Perilous Players and the Curse of the Forgotten Gold   Leave a comment


I confess that today’s topic, revolving around money that brings bad things to people, is a blatant and shameless cross promotion on my part.  Today I release a story called Three Virellium Coins, a sci-fi mystery (well… it’s a fantasy adventure pretending to be a sci-fi mystery), a story that I’m hoping to release three times a week onto the Internet for the cost of your time and the electrons required to power your Internet-capable devices.  What are the three coins from the title and how do they cause problems? Well, you’ll just have to read that story to find out.  You can read it at its main website, or follow along through the companion site on Tumblr!  Now then, back to the serious topic of hunting for cursed treasure…

Monuments Men

Cursing items is a mean thing to do to players most of the time.  Most players just like getting their hands on loot and cashing it in for fortune and/or fame.  They don’t want to worry about repercussions for their actions, they want to move on to the next scenario with their hard-won gold.  Most of the time, I think this is appropriate: they’ve had a long adventure, and it’s okay to kick back and relax a little.

Cursed items are, however, a staple of fantasy literature.  It’s not necessarily a bad idea to make cursed treasure show up… once in a while.  But do it too often and the players will get wary.  I mean, you’re players aren’t going to eagerly take their treasure if it always turns into a bad idea.

Abu and Jewel

So, if you want to curse the money that the players get, my recommendation is to make it a plot.  Don’t make it a side-annoyance, make it a part of the next session or two.  One of my favorite examples of this sort of curse came from the Eberron book called Explorer’s Handbook, though it’s tragically not going to be much more than an annoyance.  There’s a table for results that you can roll for expeditions that you invest in, along with what your investment return is.  One of the results includes receiving a good amount of money… but it was stolen from a barbarian chieftan who cursed it, and so anyone who spends it gains the compulsion to eat insects, resulting in a loss of Charisma unless the gold is returned.

Now, I say that it’s a minor annoyance… and true, a player will be tempted to just go find someone who can cast a spell to remove the curse.  However, there are two significant differences that I want to point out.  First of all, there *is* a story hook for removing the curse that a player can take, meaning that a DM who says that the curse resists standard cures is giving the players a story hook (or giving the character a peculiar quirk.)  Second of all, the curse’s result isn’t “you lose six Charisma.”  The curse’s result is eating bugs.  It turns you into Renfield from Dracula, almost.  The curse has a character and story effect that causes the stat change, rather than just being a stat change itself.  In short, it’s awesome.

If you truly wish to curse your player’s loot… have fun.  I strongly suggest, though, that it only happen to one or two players per campaign that you run.  Much more often, and the loot will start to look more like a trap.

Sorry for the short entry this week, guys!  I’ve got Three Virellium Coins to set up tonight, and I’m all sorts of nervous and excited and rushed.  Feel free to check it out, and I’ll see you next week for another Magical Mondays!

(And, yeah, I’m gonna skip the obvious joke about this project being cursed and giving me a -6 to Sanity or something.  Seriously, guys, give me some credit… it’s interrupting my concentration, so we could still use Con score to keep it in the D&D stats.  I mean, really, what do you take me for?)



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