The Artifact of Death is an item that will eventually bring about the death of anyone who owns, uses, or comes to be associated with it, often in a grisly and supernatural manner. It can take any shape, whether ancient, toy-like, or high tech. This terrible item is often foolishly sought by many for its "power"... which, of course, always comes with a price: the life of the user. More often than not, it just takes, rather than both giving and taking, typically because it contains a terrible Curse.
Though it has a lot of overlap with the Artifact of Doom (especially the Evil Weapon), the Artifact of Death doesn't actually need to have a corrupting influence or magical powers, it just has to kill whoever uses it. Also, the time taken to kill whoever uses it varies. In some stories, the Artifact will kill anyone who attempts to use it on the first try. Other stories will have the owner die in a set amount of time, after a set number of uses, or it may simply shave years off a user's lifespan. It can sometimes be an Amulet of Dependency as well.
If an artifact is intended for the Chosen One and reserves its dangerous side effects only for other persons who try to use it, it's an instance of Only the Chosen May Wield (and/or possibly an Empathic Weapon).
If the Big Bad is a walking Artifact of Death, see also Bad Boss. See also Harmful to Touch. Contrast Immortality Inducer.
As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.
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Anime & Manga
The Book of Darkness from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. It grants ultimate power to its master if they fill up all 666 pages by draining the Linker Cores of other magical beings... and it does so by taking over its master and pushing their magical powers to the limit to destroy everything in its path, killing the master in the process. And if the master doesn't fill up the pages, they will still die as the Book feeds on their life force instead.
The Death Note. Possessing one means the Shinigami who owns it will eventually write your name down and kill you (though typically, if they aren't the foxy Ryuk, they have to get the book back first.) Also, you can choose to gain Shinigami eyes so you can see the name and remaining lifespan of any person, which makes it much easier to write their name in the Death Note, but at the cost of half your own remaining life. Finally, if you use it, your life will suck. It's guaranteed. Ryuk even warns Light upfront about it: "But there is the terror and torment that only humans who have used it will experience..." The last appears to derive from strictly psychological reasons, because the power to kill with impunity is huge and yet useless, but When All You Have Is a Hammer, everybody starts to look like a nail, and the role of a killer comes to define you, and your ethics are perpetually in crisis... most people don't have Light's perfect narcissism, and kill themselves fairly quickly.
YuYu Hakusho: The Mirror of Forlorn Hope/Darkness can grant the user a wish, but at the cost of his life. Kurama, who stole it, is quite calmly aware of this, but has no problem dying for his mother's life. Yusuke is somewhat freaked out by his zen. When Yusuke jumped recklessly in the middle of the wish-granting and told the mirror to take half of his life and half of Kurama's, so he didn't have to see Shiori broken up at the loss of her son, he managed to defy the normal ending. note (His deadbeat mom was completely flattened by the loss of his punk self, so obviously the sweet, fragile Minamino-san with her caring, responsible boy would practically die of it.) The mirror either was so impressed by this gesture that it granted the wish for free, or (more likely) took half of Yusuke's life and half of Kurama's life, knocking them out temporarily. The mirror has a small soliloquy afterward. It appears that it dislikes being an Artifact of Doom and wishes more people were like Yusuke, so it didn't have such a depressing name.
Zearth from Bokurano: anyone who is chosen as its pilot will die as soon as they've done so once.
The Imperium Silver Crystal from Sailor Moon: Using its full power is fatally taxing. Usagi manages to get around this by borrowing power from her teammates. However, she does die from it in the first season finale of the first anime, but her last act is to hit the Reset Button. In the R movie, she also does die from it, but recovers (there is a price paid, though.)
The anime Black Butler has the Shard of Hope, a piece of the Hope Diamond.
Witchblade. Even the original Witchblade may be terminally taxing depending on the host's physiology or frequency of use, and attracts Ax-Crazy monstrosities. With Cloneblades, it's rather short one-way road: they have very limited resource, probably due to being neither alive enough to regenerate damage nor invulnerable enough to resist a lot of it in the first place. After a few hard fights, the user starts to suffer physical and possibly mental deterioration, then quickly turns into a pile of glassy shards with a broken Cloneblade sticking out of it.
