Artifact of Doom

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Oooh, shiny! [1] Illustration: John Howe


"If Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees got married and had a baby, your ring would be the baby!"

The Artifact of Doom is somewhat an unusual villain in that it is a (seemingly) inanimate object. Nevertheless, it's pure evil; and is a threat of corrupting all to The Dark Side. It may also cause Great Insanity, not to mention death, or worse.

This item has a palpable presence beyond merely being a device. Its threat is ever constant, whether destroying those it directly opposes, or consuming those who dare use it from within with dark whispers of power. Nonetheless, it is incapable of action on its own; its power lies in manipulating its user to act for it. Therein lies the irony: if people would just leave the thing alone, it would be harmless, but since Evil Feels Good some idiot will inevitably try it out and nearly doom us all.

There will be a conflict among the heroes, between those who say they should dare to use its power and resist or somehow purify the corrupting effects; and those feel it should be destroyed/sealed. The artifact will often make this conflict escalate to a Hate Plague, with deadly consequences. This may even explicitly stated as one of its powers in the case of the Artifact of Attraction.

Still think it's worth the risk? Think you can handle it? After all, once you realize how evil it is, all you have to do is get rid of it or destroy it...

... Both of which are easier said than done.

Often has An Aesop on how power corrupts and over-reliance on technology/magic is a bad thing.

If the artifact is a wearable item that refuses to come off (or you will never want or think about taking it off), then it's also a Clingy MacGuffin. If it's a Dismantled MacGuffin, then reassembling it is required to get the Full Set Bonus.

Tome of Eldritch Lore and Evil Weapon are Sub Tropes of this one, as is the Summoning Artifact. Usually found at half-price at The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday, or handed out by the Evil Mentor (if he hasn't turned himself into the artifact, that is). Occasionally doubles as an Artifact of Death. More often, it is an Amulet of Dependency. The Soul Jar of an evil character almost always doubles as one of these. See also Sentient Phlebotinum.

Not to be confused with the Artifact of Doom 3. Completely unrelated to The Artifact.

Examples of Artifact of Doom include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Inuyasha: The Jewel of Four Souls, which was formed when a powerful miko locked her own soul into an endless battle with a multitude of demons in order to contain them after her death. Initially regarded as a Dismantled MacGuffin, a single shard of the Jewel gives demons enormous power. Even those with good intentions are inevitably corrupted by shard use. Then it's revealed to have a malevolent will of its own, making it not only the Man Behind The Big Bad but, in fact, the Ultimate Evil.
  • Beaten to death on Yu-Gi-Oh!! and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Apparently, it's common practice to design cards so powerful they are too dangerous to actually be used. So they have to be locked up and kept out of the wrong hands, to give the protagonist and company something to fight for. And the millennium items around which the series is based.
    • The Millenium Ring from the original series is the most notable example. While all of the Items (especially the Eye and the Rod) can be used for negative purposes, the Ring is the absolute worst, possessing the innocent Ryou Bakura and using him to trigger a plot that would have seen thousands of people dead, and history rewritten. Having the soul of a psychopathic tomb robber and a shard of a dark god's essence trapped inside of it will do that to an object.
    • The Wicked God cards of Yu-Gi-Oh! R were considered too dangerous to even be printed by the people who created the aforementioned cards of doom. Naturally, someone decides to print and use them anyways. Unsurprisingly, one of them brain-jacks him.
  • The eponymous notebook from Death Note kills those whose names are written in it. This is slightly different from most of the other examples on the list, in that it doesn't appear to be sentient or subversive all on its own—the danger comes entirely from the power it places in the hands of the user, and how he decides to use it. On the other hand, to quote Ryuk, "Don't think somebody who uses a Death Note can go to Heaven or Hell." What Ryuk doesn't say is that there is no afterlife -- nobody is going to Heaven or Hell.
    • Ryuk mentions (in the very first episode) that the first human that picks up the Death Note will ultimately have their name written down by the Shinigami that dropped it. And sure enough, following Light's ultimate defeat in the final episode, Ryuk makes good on his promise and writes Light's name into his personal Death Note making it the first, and last time, Ryuk uses his own notebook in the series and finally closing out the Kira case..
  • Digimon Adventure 02 features the Dark Spores. The good news: they make you faster and stronger, and provide genius intellect. The bad news: They turn you cold and sadistic. Worse news: their real purpose is to resurrect a seriously nasty baddie once enough of them have collected enough energy from those they've corrupted. Even worse news: they're imperfect copies of the real thing, so if they're not harvested, you die. But there is good news: I Just Saved A Bunch Of Money On My Car Insurance By Switching to GEICO!
    • PS: Don't play with the Beast Spirits in Digimon Frontier, either. You can learn to control yourself while using 'em eventually, but that's only after an episode or two of wrecking everything in sight. If you're not one of The Chosen Ones, using 'em at all may be hazardous to your sanity.
      • Unless you happen to be The Chick. In that case, go nuts!
  • In Berserk, there are small magical items called Behelits. They look like eggs with human facial features scattered around them at random. When their possessor hits an emotional nadir, the features rearrange into a screaming face, and the four members of the Godhand appear to offer the Behelit's owner the chance to become a demon... by sacrificing those close to them. And then there is the Crimson Behelit, owned by Griffith, which transforms its bearer into a member of the nigh-invincible, demonic Godhand.
    • Plus, if you don't want to do it? Tough luck. You're getting sucked into hell anyway.
      • The only example of that shown in the manga was the Count, who had already made the sacrifice and doomed himself before. Assuming you have never made the deal, you should be fine.
    • There's also Guts' Berserker Armor, which removes a human being's natural limits by nulling pain and allows the user to keep fighting by temporarily mending broken bones, stitching together wounds, etc. It's very dangerous for the obvious reasons that your body has limits for a reason and bypassing them is bound to hurt you, but it also has the effect of bringing out the wearer's "inner beast" (in the Skull Knight's case, his familiar skull motif, in Guts' case, "The Beast", his Hell Hound evil side), turning him into a raging monster incapable of distinguishing friend from foe. After using it just once, Guts got a patch of white hair, became partially colorblind, and lost some of his sense of taste. Constant use of it might have reduced the Skull Knight to his current ghastly state.
  • The Book of Darkness from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, which grants ultimate power to its user upon filling its 666 pages. Oh, and it takes over said user once said pages are filled and goes on an omnicidal rampage until it burns itself out together with said user, whereupon it resurfaces somewhere else to snooker another mage. The guardians that accompany it never mention that part for some reason.
    • And if you're Genre Savvy enough to not use it, it will just eat your life force instead.
    • The Book of Darkness is an interesting case, in that the only reason it's an Artifact of Doom is that it's malfunctioning. As it originally was, it was a harmless book meant to store knowledge of magic from all over the universe.
    • Fans also like to joke that Raising Heart is one of these. Especially in doujins, she and Nanoha are prone to unleashing big pink beams of death and destruction love and friendship anytime, anywhere, on anybody.
  • The Mesoamerican stone mask from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is the main cause for most events of the series, especially the bad ones, due to its ability to turn the wearer into a vampire when splashed with blood. Later, the Stand Arrows fill a similar role.
  • Ann Cassandra: the Cassandra Mask. The mask's power lets its user warp the future to cause more disasters in exchange for becoming the mask's puppet and eventually dying. The mask then compels the nearest person to pick it up and use it.
  • The Dark Bring in Rave Master, which grant the user different powers while slowly corrupting them. Special mention goes to the Sinclaire, which are especially corruptive.
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index: The library of 103,000 grimoires in Index's brain counts. Not only do the grimoires themselves contain spells of incredible destructive power, the knowledge itself is dangerous. When one mage tried to absorb just one of the books while trying to obtain a healing spell to save a girl he loved from a curse, he nearly suffered a fatal aneurysm. The mage then wonders just what Index is considering that she can store the entire library in her mind without any negative side effects.
  • The philosopher stones in Fullmetal Alchemist, which is forged with thousands of human souls, and can be used to ignore the rules of alchemy. Most people in FMA who possess one use it to commit mass genocide, or to possess people.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has the "Lance of Longinus", a long, pronged artifact which grants its wielder (who has to be absolutely GIGANTIC to use it, by the way) absolute godly power. It plays a crucial role in both the Second and Third Impacts. The Lance is interesting in that it is not sentient, nor is its wielder, Adam, truly "evil", it is only an Artifact of Doom from a human perspective, being as it will destroy us all if it falls into the wrong hands.
    • Classified Information suggests that the Lance actually is sentient, and comes in a set with a Seed of Life (i.e. both Adam and Lilith had one, but Lilith lost hers). It exists as the ultimate security device, but only does anything if something goes horribly wrong (such as two Seeds landing on the same planet).
  • Nabari no Ou - The "Book of the Knowledge of All Living Things" is essentially this though it doesn't necessarily corrupt the holder himself.
  • Da Capo - the Giant Sakura Tree, though it is explicitly stated that it only fulfills one's fervently wished for desires, for some reason, it always end up working towards unimaginably evil ends (In the second season, it defeats the Power of Love). May be linked to its tendency to fulfill unconscious wishes even when this goes against the conscious desires of the user.
    • Sakura states in the second season that the tree's purpose of granting wishes may be inherently damaging as it disrupts the struggle wish is central to human life, thereby disrupting the process of human life itself. Essentially, since people don't know what they want granting it to them will inevitably go awry.
  • This is the entire point of Cubex Cursedx Curious, where the series revolves around the idea that a cursed item eventually becomes intelligent and able to take human form. And being cursed is just as traumatic to them.


