Cursed Items to Screw Up Your Players
Book of Smiles
Struggling to find that little bit extra to put into your game? Do you want your players to honestly regret their "intelligent" decision making skills?
One thing I am a massive fan of is cursed items and strange objects which result in the player having to be a bit clever about how they handle their item. Recently I played a game where such a magical item left me unable to talk without my head being caved in and it was gloriously tricky to figure out how to communicate wordlessly with other players.
So I will be throwing out some cursed items occasionally if anyone wishes to use them to spice up a dungeon or add a bit of flavor to their game.
Book of Smiles
"A grim tome lies dusty and hastily abandoned amidst several unremarkable volumes. It has been sealed shut with long pearly rosaries wrapped around it. A bottle of holy water sits on the surface of the tome. It occasionally drips onto the volumes cover from the cork, the drip does not seep into the cover, instead it sizzles and drifts away as steam. The book thrums with a dark energy akin to a heart beat and the closer you get the more rapidly the book seems to pulse.
When the rosaries are removed and the holy water taken away, the book shows several images of twisted masks on the cover all displaying a form of pain or anguish. When the book falls open the pages are blank except for one page which has a young woman's face stitched into it with thick wiry cords. The page is stained with dried blood. Despite the face protruding out from the tome, the book closes as if there is nothing between the pages.
As you seize the book and stare at the woman's face you are suddenly aware that your own feels itchy and sore. You tentatively reach up with one hand and your fingers meet a loose flap of skin beneath your chin. Your fingers are stained with fresh blood. Slowly, the skin of your face slides off onto the empty page of the book next to the gaunt woman's and stitches erupt from the parchment, sealing it inside.
Pain spreads rapidly across your newely exposed muscles and blood pours down your neck."
This book is a morbid collection of people. The player can remove the face of an enemy and add it to the book. Once per day the player can remove the face of their choice from the book and wear it however in the process they have to leave their own within the book. When wearing the face from within the book, the book will allow the player to take on the form of that person for an hour. If the player does not put their own face back on after the hour the player will lose the stolen face (which will then be unusable) and suffer damage until they put their own face back on. The damage is your choice, you can make it as soft or as fatal as you wish. I tend to go by 2d6 damage every two minutes until they replace their face. This is outright deadly for lower level characters in some systems.
If anyone reads the book their face will slide off onto an empty page and be claimed. They will need to break it free from the stitches and put it back on in order to reclaim it. You can decide how difficult it is to remove from the book. I tend to make it easy for the player as the cost of not removing it I tend to set high.
Anyone who has read the book will suffer The Curse of Smiles; every day they will need to make a random save roll determine if their face will randomly fall off at any time.
Depending on the face they choose the player will also gain for that hour 1 spell from the faces class. If they choose a clerics face for that hour they will receive one clerics spell. If they choose a specialist they will receive 2 skill points in an area of your choice.
Although they are wearing the face, and their body will change to fit, the player will still sound like themselves and will gain no memories or historical knowledge of the person.
If the book is lost when the book is in use then the player will not be able to claim their face back and will die gradually from infection and blood loss.
If the player wishes to they can drench the book in holy water and destroy it. This will end the curse that requires them to save randomly to stop their face from falling off at any time. If they destroy it with their face inside they will die slowly overtime.