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How to handle cursed items?

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larienna
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I am working on a video game RPG remake, and the way they managed cursed items was pretty dull. Items came unidentified, and once identified, you new if it was a cursed items. So what player did is not equip any item that is unidentified, Once identified you will never equip a cursed item unless the item name is ambiguous and does not imply it is cursed. Once cursed items are equiped, a character must seek uncurse to unequip and item.

So I was thinking in revamping the system to make cursed items more interesting as you have no interest in equiping unidentified items. The only type of game that I found it to work is for rogue-like games where you cannot exit the dungeon, you go forward until you die. In that case, taking the risk to equip an unidentified item is a meaningful choice.

I came up with a few ideas for solution, I also checked in D&D to see how they handle cursed items.

A. All items are identified, but cursed items are displayed as a different name which changes once equiped. For example, a sword +2 becomes a sword -2 once equiped or after a certain amount of use. It could also includes delusion, like a fire sword, is actually only a regular sword. Maybe a +2 swords shows as a regular sword, and with usage, and can show itself as a +2 sword.

B. Random side effect: There is a certain percentage of chance that the bonus or minus effect is applied or not applied.

C. Drawback: Either when used, or permanently active, there is a negative consequence to outweight the positive. For example, you have a sword +5, but that gives -3 to all your saves. Or each time you hit the enemy, you lose 1 HP. So cursed items are not automatically bad, some could be worth the trade off until better items shows up.

D. Easy unequip: If it takes time to learn that an item is cursed, maybe allowing unequiping without the need to uncurse a character could be a solution. If it only a drawback, players could chose to equip an item with a voluntary drawback.

E. Replace identification with appraising: Item identification seems too cheap and easy to just spot a cursed item. Maybe item could be appraised to know the value in gold pieces of the item. So you know an item could have a good potential, but you don't know if it's positive or negative. There would be no way to know if an item is cursed in the game besides trying it.

F. Curse triggers: The item is a regular enchanted item until a specific trigger makes the item flip and become a cursed item. It could optionally unequipable once the trigger is set.

Any other suggestions?

Is any idea above interesting?

questccg
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Balancing

I think you already mentioned this, but I'm not 100% sure if it is the same as my own idea:

questccg wrote:
Offer some tangible gains like Sword +1 and then offer some negative trait like Reflexes -3. And it doesn't need to be identified, only equipped.

This could be "Heavy Sword" (for example). Let the item be identified by the player by equipping it. This is what is done in Diablo I.

I really DISLIKE the game where "cursed" items force you to go see someone to "un-equip" the item. That is ridiculous. Pluses and Minuses is a great idea because there is a sort of "Balance" that you can achieve. And it becomes natural that the player figures out the "cursed" side of the weapon.

And when you identify it, it say "Heavy Sword: Damage +1, Reflexes -3".

The identification can be done via a Wizard's Spell or via a Merchant or Guild member in a town, etc. I think this is the most reasonable method by which to have "cursed" (or items with penalties).

X3M
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Some other curses?

- A higher chance on the weapon breaking up on usage.
- A higher chance on the weapon, not doing the desired (promised) damage.
- The weapon does good damage at first. But needs to break down in parts in order to be unequiped. During this, the damage goes down as well.
- Chance on a random teleport during battle, only a bit further away.
- Ranged weapons could accidently go for a friendly.
- The target and user switch locations.
- When unequiping, the user will suffer a negative effect. So switching a weapon later on, might have more concequences.

larienna
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After some discussion on

After some discussion on board game geek, it seems that what should be retained is easy unequip + drawbacks + random drawbacks. This creates interesting choices of equipping an item with more power, but with a drawback.

Else, having unidentified items, and hidden cursed items, increases the administrative tasks required to handle cursed items. Doing easy battles, quarantining objects, etc. It's not necessarily fun.

questccg
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Not sure if this helps or not ...

But if this is for your Wizardry Re-Make ... I would ADD an "Altar of Divination" on each level. Maybe the method of use is that you select an item you want to "Identify" and the Altar will ASK for "Gold" (like 100 Gold or 23 Gold, varies per the value of the item) and then the item get Identified...

The reason for this is because you're in a Dungeon going down levels. You probably don't have a Village and a Blacksmith that can identify Weapons and Armor.

As such the "Alter of Divination" could be either secret or visible... But the idea is that maybe you have one per level. As you go down levels it may also COST more gold to identify items too!

So the price of identification can vary per item and the level you are on. And it can go BOTH ways: something crappy but magical could be less expensive to identify on Level 5 versus on Level 2 (for example).

If I am correct with the right game... I think these "Magical Altars" would be your best solution to including identification by something other than a spell.

Cheers!

