[RPG] Where do the D&D 5e books list potential curse effects to use for a cursed magical item


I feel this question may be a bit broad so to narrow I'm looking for something supported by the DM Guide or PHB. There are random tables for just about everything, but I did not see one for curse effects.

I did see scroll and potion mishaps DMG 140 and the quirk table GMD 143 which I suppose I could use or just apply random status conditions from the PHB appendix. But I was hoping for something more official.

Also I imagine two types of tables. A curse that has one continuous effect and a curse that has a sort of random effect every day or week.

What does the PHB or DMG offer in terms of types of curses?

Best Answer

Options from 5th Edition

  • In the PHB there is a Spell called Bestow Curse on pg 218 with some options.
  • The Hex Spell PHB pg 251 (not a lot of options there though)
  • If you use the scroll and potion mishaps, you will want to remove the beneficial effects.
  • You could also consider some effects from the Wild Magic Surge table on pg 104 of the PHB
  • The DMG pg 220 has a list of Detrimental Properties for artifacts that can be used for curses.
  • There is a list of Vistani Curses on page 28 of Curse of Strahd. Curse of Strahd is a good resource for ideas on curses, and cursed items.

Options from Earlier Editions

Since these types of effects tend to be more edition agnostic than other rules, you might want to consider earlier sources. Dragon Magazine would often run an article on new ways to curse a player.

  • Dragon 348 pg 34 Article: Bestowed Curses
  • Dragon 229 pg 26 Article: Curses
  • Dragon 34 pg 30 Article: Quirks and Curses
  • Dragon 167 pg 28 Article: Curses Are Divine
  • Dragon 77 pg 18 Article: Curses! (by Ed Greenwood)
  • Dragon 229 pg 26 Article: Curses
  • Dragon 29 pg 13 Article: Curses: Never Get Even - Get Ahead!
  • Apparently 3.5's Book Of Vile Darkness contained some suggestions, but I can't get my hands on that book right now to give a page reference.
  • The 2nd Edition DMG Under Magic Items: Scrolls: Cursed Scrolls has a list of great suggestions, some of which my characters have been subjected to. (aka how my elf got a beard.)
  • The 3.0 DMG has a list of interesting scroll mishaps under Magic Items: Scrolls: Scroll Mishaps on pg 203.
  • The 3.5 DMG has a bunch of tables to play with on pages 272 - 273.
  • Every edition of the DMG has some sort of list of drawbacks to place on artifacts that can be used for curses.

While it's not entirely related, here is a fun article on ways players can use cursed items to their advantage: "Putting Evil To Good Use" by Jonathan M. Richards in Dragon 215 pg 10

I am sure there are many more sources out there, so I encourage you to keep exploring.

General Suggestion

Rolling randomly is OK if it is a scroll / potion / trap, or even a magical mishap. But you might want to consider tying the curse to to the theme of the item when the item is more significant. Look in the DMG at the cursed items there for inspiration, and let your imagination run wild!

Because a cursed monocle that makes you half your height is forgettable, but one that makes you talk and act like a posh Waterdhavian Noble with a heap of contempt for their 'lessers' is much more fun.

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