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Is it possible to permanently remove a curse from a cursed magic item?

An example of such a cursed item would be the Berserker Axe:

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon. In addition, while you are attuned to this weapon, your hit point maximum increases by 1 for each level you have attained.

Curse. This axe is cursed, and becoming attuned to it extends the curse to you. As long as you remain cursed, you are unwilling to part with the axe, keeping it within reach at all times. You also have disadvantage on attack rolls with weapons other than this one, unless no foe is within 60 feet of you that you can see or hear. [...]

So in this case, to permanently remove the curse would presumably turn this magic item into a curse-free magic axe that just has a +1 enchantment and increases your HP whilst attuned.

The first obvious thing that springs to mind is the remove curse spell, but that explicitly states that it cannot do this:

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.

All it does is end the attunement so that the creature is no longer cursed, but the magic item itself is still cursed.

I will also bring attention to the special case, the Sword of Vengeance. This weapon can have its curse removed by casting the banishment spell on it, but only because it's description explicitly describes that it is possible, and how to do so:

You can break the curse in the usual ways. Alternatively, casting banishment on the sword forces the vengeful spirit to leave it. The sword then becomes a +1 weapon with no other properties.

The following Q&A explores that in more detail: How does the spell Remove Curse interact with a Sword of Vengeance?

For the purposes of this question, I want to ignore the Sword of Vengeance, since I'm asking about the generic case (or if we need a specific magic item, the Berserker Axe, which was also called out in the accepted answer to the above Q&A as a counterexample to the Sword of Vengeance).

So, is there any way that one can permanently remove the curse from a cursed magic item (besides the Sword of Vengeance)? Excluding catch-all things like wish or a cleric's Divine Intervention (unless they specifically mention removing curses from cursed magic items).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does the removal of the curse need to be permanent? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 2 '19 at 9:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 I think I'll change my mind about the perm vs. temp thing. I think I'll say that it does have to be permanent, since if it's only temporary, it's not really removed, only suppressed. So let's go with "only permanent". \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 2 '19 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth noting that while the accepted answer to the cited question on SoV states that Remove Curse can end the curse on the item, that may not actually be the case. The cited question excludes key language which states that Banishment is a means of ending the curse. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Dec 2 '19 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical I just looked up the item's description after your edit. Thanks for that info (and the edit). I've added the relevant quote from SoV just to make that explicit in the question. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 2 '19 at 16:21
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Within the parameters you have dictated, no methods exist within RAW

The specific rules you have already highlighted in your question, being the core rule in the remove curse spell, and the specific exception on the Sword of Vengeance. This cited question, unfortunately, chooses to cherry-pick the phrasing of SoV in a misleading way, leading one to infer that there is precedent for remove curse being able to eradicate a curse from a cursed magic item.

The general rule is that a cursed item is always cursed. An attuned creature has the item's curse extend to them, and casting remove curse on that creature gives, at best, a brief moment of relief before the curse is instantly re-applied. Casting remove curse on the cursed item breaks its attunement, ending the curse on the creature but not the item.

The only "exception" to this rule doesn't even involve removing the curse, but rather using banishment to rid a SoV of a vengeful spirit that is the source of the curse. The specific ruling on SoV overrides the general rule in that instance alone. There is still no precedent for the remove curse spell or any similar effects being able to rid a cursed item of its curse.

Unfortunately, wish and divine intervention remain as the only permanent RAW methods, as you have surmised.

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A Transmutation Wizard's Panacea effect might work

The School of Transmutation Wizard gets the Master Transmuter feature and one option of that feature is the following:

[...] Panacea. You remove all curses, diseases, and poisons affecting a creature that you touch with the transmuter's stone. The creature also regains all its hit points [...]

- Player's Handbook (page 113)

This might work as it removes all curses from the creature but unfortunately not the object itself. This also, unlike remove curse, does not end the target's attunement to any cursed items. The item's curse is certainly "affecting the target creature"; the question is whether this continues to remove the curse should they continue to use the item. It's honestly unclear if this does anything at all, since it might only remove the curse for a single instant before the weapon reapplies/reactivates the curse immediately, thus having ultimately no effect whatsoever.

A temporary answer would be the antimagic field spell

The antimagic field spell states:

[...] Within the sphere, spells can't be cast, summoned creatures disappear, and even magic items become mundane [...]

This effect lasts for an hour, so it's not particularly long, and it does require an 8th level spell, but it will momentarily cease all magical properties of an item including any curses. There certainly could be other more useful methods of ending the magic in an item, or perhaps only the curse, but this is what I could find.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So, the question becomes "does removing a curse from a creature that is still attuned to the cursed item afterwards just become cursed again straight away, or does the curse get removed from the magic item because that's the only way the feature can actually remove the curse from the creature"? \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 2 '19 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ That seems about right, though I think this probably comes from an accidental wording error from not including the phrasing that remove curse uses and not some sort of intentional use of the feature \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 2 '19 at 16:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm inclined to agree with that, I also don't think that's how Panacea was supposed to work, but technically RAW doesn't resolve it one way or the other... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 2 '19 at 16:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the wording of remove curse states that if you touch an object that is a cursed item, it breaks attunement. Using remove curse to touch a creature cursed by an item does not break attunement. In practice, this would offer a moment of relief from the curse, before the weapon attunement extends that curse to the player once again. If this wasn't the case, the spell wouldn't dictate specifically that you have to touch the item. For this reason, I disagree that Panacea would interact with the creature any differently than remove curse would; attunement would remain. \$\endgroup\$ – Zigmata Dec 3 '19 at 22:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zigmata Hence why I'm unsure. Though that would mean that Panacea removes the curse for a single instant which is not enough time for literally anything to happen. Added a little bit saying Panacea might do literally nothing \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Dec 3 '19 at 22:20
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I don't believe there's any way of removing the curse outside of wishes and divine intervention unless the curse description specifies it.

According to Chris Perkins on Twitter:

Maybe as part of a quest.

So basically only by house rules.

It's worth noting for reference that on 3.5e the dispel magic states the following:

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.

The 5e Dispel Magic only ends the effect of spell affecting an item:

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell's level. On a successful check, the spell ends.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, you automatically end the effects of a spell on the target if the spell's level is equal to or less than the level of the spell slot you used.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please also note that developer tweets (like you have linked) are not Sage Advice (that website is misleading). Sage Advice are official rulings, published on WotC's website. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Dec 2 '19 at 13:40

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