Curse items is one of the most despicable monster spells in NetHack. It can be cast in melee range by monsters such as liches, or encountered in other ways. It will unbless or curse a number of your inventory items, which can reduce their effects or make them dangerous and difficult to remove.

The spell will normally affect six random items in your inventory if it succeeds; blessed items will become uncursed and uncursed items will become cursed. If you have half spell damage or magic resistance, only three items will be affected; if you have both, only two will be affected.

Magicbane will absorb the curse harmlessly 95% of the time if wielded, protecting all of your items. Intelligent artifacts will individually resist the curse 80% of the time.

While containers can themselves be cursed by this spell, their contents can not. Because a bag of holding becomes much heavier if cursed, and looting a cursed bag of holding risks losing some objects inside, it is common for players to carry some means of uncursing a bag of holding outside of the bag itself, such as in a non-magical greased bag or oilskin sack. An alternative method is to temporarily stow the bag of holding in a non-magical bag while fighting liches - even if the "outer" bag gets cursed, the Bag of Holding will be safe.  Good items for uncursing a bag of holding include a blessed scroll of remove curse, potion of holy water, a wand of cancellation, or the memorized spell "remove curse".

In order to minimize the negative effects of this spell, it may be worthwhile to bless items in main inventory that are not intrinsically improved by being blessed (such as armor). Another tactic involves filling up inventory slots with individual rocks or gems, each given a different name so that they will not stack together. Since the cursing effect randomly chooses items from inventory, this reduces the chance that a valuable item will be hit.

Non-spell sourcesEdit

  • One of the possible negative effects of praying is a malignant aura.
  • Once the Wizard of Yendor is dead or the invocation has been performed, various effects will occur at random intervals. One of these effects will curse your items.
  • Sitting on a throne with non-positive Luck can produce a curse effect.
  • Failing to read a spellbook can theoretically result in a malignant aura, but this cannot actually happen in vanilla 3.4.3 because no spellbooks are difficult enough.


"You feel as if you need some help."
The spell was cast by an adjacent monster
"You notice a black glow surround you."
The spell was cast remotely by the Wizard of Yendor. No message if blind.
"You feel a malignant aura surround you."
Some random inventory items were cursed.
"You feel a malignant aura surround the magic-absorbing blade."
The curse was absorbed by Magicbane.
"<artifact> resists!"
An intelligent artifact resisted being cursed.
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