[RPG] How does the spell Remove Curse interact with a Sword of Vengeance


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).

Best Answer

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.