• The VOIDRUNNER'S CODEX is coming! Explore new worlds, fight oppressive empires, fend off fearsome aliens, and wield deadly psionics with this comprehensive boxed set expansion for 5E and A5E!

D&D General Magic item traders, cursed items, and hapless buyers or shoplifters

greg kaye

Explorer
Why would you take identify other than to check if items have curses?
Why would others bother to make items with curses?

In regard to the first case I think that, within a context like a session zero, it would be fair for a forming character to make an arcana check to evaluate the prevalence of cursed items and similar within a gaming world (but it may also be fair to say that general prevalence in a world may not be the same as prevalence on a particular adventure).

In regard to the second case:
perhaps what might be latterly regarded as minor "curses" were item "features" that were purposefully intended to cater to the particular preferences of the original recipient of the item;
perhaps a creator just had a bent for chaos or evil:
or perhaps items were created for the likes of traders who were trying to care for business.

So a shopkeep has magic item/s. Perhaps the item/s are kept behind a thick stone wall, in a heavy metal box or in a lighter one made of lead or perhaps they're buried. But what does the shopkeep do if they don't want to lose those potential customers (that casts Detect Magic and walk around town looking for valuables) but they still want to keep an eye both on security and related business opportunities? Perhaps they invest in cursed items.

Perhaps the items may have a base enchantment of Nystul's Magic Aura but then all manner of potentially conditional curses might also be applied. Perhaps the shopkeep or their cooperative acquaintance can cast locate object (a 2nd-level Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, Ranger, or Wizard spell) and has become sufficiently familiar with the item. Perhaps a means to access Remove Curse (a 3rd-level Cleric, Paladin, Warlock, or Wizard spell) has also been sourced.

In these cases like these, who knows, perhaps having items stolen might even become more profitable than by selling them.

What are the types of items that shopkeeps might have produced?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Identify makes sense if you can't learn the properties with an arcana check. I think RAW you can also just attune the item to find out what it does if you have the slot.

The other thing to kee in mind that it's a ritual that doesn't consume it's material component - if you're a wizard or tomelock (or have the feat) there's no good reason not to learn it.

For the most part, I assume cursed items aren't often created oon purpose - they were supposed to do something else but came out flawed. Sometimes this doesn't make them useless (like a berserker axe) and sometimes it does. Plus a known cursed item can be used as a trap for unwary thieves.

In general I don't think any magic item merchant would knowingly sell cursed items. The kind of people who can afford magic items are regular shmoos, they're either wealthy nobles or powerful adventurers (or both) - people who can exact great revenge if wronged, and who often can't be stopped without massive expense unless you have the queen herself personally backing you. Messing with customers is always bad business, trying to scam people who either have armies or don't bother because armies are underpowered are not good targets for shenanigans.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
I think RAW you can also just attune the item to find out what it does if you have the slot..
and regarding properties that can be empowered from items without attunement, you can get to know the specs over a short rest:

In basic rules, part 4, DM's tools/chap 14: Magic Items/Using a magic item, also DMG, chap 7: Treasure, Magic Items/Identifying a magic item, it says:

it says:
... The identify spell is the fastest way to reveal an item’s properties. Alternatively, a character can focus on one magic item during a short rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them. Potions are an exception; a little taste is enough to tell the taster what the potion does.

In most potential campaign settings I wouldn't think it would be worth a starting wizard having identify as one of the initial six spells though a wizard might certainly be eager to get a copy at a later stage, artificers can just take any spell on their list as needed but I doubt that many bards would opt for identify as one of their few known spells.

... cursed items ... were supposed to do something else but came out flawed. Sometimes this doesn't make them useless (like a berserker axe) and sometimes it does. Plus a known cursed item can be used as a trap for unwary thieves.
That's a great point. Oddly Xanathar's Guide, as far as I know, doesn't have rules for items developing flaws in this way.
In the OP I conjectured that:
perhaps what might be latterly regarded as minor "curses" were item "features" that were purposefully intended to cater to the particular preferences of the original recipient of the item;
At a more major scale, The One Ring can be accounted for in this way and what might be features to one may be considered as flaws to another.
While a cursed item that could be used to trap an unwary thief could be anything that couldn't be removed, an item that could truly "curse" the thief could be (I'm making this up) the fortune ring of honest dealing.
In general I don't think any magic item merchant would knowingly sell cursed items. The kind of people who can afford magic items are regular shmoos, they're either wealthy nobles or powerful adventurers (or both) - people who can exact great revenge if wronged, and who often can't be stopped without massive expense unless you have the queen herself personally backing you. Messing with customers is always bad business, trying to scam people who either have armies or don't bother because armies are underpowered are not good targets for shenanigans.
In general yes, but a merchant may sell cursed items if they could convince a sale to gain a profit (perhaps before relocating) or the buyers were acting/had acted like dicks and, perhaps due to ~recklessness, the seller thought they could get away with it.

