Curses, a staple in fantasy TTRPGs since the olden days…
A good curse brings an intriguing layer to the gameplay, demanding creative problem-solving and innovative solutions. Getting cursed might derail the PCs plans but that’s what TTRPGs are all about, overcoming unforeseen obstacles and emerging stronger on the other side.
But won’t my players feel punished if I introduce curses?
They definitely shouldn’t. It’s essential to remember that the heart of fantasy TTRPGs lies in the adventure and overcoming dangers. It’s not about creating invulnerable, unchallenged heroes akin to those in Marvel movies. It’s about embracing the full spectrum of experiences, including the setbacks and the triumphs. Curses serve as a reminder that victory is all the sweeter when it comes after overcoming real, tangible challenges.
Three ways to introduce curses
There are many ways to introduce curses in your game, here are the three most common ones:
- Cursed items: The most iconic way to do it is via cursed items. If a PC equips a cursed item it latches on like a parasite. The PC is unable to drop or remove the item until the curse has been lifted.
- Curse slinging NPCs: Another option is having an NPC curse the PCs, through a spell or occult ritual.
- Desecration: If the PCs desecrate or disturb a sacred place in some way, curse them! It’s both thematic and cool.
10 Fantasy curses and their cleansing rituals
|Curse Name||Effect||Breaking Ritual|
|1. Chillborn Curse||The ambient temperature around the cursed drops to near freezing, causing discomfort to others and affecting nearby liquids.||Must kindle a sacred fire using the wood from a tree struck by lightning and warm themselves by it for a night.|
|2. Ivory Visage||The cursed's skin becomes ivory pale, making them appear ghostly and unnerving to others.||Must receive a heartfelt compliment on their appearance under the light of a full moon.|
|3. Leaden Limbs||The cursed’s limbs become heavy and leaden, slowing their movement and reducing their agility.||Must soak in a bath infused with petals from the Heartsease flower at dawn.|
|4. Beast Bane||All animals despise the cursed and attack on sight, making travel and interaction with animals perilous.||Must save the life of a wild animal in distress.|
|5. Ashen Feast||Food turns to ash in the cursed's mouth, requiring them to eat twice as much to sustain themselves.||Must share a hearty meal with a forgiving spirit who was wronged by them in the past.|
|6. Vanishing Coinage||Whenever the cursed handles currency, there's a chance a portion vanishes, making trade and purchases frustrating.||Must generously donate a sum of their own money to a cause with no expectation of return.|
|7. Misty Sight||The cursed's vision is obscured by grey mists beyond a certain distance, making perception of distant objects and threats difficult.||Must gaze into the eyes of a seer who will help clear the mists from their sight.|
|8. Arcane Nullity||The cursed can no longer be healed by magical means, the only way to recover is rest.||The cursed must drink a potion made from moon-blessed water at the stroke of midnight, rekindling their connection to magical healing.|
|9. Whispered Madness||The cursed hears whispers demanding violent actions, making it hard to discern reality from violent urges.||Must undergo a cleansing ritual performed by a sage to silence the whispers.|
|10. Unstable Weight||The cursed's body weight fluctuates unpredictably making movement and balance precarious.||Must balance atop a high peak during a calm sunrise to stabilize their weight.|
Closing thoughts on these fantasy curses
Personally, I think that curses are best used together with randomly generated treasure and elements, because it’s always great fun when you as the game master is equally surprised when the evil bracelet latch on to one of the characters, you will all get to share a moment of surprise and wonder. It might not be very pleasant for the cursed PC, but trying to cleanse the curse will surely lead to new and interesting adventures.