Dungeons & Dragons is providing alternative rules for curses that make them much more relevant in Fifth Edition campaigns. Curses are traditionally no more than an annoyance to Dungeons & Dragons characters, thanks to the availability of spells like remove curse to many spellcasters. A tortured lycanthrope or a doomed magic item can be easily solved by a 5th level Cleric without any real cost or dramatic effect associated with them. We've spoken about some of the homebrew solutions to making curses more effective in Dungeons & Dragons, and the upcoming book Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft provides a more official kind of curse that can be used by DMs to continuously vex and affect your players.
The "Horror Toolkit" section of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft speaks extensively about curses and officially introduces the idea that some curses can't be permanently lifted through divine spells. These more insidious curses may need a specific kind of restitution or reparation to cure, which in turn can lead to quests or an entire campaign to solve. Spells like remove curse or greater restoration can make some temporary impact on a curse's effect, providing its victim with an hour or a day's reprieve instead of a more permanent benefit. By making these curses somewhat resistant to magic, players will need to make tough decisions during their campaign. After all, remove curse may provide relief to a cursed player character for an hour, but that means that a cleric or paladin will have to expend a 3rd level spell slot that they could use to revivify a fallen player character later in the day.
Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft also introduces the concept of "Persistent Curses" - curses whose effects don't go away immediately after a curse has been resolved. Even if a player character is able to successfully resolve a curse, the "Persistent Curse" rules state that a remove curse spell would only remove the curse if the cursed player character succeeds on a Charisma saving throw. If the player fails, they may have to wait for a month (or even longer at the DM's discretion) to try to remove a curse's lingering effects.
Good curses are at the heart of many horror storylines and it's great to see that Dungeons & Dragons are finally providing more robust rules for creating curses that can plague even higher-level characters. Personally, it always felt weird to have to explain to players how this one specific curse couldn't be resolved by a healing spell made to counteract curses, so it's great for DMs to have more codified rules in place to settle arguments and provide tools for building great curses meant to vex and haunt players.
Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft will be released on May 18th. A full review of the book can be found here.