Rampant Games - Cursed Items
Jay Barnson's latest RPG design post looks at cursed items and how the concept can be improved:
Most of these cursed items were designed, I believe, as a penalty for greedy players who had memorized the magic item lists of the earlier version of the game. This added to some element of risk to the equation - which makes the game more fun when the risk pays off. But, like the risk of death, it's only fun if the risk is avoided. Or when the annoying player in the group who calls dibs on almost every magic item suddenly falls prey to Boots of Dancing or a -2 cursed longsword.
But for the most part, cursed items sucked. Early attempts to recreate D&D for the computer sometimes included cursed items, but the fact that most games ignore this aspect of old-school role playing games is probably telling. But the concept isn't completely without merit. There are two ways that I can think of that make cursed items an interesting and even enjoyable part of the RPG experience.