But, as far as having an item to catch a thief, perhaps the shop keep could just have an adamantine ring that couldn't be removed (with locate object and similar awaiting to be used);
or, to curse a thief, something similar but with something like a simple prestidigitation magic to constantly alert others to the person's presence (or anything else that would have a parallel effect to exploding paint kept in bank vaults);
or, to kill a thief, to have an adamantine necklace or headband whose enlarge effect became inactive when at a distance from the shop and fastened in place.
 
Last edited:

Stormonu

Legend
In 5E, I give almost all my magic items (save potions or other single use items) have quirks. While the Arcana skill might identify the item, the way I run only way you can learn the quirk is with attunement to the item or using Identify. Also, for wands and the like, I run that you can only learn the # of charges via attunement (and I don't use "recharge at dawn/dusk/whatever - they have fixed numbers of charges).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Magic merchants as such might not sell cursed items but there's still a reason to build them: unscrupulous rip-off artists.

Picture this: an artificer is paid well to build a cursed "girdle of giant strength" which when donned reduces the wearer's strength to 1. Seller puts it on the market as a private sale, finds some unlucky adventurer willing to pay thousands of g.p. for it, and meets with said adventurer. Seller offers to let the buyer try the girdle out. Buyer dons the girdle, collapses to the floor, and is then bound and robbed blind by the seller (including of all the funds the buyer brought along to pay for the girdle!), who also retrieves the "girdle" for future use. Seller leaves town or goes into hiding. Buyer is - hopefully - found sometime later and released.

Call me evil, but I pulled this very trick on a PC once. Led to a whole side-trek adventure as the robbed PC moved heaven and earth to recover her losses and extract some painful revenge.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
... the way I run only way you can learn the quirk is with attunement to the item or using Identify. ....
But, unless there's something against a later opting for an alternative item, the only difference between identify and attunement is a shorter time for the spell casting vs a longer time for the rest.
... I pulled this very trick on a PC once. Led to a whole side-trek adventure as the robbed PC moved heaven and earth to recover her losses and extract some painful revenge.
Awesome story, but it illustrates both why NPC traders should be careful how they mess with customers and why NPCs should never leave PCs alive.
 

Well...

Curse: Slow
Curse: Weight
Curse: Flamboyant
Cruse: Flare
Curse: Permanent Rain Cloud

Though I like really, really fun and dark ones like:

Curse: Deposit. Each day the cursed person 'sleepwalks' back to the shop to 'deposit' a set amount of items of value.

Curse: Feed. The magic item does give a cool boost, but "requires" some set value of items to "eat"....and that is teleport back to the shop.
 

Stormonu

Legend
But, unless there's something against a later opting for an alternative item, the only difference between identify and attunement is a shorter time for the spell casting vs a longer time for the rest.
I don't allow attunement in the first place unless the item has been identified by arcana, physical trial and error or the identify spell. I've had players go several sessions not knowing an item was even magical until they either stumbled on the magic, thought to try arcana on it or used detect magic on the item. And in the case of arcana (you must be trained), you get one try (per party) per day on an item at best.

I do not make it easy to identify magic items (outside of potions and scrolls), but try to make them valuable when unlocked - and make identify useful.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
I don't allow attunement in the first place unless the item has been identified by arcana, physical trial and error or the identify spell.
I'm sure that works but, otherwise, a character might just try cuddling up to an item in case it's magical.

Basic rules say that: "... a character can focus on one magic item during a short rest, while being in physical contact with the item. At the end of the rest, the character learns the item’s properties, as well as how to use them..." Presumably, if the item isn't magical, the character gets to know it.
 

greg kaye

Explorer
Curse: Permanent Rain Cloud.
Wow, wow, wow,
Curse: Deposit. Each day the cursed person 'sleepwalks' back to the shop to 'deposit' a set amount of items of value.

Curse: Feed. The magic item does give a cool boost, but "requires" some set value of items to "eat"....and that is teleport back to the shop.
The trouble for the trader is, if the character finds out (and they normally will) that they've been duped, they'd likely seek retribution.
 

Remove ads

Top