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#766419 22/03/21 08:37 PM
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The Identify spell kind of ruined the surprise of cursed items in the original BG. Historically, the original AD&D Identify spell required the caster to actually wear, don, or grasp the item before it could be identified, and thus "any consequences of this use of the item fall fully upon the magic-user ..." In the new 5E rules, the caster must touch the item throughout the casting of the spell, but I don't know if that conveys any risks? I think that without having some sort of risk during identification, then there is no point in implementing cursed items at all, except for unavoidable plot devices. Wouldn't it have been interesting to see a shop keeper petrified while attempting to identify a cursed scroll?

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Identify does NOT reveal a curse, as per the rules. That's one thing it specifically does not do.

Most cursed items also double up on this reassurance by mentioning in their own text that Identify does not reveal the curse.

If your DM is revealing that an item is cursed to you when you cast identify on it, then they're doing it wrong.

In most cases in 5e, Cursed items must be attuned, and when they are attuned you can't voluntarily break your attunement to it.

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Hey, you're right! I just found it in the 5E DMG, never noticed it before. This is great, as there are all kinds of cool story plots that can involve sneaky cursed items. OK Larian, I dare you to curse me!

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Originally Posted by Argyle
Hey, you're right! I just found it in the 5E DMG, never noticed it before. This is great, as there are all kinds of cool story plots that can involve sneaky cursed items. OK Larian, I dare you to curse me!

If Larian curses you, I think the mods will have to ban them from posting.

Oh wait - seems Larian has already been banned from posting on these forums !! wink

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I do think that magic items should not be known when acquired , but must be Identified with the spell, or worn/attuned to. Even some shop keepers merchandise might not be identified. (depending on the shop, they might not have the ability to cast the spell). This would definitely make things more interesting. smile

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Originally Posted by Niara
Identify does NOT reveal a curse, as per the rules. That's one thing it specifically does not do.

Where in the rules is that mentioned?

https://www.dndbeyond.com/spells/identify

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You choose one object that you must touch throughout the casting of the spell. If it is a magic item or some other magic-imbued object, you learn its properties and how to use them, whether it requires attunement to use, and how many charges it has, if any. You learn whether any spells are affecting the item and what they are. If the item was created by a spell, you learn which spell created it.

If you instead touch a creature throughout the casting, you learn what spells, if any, are currently affecting it.

Nothing in the spell description online or in the player handbook which says that Identify does not reveal curses. If it's in the DMG rules only, I still think that the Identify spell description should at least contain a caveat such as "The Identify spell might not reveal a curse on the item at the discretion of the DM". Without a disclaimer such as that, I feel like the rule is unfair and punishes players who try to take reasonable precautions.

As an aside, under your interpretation where Identify does not reveal curses, how is one supposed to know if an item is cursed without attuning to it and becoming cursed?

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@Stabbey, you are correct that it is only mentioned in the DMG
Originally Posted by DMG pg 139
Most methods of identifying cursed items, including the identify spell, fail to reveal such a curse...A curse should be a surprise to the item's user when the curse's effects are revealed
I agree that the Identify spell should contain said caveat.
Originally Posted by Stabbey
As an aside, under your interpretation where Identify does not reveal curses, how is one supposed to know if an item is cursed without attuning to it and becoming cursed?
That's exactly the point, that players don't realize its cursed until they've attuned to it. And at that point, they become cursed and cannot remove the item!

Why bother making cursed items if players, upon finding them, can easily notice the curse and thus won't attune to the item?

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Metagaming tends to ruin cursed items anyway, as do the binary on/off effect.

I would prefer curses to affect RANDOM items (preferably in a manner that doesn't permanently "ruin" that item). Secondly, I would have the curse initially work much more subtly that the original BG's; wear/use > can't remove, CURSED! The curse could be weak and build strength with time/dependent upon acts. This way you could actually become attached to an item and thus make the plot much more impactful than simply getting a remove curse.

I'm a hater of most of Larian's homebrew, but these are the moments they would be appropriate.

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Originally Posted by mrfuji3
@Stabbey, you are correct that it is only mentioned in the DMG
Originally Posted by DMG pg 139
Most methods of identifying cursed items, including the identify spell, fail to reveal such a curse...A curse should be a surprise to the item's user when the curse's effects are revealed
I agree that the Identify spell should contain said caveat.
Originally Posted by Stabbey
As an aside, under your interpretation where Identify does not reveal curses, how is one supposed to know if an item is cursed without attuning to it and becoming cursed?
That's exactly the point, that players don't realize its cursed until they've attuned to it. And at that point, they become cursed and cannot remove the item!

Why bother making cursed items if players, upon finding them, can easily notice the curse and thus won't attune to the item?