Unsurprisingly, a few cards are like this; the most straightforward example is probably Jinxed Idol, which keeps dealing damage to the player who controls it until he or she sacrifices a creature to hand control of it to an opponent.
Black magic has plenty of examples that do similar things, although they're not technically "artifacts". Graveborn Muse, for example, is a creature but basically functions like an enchantment or artifact that lets you draw extra cards at the cost of losing life — and it's not optional so if you don't manage to kill your opponent using the extra cards, the Muse will kill you.
Nevinyrral's Disk: upon use, destroys ALL creatures, artifacts and enchantments in play, including itself. Global Armageddon at the push of a button.
In a bit of Gameplay and Art Segration, one of the artwork of the Mox Jet depicted it as this. However, it's anything but in the game, as it's a free black mana source that you can play more than one of a turn. In the right decks, this is a Game Breaker, and it was one of the first nine cards to be banned.
The Ghost Key from Locke & Key might fall under this trope. If you open a door with it and walk through, you die and turn into a ghost.
The Ultimate Nullifier, seen in Fantastic Four and elsewhere in Marvel Comics, can destroy anything, but in doing so destroys its wielder... unless they perfectly understand who they're nullifying and how they work. Given that the first time the Nullifier is used, it's targeted at Galactus, destruction of the wielder was inevitable since no mortal can truly comprehend such an Eldritch Abomination. Fortunately, Galactus backs down from the mere threat of the Nullifier, as being hit by it would not only kill him, it would be disastrous to The Multiverse as a whole.
One of the Cosmic Cubes used in Marvel Comics slowly sucked the life force out of the user every time they used it. The cosmic villain the Magus had several Cosmic Cubes and similar devices he had to keep locked away in a special machine because direct use would poison him.
The World of the Creatures has the Biolangra - an artifact from a fictional note that is to say, the book itself doesn't exist in the real world fantasy novel written by the protagonists. If the The Conceptivore attains it, then it could use the Biolangra to destroy the entire world.
Films — Animation
In Disney's Aladdin, nearly the entire contents of the Cave of Wonders, except for the lamp. When Abu can't keep his paws off the shiny, the entire cave collapses with intent to kill.
In the 1981 cult classic Heavy Metal, the Loc-Nar is the embodiment of evil, and quickly corrupts and destroys everyone it touches — only those who are incorruptibly pure of heart can resist it.
The DCAU title The BatmanSuperman Movie: World's Finest, a very rare, valuable green "jade" dragon statue is known to cause all its owners to die mysteriously. The statue is actually made out of Kryptonite, which, in the DCAU, can be deadly to humans if they're exposed to it over a long period of time. The dragon is at least three times the size of the lump Luthor is shown holding later.
The Ark of the Covenant, in Raiders of the Lost Ark, supposedly grants the owner great power, and may be used as a Radio to God. However, opening the ark releases the Wrath of God, and anyone who looks upon the spirits that are released dies an extremely gruesome death. Arguably, it's less about ANYONE than "anyone who opens/handles/misuses the Ark with bad intent." The ancient Israelites (at least within the movie 'verse) did use it to make armies invincible and topple kingdoms. The Ark leaves Indy and Marion unharmed less because the angels automatically kill than because Indy knows not to look — he respects the power of the Ark and by extension the "Hebrew God whose Ark this is". Belloq and the Nazis ape Jewish rituals (even Lampshaded by one of the Nazi officers) and assume they only need to dress up and say the right words to make the magic box work. They don't die so much because they opened the Ark, but because they did so out of hubris.
At least one of the false Grails from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade causes you to suffer Rapid Aging till past the point of death, as Walt Donovan found out rather painfully. "He chose... poorly." As with the Ark of the Covenant, Indy manages to get through the Three Tests (of Penitence, Faith, and... spelling?) and chooses the right Grail by understanding there's more to the MacGuffin than just a nifty prize. Donovan and Elsa, again with the hubris... don't.
Ironically, the true grail also acted, by proxy, as an artifact of death, because trying to take it from the temple activated a deadly self-destruct sequence, as Elsa found out. The grail itself didn’t kill her, but the temple’s collapse set up a dangerous Take My Hand scenario where she was too tempted to reach for it, causing her to slip from Indy’s hold and fall to her death.