Card Games[edit | hide]

  • The Mirari twists and corrupts those who seek its power in the post-Invasion world of Dominaria in the Magic: The Gathering storyline. However, this a subversion; it's revealed in the end that it was only meant to be a probe, but ended up spilling magical power into the world, the power inevitably corrupting the bearer.
    • Also, within the card game exists the "Door to Nothingness" artifact. Its ability costs a ridiculous amount of mana, but when activated, your opponent loses the entire game. (Just make sure they don't redirect the target.)
    • Worldslayer. "Whenever equipped creature [i.e. creature wielding the sword] deals combat damage to a player, destroy all permanents other than Worldslayer."
  • The Black Scrolls in the Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game and tabletop RPG are immensely powerful magical scrolls that corrupt any who study them. In fact anything (including people, places and objects) that has enough of the Shadowlands Taint does so, and various artifacts bear the Taint. These include the Bloodswords and the Anvil of Despair, just to name two.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • In the Marvel Universe, the Darkhold is a Tome of Eldritch Lore penned by Chthon (an Elder God turned demon lord) to serve as a foothold in Earth's dimension after his banishment from it. Anyone who uses it risks becoming enslaved to Chthon's purposes.
  • Satirized in Nodwick by "This One Ring", which is a One Ring parody that inspired an epic Lord of the Rings-esque plot based on hype alone. It has no actual powers, but only Nodwick realizes this and no-one else believes him.
    • By the end of the story, history repeats itself when Nodwick bribes off the story's Gollum-equivalent with "this one rock". Yeah, it's just a rock. Cut to the Distant Finale...
    • The print comic also features a straight example in the Gauntlet of Supremacy. It renders its wielder immune to harm, fires powerful energy blasts, and gives the wielder dominion over all living beings near them. Unfortunately, it was forged by a God of Evil and a God of War working together, and drives its wielder to conquer the world and kill anyone who opposes them. Only said God of Evil can control it.
  • In the DCU, the Heart of Darkness is a black crystal that can grant its host fearsome mystical powers. The cost? Said host almost always becomes a flesh puppet to the evil spirit within the diamond, often referred to as "Eclipso".
    • The only time Eclipso was ever contained, the captor used special tattoos all over his body to turn himself into a living prison. Unfortunately, those were broken by an accidental slice from his lover Nemesis, and the freed Eclipso ended up killing both of them.
  • The Tactigon from Avengers: The Initiative might go here. It's a shapeshifting alien weapon that can become whatever its host wants or needs. It's choosy, too; it won't work for just anybody, but it has an unfortunate tendency to pick hosts that are... troubled. Its first known host was a suicidal girl who at least tried to use the Tactigon for good, but its second host was out and out Ax Crazy.
  • Although it's more of a Tome of Eldritch Lore in the Evil Dead movies, the Necronomicon develops into this in the comic book Army of Darkness spinoff, possessing a malevolent sentience, corrupting the people who stumble upon it for its own purposes, and generally trying its best to get rid of the hero once and for all. Oddly enough, as the comic books developed the Necronomicon into an Artifact of Doom, its Tome of Eldritch Lore traits seemed to diminish accordingly: more often than not, the comic book version of the Necronomicon simply uses its powers as it or its owner sees fit, with no spell recitation involved. This might've been a Pragmatic Adaptation for the comic book's episodic format, since very few people in the Evil Dead universe are qualified to translate and read the book's ancient language aloud.
  • The title artifact of The Mask grants its wearer Nigh Invulnerability and reality warping powers, but also loosens their inhibitions until eventually they become a cackling Ax Crazy mass-murderer. It's also addictive, and can't be removed by anyone other than the person wearing it.
  • The alien costumes/symbiotes of Spider-Man, with an added Body Horror bonus.
  • A clever (probably originally Italian) Donald Duck story centered around a mysterious item from outer space that did absolutely nothing, but was still more an Artifact of Doom than a MacGuffin. It was so absolutely and completely useless anything done with it was automatically a waste of time and amounted to nothing. It was in the possession of Scrooge McDuck first, so he naturally tried to make money out of it, but his every attempt merely broke even, until he managed to sell it to Rockerduck (at zero profit). As time went on, the sheer uselessness of the item made it hold a peculiar fascination to people, and news of it apparently spread globally. Everyone was in fact so affected by the uselessness that they began to turn apathetic and think nothing was worth doing because it was useless, or were inspired to start doing completely useless things themselves. A researcher then came to the conclusion that the item could cause The End of the World as We Know It unless it was launched back into space to remove its effect on the collective psyche. But when they did this, the story subverted its own premise, because the item saved the entire planet; it was picked up by an alien armada of doom, whose leader consequently decided attacking the Earth would be pointless, and decided not to bother. Perhaps a True Neutral equivalent of the default evil Artifact of Doom.
  • The Winslowe in Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire is something of a subversion in that it is alive, slightly mobile, slightly intelligent (actually quite intelligent), and to all appearances not the least bit malevolent or proactive in any way. That doesn't change the fact that any time it pops up, half the known universe goes violently crazy with avarice to possess it, because they're convinced it is the most important object/being in all of Creation.
  • Any of the various Green Lantern Corps rings could become an Artifact of Doom under the right circumstances. The Orange Lantern ring curses its owner with ever-lasting greed and hunger. The Red Lantern ring causes heart stoppage and uncontrollable rage, and you can't take it off without it killing you. The Black Rings bring the dead back as undead Black Lanterns that crave hearts.
  • The Star Brand from The New Universe is exactly like this. A limitless power only held back by one's imagination, it can only be used by living things. The first time someone tried to place it into a inanimate object to get rid of the power, it initiated the White Event, the world's biggest Superpower Lottery. The second time, it vaporized Pittsburgh! Even worse, even if you do get rid of it, you're keeping a portion of the power that will recharge itself back to full. It's so dangerous that, when the New Universe Earth was transported to the mainstream Marvel Universe, the Living Tribunal erected an impenetrable barrier so it won't contaminate the rest of the universe with its power.


Fan Works[edit | hide]

  • Kyle in Becka Rangers: Nemo Thunder goes Ax Crazy the very second he touches the Jellyfish Staff. Even after they fix the staff so it won't make him completely evil, it still makes him a Sociopathic Hero when he's morphed.
  • In With Strings Attached we have Blackfire, the Hunter's BFS, even though the Hunter doesn't think it's evil. He is disabused of that notion eventually.
  • Ponies Make War has the Sliver of Darkness, which was responsible for Princess Luna's transformation into Nightmare Moon, and more importantly to the story, Twilight Sparkle's transformation into Nihilus.