Why make traps if a wizard can send his familiar in to discover any? Careful players are rewarded in D&D and always have been.

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Originally Posted by Ankou
Why make traps if a wizard can send his familiar in to discover any? Careful players are rewarded in D&D and always have been.
While careful play is rewarded in D&D, there are also many instances of things that players are not supposed to detect beforehand. There are numerous monsters that have the "while motionless, is indistinguishable from [inanimate object]" ability.

Cursed items are also usually more impactful than traps. Traps are usually meant to sap resources in a dungeon and careful players are rewarded with less-sapped resources. And because traps are very common, it's more fine if players can completely avoid any individual trap. Curses are usually more rare, powerful, and ~permanent, and thus are more similar to plot hooks (leading to a
quest to get rid of the curse). If players could detect curses with a 1st level spell that doesn't even use a spell slot when cast as a ritual, then that'd be way too powerful. Especially since players pretty much always cast identify on loot if they have access to identify.

Also, your example would probably work for a cursed object. The wizard could have his familiar attune to it. So extreme careful play is still being rewarded, but the cost is greater (short rest to attune + temporary loss of familiar + 1 hour to resummon familiar vs 10 minute identify) In fact, I'd probably rule that the curse affects any familiar you summoned, not just the specific one that put the item on.

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Originally Posted by Stabbey
Nothing in the spell description online or in the player handbook which says that Identify does not reveal curses. If it's in the DMG rules only, I still think that the Identify spell description should at least contain a caveat such as "The Identify spell might not reveal a curse on the item at the discretion of the DM". Without a disclaimer such as that, I feel like the rule is unfair and punishes players who try to take reasonable precautions.

As an aside, under your interpretation where Identify does not reveal curses, how is one supposed to know if an item is cursed without attuning to it and becoming cursed?

Identify doesn't tell you that it provides you with food and water for the day when you cast it; ergo, it doesn't do that.
It doesn't tell you that you won't receive a free unicorn when you cast the spell as a ritual; there is no reason to suggest that you would.

Spells do what they say, and not what they don't, and formerly speaking a 'curse' is not a 'property' - these are specific terms with specific meanings. The DM knows this, while the players do not need to. This isn't my interpretation - it's the base design philosophy of 5e.

I'd also add, just to note, that most cursed items specifically call out whether Identify will reveal their curse or not, as a secondary back-up. The important thing, though, is that in both cases it is specifically DM-side knowledge that only comes to players if they suffer an ill-effect from a curse. They may not even know they are cursed until they try to unattune from a cursed item (and discover that they can't), or they suffer its ill-effect. That's by and large the point of curses. Cursed objects fall on everyone more or less evenly, without rewarding or punishing anyone more than anyone else - they don't reveal their presence under most common magic most of the time. Some particular items with low grade or obvious curses do actually show up on identify, but when that is the case the magic item itself specifically calls out that it does. These specific cases do catch the incautious while rewarding the diligent.

An example of a cursed item that IS caught by identify is the Armour of Vulnerability:

https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/armor-of-vulnerability

Another is the Loadstone:

https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/loadstone

These items are the specific exceptions to the general rule of identify, which does not include curses in the information it gives; most other magic items make no mention of Identify revealing them, because it doesn't.

Some parallel examples:

https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/sword-of-vengeance
https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/spear-of-backbiting
https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/shield-of-missile-attraction
https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/hell-hound-cloak

Some are a little bit more nuanced, and tell you exactly how they foil Identify, such as the stone of ill-luck:

https://www.dndbeyond.com/magic-items/stone-of-ill-luck

Note that it highlights the distinction between DM knowledge and player knowledge, even while the player is actively affected by the curse.

Good cursed items are the kind that seem a little bit too good to be true, but also, once the players discover the curse, still leaves them with strong incentive to use the item or to deal with the down sides of the curse, to reap the item's benefits, making it an interesting decision - how far to push it - both for the cursed individual and the party. Curses that are so debilitating that no-one would ever touch the item are poorly made, as are cursed items that make the item in question functionally useless.

At the end of the day, Identify is the "general" rule, and lists the information it gives. The "specific" cases that trump this are the curses that affect some items, in the individual cases where they do ave some form of interaction with Identification - their specific cases tell you how to handle them, such as if and how they appear when identified. The players have the general knowledge - how their spells work. The Dm has the specific knowledge to adjudicate the individual specific results of that when there are exceptions to that generality, such as a curse would be. The Dm has the information to run the world; the players are experiencing the space and get to enjoy all of the surprise twists and unexpected discoveries, both good and bad. For a video game, this generally means that we should really NOT know that an item is cursed until we suffer its effects or try to rid ourselves of the item, unless there exists some external specific warning or other clue.


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