This speculative fiction trope is also a character as device trope specific to inanimate objects. The Artifact of Doom is a Villain that is also an artifact. Despite being a tool, weapon, or work of art, this object has an evil will of it's own, possibly even a full fledged personality.
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Game and Story Use
- A really potent one of these can serve as the basis for an entire campaign. First it's running amok, then the PCs get a hold of it and must figure out how to destroy the thing. See Lord Of The Rings. Effectively, the Artifact of Doom is your Big Bad Evil Guy.
- For games that have strong social mechanics, an insanity system, experience point awards for helping the narrative, or mind control rules that are more subtle than just "lose one roll and you lose your character", you may be able to give the PCs a really powerful artifact of doom and they'll actually be tempted to use it.
- Without one of those advantages built into the system or setting, player instinct will be to just get rid of the cursed thing.
- To promote the items use, put the artifact of doom into their possession just shortly before or after making it clear that they aren't currently powerful enough (as is, without the artifact of doom) to save the world, solve the plotline, etc.
- Some care must be taken, as this treading close to railroading territory. Best to make it just agonizingly difficult to win the day without using the artifact. Rather than forcing the players hand, you want to present them with a decision. If they choose to use the Artifact of Doom, then your story goes interesting places. If they resist, you can have fun tempting them for a while.