In many video games, particularly the rogue-like genre, cursed items are items that cannot be unequipped once equipped unless the curse is lifted from them.

For instance, a cursed ring, once equipped, will tighten to the user's finger to the point of impossible removal.

Of course videogames won't be detailed enough as to what happens when the items were disarmed, or if the wielder's appendage was cut. (But these things happen in complex fighting scenarios.)

Using these ideas a context, how can I justify a cursed item being unequippable in the following scenarios?

  1. When the item's holder is disarmed. (His weapon flies off to a distance - this counts as being unequipped right?)
  2. When the item holder's appendage (such as hands) were cut off while holding the item.
  3. When other people (such as a friend) tries to hold/wield another person's cursed item. (Brandishing a cursed weapon that s/he didn't originally own.)
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    $\begingroup$ You can look at the Lord of the Rings as one big quest to unequip a cursed ring. $\endgroup$ Apr 29 '18 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like it should be on roleplaying SE $\endgroup$
    – person27
    Apr 30 '18 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ @person27 actually this question is pretty undefined in a lot of roleplaying systems as well - see, for example, this discussion w.r.t D&D 3.5. $\endgroup$
    – Tacroy
    Apr 30 '18 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ The lingo "equipping" and "unequipping" strikes me as technical terms from gaming, I would suggest using more general terms which also make sense in other contexts. Also, could you make clear what the abbreviation ff. stands for? To improve the clarity of your question might it be better to ask about the mechanism by which the curse works, rather than the justification, since it seems to me that "magic" is a sufficient in universe justification? $\endgroup$
    – user42528
    Apr 30 '18 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, i removed the ff. abbreviation. It just means "following". A cursed items simply means you cannot use other items other than the cursed one. For instance, you cannot remove a cursed ring in your fingers, or wield another weapon if your weapon is cursed. I'm looking for an answer when the weapon is inevitably separated from the owner. There are already a lot of good answers here but my question isn't exactly answered yet. $\endgroup$
    – Bwrites
    Apr 30 '18 at 7:27

You ask it as if there should be an established rule of sense. There is not. This really depends on the whole mood of the settings you want to create. You have many options; I will give some examples.

  • Cursed person simply craves the object, and will do anything to regain it, no matter how stupid the action is. Gollum jumping into the fire pit after the ring. In MLP, s2:e15 is an exemplification of this approach. Big Mac, cursed by the love potion, will do anything to get to the object of his affection. And, considering he is the strongest one in town, it is big trouble.

  • Object permanently attaches to a hand, or whatever. In this case yes, if the whole part that it attached to gets cut off, then the curse breaks. If in your world it is no big deal to restore a cut hand, then this sort of curse is definitely not life-changing, but only a nuisance.

  • Object becomes required for victim's life-being. Most fitting for sci-fi. Remember that electromagnet Tony Stark has to wear in his chest? Imagine if it had strongly detrimental quality, like emitting repulsive stink or simply zapping him from time to time.

  • Object manipulates the flow of reality to always be near the victim. If you throw it away - then you find it in your wardrobe, if you burn it - it withstands fire, if you sell it - you find it in your pocket and get accused of stealing, if you throw it into the lake - a wild otter brings it back, hoping for a treat. Most stories of cursed dolls work like that.

  • And my favorite. In Hoffman's "Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober", a protagonist gets a cursed frac that looks ridiculous. Whenever he takes it off and puts on another frac, it turns into the cursed one.

  • A hero does not understand that the source of the curse is the object, and thus sees no reason to part with it. It happened to me IRL. I had a strong allergy whenever I walked out of the house. But it took me a year to understand that the cause was not a plant or a weather, but my favorite bag. I changed the bag and the curse was gone.

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    $\begingroup$ What is a frac? At first I thought it was a typo for face but that probably isn't it unless the protagonist likes to change faces on a regular basis. I checked the Wikipedia disambiguation page for frac but nothing seems promising there either. $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Apr 29 '18 at 23:34
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    $\begingroup$ It is the original French form and word for tailcoat. $\endgroup$ Apr 30 '18 at 0:23
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    $\begingroup$ "object manipulates fate to return to victim" is one of the classic signs of a cursed item in fantasy, and (imo) is likely the inspiration for the related RPG mechanic. $\endgroup$
    – Tacroy
    Apr 30 '18 at 2:05
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    $\begingroup$ "Object becomes required for victim's life-being... Remember that electromagnet Tony Stark has to wear in his chest? Imagine if it had strongly detrimental quality, like emitting repulsive stink..." - This sounds like a good, real life description of the anus! $\endgroup$ Apr 30 '18 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @RyanfaeScotland Or it was slowly killing him with palladium poisoning? $\endgroup$ Apr 30 '18 at 13:21

Potentially (given that we’re talking magic) part of the curse is not that you can’t unequip the object but rather that no matter how hard you try you will find you can’t equip anything else.

