Rules | GM Screen

<- Return to All Rules (Group by Source)
<- Return to Curses

All Rules in Curses

+ An entry marked with this has additional sections within it.

Creating New Curses

Source Horror Adventures pg. 140
Curses needn’t be limited to the effects listed under Afflictions. When designing a new curse, though, be careful not to go too far. A devastating curse can have consequences as serious as dying or being turned to stone. Certainly, horrific curses that promise immediate and inescapable doom have their place, but curses that can be endured for a time bring far more horror to the table, as struggling under the curse can lead to more tension than instant death would bring, while surviving and escaping such a curse can become an adventure all its own. Consider these guidelines when creating a curse.

Make It Logical: A character generally doesn’t get cursed for minding her own business. More often, the victim meddled with powerful forces, disturbed an ancient grave, or even wronged a vengeful fortune-teller. Try to fit the curse to the act that brought it on, like a glutton being unable to eat, a bigot becoming the target of his bigotry, or a tomb robber burning in the light of day.

Make It Interesting: A boring curse isn’t worth the game time it consumes. A good curse should be creepy, comical, embarrassing, or terrifying, and it helps to have a good story behind it.

Make It Interactive: Some curses require the players and GM to roleplay effects such as an inability to lie or a compulsion to steal. This sort of curse can be very rewarding with a motivated group, as possible effects could extend far beyond what game mechanics decree.

Make It Simple: A good curse has easy-to-handle mechanics. Most curses should have only one or two effects, and should be possible to resolve during play. Avoid the need to reference complicated effects during combat. Failing that, prepare an index card with the curse’s details that you can use as an easy reference.

Types of Curses

Source Horror Adventures pg. 140
Curses can have a wide range of effects, which is something to keep in mind when designing a new curse. They may trigger only intermittently, apply a constant penalty, or grow worse with time. In addition, curses can function exclusively using game mechanics, or incorporate roleplaying considerations.

Intermittent: Some curses, such as unluck, trigger only under certain conditions but otherwise stay consistent in their effects.

Mechanical: These curses rely on game mechanics for the majority of their effects, such as applying penalties, ability damage, or negative conditions. This sort of curse is a good choice if you want a steady, consistent effect for the curse, though particularly with conditions, you might have to start considering interactions with other abilities triggered by those conditions.

Progressive: A progressive curse functions much like a disease, requiring periodic checks to determine whether the affliction progresses. However, unlike those suffering from diseases, the victims of these curses cannot recover just by succeeding at saving throws. A progressive curse worsens with each failed save, often ending in incapacitation or death. Mummy rot is a typical progressive curse.

Static: Curses like baleful polymorph apply an effect for the entire duration of the curse, with no change in their severity.

Breaking the Curse

Source Horror Adventures pg. 141
The most conventional way to rid a victim of a curse is the spell remove curse, occasionally with the aid of other or more powerful magic. When making a new curse, especially one with a strong story background, consider novel ways to remove the curse beyond just casting a spell, as with the spell conditional curse. Robbers might be cursed until they return every ill-gotten coin, while a haughty aristocrat might suffer until she cleans the feet of a dozen beggars. In these cases, it’s best to make the victim vaguely aware of how to end his torment, but let him discover the specific details on his own through either research or trial and error. Curses with story-based remedies are often hard to break with remove curse and break enchantment. Increase the DC for removal by 2, 5, or even 10 based on the power of the curse. Particularly powerful curses resist remove curse and break enchantment entirely, requiring either specific conditions for removal or the application of limited wish, miracle, or wish.

Some curses are easier to remove than normal; improvised curses, because of their impromptu nature, tend to be easier to remove. A simple cleansing ritual might suffice to remove them, which the PCs could discover through exploration, research, or a successful Knowledge (religion) check. Such curses could even fade over the course of days or weeks. While many NPC casters offer curse removal with no questions asked, it is common knowledge that curses are rarely picked up accidentally. Some of these casters might want to know the circumstances behind the curse (often employing Sense Motive or even divination magic during the discussion). Good-aligned churches might expect acts of atonement or charity as at least partial payment for removing a justly gained curse.

Alternative Means of Relief

Source Horror Adventures pg. 141
Should a curse seem impossible to end by either normal or conditional means, the accursed might take desperate measures for even temporary relief from their suffering. Many such methods are dire enough that creatures may consider them worse than simply being cursed.

Death: Some curses end upon the death of the victim, perhaps leading a victim to take her own life in the hope of being raised from the dead free of the curse. Although some find release this way, others are sorely disappointed; some gods may not smile upon such wanton suicide—or the victims might be restored to life, only to find themselves still afflicted by the curse.

Making Amends: A curse laid as punishment for a misdeed might be neutralized by rectifying the misdeed. But there are no guarantees. Undoing the misdeed and additionally offering a comparable effort to make up for the trouble caused might allow a new saving throw against the curse to remove it. Forgiveness from the curse-layer grants a +4 bonus on this saving throw. For curses that require amends, remove curse generally fails unless and until such amends are made.

Symbiosis: On rare occasions, a character might allow the curse to infect her very being as a desperate attempt to mitigate the effects, hoping that this will give her some measure of control. Symbiosis with a curse is rarely successful, and it usually leads to contracting an accursed corruption, as the curse takes over the creature’s personality. In rare cases, curse symbiosis might transform the accursed into a monster associated with curses (such as a hag) without first going through an accursed corruption.