The Alexandrian

Coins of the Damned

September 28th, 2016

Cursed Coins

Here is a thing which I forgot existed. Back in June 2002, Campaign Magazine published “Gilted Fiends”, an article I had written which contained a number of cursed coins for D20 fantasy games. Back in 2011, I archived that article here on the Alexandrian. What I had forgotten is that I had actually written a direct sequel to this article which was never published because Campaign Magazine went out of business.

Without further ado, here is that article — never before seen — providing more mischievous and dangerous coins with which to plague your PCs.

Cursed items are a long-standing tradition for D&D, for a very simple reason: They’re a lot of fun. A character plagued by their cursed possession not only has the challenge of overcoming the difficulties created by the curse, but also the long-standing problem of getting rid of the curse permanently. Cursed items serve as a source of conflict, challenge, and storytelling.

But there’s a problem: Players are paranoid. Hand them a sword carved with cryptic runes and the identify and analyze dweomer spells begin to fly. They have no intention of being caught flatfooted – and nothing magical is going to escape their careful analysis. If they’re looking for it, they’re going to catch that curse before it ever gets close to them. As fun as they might be, cursed items never really get a fighting chance.

Wait a minute, though. What if they don’t think to look? Sure, the first thing they’re going to do with a dragon’s horde is start looking for magic in every sword, staff, ring, and scroll. But…

Who casts detect magic on a pile of coins?

Nobody. When they kill the orc and loot the body, no one ever stops to consider that the bent copper piece they found was actually a Lucky Penny. And as frustrating as missed magic might be if they ever realize the truth, imagine their despair when the gold coin they liberated from the ogre’s lair turns out to be the greatest bane of all…

Enchanted coins, though, offer more than just the opportunity to slip a good curse under the character’s defenses. They can also provide the fodder for a variety of adventure themes – ranging from “good things come in small packages” to the almost ubiquitous “money is the root of all evil”. Money is a part of everyday life – for the characters and the players – so don’t hesitate to use it as a story element or adventure seed.

That being said, here are a few dirty tricks to slip into your PCs’ money pouches…

WEALTH BANE

The wealth banes were created by the Scarlet Coven – mad mages convinced that the plight of the poor would be alleviated if only the gold of the wealth was disposed of. It took the coven nearly a decade of effort to gather the wealth necessary to create the banes, and it is whispered that the treasure troves of three mighty dragons – Silvermane, Harshfire, and Blacktongue – were consumed.

In the end, the coven was successful. The result, however, was not as they intended. The wealth banes were quickly detected, and decisive action was rapidly taken against the coven. Although the coven’s leader, Kesand, would not be captured until almost nine years had passed, the “glorious” vision of the Scarlet Coven never came to pass.

A wealth bane appears to be a normal copper coin, but when placed in close proximity to a platinum, gold, or silver coin the wealth bane will transmute their metal into common copper. For every hour that a wealth bane is kept within a foot of other coins (for example, within a coin pouch) there is a cumulative 10% chance that the other coins will be transformed into copper.

Most of the wealth banes were either destroyed or are now kept – carefully – in private collections as curiosity pieces. Others, however, followed the whimsical paths of commerce and disappeared into the far corners of the globe. Often their victims never become aware of what caused the strange transformation, and end up spending the wealth bane as if it were a normal coin – passing it on to some new victim.

Caster Level: 15th
Prerequisites: Craft Wondrous Item, polymorph any object
Market Price: 150,000 gp

Go to Part 2

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3 Responses to “Coins of the Damned”

  1. Rob says:

    I’m excited to see more of these.

    Your earlier article inspired me to make the item below (perhaps expanding on the “coin purse coin” note in the last part?).

    ===Coin Pocket===
    This gold coin is slightly larger than average and most of the details on its face are worn and indistinct. It contains within it a pocket dimension to roughly a pint of space, about enough room to hold 100 coins.
    The Coin Pocket has been a useful tool for traveling merchants seeking to conceal their wealth and for sneak-thieves who need an innocuous place to stash small objects. One particularly enterprising watch officer, however, has started using it against the thieves. The coin pockets, like any other extra-dimensional space, will destroy a bag of holding or portable hole if placed inside. A pickpocket using a bag of holding is in for a rude surprise if they attempt to place one of these inside. The interaction creates a loud pop sound and tends to fling the contents of the two containers well away from the would-be thieves.
    =====

    I’ve never used it; it feels a little too cruel to me to put into a random hoard and none of my players are pick-pockets. However, it occurs to me now that setting one of these off near the adventurers might be an interesting way to kick-off an adventure, especially if it’s some of THEIR stuff that gets flung about by the stricken pickpocket…

  2. Justin Alexander says:

    I love it!

    Finding such a coin on the body of a murder victim (with some crucial clue stashed inside) also seems really cool.

  3. Identify | Crossing the 'Verse says:

    […] number of excellent articles on gaming, for a variety of genres and games. Specifically, it’s this one that caught my eye recently. It got me to thinking about the process by which the DM shares […]

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