself (for examples see Berserker Axe, Bag of Devouring, Demon Armor, etc.) Remove curse would free you from the initial curse due to the attunement, but the sword would still be cursed because you haven't released it from the spirit's bond. Only once you've removed the link between the spirit and the blade would the curse be lifted from it.

Alternately, your DM may have other rules for lifting curses. That section of the DMG is pretty flexible for a DM, allowing them absolute freedom in determining what the factors are that remove curses. In this scenario maybe you have to right an injustice against the angry spirit before it will move on, and remove curse won't do anything but sever the attunement.

TL;DR - Yes remove curse should work fine, but ask your DM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In this instance, I am the DM. Just to be absolutely clear - are you advocating option 2 (as listed in my question) as the correct answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Jun 19 '19 at 12:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tiggerous - Yes, that is basically what I'm advocating. Alternately, simply casting remove curse on the object could end it on the player, or of course cause the spirit to now be bound to the player, creating an interesting and entertaining plot hook as you become a Life Cleric.... OF VENGEANCE. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Jun 19 '19 at 21:15
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Remove Curse only breaks the PC's attunement to the cursed weapon. Banishment will banish the evil spirit within it.

Remove Curse will break the attunement of the PC to the sword but not banish the evil spirit from the sword, which would require the use of a Banishment spell. This leaves open the possibility that the sword can curse another (N)PC.

The confusion comes from the description of the Sword of Vengeance as being "cursed", but the Remove Curse spell cannot remove curses from magic items, only break attunement. The key phrase is "extending the curse to you". That is the curse actually being broken by the Remove Curse spell.

I don't see anything in the text supporting the notion that Remove Curse will leave the sword as a +1 sword without any other properties, in fact it explicitly says that it will break the curse in the "usual way". Thematically this doesn't make sense either unless you were to banish the spirit within it.

Contrary to the accepted answer, the use of the word "Alternatively" suggests that the only way to make this a +1 sword without any other properties is by using the Banishment spell.

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