Following my discovery in the Links to Wisdom wiki of Daddy Grognard's excellent post on Curses!; which I posted about yesterday, I've been musing about cursed swords.
"Curse the mage who forged this sword of soft steel. It fails when I need it most but always when the blood flows it appears in my hand." Greatorex the Myrmidon raged, only stopping when the laughter of his companion rose to drown even he.
"You are no better than that mage. Your mockery assaults me."
His companion bent double in mirth howling even harder.
"Enough, what humour is this? Explain or die." He reached for the axe on his back but all that he brandished was the sword that had leapt unbidden into his hand. In disgust Greatorex threw the sword from his grasp down the darkened corridor before him. In a moment he was scurrying after it, in desperation to have it by his side once more.
He slumped beside his companion defeated. "When I find that mage..."
His companion had stopped laughing but the corner of his mouth twitched in mischief. "Why do you blame a mage my friend? Do you think some mage cursed your sword? Do you think he, well, spent thousands of gold to have a fine blade forged, cast enchant an item on the sword, and then rested for the following 4 days incapable of any further activity, all to create a cursed sword, which he then dropped into a dungeon, hoping a hero like you would pick up, and that were you ever to face him, would find yourself with a minus five percent chance of hitting him? Well such a plan seems to me a very poor way to conquer the world wouldn't you say? Better to make a +1 non-cursed sword and give it to your general who might use the plus five percent to hit, again and again in your service. No, cursed swords aren't made by mages they are..."
But first we interrupt this exciting diatribe to bring you a Jovial Priest Retrospective on Cursed Swords.
The Little Brown Books
Remove Curse: A spell to remove any one curse or evil sending. Note that using this spell on a "cursed sword", for example, would make the weapon an ordinary sword, not some form of enchanted blade.
Magic Swords Roll percentile: 83-100 Sword -2 (Cursed)
Magic Swords Roll percentile:
83 Sword +1 Cursed: Once grasped, this weapon will never willingly leave the holder's hand, and it will immediately force him to seek battle with as many monsters as possible. A Remove Curse or a Wish (Limited included) will remove the influence.
84-97 Sword -2 Cursed: As above [what does that mean??]
Thoughts: The spell implies it can remove the magic curse from a sword, the item description suggest it will have no such power.
Remove curse 500gp / level of spell caster
Exorcise 1000gp / level of spell caster
Magic Swords Roll Percentile
86-90 Sword + 1 Cursed performs in all respects as a + 1 weapon, but when its wielder is faced by an enemy the sword will weld itself to the characters hand and force him or her to fight until the enemy or the wielder is slain. Thereafter, the possessor can loose, but never rid himself or herself of the cursed sword. No matter what is done, it will appear in his or her hand whenever an opponent is faced. To be free of the weapon, the character must have a cleric exorcise it.
91-95 Sword -2 Cursed is a sword which gives off a magical aura and performs well against targets in practice, but when it is used against an opponent in combat it lowers hit probability by-2 for its user, although only by careful observation can this lowering of probability be detected; all damage scored is likewise reduced by 2 hit points, but never below a 1 in any event. The sword will always force the character to employ it against enemies, teleporting to the character's hand. It can be gotten rid of only by means of limited wish, wish, or alter reality.
96-100 Cursed Sword of Berserking, performs by every test, save that of the heat of battle, as a +2 magic sword of some sort. However, in actual battle its wielder will go berserk, attacking the nearest creature and continuing to fight until dead or until no living thing remains within 6" of him or her. The sword has a +2 bonus and otherwise acts as a +1 cursed sword. The possessor of a Cursed Beserking Sword can be rid of it only if it is exorcised or wished away.
Any sword with intelligence will have an alignment. Note that certain swords - Holy Avenger, Shorpness, Vorpal (q.q.v.) - have alignment restrictions. All cursed swords are absolutely neutral.
Remove Curse 3rd Level Cleric Spell
Upon casting this spell, the cleric is usually able to remove a curse - whether it be on an object, a person, or in the form of some undesired sending or evil presence. Note that the remove curse spell will not affect a cursed shield, weapon or suit of amor, for example, although the spell will typically enable the person afflicted with any such cursed item to be rid of it.
Thoughts: But all three cursed swords above say the only way to be rid of the sword is with much more powerful magic.
Exorcise, 4th Level Cleric Spell
The spell exorcism will negate possession of a creature or an object by any outside or supernatural force. This includes control of a creature by some force in an object, possession by magic jar (q.v.) spell, demonic possession, curse, and even charm, for the exorcise spell is similar to a dispel magic spell. Furthermore , it will affect a magical item if such is the object of the exorcism. Thus a soul object of any sort which comes under successful exorcism will make the life force of a creature concerned wholly inhabit its nearest material body, wholly and completely. (Cf. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, Monster Manual, Demon.)
Thoughts: two of the above cursed swords need to be exorcised to be gotten rid of. Hey, that's an interesting idea. Cursed swords are possessed.
9 Sword -1 Cursed
0 Sword -2 Cursed
No explanation and no remove curse spell owing to the low level of the game.
8 Sword -1, cursed
Once a cursed weapon is used in battle it may not be gotten rid of. The owner will feel compelled to get it back if it is thrown away and will always draw the cursed weapon in battle. Only a high level NPC cleric or magic user can help get free of the curse.
97-98 (Sword -1, cursed)
99-100 Sword -2 cursed
Once a cursed sword is used in battle it may not be gotten rid of except by use of remove curse or dispel magic spell.