Films -- Animation[edit | hide]


Films -- Live-Action[edit | hide]

Gamebooks[edit | hide]

  • The Lone Wolf gamebooks: in addition to the evil armies, demonic Evil Overlords, various Sealed Evils in Cans, and hostile wildlife and environments, Lone Wolf runs into several Artifacts of Doom. The Darklord weapons and the Death Staff are examples of evil weapons that have gameplay penalties when used in battle. Story-wise, the worst artifacts are the Doomstones. The Doomstones are essentially crystallized Black Magic created by a powerful demon that eventually corrupts and kills anyone who uses them that isn't already a being of pure evil. Meaning that the strongest antagonists can use them with impunity; but Lone Wolf collapses as soon as he gets near one.
    • The Doomstone of Darke featured in Book 16 The Darke Crusade deserves a special mention here. In the end, it turns out to be the REAL Big Bad of the book, having made the Disc One Final Boss its frail, near-undead puppet.
    • A rather weird example is the Moonstone, a GOOD Artifact of Doom: crops grow better, children are born healthier, summers are longer... but it threatens to destroy the natural equilibrium of Magnamund.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the John Silke series of Death Dealer books ( which are based on the painting by Frank Frazetta) the main character is given a helmet possessed by the god of death, which makes him a nigh-invincible warrior. on the flip side, it will put Gath (the name given to the death dealer) through slowly increasing discomfort, pain, and finally torture. the helmet can only be removed by an innocent young woman and final love interest named Robin Lakehair.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy novel Legion, learning of the Black Cube causes the Cabal to change their plans. They give up their subtlety to openly contact the Alpha Legion and tell them they must flee the planet at once: their enemies are using the Blood Magic to bring about the Black Dawn, which will wipe life from the planet.
  • The first two books in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain series had the Black Cauldron, based on a Welsh myth, used by Big Bad Arawn to create his army of the undead. (The Fates imply that the Cauldron once had other, more benign uses, but Arawn ruined the thing while he was "renting" it.) To destroy it, Someone Has to Die, and it can apparently corrupt former good guys who covet its powers. The Disney Animated Canon made a very loose adaptation simply titled The Black Cauldron.
  • The Lifestone plays this role in The Riftwar Cycle.
  • Somewhat subverted in Excession by Iain M. Banks, in which the titular Excession is an object which does absolutely nothing, but almost causes a galaxy-spanning war over who gets to say they own it.
  • The Piggy from William Sleator's Interstellar Pig also does nothing, but causes a lot of trouble. The aliens chasing it believe that, when an unknown timer runs out, only the planet with the Piggy will be spared from destruction. But the Piggy itself later tells the human protagonist that it has the "hiccups" and will actually only destroy whatever world it's on during its next hiccup. The hero soon realizes these are both lies to keep "the game" going: the Piggy's real purpose is to study each alien species, and the story of the game exists solely to manipulate everyone into alternately chasing it and tossing it like a hot potato.
  • In Steven Brust's Dragaera books, Morganti weapons have a cold, low-level intelligence that hungers to consume souls. The blades are so awful that they even unsettle their bearer. However, the most powerful Morganti weapons are called Great Weapons, and have a more developed intelligence that can be controlled, leading to a symbiotic relationship.
  • The Blackened Denarii from The Dresden Files. Just touching a coin is enough to invite the fallen angel bound to it into your mind, where they will toy with your perceptions, offer you power, and eventually try to turn you into their flesh puppet.
  • An example by Ramsey Campbell is the Messa/Massa di Requiem per Shuggay, a morbid opera designed not only to drive its audience mad, but to summon the blind idiot god Azatoth at the end of the performance.
  • The malevolent play script titled The King in Yellow, from the collection of short stories of the same name by Robert W Chambers.
  • The Illearth Stone from the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant is pure evil and extremely powerful. Even shards cut from it are potent magic items that can corrupt people. Additionally, if the Illearth Stone or a shard of it is in one place for long, its evil anti-nature aura will kill off all the plants in a large radius around it.
  • The grail in Teresa Edgerton's The Grail and the Ring became this because it was corrupted when its powers were first revealed. Subverted Trope in that the object can be redeemed, and doing this is a necessary step to Set Right What Once Went Wrong.
  • Played straight in Simon R. Green's Blue Moon Rising (the Infernal Devices).
    • Things like this also turn up in his Nightside novels, but in weirder forms (e.g. the Speaking Gun).
  • In P.C. Hodgell's Chronicles of the Kencyrath, the Ivory Knife and the Book Bound in Pale Leather are this and yet not, in that they're given to the Kencyr by their God, and will be used by the three avatars of God, the Tyr-ridan. The Ivory Knife is the "very tooth of death", a pinprick from which is fatal, which rots and kills anything it touches. Heroine Jame keeps it in her boot sheath for the longest time.
  • The short story The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. The monkey's paw grants the user's wishes, but at a tremendous price. "It had a spell put on it by an old fakir, a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow." The thing was created purely to cause suffering. It's pure evil.
  • The Wheel of Time has a city that acts like this. Shadar Logoth will quickly corrupt anyone who stays too long. This isn't much of a problem when you consider that people who enter will quickly get killed by Mashadar, an evil cloud that hangs over the city. Mat Cauthon picks up a dagger on his stay there, and this acts the same way. He quickly succumbs to hating people, and is nearly killed by the taint of the dagger before he is finally separated and healed of the taint. However, Rand eventually finds a way to use the city against the Big Bad without being corrupted by it, namely by making its power and the city's cancel each other out, albeit with the side effect of erasing the city and several kilometers of earth beneath it from existence.
  • Stephen King's The Dark Tower depicts two of a set of thirteen Artifacts Of Doom—the Wizard's Rainbow, a scattered set of color-coordinated crystal balls that inspire a covetous "my precious..." instinct. The pink one appears to cause addiction to Reality TV. But the Doomiest of them all, Black Thirteen, instead inspires a mixture of terror and murder-suicides, and is implied to act as a sort of Weirdness Magnet for disaster when Jake and Father Callahan unknowingly decide to stash it in a subway locker beneath the World Trade Center in June 1999.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Grey Hunter, Ragnor and other Space Marines encounter an artifact which makes vast promises to them. Ragnor only breaks free when it tells him he has to kneel to the Ruinous Power to get it. And the others don't break free on their own; he has to help them.
  • May or may not be averted in CS Lewis' The Magician's Nephew, as the inscription over the enchanted bell only claims it'll drive you mad if you refrain from striking it. Even if it couldn't really cause insanity, ringing the bell awakened Jadis and introduced evil to Narnia, which is "doom" in a way.
  • That tome of ineffable horrors, the Necronomicon originating in the works of HP Lovecraft, though this is largely the result of being heavily Flanderized; a major percentage of the Lovecraft's protagonists read the book without becoming more than mildly neurotic. Breakdowns only tend to happen when what they've learned from the book seems to coincide with their recent experiences.
  • In China Mieville's The Scar, Silas steals a statue from the grindylow which grants him mysterious powers, yet has the unfortunate side effect of slowly turning him into a fish-person.
  • The gauntlet in Karen Miller's Godspeaker Trilogy which is made from a Power Crystal and fashioned by Hekat for her son Zandakar. It destroys buildings and fries people where they stand. It also makes his hair turn blue. Zandakar later abandons it as he find it too destructive, his brother Dmmitak uses the gauntlet and never takes it off, even when he has sex. The knife which Vortka gives Zandakar is also an example of this.
  • Stormbringer, the black blade, in The Elric Saga novels, forces Elric to kill everyone he loves, brings about The End of the World as We Know It, and ultimately survives the destruction and re-creation of the universe to spread its evil anew.
  • Terry Pratchett created a device called the Gonne in the Discworld book Men At Arms, one of the few times he's been Anvilicious, due to Values Dissonance: anyone (almost) who so much as picks up the Gonne will think it "talks" to them; they begin to consider killing someone immediately. On the Disc, sometimes just being powerful or unique is enough to make something borderline magical, and the Gonne was both. What the Gonne feared most, though, was not destruction but replication.
    • In the Discworld novel Soul Music, a primordial guitar bought at a little mystical shop takes control of an aspiring musician and his band mates. The guitar isn't exactly evil, but it is selfish, destructive, and intent on making sure "The Band With Rocks In" dies young and goes out in a blaze of glory, whether they want to or not, in order to popularize its type of music.
  • Crenshinibon, the Crystal Shard, in R.A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale Trilogy, is considered by many readers to be an homage to One Ring (if not an outright ripoff).
  • The Horcruxes in Harry Potter. Like the One Ring they primarily function as Soul Jars for Voldemort, but can exert a corrupting influence to defend themselves, never mind that the creation of them is an act of evil (and requires the wizard to commit murder as part of the ritual).
    • Not exactly doomy but definitely addictive is the Mirror of Erised in the first Harry Potter book. It shows you your greatest desire, but it is just an illusion. (In the movie Harry is show sitting transfixed in front of it like he's watching TV.)
    • The Elder Wand prior to coming into the possession of Dumbledore and later Harry would also qualify. Probably the Resurrection Stone as well, though to a lesser degree.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker features Nightblood, a sentient sword created for the purpose of slaying evil—except being a sword, it has no real idea what evil is, and as such continually goads its wielder to try and kill everyone in sight just to be on the safe side. Also a Deadpan Snarker.
  • The quintessential example is The One Ring from JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. The Ring grants power proportional to that of the wielder, so the effect on a mere Hobbits is minimal (it just helps them "disappear" and makes them live forever), but in the hands of an elven mage or a demigod like Gandalf, it's a world-breaking artifact. The downside is: it contains the spirit of its maker, the Dark Lord Sauron (aka the Necromancer), so it will eventually corrupt anyone who wears it, or owns it, or even sees it. Also, it's virtually indestructible, and the quest to destroy it takes about three-quarters of the plot.
    • The palantíri, also from The Lord of the Rings, are functionally dooming at the time of the story, because Sauron got hold of one and used it to psychically attack anyone who uses the others. (Victims include Saruman, Denethor, Pippin, and possibly Aragorn.)
    • The Silmarils (of The Silmarillion) aren't precisely doomy, but they seem to have a dooming effect on everyone around them, because everybody who sees one (or even hears about it) covets them. Including Morgoth, who wears them in his crown even though their holiness burns him.
  • In The Picture of Dorian Gray, the portrait itself. Dorian cannot age and stays young forever thanks to its power, but the painting turns more horrible and wretched with each evil act that Dorian performs, as a physical manifestation of his tainted soul. Dorian is drawn to and repulsed by it. By the end of the book, he has the painting locked in his attic, afraid to even look at it. In a fit of conscience, he decides to destroy it, unable to bear to look at his aged and wicked face from the canvas. He stabs it, but in doing so, actually kills himself. While the portrait isn't actually evil, it reflects the evil in Dorian.
  • The board games Jumanji and Zathura, while not inherently evil or malevolent, still often rain down misfortune and disaster on the players in the form of lions, homicidal big game hunters, meteor showers, and invading aliens, depending on which game you're playing. In both games, the only way to get rid of them is to finish the game (assuming it hasn't killed you first). However, even if the heroes do manage to finish and dispose of the game, more often than not it will just worm its way into the hands of another group of unfortunate saps.
  • In the Malazan Book of the Fallen book Midnight Tides, Rhulad Sengar's cursed sword (which he only grabbed to keep an enemy force from stealing it) grants him superhuman (super-Tiste?) strength and combat ability to match the greatest swordsman. And it even allows him to resurrect, as long as the sword remains in his hand, leaving him even stronger—hence harder to kill—than before. Unfortunately, the resurrection doesn't actually heal the wound that killed him (at least not immediately, or gently) and hurts, leaving Rhulad even less sane every time he's killed. And we've also seen, in the time between his death and resurrection, the Crippled God (the sword's creator and the series Big Bad Evil Guy) takes the opportunity to pound on Rhulad's soul before sending him back. Did we also mention the sword is cursed so that Rhulad can't let go of it, even if he wanted to?
  • The cricket ball hyperspace junction bomb created by Hactar in Life, the Universe, and Everything.
  • The Bottle Imp has shades of this, in the Robert Louis Stevenson story of the same name. It will grant any material wish, but when its owner dies, he's doomed to go straight to hell. Ownership can be transferred to someone else but only if you follow the rules.
  • The demon bench end, from the story of the same name from Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror does this. It seems to do a combination of driving its owner mad and worming its way into their mind so they commit acts such as murder. It seems that one of the first acts it makes them do is the murder of the previous owner. Oh, and you can't give it away, throw it away and quite possibly you can't destroy it, or at least not by conventional means.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors, the sixth pillar gives the reward of "Power"; the ability to reshape the world according to its possessor's wishes. It also puts them through the ultimate version of power corrupts.
  • In Robert E Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel The Hour of the Dragon, the Heart of Ahriman. Even one of the evil conspirators tries to get it from the Evil Sorcerer.
  • The Neverending Story : Subverted with Auryn, which removes memories from its user but can also change somebody's personality, as for The One Ring. The longer the Bearer has Auryn, the more he begins to be upset, irritable and angry. This is the case for Bastian, at last.
  • The killer camera in Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die! , which destroys or causes harm to persons or objects that it takes pictures of.
  • In Shadows of the Apt, the box. Scyla gets quite creeped out by its effect on her. The Living Shadow doesn't help.
  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea: The Nautilus is this for Captain Nemo: at the State of technology in 1869, a submarine could destroy any ship and then escape unpunished. By using it as a Weapon of Mass Destruction, Nemo discovers that With Great Power Comes Great Insanity. Nemo last act in the book is direct the Nautilus to a Giant Whirpool, dooming himself and his crew.).
  • Questing Stones are reputed to be this in Septimus Heap. No Apprentice has ever retuned after having been dispatched with one of them , until Septimus is given one and survives the Queste in Queste.
  • In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, the Dancer, apparently. At one point two characters discuss whether one man who owned it had died when he disappeared—after all, all other owners have.


Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Friday the 13th: The Series (no relation to the movies) was about a group of do-gooders who find that a vault filled with these things were sold to various people via Deal with the Devil. Naturally, they Gotta Catch Them All.
  • They have a strange habit of being in Sunnydale in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Tthe best one is the Hellmouth, but there's others as well.
  • In Angel, the evil law firm that Angel is given at the end of season four (not technically an inanimate artifact, but hey). It's a powerful weapon that will do whatever he commands, but it's always working to corrupt his thinking so that he will give it the commands it wants. The dare-to-use-it/get-rid-of-it argument keeps cropping up, too.
    • Also worth noting: The law firm exists to do business with evil. If they just plain stop helping evil with it, and instead try to use it only as a weapon for good, the business will fail, and another law firm, beyond their control, will pop up to replace it.
  • In Power Rangers Wild Force, the mask of Zen-Aku resulted in Merrick going Ax Crazy and having to be locked away three thousand years ago, to be awakened by the villains to menace the Rangers in the present. By this point, he'd been so overwritten by Zen-Aku's personality that the result was an Enigmatic Minion version of Zen-Aku who didn't know what those pesky human tendencies were about and why a couple memories didn't seem to fit. Eventually, they're separated, and Merrick becomes the Sixth Ranger of the modern team. And Merrick and ZA are getting along much better now, as we learn at season's end.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Sword of Kahless appears to have the same effect on Worf and Kor, though this perception was unintended by the writers. As Kor mentions at one stage (whilst using the famous sword as a spit to cook his dinner), it's just a sword, not a holy relic. Nevertheless Worf and Kor each believe that their role in finding the long-lost bat'leth means they're destined to rule the Klingon Empire (Worf did become Chancellor and head of the Klingon Empire, albeit for a few minutes). After nearly killing each other they realize the sword will cause more problems than it will solve, and so they set it adrift in space.
  • Masters of Horror: John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns: Some guy, desperately in need to pay off his debts, goes in search for a long-lost film called La Fin absolue du monde on behalf of a private collector. Only shown publicly during its premiere (which resulted in a massacre), everyone that came into contact with it was either driven homicidally insane or committed suicide after watching it.
  • A weekly Artifact of Doom provides the premise of the Sci Fi Channel show Warehouse 13.
  • In Stargate SG-1, the sarcophagus is a device that creates eternal youth, and can even bring people back to life, but it's credited as the main reason the Goa'uld are as evil as they are. The Tok'ra don't use it, because "it steals the soul." In the episode "Need", Daniel Jackson got addicted to it, and eventually got to the point where he just didn't care about anybody else (which was really remarkable for him, at the time).
  • Parodied on A Bit of Fry and Laurie: "Flowers for Wendy" (purchased from the conveniently located street vendor who wasn't there yesterday) and "The Red Hat of Pat Ferrick".
  • Parodied in the Ripping Yarns episode "The Curse of the Claw."
  • The Objects in The Lost Room have the potential to be these, but they can also been used for good. The worst ones, though, are very dangerous, such as the Deck of Cards, which subjects you to terrible visions, and there's at least one combination of Objects with the ability to cause something unspeakably awful.
  • The Book of Pure Evil from the Canadian series Todd and the Book of Pure Evil is a Tome of Eldritch Lore that also functions as an Artifact of Doom. The book, which seems to be sentient and actively malevolent, appears to whoever has some great desire they wish to be fulfilled. In turn, the book (which can seemingly change its contents at will) provides a collection of spells that will grant that desire, though typically twist it in some way. The main character, Todd, was the first to use the book and it possessed him, causing him to nearly slaughter his entire school with The Power of Rock.


Music[edit | hide]

  • The song "Black Blade", by Blue Öyster Cult, is about a particularly nasty Artifact of Doom (see "Stormbringer", above; the song was written by Moorcock).
  • "Dissolve," by Jonathan Coulton, seems to be about one of these, but the lyrics are a little vague.


