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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:

  1. 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.
  2. Curse slinging NPCs: Another option is having an NPC curse the PCs, through a spell or occult ritual.
  3. 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 NameEffectBreaking Ritual
1. Chillborn CurseThe 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 VisageThe 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 LimbsThe 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 BaneAll 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 FeastFood 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 CoinageWhenever 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 SightThe 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 NullityThe 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 MadnessThe 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 WeightThe 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.

If you like these curses, please check out our guide to improvising as DM or our list of 10 artifacts of immense power, and of course, our game: Adventurous!

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