3rd Level Cleric Spell
This spell will remove the effects of a curse put on a character or free a character from a cursed magical item.
3rd Level MU pell
It will not affect magic items, but will remove any spell effect created by a magic user, elf, or cleric of equal or lower level than the caster.
Thoughts: Pretty clear remove curse will allow a player to be rid of a cursed sword, though unlike LBB, does nothing to the enchantment. Not sure how dispel magic works, unless it can remove the enchantment depending on what level the enchanter and the caster are.
This spell removes one curse, whether on a character, item, or area. Some curses—especially those on magical items—may only be removed for a short time, at the DM's discretion; such curses would require a dispel evil spell for permanent removal (or possibly a remove curse cast by a high level cleric or magic-user, again at DM's discretion).
This spell may affect all undead and enchanted (summoned, controlled, and animated) monsters within range. It will destroy the monster unless each victim makes a saving throw vs. spells. If cast at only one creature, that creature takes a —2 penalty to the saving throw. Any creature from another plane is banished (forced to return to its home plane) if it fails the saving throw. Even if the victims successfully roll their saving throws, they must flee the area, and will stay away as long as the caster concentrates; the caster cannot move while concentrating. This spell will also remove the curse from any one cursed item, or may be used to remove the influence of any magical charm.
Any treasure can hold a cursed magical item. A curse can be removed for a short time (1d20
rounds) by any remove curse spell, but it can only be permanently removed by the same spell
from a high-level cleric or magic-user (15th level or above is recommended). A cleric's dispel evil
spell should remove nearly all curses, except perhaps those bestowed by either very powerful
spellcasters or items; these would require a dispel evil or remove curse cast by a 36th level spellcaster.
A wish may be used at any time to remove a curse; treat the wish as a powerful remove curse at 36th level magic use.
Thoughts: There is no exorcism in BECMI or B/X for that matter, but this is a pretty clear rule.
Any sword may be cursed. When the die rolls indicate a sword as treasure, roll 1d20. If the result
is a 1 or 2, place a cursed sword in the treasure instead. A cursed sword will seem to be a normal magical sword (whatever type was first rolled) until used in combat. At that time, the curse is revealed.
When using that weapon, the sword will cause the player to subtract the amount that was
to have been a bonus from all attack and damage rolls. (For example, if a character believes he is
carrying a sword + 3 when in fact he is carrying a cursed sword, he will subtract 3 from both his
attack and damage rolls.) Once a character uses the cursed sword in battle, he may not throw it away: He is under a compulsion to keep it and use it. If it is stolen or sold, the character is cursed with the desire to get it back. The character will always use that weapon when in battle. (The DM may have to tell the player that this is what the character wants—and no arguments!—until the character is rid of the curse.)
Only a spellcaster with a dispel evil or remove curse spell can help a character be rid of the weapon.
If the spellcaster is less than 26th level, the spell simply cures the character of his compulsion;
he may now get rid of the cursed sword. If the spellcaster is 26th level or above, however, the dispel
evil or remove curse spell will permanently change the cursed sword into a normal magical
sword of whatever type was originally rolled.
Thoughts: Not sure why we jumped from 15th level to 26th level but still pretty clear.
A new HOUSE RULE for CURSED SWORDS and other cursed weapons, armor, rings etc (not scrolls)
His companion had stopped laughing but the corner of his mouth twitched in mischief. "Why do you blame a mage my friend? Do you think some mage cursed your sword? Do you think he, well, spent thousands of gold to have a fine blade made, cast enchant an item on the sword, and then rested for the following 4 days incapable of any further activity, all to create a cursed sword, which he then dropped into a dungeon, hoping a hero like you would pick up, and that were you ever to face him, would find yourself with a minus five percent chance of hitting him? Well such a plan seems to me a very poor way to conquer the world wouldn't you say? Better to make a +1 non-cursed sword and give it to your general who might use the plus five percent to hit, again and again in your service. No, cursed swords aren't made by mages they are... possessed by the souls of warriors who died whilst wielding a magic weapon."
If a character dies while wielding a magic weapon or wearing magical armor the DM rolls percentile dice. If the roll is equal to or under the dead characters level their soul is sucked into the magic item (magic swords first, then other magic weapons, then armor, then other magic items) and whatever positives it once had are now negatives. Or the DM can invent something more elaborate.
The character may not be raised from the dead until their soul is first freed from the magic item. The character however instinctively rages against their fate, and it is this rage that curses the magic item. It may not be obvious that this is where the character's soul has gone to and the character's weapons may have been sold or discarded before the character's fate is realised.
Normally the character is unaware of their fate but any sword so cursed should have a chance of becoming an intelligent sword [rerolling for sword powers according to whichever rule set the DM is using] in which case the character, now as an NPC, may be able to communicate. In this situation the sword is not cursed, will keep all it's bonuses and may indeed gain in power. This is the most common way an intelligent sword is created. Not all souls in such a state, will seek rescue, given that their material body may be long gone and this is their only chance of continued life.
To rid oneself of a cursed sword, the option depends on which rule set the DM is using.
For AD&D I suggest remove curse / dispel magic allows the character to be rid of the sword [the difference in level between the caster and the trapped soul should modify the chance of success - the soul may rage but it struggles against being free], but exorcism allows the soul trapped in the sword to be freed.
For B/X & BECMI: A remove curse / dispel magic cast by clerics/MU less than name level allows the character to be rid of the sword. Greater than name level allows the soul to be exorcised. The difference in level between the caster and the trapped soul should modify the chance of success - the soul may rage but it struggles against being free.
Hope you have enjoyed.