In short, the moral of both movies is probably, "Don't take things that belong to someone else, especially things with powers bestowed by the will of God himself". Of course, as obvious as that should be, the villains in the movies clearly didn't know better.
The Cursed Videotape from The Ring has been imitated so many times it could be a trope in itself. Anyone who watches the seemingly mundane video tape dies within seven days, unless they copy the tape and show it to someone else, akin to a video chain letter. This is an example of an artifact of death that actually seems mundane and benign.
The protagonists in the little-known sci-fi film Alien Cargo pick up a piece of debris from space that contains a Hate Plague. It ends up killing everybody who's been directly exposed to it.
In 2009's Night Train, it's said that anyone who looks inside the box will be dead by sunrise, and the movie's body count bears this out. The box contains Something for Everyone — depending on the viewer, it can appear as diamonds, gold, or anything else valuable enough to make the viewer willing to lie, cheat, steal, and kill to keep it for themselves. Even the characters who overcome their greed and realize it's an Artifact of Doom end up fighting (and dying) over it as a result of their desire to destroy it.
In The Brass Teapot the titular Teapot provides money if the owner inflicts pain on himself. As time goes by, self-inflicted pain yields less and less money, so the Teapot’s possessor must go on to inflict pain in others and eventually start killing. Because of this the Teapot has collected a truly horrendous body count over the millennia.
The book The Caverns of Kalte "rewards" you with a big shiny jewel if you screw up a puzzle... which unholy radiation can end up killing you if you are not warned in time and discard it.
Another Doomstone appearing in The Darke Crusade has pretty much the same effect on its wielder, High Warlord Magnaarn. The Scepter of Nyras, on which it is mounted, is a powerful artifact allowing to control the armies of the fallen Darklords... but it is also turning him into an undead servant of the Doomstone itself.
The Death Staff from The Legacy of Vashna is also a quite deadly artifact. Just touching it causes Lone Wolf to lose Hit Points, and it drains some more every time it is used.
Given their very evil origins (the Doomstones were created by Naar's most powerful servant Agarash the Damned, and the Death Staff was forged by Naar himself) this makes perfect sense. The only ones who can use these things without any consequences are supernatural beings of pure evil such as the Darklords and the Deathlord of Ixia.
The Elder Wand is an extremely powerful wand, but only in the hands of its rightful owner. Incidentally, one can become a wand's rightful owner by defeating its current owner, so for most of its existence its owners came to sticky ends, as so many people assumed that 'defeat' actually meant 'murder'. Credulous types like Xenophilius Lovegood believe it has a curse placed on it by Death, but skeptics like Hermione think it just attracts attention. The truth is probably somewhere in between.
The Peverell ring is cursed by Voldemort to rapidly kill anyone who owns it. Dumbledore very nearly succumbs to the curse, and only survives thanks to quick thinking by Professor Snape. He still believes that it will probably kill him within a year. And it would have, if not for him dying by other means.
An opal necklace seen in the second book has a placard claiming it has killed a dozen previous owners. In the sixth book it's seen it in action.
Redwall's Tears of All Oceans (six large pink pearls kept in a velvet-lined shell case) seem to have this effect despite the existence of actual magic in the books being dubious. The evil Emperor Ublaz is so desperate to have the pearls that he has an entire tribe slaughtered to get them, then the corsairs who picked them up fight among themselves, resulting in at least one death. During the obligatory riddle-based treasure hunt to find them when they're planted in the Abbey, the search leads to the death of an Abbeydweller. Not to mention Ublaz himself, after getting the pearls for his crown ends up getting killed by a Snake he had previously cowed.
The monkey's paw in The Monkey's Paw. It will grant you three wishes. Your third wish will be for death.
The Shining Trapezohedron from H.P. Lovecraft's Haunter in the Dark. Gazing into it allows you to see into the audient void and learn things man was not meant to learn, but the downside is that it also summons the god Nyarlathotep (or rather one of his many avatars) to hunt you down and kill/possess you.
Vasher from Warbreaker actually makes use of one of these in his combat strategy. His sword, Nightblood, is an Empathic Weapon that telepathically tempts nearby people into drawing it. It is also an Artifact of Doom that makes its wielder murder a bunch of his friends and then kill himself. Vasher doesn't actually use it as a sword; he throws it into a group of enemies, sheath and all, and waits for them to fall for the Schmuck Bait.