Myths & Religion[edit | hide]

  • Andvari's ring in Norse Mythology, from the tale of Otter's ransom, isn't really magical, except in so much as it kills anyone who has it and is told they have it (though this last part is rather inconsistently applied). The ring in the Edda does have one magical power, that of increasing gold. While not a clear-cut example of this trope, it inspired at least one more famous example.
  • The Ring of Gyges, a metaphor for corruption in Plato's The Republic. This ring merely turns the bearer invisible, as the One Ring had in The Hobbit, but Plato argued that the temptations the ring presents would ultimately corrupt anyone who chose to use it. Inevitably, theft, murder, and betrayal would follow, as these were the easiest and most obvious uses of the ring. Ultimately, the use of the ring proves so addictive that its bearer cannot part with it, and can thing of nothing else but his jealousy of keeping it.
  • The Sword of Kullervo in The Kalevala, which in the end talks to Kullervo and is willing to help him committing suicide, enjoying drinking his guilty blood as well as it has drunk many an innocent blood.
  • In a Polish fairy tale, the fern flower will grant any wish, as long as it's only for yourself and you never share the benefits with anyone. If you are charitable even once, everything you wished for is taken back, and the flower disappears.
  • The Ark of the Covenant has shades of this, even outside that one story. The instructions for its creation and care were very specific, and when one of its attendants touched it without proper precautions, it struck the man dead.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Crop up with depressing regularity in both Warhammer Fantasy Battle and Warhammer 40,000. The Daemon weapons used by certain Chaos followers are somewhere between Artifact of Doom and Empathic Weapon.
    • Blackstone fortresses qualify, but is it a surprise that the artifact in question is a spaceship?
    • On a slightly less grand scale than the Blackstone Fortresses, there are a number of brand new ones introduced in the Warhammer 40,000 RPGs from FFG: the Halo Devices. Mysterious, but probably non-human in origin, these things can make the bearer immortal, but you wind up unsane and inhuman. On the upside, that which does not kill you makes you stronger, and that which does kill you doesn't make you dead. You simply end up with a mind completely unlike any human, including the insane worshippers of the Chaos Gods, and a body that slowly mutates into a vaguely insectoid monstrous form. And it doesn't work if you are psychic, or a Chaos worshipper. And "killing" the bearer, just hurries it along. Needless to say, these are rare, highly illegal, and are worth more than star systems.
  • The Sword of Khaine (also an Evil Weapon) in Warhammer Fantasy was wielded by the Elven God of War Khaine. To drive back the first incursion of Chaos, the first Elven king picked up the sword, and after defeating the Big Bad but not destroying it, it gradually turned him evil causing a sundering between the elf factions (one being led by his illegitimate son) and a civil war that continues to this day. The Dark Elves led by his son are still trying to reclaim the sword where it lies on its altar, which would give them to defeat the High Elves and possibly any further Chaos Incursions - it's possibly the most powerful weapon in Warhammer.
    • The Crown of Sorcery (more accurately called the Crown of Nagash) grants whoever puts it on tremendous magical powers, but also allows part of the spirit of Nagash the Supreme Necromancer to speak to them. It influenced the creation of at least one culture devoted to necromancy before it was locked away.
  • Dungeons & Dragons has the Hand and Eye of Vecna. One can give one's own eye and hand to use these artifacts, but you have to cut off your hand or gouge out your eye to use it, and With Great Power Comes Great Insanity.
    • Oh yeah, and both of the above artifacts will eventually result in you being absorbed into their original owner.
    • And there's a story about The Head of Vecna, which is supposedly used in the same way, but doesn't actually do what the user expects. It does, however, do exactly what anyone with an ounce of sense expects.
      • Even if it did work as advertised, it would still be a tremendously stupid idea to use it. His hand turns you evil, imagine what his brain would do.
    • Evil-aligned artifacts in Dungeons & Dragons generally act like this; the Book of Vile Darkness Sourcebook lists some, and is named after a particular example.
    • 4e has taken this to its logical extreme with the Heart of the Abyss; a shard of pure evil. Asmodeus stole a sliver off the shard, crafted it into a rod, and used it to kill the strongest of the gods. The Blood War fought between the devils and demons was spawned by this; Asmodeus wants the rest of the shard for himself, and the demons want the piece he stole back.
    • Notably, even some good artifacts are like this. It's not so much that they're overtly malicious, as opposed to either being unforgiving or intended for someone else. They don't necessarily mind being used for a bit, but be respectful.
  • Iron Kingdoms: Madrak Ironhide's axe, Rathok. Its name even translates into "World Ender."
  • Exalted gives us The Broken-Winged Crane, the ultimate Tome of Eldritch Lore in the setting. Just reading it requires the unfortunate bastard in question to make a high-difficulty Willpower roll; if they fail, they pick up a form of insanity involving obsession over the tome and its contents. Its many-storied lore paints its various copies as imperfect reflections of the true tome that will come into existence at the dawn of a new dark age of Creation. In reality, the "true" copy is the book the Scarlet Empress wrote to try and wrest immortality from the Yozis. That did not go well.
  • Every artifact in Houses of the Blooded. It's written into the rules: they can give you great power, but once a season, the Narrator can cause you to automatically fail a roll by saying "DOOOOOOOM!" A good Narrator will do this at the worst possible time.
  • Kult has rules for possessed or otherwise evil items. One example is a maching gun that, when picked up, causes the wielder to go on a murdeous rampage, shooting everything in sight, friend or foe.

Theatre[edit | hide]

  • The Ring of the Nibelungs from Richard Wagner's eponymous operatic cycle, cursed by its maker to destroy all who possess or covet it. The curse comes with a truly ominous Leitmotif, which plays every time someone is killed because of it. Wagner, in loosely adapting the Norse Mythology example above, extended the symbolism of the lust for gold, relating it (in typical 19th c. fashion) to the „Wille zur Macht‟, the fundamental anti-social aspect of which he symbolized in the idea that the Ring could be made only by one who had renounced all natural affections.


Theme Parks[edit | hide]

  • There are a few in the attractions at Disney Theme Parks. A notable one is in the Indiana Jones sequence of The Great Movie Ride, where a real life Cast Member plays the role of the poor fool who tries to take it.


Toys[edit | hide]

