Since I've already covered today's show topic on my personal blog, I thought I'd dig in to the question answered on today's show. This means we're talking about curses.
Curses can be used as a plot point, or as a plot in and of itself. Having the characters be cursed by some powerful spell or entity could be the impetus for adventures, as they may have to research means to break the curse, and then find the necessary items or ingredients to do so. The effects of the curse might even facilitate certain actions by the players. For example, if the PCs are cursed by an evil demon, there might be a mind-altering component of the spell that requires them to shed blood every day to appease the demonic overlord who holds sway over them. They could then take this and decide that fighting the minions of this demon are the best way to keep from having to kill innocents while simultaneously working towards breaking the curse. Or maybe the players themselves aren't the ones that are cursed. Last weeks show talked about cursed items, so I'll avoid that, but what about cursed locations? Maybe there is some evil curse that causes a town's crops to wither. With the harvest coming soon, and a harsh winter looming on the horizon, breaking the curse might be the only way to save the town. Any of the things I just mentioned could make for interesting plot hooks, and if fleshed out properly could turn into some pretty fun campaigns.
If you were so inclined, you could tone it down a bit though and not make your entire game about curses. Instead, inflicting the curse on a particular character could provide them for an interesting roleplaying opportunity as they have to deal with whatever effects the curse might have. Alternatively, you could curse the entire party, but only for a short time. This might serve as a bonding experience for them all, and help bring the characters closer together. I've actually played in a campaign that started off this way, and though that campaign was ultimately pretty unsuccessful, the manner in which the curse was used was certainly different and interesting.
Put another way, curses allow the GM to be a complete jerk to the PCs in a way that isn't strictly malicious toward the enjoyment of the players themselves. If there's a good reason for the curse, it can serve as an interesting set piece for adventuring. Just don't lean on it too heavily, because using curses too often or too strongly might lead to some hurt feelings. That's why that campaign I mentioned earlier failed. Though the curse was initially based on a unique premise, the GM used the nature of it to control and corral us in a way that was needlessly restrictive and unfun. So let that be a cautionary tale. It can be done right, just be sure to put some thought into it, and don't let it get overbearing.
I hope you enjoyed this and the rest of the content by Digital & Dice. Until next time…Game on Internets!
- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.