For example: The Longsword Of Doomy Doom is knocked from your hands. You want to draw your backup sword, but you find that whenever you try your arms (of their own accord) go scrabbling towards the dropped Doomy Doom sword.

Or perhaps you reach into your bag to retrieve your +2 Hat of Awesomeness, but somehow you always bring out the Cursèd Circlet of Suck.

If the properties of the curse can only be replaced by the properties of another item (the only way to break the Circlet’s curse of Suck is to equip something else) then this is functionally the same as being unable to unequip. Even if you aren’t holding the Longsword of Doomy Doom the curse still applies to you, and you can’t use any sword but that sword. Effectively you’re stuck either wielding just the Longsword of Doomy Doom or fighting with your bare hands while still under the effects of the Doomy Doom curse

  • $\begingroup$ I was going to say this. It works pretty well for if your hand is cut off while wearing a ring too. Don't have to worry about equipping any rings on that hand any more. $\endgroup$
    – Nacht
    Apr 29 '18 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ How about, you attempt to draw your backup sword but when you do you find it is ALSO a Longsword Of Doomy Doom. Turns out, since being cursed, any sword you now draw becomes a Longsword Of Doomy Doom and remains that way even when discarded. This could be the curses's way of replicating itself, turning all swords into a replica of it, until the original is destroyed. $\endgroup$ Apr 30 '18 at 12:26

The cursed item is injecting a magical venom into the victim to kill him no matter how many appendages he loses - and it's constantly injecting an antivenom to suppress the venom, making you want to seek out the weapon when you lose it

The moment you touch the weapon it stings you with a little needle that was not visible before and injects some of its venom into your blood stream. After the magical venom has been injected and pushed throughout your body the needle will start constantly injecting a sort of antivenom, which suppresses the dire effects of the venom.

If you are away from the weapon for too long you will die a gruesome death. It's not that you can't unequip the weapon - you simply shouldn't if you want to live.

This way the curse will still be inside you and once you lose your hand you will have to seek the weapon out and affix it to another appendage in order to get your antivenom fix. This could also be combined witha sort of drug, giving you the typical berserker frenzy and making you attack anyone around you. And you will want more of the power that comes with the magical cursed item and its venom/drug component.

Just because the physical connection between you and the cursed item is broken doesn't mean that the curse of being mentally unable to part with your weapon is broken or that the deadly venom cursing through your veins is suddenly gone.

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    $\begingroup$ Hell, doesn’t even need to be a venom. Given that we’re talking about magic it could just be, y’know, a curse! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Apr 29 '18 at 9:33
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    $\begingroup$ agree with @JoeBloggs, it's a curse; no matter where your item is, you're cursed, condemned to suffer in some way. to get rid of the curse somehow, you will however need that item itself, so keeping it around can become quite neurotic. you're bound to it in that nasty way... $\endgroup$
    – t.ry
    Apr 29 '18 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ In that case you could still however put the cursed sword in your inventory after getting your fix whilst travelling and fight with your superior (holy) sword. $\endgroup$ Apr 29 '18 at 15:43

How about a dumb approach to the curse? I imagine creating curses to be complex enough, so creators would stick to simple rules. For instance “cursed item magically sticks to its owner”

  • Rings/helmets/whatever can be removed by severing the limb. Seems strong enough an incentive not to do it, yet the option, though costly, remains available anytime (well, perhaps helmet isn't the best example). This can build dramatic moments, 127 hours style.
  • Weapons stick to the hand. Yes, that means they are immune to disarming effects. And should they fly off to a distance because the force that should have disarmed it is strong enough, it takes the limb with it. In that case the curse is “lifted”.

Alternatively, in a world where severed limbs can be mended easily or would not be enough of an issue, the cursed item protects the limb it is attached to: it may be broken, burnt, made gangrenous, you name it, but nothing will ever manage to sever it. Attempts can induce excruciating pain for added flavor. That is, if the pain of having someone run a knife through your flesh doesn't cut it.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to worldbuilding.SE! If you have not done so already, please take our tour and visit our help center to learn more about us. This a good first answer on our site! I hope to see more posts like this. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Apr 29 '18 at 17:47

Well this based on how other people have done this trope before in games and story writing.

This is depending on what the cursed item dose so the range could be anything like it acting like a regular item to an item that restores the host hands when cut off unless you explain what the curse dose. I can’t be much help in that regard.

If the holder is killed/disarmed or the appendage holding the item is cut off then the cursed item would then become inactive (unless it is under some sort of contract with the host) or if sentient would then hunt for a new host.

The friend holding/wielding the cursed item then it will transfer to that friend or, kill the friend, become inactive, returns to the host, host get enraged.

I would like to also point out is that most cursed items would do more than just be stuck to holder (they wouldn't be called cursed would they). Swords for example would possess the host and put them into a blood frenzy killing against anyone around them - friend or foe.


The "One Ring" springs to mind.

Removing it is simple enough but it instills a craving for it that keeps growing over time to the point you can't live without it.

My precious......


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