Here’s an idea for a topic I had the other day, not sure if they’ve come up in the past.
Cursed Items and Illusions are something that every newbie DM and even some veterans struggle with getting their arms around, and I’ve seen most people just ignore these things over my 40+ years as a DM in their games, sort of if I don’t acknowledge it then I don’t have to deal with it. Hell I was guilty of this b/c it wasn’t something I felt comfortable with for a long time. So let’s talk about them and how to help struggling DM’s get a grasp on these topics b/c they can be great fun.
Cursed Items are both an item that can give your group a wealth of role playing opportunities and be a pain in the ass. So pretty much in every edition, as far as I can remember, to Identify the item the spellcaster is supposed to touch the item (2e/3e/5e), 1e the item has to be held or worn as would be normal for the item. Identify doesn’t detect the curse, though I’m remembering something about a 1% chance to detect it, but I can’t seem to place where I picked that up at. Legend Lore is said to be able to give hints to a possible curse, again going off memory here so that may be wrong. I’ve seen many DMs over the years just use Identify or LL as a means to find the curse and just move on. Why even bother putting in a cursed item if that’s the case. I mean outside of Wish spell I don’t know of any sure-fire means of detecting a wish and who really wants to do that? I like to think of cursed items as semi-sentient so they are actively trying to hid from any detection, slipping around hiding behind other enchantments. So if you do allow Identify or LL to have a chance of detection, and I sometimes do (depends on the game and the guidelines set down in session 0), but the curse gets a save (hidden rolls of course) against being ID’d with the DC increasing with the severity of the curse/item. So you’ve ID the curse so now how do you get rid of it, in 1e, 2e, 3e and 5e remove curse breaks the enchantment (attunement) so you can throw the item away but doesn’t get rid of the curse. If the players want to remove the curse that can be an adventure hook to destroy the item, or I’ve also allowed another attempt to remove the curse with the increased DC. If the caster fails the attempt the curse has a chance to jump items and fool the caster into thinking the curse is gone. Well technically it’s gone from the original item but it has attached itself to something else in the party. So how do you handle Cursed Items in your games?
Illusions are not something that my players use a lot of, outside of the phantom noise or something like that to use as a distraction. I’m not opposed to using them but most of the players I’ve had never use the fancy, look there’s a dragon, giant, or horde of orcs coming at you. When I’ve used them against the players I typically have the giant or whatever appear. They make their saves, the ones that do save see the critter fade away into nothing or fade into a washed out shadowy ghost of itself. The ones that don’t attempt to react to the critter as normal. I don’t have a lot to add to this topic like the cursed items one, but it came to mind when I was thinking about the cursed items. There’s a ton of old Dragon articles and advice when it comes to illusions, but it might help pad out a topic on thorny subjects that can give new DMs a spot of trouble.