  • The Ignika in Bionicle. On top of that, it was made exactly like the One Ring.
    • The nui stone may also count as this.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The Apple, aka one of the Pieces of Eden from the Assassin's Creed series. As observed by Altaïr in the Codex, where he states "I freed myself. But now I wonder... Did I really? For here I sit – desperate to understand that which I swore to destroy.".
    • Also reportedly observed by Ezio at the beginning of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, who ends up in a similar situation.
    • Other Pieces are even worse. The Shroud tries to get people to use it to heal themselves or others with a Compelling Voice, but it is either actively malevolent or just very, very broken. The results range from Body Horror to Came Back Wrong. Occasionally, it will actually heal someone.
    • Subverted since the true purpose of the Pieces of Eden (at least seen in the games) is to avert global destruction in the near future.
  • The demonic sword Soul Edge from the Soul Series of fighting games. The sword invades the mind of its wielder and turns it into its host body, removing his self-consciousness and turning him into a bloodlusting machine whose only goal is to offer the souls of those he slay to the sword. The sword's influence can also affect the user's physical appearance in varying degrees, the most common effect being a demon-looking deformed arm.
    • In Soul Calibur IV, some of the characters' story paths imply that Soul Calibur, the "good" counterpart of Soul Edge, may be evil as well. In one ending, it "covers the world with crystals in an eternal utopia"; essentially trapping the world in stasis forever.
      • Light Is Not Good. Considering that Soul Calibur was created from a piece of Soul Edge, we probably should've seen this one coming...
      • Confirmed in Soul Calibur V: Soul Calibur has an avatar named Elysium living within it (just as Soul Edge has Inferno) who seeks this "eternal utopia", and takes the form of Sophitia to trick Patroklos into doing its bidding.
  • In Betrayal at Krondor, the Lifestone plays this role.
  • In Ultima IV, one can acquire an item called the "Skull of Mondain" (the villain of the very first Ultima) that can instantly destroy your enemies. However, it also destroys your Karma Meter, to the point of making the game Unwinnable. Particularly sneaky, since the notion of a Karma Meter was new at the time.
  • This is a recurring theme in Warcraft III.
    • In the Human campaign, the runesword Frostmourne (a clear knockoff of Homage to Elric's Stormbringer) curses Arthas.
    • In the Orc campaign, the blood of the Pit Lord Mannoroth corrupts Grom Hellscream and his band, turning them into Chaos Orcs.
    • In the night elf campaign, the Skull of Gul'Dan (a powerful warlock) turns Illidan Stormrage into a mighty demon, and after using his new powers to defeat the Dreadlord Tichondrius (a major threat to the night elves), he's exiled by his brother for being tainted with evil. In the expansion pack, he does end up becoming evil, so maybe his brother was on to something. (Although Illidan's problems go far beyond the artifact he absorbed, and it's not been directly confirmed that the Skull sent him over the edge.)
      • He also acquires the Eye of Sargeras (the actual eye of a corrupted titan who became pure evil, ironically created the Burning Legion which possessed the Skull of Gul'dan and which Tichondrious was a lieutenant in) in the expansion, which is to be one of those too, having the power to kill people on the other side of the world (shattering the world in the process).
    • The novels bring us the Demon Soul, probably the worst of them all. Created by one of the Dragon Aspects under the influence of eldritch abominations, it's immensely powerful (among other things, it can control all dragons except its creator and affects its user much like the One Ring does). Even the eldritch abominations end up underestimating that attraction, and their scheme fails as a result. It's almost certainly an homage to the One Ring, as it appears to be a plain, unmarked gold disc (as the ring is a "simple gold ring"). This one is also the reason there's now a flaming god-dragon kept together by metal plates flying around destroying the world in World of Warcraft. He didn't use to look like that.
      • The uncorrupted Dragon Soul returns via Time Travel, and is used to destroy its own creator in the final battle of Cataclysm.
  • The Obviously Evil glowy red lyrium idol in Dragon Age 2, that drives anyone who handles it for an extended period stark raving mad.
    • Also to some degree the Eluvian, though it was originally a perfectly normal artifact before the Darkspawn got to it.
  • The The Legend of Zelda Majoras Mask. To put it in perspective; everything wrong in Termina when you get there? All of it was done either directly or indirectly by the Skull Kid wearing the Mask. And on top of ruing everyone's lives, he's planning to drop the frickin' moon, destroying the entire land of Termina. And he can do it. Oh, and it's not just a power-up artifact of doom: the mask is intelligent, and is possessing the Skull Kid. And when Majora decides he's outlived his usefulness, the mask discards the kid like an old pair of socks.
    • The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess has the Fused Shadows, which are hyped up to be an Artifact of Doom by the Light Spirits that Link rescues throughout the game. However, they all agree that, despite the potential for evil the Shadows hold, Link needs to collect them in order to have a chance of challenging Zant's power. Their power is proven when Link fights the creatures that possess them, which have grown into horrific beasts of great power: a Deku Baba, one of the least dangerous monsters in the game, became an enormous two-headed creature that could swallow a man whole when it grabbed a Shadow. We never do see them exert a corrupting power over Link or Midna, though... presumably they were too pure-hearted to be affected (and Midna is eventually revealed to be the rightful possessor of their power anyway, so it makes sense it wouldn't affect her).
      • The Mirror of Twilight from the same game turns demure, unassuming Yeta into the crazy ice-monster Blizzeta.

"NOT TAKE MIRROR!"