The Traitor's Sword or Sword of Straw, in Amanda Hemingway's book. It's been passed down from King to King, but can be safely wielded only by the one destined. The problem is that many people have taken the chance that they are the one destined. It doesn't invariably kill the wielder, but may cause them to kill someone else!
St Michael's Sword from Preston and Child's novel Riptide is a good example as well. Spoken of vaguely as a sort of Spanish Excalibur (though even older than the Spanish in origin), it's written in legend as having the power to kill anybody who looks at it. It's also the grand prize item in an extremely difficult to penetrate treasure hoard, buried in the depths of an extensively booby-trapped island and sporting a legendary curse to boot. The mysterious lethality of all this becomes clearer as the story progresses.
The eponymous device carried by E.E.Smith's Lensman is essentially benign, but is characterised by its tendency to kill anyone who touches it except when the Lensman who's matched to it is wearing it. ANYONE, whether they are actively attempting its theft/misuse or not. This is such a terrifying prospect that Virgil Samms specifically asks Mentor the Arisian what happens to it when he dies. (It disintegrates.)
This is actually a feature, not a bug, as one of the problems with the badges they'd been using previously was that they could be stolen or copied. The Lens (at least initially) can't.
The Moon of Rats necklace in Bride of the Rat God is used to sacrifice the wearer to the Rat God. It ends up being used as a prop in a Hollywood film.
The novel The Amulet features an amulet that, once put on, cannot be removed, and drives the wearer to kill someone in a gruesome fashion, and then shortly thereafter they are likewise killed in an equally-sticky Necro Non Sequitur.
Song of the Lioness: The crystal sword, actually made by Duke Roger. The Bloody Hawks' headman knew it was bad news (it fills the wielder with bloodlust) and tried to leave it in the desert, but the shaman retrieved it anyway and it consumed him during his duel with Alanna. It also manages to kill the boy mage Alanna is teaching. She fixes it by fusing it with her own sword.
The Lord of the Rings has theOne Ring iteself, and while it doesn't necessarily kill its bearers, it has indirectly led to Isildur being killed and has done quite an inversion on Gollum and then later leads to his death anyways.
Babylon 5 has a machine relic from an ancient civilization capable of transferring life force equivalently between people, so while it was an Artifact Of Death and Life, it still killed from overuse. It's telling that its use in that civilization was as a form of capital punishment.
Battlestar Galactica has the 3000-year-old Lion's Head Nebula Beacon, which the Cylons found and which began killing them. It was covered with a mucous substance that really was snot — snot with a disease to which humans had evolved immunity but the Cylons hadn't. All the Cylons on the base star that picked up the beacon died, all because "someone forgot to wipe their nose", according to Adama.
The infamous Tiki idol from the Hawaiian Brady Bunch episode.
... which was brought back (and referenced as such) in an eighth-season episode of Scrubs.
Supernatural has the rabbit's foot, which gives fantastic luck to whoever touches it — as long as they manage to hang onto it. Unfortunately, it always ends up getting lost or stolen... and then the luck goes bad. Really bad. We're talking Final Destination bad.
"The Glove of Myneghon" in Buffy the Vampire Slayer might just qualify. Although the glove bestows great powers on the wearer, it can never be removed and seems to have said wearer at its mercy as well as giving her (Gwendolyn Post) the power to draw lightnings. Besides, if the wearer is right-handed and wears the glove on the right hand, I foresee some difficulties regarding trips to the loo.note (Well, maybe not for lefties)
'La Fin Absolue du Monde' in the Masters Of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns". Pretty much anyone involved in the production of this film-within-a-film died because of it, as do people who try to go look for it.
Myths & Religion
The Necklace of Harmonia in Greek Mythology was cursed. It did not harm to Harmonia herself (she being divine) but every mortal descendant who owned it came to a bad end, or brought misfortune on her family. Betrayal, murder, and tragic deaths followed the necklace from legend to legend.
Supposedly the Spear of Destiny makes one invincible in battle. However, if lost, the former owner will quickly meet his end.
