Welcome to a hopefully-regular series where I spend my Tuesdays talking about homebrew stuff. Maybe we’ll alter or write our own magic system, maybe we’ll create new creatures, maybe we’ll create some new system or class or whatever we feel like it. Today, though, I’m going to start simple. We’re going to create a cursed item. And we’re not only going to make it cursed armor, we’re going to make it cursed armor that lets you know that it’s cursed. And then we’re going to make it so people still want to put it on.
How are we going to do that? Through an arcane art that some Devil Lords of the Nine Hells think is beyond the pale, too evil for even them to use. Of course, we’re talking about the evilest of evil traps,
So let’s invent a suit of armor. We can make it plate mail or chain mail, or even leather, if your party’s thief tends to have a bank account the size of a few of the local princedoms, combined. The armor looks impeccably made, and it feels lighter and more flexible than it should be; if a fighter puts the plate mail version on, it will feel and weigh like leather armor. It radiates magic, and even a first-level Detect Magic cast by a 0-level apprentice from a scroll will show that it’s cursed. Ahh, the party says, we’d better leave that alone.
But wait!!! the magic-user says. It’s cursed, but it’s also magic. It’s +2 armor. And against fire (or undead, or Fey weapons, or whatever the Big Bad in your campaign is or uses) it’s a whalloping +3.
The exact nature of the curse, though, is elusive. Let’s say that it will rate a DC 25+ check, and even then all they can tell about the curse, unless they have specific knowledge of this infernal armor, is that it’s a curse relating to how the armor can be used, and it’s been known to drain riches from warriors in the past. A thorough search of the armor will also reveal that the inside of the padding is covered in teeny-tiny letters of an archaic infernal script, but only the most skilled of scholars can begin to decipher it and identify it as some sort of legal document. But that will take a while, of course…
Ahh, the fighter says, but we have to fight Lord High Umptyscrunch, the Lich Lord of Lichlordia. Maybe I’d better wear it anyway.
If they put it on, they have 30 days (in game) to wear it, and it functions as magical armor. Moreover, it’s the most comfortable armor they’ve ever worn, and did we mention that it has extra bonuses against the threat they are most likely to face? This feature is important, as it will make them more likely to pay up on day 31, when the armor shuts down, and shortly afterward, a small imp arrives, making the bold claim that when the character put on the armor, he or she agreed to its “Terms and Conditions.” Now that the trial period is over, they owe a quarterly subscription fee of, say, 50% of what the player usually gets in loot after an adventure. The “Warranty Imp” (a creature so vile and horrible that even Mordenkainen couldn’t bring himself to write about them) will take the money and come back in three months.
Of course, no one knows exactly how time passes in the Outer Planes… a week in the Prime Material might be three months in the Abyss. If the player doesn’t pay up in, say, 72 hours after the Imp delivers the bill, the armor takes on a negative equal to what its pluses had been. It also cannot be removed at this point, outside of say, the underskirt of the plate mail for sanitary purposes. (Even Warranty Imps aren’t THAT evil… also, the Faceless Horrors that run the Nine Hell’s HR Department inserted that codicil to avoid a lawsuit.)
How do you play it out after this? It’s up to you. Perhaps they have to convince a high-level Cleric of a Lawful Evil god to remove the curse. (Good luck!) Perhaps they have to go on a quest to remove its magic. Perhaps the Warranty Imp’s boss agrees to break the contract provided the wearer gets three friends to sell weapons and trinkets for him… all with their own terms and conditions. The possibilities are endless, and diabolical.
That’s it for today. Thursday will be another feature, and maybe some better art in this blog as well.