Note #1: Also if an item is "cursed" when you equip it WITHOUT identifying it FIRST, it can have an "extra" penalty. But when the item gets IDENTIFIED, that "extra" penalty is removed from the item.

So "cursed" have an EXTRA minus that gets removed when properly identified. Something like that could be reasonable and make sense TBH.

The reason I suggest this is... Because although you know that there IS a penalty ... You're not 100% sure which is the actual weapon's penalty UNTIL you identify it... That to me sounds SUPER interesting and can achieve a balance between ALL weapons.

ALTERNATIVELY you don't get the benefit like the +1 Damage ... but this benefit gets revealed when the cursed weapon is IDENTIFIED. So it could appear to be a -3 Reflexes with no BONUS. When you identify it ... It gets a +1 Damage (Bonus).

Another way of looking at it...

Note #2: The other thing that I have thought about is this: an item behaves differently UNIDENTIFIED and IDENTIFIED. Like maybe a "Heavy Sword" when equipped results in -3 Reflexes. But when you IDENTIFY it, it becomes a "Heavy Sword: +2 Damage, -2 Reflexes"... Making the "cursed weapon" more useable.

So the "cursed" items have an observable stat change but this is NOT the TRUE NATURE of the weapon (or item) until it is properly IDENTIFIED!

That could also be interesting too! Cheers.

Fri
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Possible drawback implementations

Some possible implementation of drawbacks:

Assuming it is dice RPG, roll the dice twice and take the lower result.

If it is a RPG with polyhedral dice, you could have to use the next smaller dice to make your check. (D20 becomes d12, d12 becomes d10...)

Characters could get two of their stats switched while the cursed item is equipped. Though the book keeping on this may be cumbersome.

Feel free to disregard use or improve upon.

Good luck with your game.

pelle
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larienna wrote:After some

larienna wrote:
After some discussion on board game geek, it seems that what should be retained is easy unequip + drawbacks + random drawbacks. This creates interesting choices of equipping an item with more power, but with a drawback.

Else, having unidentified items, and hidden cursed items, increases the administrative tasks required to handle cursed items. Doing easy battles, quarantining objects, etc. It's not necessarily fun.

I disagreed with that on bgg, and I disagree here. :)

As I wrote on bgg, I think it works very well in Brogue. It probably works in many other roguelikes as well. Took me a long time to realize it, but I think the cursed items add much to the game. Usually you do not want to try to use anything without knowing if it is cursed (and there is a potion of Detect Magic that can tell you what items are cursed, even if it will not tell you anything more; you need a scroll of Identify to get all the details).

The subgame of when and where it is worth the risk to try different items is a fun subgame that adds a lot of strategy. Many different things goes into that decision. It is complex enough that a lot of time I have to stop to think and try to figure it out, rather than relying on just memorized strategies.

It would still be a great game without the cursed items, but I think it would lose some of the fun moments and some interesting strategies. They are definitely worth having, if the game is well-designed enough to make them interesting.

larienna
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Quote:But if this is for your

Quote:
But if this is for your Wizardry Re-Make

Yes

In the original wizardry, there is a city, and you can pay for identification. Secret items seems a good thing in rogue like dungeon crawlers where you cannot exit the dungeon. So that there is some potential equip risk, but it could worth it in the end. In Wizardry, players will wait until they exit the dungeon and identify the item systematically which becomes an administrative task.

One pro I have not though about is that the identification cost matches the item level, which could give you a clue of the item value like an appraisal skill, determining if it's worth identifying or if players are interested in paying the price. Maybe equiping the item identifies it for free, but brings the possibility of getting cursed. I would remove the character skills that identify items for free, since it would break the dynamics.

Quote:
Also if an item is "cursed" when you equip it WITHOUT identifying it FIRST, it can have an "extra" penalty. But when the item gets IDENTIFIED, that "extra" penalty is removed from the item.

I like the idea, maybe equiping without identification with force attach the item to you and will require uncursing your character which could also destroy the item.

Quote:
So the "cursed" items have an observable stat change but this is NOT the TRUE NATURE of the weapon (or item) until it is properly IDENTIFIED!

Another idea could be that usable items ( rod that cast a spell) requires identification to be used since you do not know how it works.

pelle
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I do not think having to

I do not think having to bring the items back to identify is a huge difference. Old AD&D Goldbox games did that as well. But you could also learn identify-spells, and you could try to use things.

You still need to consider carefully what items are worth carrying with you.

Of course a lot of strategy in those old CRPGs is missing, because of savescumming and overall lack of all the finer simulation of things that you get in roguelikes. It is difficult to create the many interacting subsystems that makes cursed items interesting in games like that (I never played Wizardry, but I think it was similar to the Goldbox games in many ways?).

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