  • Super Paper Mario has the Chaos Heart, which Big Bad Count Bleck creates by forcing the marriage of Bowser and Peach and uses to set in motion the end of the universe.
  • DarkChips, in the Mega Man Battle Network series.
  • Final Fantasy VII had the Black Materia whose only purpose (that was explained to the player at least) would bring a cataclysmic force against the planet and destroy it. On fear that Sephiroth would get through all of the traps and bosses and gain it for himself, the party of heroes decide to head in and retrieve it for themselves to keep it safe. At that point, the indoctrination kicks in and Cloud delivers the goods.
  • Every single one of the twenty-seven True Runes in the Suikoden series are Artifacts of Doom. They give their host a supernatural ability and Type II (Undying) Immortality. However, each True Rune has a will of its own. In the worst case scenario, it will take control of your personality, afflict you with a curse that ruins your life and/or eventually transform your body into a Eldritch Abomination. In the best case scenario, it will subtly encourage you to use its powers as much as possible to upset the natural balance of the world, leading to The End of the World as We Know It. They cannot be destroyed either, not without taking a good quarter of the world with them.
    • A interesting example is the True Rune of Punishment from Suikoden IV By the time characters figure out what it is, the rune has killed EVERYONE who is seen using it. In an optional scene, the main character can overhear a discussion where other characters discuss who is going to get the rune next after it kills the main character!
      • Subverted after gathering the 108 Stars which requires forgiving Snowe, whose cowardice and mistakes in the beginning of the game led to the main character's exile and disgrace in the first place. The Rune of Punishment governs atonement and forgiveness, so this act shifts it into the "forgiveness" phase. The final attack granted by the Rune of Punishment actually heals the main character instead of taking away his health like the earlier attacks. He even avoids dying in the end.
    • This is why most of the 27 True Runes are bad ideas for anyone to use. The Sun Rune of Suikoden V grants nearly God-like power, but at the cost of their sanity. The Soul Eater Rune from the original Suikoden will eventually kill the user's dearest friends and family to become more powerful. The Bright Shield and Black Sword runes are fine in and of themselves, but only two people that are close to one another (friends, family, etc) can use them, and they will be forced by the runes to fight each other. The True Elemental Runes (Fire, Water, Lightning, Wind and Earth) are trying to gain dominance over each other by forcing their hosts to over-use their powers.
    • Actually loss of sanity is not common at all among True Runes, the only reason the Sun Rune has this effect is because it is in fact broken and requires two control runes branded on each hands to use properly. One of these runes was stolen prior to the events of the game and thus it's bearer could not withstand it's mind altering effects.
  • The Terror Mask from the Splatterhouse series is a sentient, diabolic mask (roughly shaped like a grinning skull) that grants its wearer tremendous power. Its true goal is a Batman Gambit to take over Hell.
  • In the Chzo Mythos series of games, there are quite a few Artifacts of Doom, the most obvious being the cursed idol that innocently sits in a bell jar in the first game until the jar gets broken.
  • The Rings in SaGa Frontier
  • The Silver Armlet from Beyond Oasis
  • In the game based on the manga of the same name, the Anubis Stand from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is the Stand of a sword, rather then a living being. In a similar way to the above Soul Edge, the Anubis Stand possesses whoever removes it from its scabbard and turns them homicidally insane. Three characters in the game (All from the manga) use the sword while being controlled by the Anubis Stand. The Anubis Stand is still capable of controlling others even when the sword had been broken into pieces by Jotaro. (Although its attempts to make a child throw a large piece of the sword at Jotaro's back leads to the stand's defeat as it ends up at the bottom of the River Nile).
  • Phazon from the Metroid Prime series. The Space Pirates (and, in the third game, The Federation) seem to think it's just a nifty Applied Phlebotinum that gives them lots of power. It is, however, strongly implied that Phazon has its own sentience and desires to spread and corrupt everything.
    • The Federation knows about the corrupting effects of Phazon. That's why they hire Samus to help them get rid of it all. They just like the extra power it gives in the short term.
  • Akhulakhan, in the Elder Scrolls series, specifically Morrowind. Not only is it the source of power that made the Dwemer disappear, but it is also the source of power for the Big Bad and the good-for-nothing council. And it's the heart of the dead god Lorkhan to boot! Come to think of it: It's an artifact that gives the Big Bad its power, that is indeed the only weak point of him, that is associated with volcanoes, that has severe restrictions in how it can be destroyed...it's not too different from the one ring.
    • Arguably also the ash statues, that connect people to Dagoth Ur and slowly infect them with corprus.
    • Another example would be the sword Umbra. The sword absorbs the souls of the people it kills and corrupts the wielder.
      • Curiously, using the sword has NO downside whatsoever in game; it's just a really powerful sword with great soul capturing ability. The fact that the sword reappears in different games with different owners is a tad ominous...
      • Even weirder, you can enchant your own weapons to have the same effect as Umbra with no side effects to you or the weapon, despite Umbra supposedly being some incredibly rare uber-evil artifact.
      • To be fair the corruption is implied to be somewhat slow, especially on the mighty warrior your character is supposed to be by the time they can actually win the damn fight. Morrowind's Umbra claims to have wielded it for a long time, and seen several wars with it, and the next Umbra was a somewhat unskilled warrior so could have fallen to its corruption much quicker (With Great Power Comes Great Insanity and all that).
      • In The Elder Scrolls Novels, Umbra is too much for even Clavicus Vile, a Daedric Prince, to handle. It steals a good chunk of his power before he manages to get rid of it.
    • Speaking of corruption: There are a few more (mostly daedric) artifacts that could probably qualify for this rope. Such as the aptly named Skull of Corruption, which in Skyrim steals dreams of people and gives them nightmares or Mehrunes Razor, though, admittedly, for most of the daedric artifacts it's actually only an 'air' of doom that is often also created by the way they are acquired, such as the Ring of Namira in Skyrim, for which you have to lure a priest to a cave and eat him together with a coven of cannibals.
  • The Mani Mani from EarthBound is very desirable, and emits an aura that causes anyone who gets near it to be consumed with greed. These factors allow it to play a prominent role in getting the Big Bad to rise to power.
  • The web-based MMORPG Mojo Ave had the ultimate example of an Artifact of Doom: "The Skull of Tony Teulan", a usable item which has the effect of turning off the game. Not the game of the user who used it, the entire game for everyone. Since there was no way to reverse the effect, it only got used once.
  • The Fuyuki Holy Grail in Fate Stay Night and Fate/Zero, after it became corrupted by granting a wish to create the source of "All The World's Evil".
  • The Geneforges and canisters in the Geneforge series. You will become violent and crazy if you use the Geneforge or too many canisters. By the time you realize that, you won't care.
  • Interestingly, according to a legend, the keyblades from Kingdom Hearts saved AND destroyed the world. Until now, we only saw the "save" part. The "destroy" part will probably be emphasized in Birth by Sleep.
    • Birth by Sleep revealed that a Keyblade War happened before BBS happened.
  • The Marker from Dead Space. Subverted. It's actually a government-manufactured copy of the real one.
    • Doubly subverted in that it's not that the Marker itself is the Artifact of Doom. The Marker is, in fact, a sentient containment device for the Big Bad that spawns the Necromorphs. It's also what creates the titular "dead space"- an energy field that repels the Necromorphs.
      • Even if it does create the dead space that suppresses the Necromorphs, the Marker still makes people slowly go crazy, see their dead relatives, write strange messages on the wall in their own blood, and kill themselves.
      • In Dead Space 2, Isaac inadvertently creates another Marker that does all the same things minus the supression, that almost starts something called a convergence event.
  • The Artifacts from Unreal II the Awakening. Your boss sends you off to gather the bits under the guise of beating the corporations/etc. to the punch, but he's really gone mad with power. When he finally gets all the bits together and assembles it, it turns the previously innocent alien chef/janitor/etc. folk into giant monstrous things with hands that shoot singularities that will kill anything in a single hit. Even themselves. After killing one, you get to use one of their hands as a weapon... and with who knows how many of them crawling over the ship. Let's just say you'll need it.
  • The Celestial Stone in Bomberman 64: The Second Attack is a priceless gem that's said to contain limitless power, but much of it's story is forgotten by time, so it's only natural that when a space pirate finally locates the stone, his body is possessed by an ancient demon god of chaos.
  • The Star Forge in Knights of the Old Republic. Described as "an artifact of The Dark Side", it's a piece of Magitek that feeds off the evil impulses of those who use it. According to the sequel, only a strong-willed individual can use it with anything approaching safety.
    • At least Revan was a bit Genre Savvy about it, unlike Malak...
  • In one installment of Curiosities of Lotus Asia (a series of side stories to Touhou written by the creator), Rinnosuke Morichika gets "artifact of doom" vibes, via his ability to see the name and purpose of an object (but not how it is used), from a Game Boy. He spends most of the story agonizing whether he should allow it to fall into the hands of local Reality Warper Yukari Yakumo. (To be fair, it does allow you to "control a world", so to speak...)
    • Rinnosuke does eventually decide to destroy it and attempts to smash it with a mallet, only to have Yukari stick her hand through one of her gaps and catch the mallet, waggle a finger at Rinnosuke, and take the Game Boy, leaving Rinnosuke dumbstruck.
  • Uninvited for the NES features a ruby that, if it is in your inventory, results in the player being possessed by a demon in about 60 turns. It serves no other purpose.
  • The Demon Crown in Cave Story. The ultimate irony is that Misery, who is enthralled by the Crown's curse, was the one who had it made in the first place, most likely in a bid for power.
  • Fallout 3 gives us the ominous, Lovecraftian obelisk in the Dunwich Building's Virulent Underchambers. Not the cause of any doom so far, but it did drive Jaime pretty insane, and you do hear those "dark whispers of power" mentioned in the article description when around it. Point Lookout added the Krivbeknih (Necronomicon knock-off) into the mix, which you can destroy by pressing it against the obelisk, which absorbs the book and grows in power.
  • The excavated ATAC Zulwarn in Vanguard Bandits has the power to possess its rider's enemies; according to the worst ending, it can also grant immortality. Unfortunately, it also has a tendency to overwhelm its rider's mind and make them into megalomaniacs. This happens to Puck in the Ruin Path ending. It's not clear whether Faulkner was possessed or was evil enough for Zulwarn's approval.
  • Mortal Kombat: Deception introduced the Datusha Kris, Ashrah's weapon of choice. Originally said to purify its user with each evil slain, MK:Armageddon revealed it was a sentient-sword that manipulates (or even forces) its user into becoming a Blood Knight, apparently so it can use itself on slaughtering the Vampire race, of which the kris is its only "natural" enemy.
  • The Artifact from Doom 3. It was created by the forces of Hell to counter the Soul Cube the martians created to fight them, and to act as a key many years later, when humanity has colonized Mars. It gives the wielder the powers of super speed, one hit kill, super strength and invulnerability but it has to be fueled by human souls and as long as it's on the living world, Hell'll always have a way into the world and the only way to make sure that Hell wouldn't conquer Earth is to destroy The Artifact in Hell for good ... which Betruger will not tolerate.
  • The Shabby Doll from Silent Hill 4, which causes unremovable hauntings if you put it in the item chest.
  • The Patriots in the Metal Gear Solid series are in fact four computers built by the aging leader of a conspiracy who no longer trusted his co-conspirators to be completely loyal to the cause. Eventually they did no longer obey him, kept him as their prisoner, and went for full out world domination.
  • Nethack has some dangerous items, such as the Cursed Potion of Sickness and the Amulet of Strangulation.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery has a Ring of Doom, which, once worn, can only be removed by uncursing the ring in some manner (at which point it retains the dooming effects, but may be removed... but will curse itself again if worn again). Many other items in the game are also "autocursing", including some literal artifacts. Particularly nasty artifacts include the Scythe of Corruption and the Medal of Chaos, both of which, in addition to autocursing, corrupt the player.
  • The ARI from Heavy Rain, since it's highly addictive, and can eventually kill Norman Jayden, the character using it. If it does, his Cowboy Cop partner Blake puts it on, and he sees a digital version of Jayden standing over him, with a scary smirk on his face.
  • In Mass Effect 2, there's a 37 million year-old dead Reaper. It still indocrinates people.

"Even dead gods can dream."

    • Any Reaper tech is this to some degree.
  • The Nox Nyctores from the BlazBlue series have fairly nasty side effects. Tsubaki's Izayoi which eventually robs its user of sight is so nasty that Ragna's arcade win quote consists of him recognizing it and warning Tsubaki that she should get rid of it as soon as possible.
    • It is arguable that Ragna isn't one to talk, though. Especially not considering the fact that his Red Right Hand is the titular Blaz Blue, an artifact of doom that, if he ever lost control over it, could spawn a monster with the potential to destroy what is left of the world.
  • The Dark Star from Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story.
  • All four of the Ancients' essences from Eternal Darkness—the Heart(s) of Mantorok, the Claw of Chattur'gha, the Sigil of Xel'lotath, and the Veil of Ulyaoth.
  • The Black Jewel from Wario World.
  • The Skull Heart from Skullgirls. Supposedly, a woman (it doesn't work for males) who makes a wish on the Heart will have it granted, but only if her intentions are pure enough. If there's even the least taint of corruption within her, the Heart will mutate her into a demonic, supernaturally powerful being, one of the titular Skullgirls. The game world is recovering from the aftermath of a long war that screeched to a halt when a powerful queen got hold of the Skull Heart and wished for peace; she got her wish, but in a rather twisted fashion—she was turned into the most dangerous Skullgirl of all time, and the quarreling nations had to stop the war in order to concentrate on the task of killing her before she could destroy them all. Even worse, one of the characters' endings reveals that the Skull Heart is sentient, and actually wants to create more Skullgirls.
  • The Chaos Emeralds from the Sonic the Hedgehog series become this in the wrong hands; they've been revealed to be the power source for a BFG enormous cannon held within a space station, and said cannon can end the world when at full power.
  • Spoofed in the second Fantasy Quest game with the Golden Cufflink of Fire. You never learn precisely what it does, and the villain who possesses it is a bit of a joke.
  • Department 42: The Mystery of the Nine involves the recovery of nine cursed artifacts with a limited intelligence that enabled them to escape the safekeeping of the titular agency and do various funky things to their unlucky possessors.
  • Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne has several. First and foremost, the Magatama - demonic parasites/symbiotes used as combination of armor and spellbook, capable of transforming humans into half-demons. This ability alone is enough to make them inscrutably dangeous, and considering the apparent maker, this can't be a good thing. There are also several cursed items called Deathstones, slivers of misfortune and death, used in devil fusion to summon the Incarnations of Death as servants, and can only be found as you progress in the Labyrinth of Amala.
  • The Nomicon of the Rance Series.


Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Book of E-Ville from Sluggy Freelance. Or at least that's how most of the characters treat it. While it contains more than one spell for summoning world-destroying demons, it has yet to actually do much of anything malevolent aside from following Gwynn around.
  • The motorcycle containing the soul of an Omnicidal Maniac, Evil Overlord unicorn named Sparklelord from The Adventures of Dr. McNinja.
  • In Goblins, the Axe of Piridan is a major subversion: while Big-Ears intially senses a palpaple aura of evil around it, and we initially see it in the hands of a Complete Monster, it's actually a Good weapon. The aura comes from the fact that it's a Restraining Bolt against a powerful demon, and it won't hurt a Paladin unless the Paladin wants it too... which is unlikely at best.
    • The Shield of Wonder is a straight example: it provides a random, usually very squicky, effect each time it blocks a weapon.
  • The statue of Eris in Discordia behaves like this (for the few scenes before it is destroyed) because it contains the Goddess of Strife within it.
  • In The Order of the Stick, the Crimson Mantle arguably qualifies. It's not clear that it has any direct control over the wearer, but it does give a divine command to enact a plan that could destroy all reality. It also halts the bearer's aging, which has the apparent side effect of preventing the bearer from maturing as well. Its current bearer is, in many ways, still the angry vengeful teenager he was when he first took up the Mantle.
  • Homestuck has the Sburb Beta... sort of. It's never really clear whether it is the cause of anything or not.
  • The "Holiday Spirit" serves as this in the webcomic Holiday Wars and is deeply coveted by the Easter Bunny.
  • The swords Grace and Éclat from The Adventures of Wiglaf and Mordred.
  • In Impure Blood, the device—maybe. Caspian complains that no one knows what it does, and they are chiefly afraid of it because it comes from the Ancients.
  • In Endstone, the Banestone. The most powerful overstone, and it drives its rockers mad.
  • In Consequences of Choice The Invisus is a powerful stone entrusted to the class of Necromancers by the demigods of death.


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • Open Blue plays with this trope. In its relatively non-magical present timeline (the v3 version, at least), the myriad of blessed weapons used by the Precursors' Praetorian Guard have become the stuff of legend, including nasty ones. While the weapons themselves aren't evil per se (a Player Character and descendant of said Praetorian Guard uses one with no side effects), their very existence has triggered a race between two rival empires to collect more than what the other has, presumably to use them as WMD's in an anticipated war.
  • Lightsabers are treated like Artifacts of Doom in Three in The Afternoon—especially in its sequel.
  • Collecting and containing these is the whole point of the fictional SCP Foundation. The SCP Foundation has dozens of these, given the classification "keter" from the Hebrew word "crown", which is used in Qabalah to describe the highest principle of the universe. The methods used to contain these things are... intricate.
  • Tech Infantry has the magical sword Kuar, which grants you invisibility and increasing magical power, then sucks out our soul. There is also The Orb, a mystical artifact of untold power which is sought by the Caal.
  • The gyroids in The Terrible Secret of Animal Crossing.
  • The Book of Stories in the eponymous The Book of Stories OCT is as old as time and holds every Story ever told in every World. It's on its way of becoming this due to a mistake one of its guardians made.
  • The Heart of Darkness in The Gungan Council corrupts Phylis Alince into rallying The Alliance in attacking the Sith en masse and nearly converts her to the dark side.
  • Linkara's Magic Gun is a subversion of this. The cultists who created intended it to be a a weapon powered by pure hate and agony, and used their own daughter to power it. But the weapon backfired, killed them, and the spirit inside the gun eventually became more benevolent and a partner of sorts to Linkara.
  • In the webisode, "Curses!", The League of STEAM have a cursed artifact appraised, in a curio shop that apparently specializes in Artifacts of Doom.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • In Pirates of Dark Water, Dark Water itself can be hazardous to your health.
  • In the 90s' Spider-Man animated series, the Evil Feels Good factor of the alien costume was added, with him growing more dependent upon the suit the longer he used it.
  • In the animated series based on Wild CATS., the series MacGuffin that the heroes and villains are in a desperate race to find, the Orb, is an artifact left behind by the Precursors on Earth that can give anyone power on a cosmic scale. It's also evil to the core, possibly more evil than the Big Bad himself. Guess the Precursors hid the thing on Earth for good reason.
  • The Eye of Odin from Gargoyles isn't exactly evil, but it is incredibly dangerous to use because it enhances the dominant trait of the users' personality into what often amounts to a Super-Powered Evil Side. Fox became a werewolf, and Goliath became a godlike Knight Templar. The only people who seem to be able to use the Eye safely are Odin himself and the Archmage, who was already a crazy Evil Sorcerer.
    • This stands in contrast to the Phoenix Gate, which is a subversion. Though many groups in the setting desire it as readily-accessible time travel, it only allows the creation of a Stable Time Loop. Fans have inferred this to mean something else is controlling the gate and its users.
  • In one episode of The Real Ghostbusters, an Omnicidal Maniac summons a golden flute with the power to destroy the world. He used The Ring Inscription.
  • Spoofed to epic levels on The Venture Brothers. The ORB in is a small round device constructed by the greatest minds in history over hundreds of years, with the power to destroy the world. It is so feared that the Guild of Calamitous Intent, the OSI and the Venture Family each set up decades-spanning Batman Gambits to keep it from falling into the wrong hands. After all that fuss, it turns out that over 100 years ago, someone had the good sense to just break the stupid thing to keep it from causing trouble. Thus the century-long conflict over the ORB was a complete waste of time.
  • The Aladdin episode "Armored and Dangerous" has the invincible armor of Kileem, a powerful warlord who was undefeated in battle generations ago. The Sultan, who puts on the armor in order to stop a minotaur threatening Agrabah, becomes invulnerable and immensely strong, but is possessed by the spirit of Kileem, who turns out to be an inflammable tyrant and warmonger, who not only plans to conquer the Seven Deserts and later the world but condemns Jasmine to death for resisting him. Aladdin stops him by tricking him into destroying the statue that is the source of Kileem's power, releasing the Sultan from his control and saving Jasmine.
  • From Wakfu, the Eliacube is the most powerful artifact in the world, created as the acme of the magical science of the Eliatrope race. It acts as a very efficient Amplifier Artifact as long as it is feed with wakfu—the magic lifeforce found in all plants and beings. At first, you could think its great potential was simply misused by Nox, who's a madman, but the Start of Darkness episode "Noximilien" reveals that, 200 years before, the Eliacube already exercised a dangerous fascination over Nox, slowly turning him obsessed and insane.
    • To further prove the point, it also drove his dog insane.
  • Episode 16 of Scooby Doo Mystery Inc reveals that the reason the town may be doomed is that Professor Pericles is searching for the Cursed Treasure of Crystal Cove.
  • The second episode of Danny Phantom circles around an amulet with a bright green gem that causes the bearer to transform into the spirit of the Dragon of Aaragon when angry.
  • The two-part episode of Adventure Time where Finn and Jake went through Ice King's tapes revealed his crown to be one. It gives the wearer immense magical power and immortality... while simultaneously slowly driving them to utter madness and amnesia, aware of their mental degeneration the entire time.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Many people believe that nuclear weapons are the real life version of this trope, since knowledge of nuclear weapons and the logic of Mutually Assured Destruction is self-perpetuating. In a classic Catch-22, it would take a civilization-ending event to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle (or in the best case, terminal global economic decline) and then it would become Sealed Evil in a Can.
  • Two Manhattan Project physicists, Henry K. Daghlian Jr. and Louis Slotin, died from radiation poisoning in two separate criticality accidents in 1945 and 1946 involving the same plutonium bomb core assembly. Said device became known as the "Demon Core".
  • Some fundamentalist Christians seem to feel this way about practically any form of entertainment that is not perceived to be biblical (rock music and Dungeons & Dragons are particularly popular targets). The Moral Substitute may or may not be allowed.