Imp Bottle
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“This is the bottle,” said the man; and, when Keawe laughed, “You do not
believe me?” he added. “Try, then, for yourself. See if you can break

So Keawe took the bottle up and dashed it on the floor till he was weary;
but it jumped on the floor like a child’s ball, and was not injured.

“This is a strange thing,” said Keawe. “For by the touch of it, as well
as by the look, the bottle should be of glass.”

“Of glass it is,” replied the man, sighing more heavily than ever; “but
the glass of it was tempered in the flames of hell. An imp lives in it,
and that is the shadow we behold there moving: or so I suppose. If any
man buy this bottle the imp is at his command; all that he desires—love,
fame, money, houses like this house, ay, or a city like this city—all are
his at the word uttered.

The Bottle Imp Robert Louis Stevenson

Basic Information

The imp bottle originates in a short story called The Bottle Imp written by Robert Louis Stevenson which centers around a bottle, originally sold to Prester John by The Devil, which contains an Imp capable of granting any wish made by the bottle's owner.

There are a couple of catches - firstly, the imp has a nasty way of granting the wishes1 and secondly unless the owner of the bottle sells it for less than he paid for it2 then he goes straight to Hell upon death. Also, the imp objects to being passed on, and usually inflicts some parting curse on the seller.

The story ends with the bottle in the possession of a man who has lived such an evil life that he considers himself damned anyway … which might well mean that the bottle has shot its bolt and is no longer an issue - especially given that he had paid so little for it that it could not be re-sold. But somehow it seems unlikely that the Devil would let things rest at that.

With the whole concept of a wish-granting supernatural being imprisoned in a bottle in mind, this may be a variant on the "bottled djinn" of Middle Eastern myth.


Original text at Project Gutenburg - title is on the preceeding page.

Game and Story Use

  • For a good theological fit the buyer must purchase the bottle in full knowledge of the curse, thus preventing easy repentance.
  • This is a good model for cursed magical items - although a smart GM wouldn't allow such a powerful item into play without the monkey's paw aspect, a less powerful one could be free of side effects but just as much of a hot potato.
  • PCs are unlikely to take 'damnation upon death' seriously because it doesn't alter their in-game stats. Change that by making their hell-bound nature obvious (e.g. with an aversion to consecrated objects and places) and/or by having their damnation prevent resurrection magic from working.
  • The easiest way to get it back into play would be to lift the coin-only restriction … but even without that, inflation might give it another century or so of malevolence.
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