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Thoughts on Curses

28 February, 2010

As February draws to a close, I thought that it might be worthwhile to discuss some of my thoughts on the place of curses and how they can be best used in a roleplaying game.

In games, curses usually come in one of two forms:

Spells, these are invoked curses, usually used against the player characters.  Most game curses are based on mechanical penalties and have short durations but not really much in common with literary and legendary curses.

Cursed Items, these have usually been used as traps as most punish the character that picks them up just for using them.

For the reasons noted above, I do not like the common game versions of curses.

My aim for my curse spells that I wrote up this month was primarily to create roleplaying hooks, as well as some mechanical effects, which impact on the victim and the game world in interesting ways.   Additionally, I tried to design most of the curses have either a duration or a way to break them (or at least mitigate their effect) outside of simply using a spell to solve the problem.

While the cursed items that I have been designing, such as the Sin’s Gift cycle, are designed to only curse the user if they choose certain actions.  They can choose not to gain the full advantage from the items but if they want the full power, there is a price.  That is the way I think cursed items should work: make a dark deal, pay a dark price.  Again, these should, I hope, lead to good hooks for roleplaying and adventure.

I think it is important that the curse and the character interact in some way.  Curses should be almost living things that change the people that are affected by them.

What are your thoughts on Curses and Cursed Items?  Have you seen them used well -or poorly- in a game?

Some other gamers thoughts on curses:

Kobold Quarterly presents Lesser Curse, Part1 and Part 2.

Rite Publishing provides Wednesdays and Woes: Curses.

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One comment

  1. Jinx! Character cannot speak until he or she hears his or her name spoken 🙂



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