The Ark of the Covenant in The Bible. If anyone who wasn't specifically authorized to touch the Ark did so, God would kill them right there.
Even one guy who tried to prop it up when he noticed it was slipping out of the oxcart it was being transported in. For the record, he had it on an oxcart instead of having it carried by 4 priests like it was supposed to. If you're handling a holy artifact, you'd better damn well transport it in the prescribed fashion.
Another incident where the Ark manifested its dangerousness was when the Philistines succeeded in capturing it. Every town they took it to was struck with a horrible plague of rats and tumors/hemorrhoids. (Bubonic plague?) The terrified Philistines sent the Ark back to the Israelites along with five golden rats and five golden tumors to end the plague. It worked.
Claims are often made nowadays that the historical ark was some sort of capacitor or otherwise was electrically charged, and therefore the smitings of non-priests who touched it were because they weren't wearing the holy (and electrically insular) robes of the priests. MythBusters tested this. It is possible, with the technology of the time, for the ark to have been electrically charged. Historians just can't prove that it was. The relatively low power of the shock would be more 'startling' then 'divine smiting', though.
Older Than Dirt: Princess Ahura: The Magic Book is a New Kingdom Egyptian story (c. 1100 BCE) about prince Naneferkaptah, who covets the magical Book of Thoth, buried in the river in six nested boxes and guarded by snakes and scorpions. He digs it out, kills the guardians, and obtains vast magical power, but the offended gods promptly cause the death of Naneferkaptah, his sister/wife Ahura, and their son.
Dungeons & Dragons has many of these, called "cursed magical items", such as the hand and eye of Vecna, especially if used together.
... and which led to the common joke about the Head of Vecna. To use the Hand, you must first cut off your own hand and attach the Hand to the stump. To use the Eye, you must put out your own eye. The Head of Vecna would have been a sort of instant Artifact of Death.
The AD&D 2nd edition rules gave a chance of accidentally creating one of these anytime a character crafts some magical item.
Most daemon weapons in Warhammer 40,000 tend to lead to their owner's death eventually. That is, if they're lucky... But if they're very lucky, it leads to death and ascension to Daemon Prince.
The Sword of Khaine in Warhammer is an immensely powerful weapon forged at the beginning of time by the elvish smith god. Unfortunately, it tends to bring doom and madness on anyone who wields it, most notably the man whose son started the great elvish civil war of eons past.
The Champions Universe of superheroes had the Juggernaut suit of power armour which can turn any ordinary schlub into someone able to throw down with the strongest superhumans on Earth. However, it's powered by a tiny but improperly shielded nuclear reactor so you'll be dead in a matter of months after starting to use it.
Many of the more powerful (almost exclusively evil) artifacts in Warhammer Fantasy Battle fall into this trope. Especially Skaven — not only can their normal "wonder weapons" decimate their own troops, but the magic items can cause madness, burn the skin off their arms, turn them into gibbering spawn or even suck them into hell. This doesn't stop them being used extensively. Well, when your army has an explicit rule called Life Is Cheap (a.k.a. "coratteral damage"), you should think about what gadgets you strap yourself into.
The Storm of Magic book brought with it two Mythic Artefacts clearly designed by people with more mystical power than sense: the Sword of Last Resort, which will make you stronger for one challenge and then kill you by draining your life energy before teleporting to someone else on the field, and the Black Book of Ibn Naggazar, which eats up to 3d6 models from its bearer's unit each time he casts a spell and will take the bearer too if there aren't enough victims or he fails to cast a spell from it in each of your magic phases.
FATAL is full of these. Any piece of magical armor you find has a 7% chance of having an effect that will kill you. And these are uncursed items. But if you're actually playingFATAL, instant death is a fairly tempting prospect.
BIONICLE: The Ignika, Mask of Life. One of its purposes is a reset button for the Matoran Universe... by taking away all the life in the universe should there be things like a never-ending chaotic conflict. And the more conflict in the universe, the shorter its countdown to death is.
Oddly enough, the Vampire Killer in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin... to the Morris family. Though they're related to the Belmonts by blood, they aren't innately able to use the whip; the Lecarde family can perform a ritual to give them that power. Unfortunately, doing so causes the Vampire Killer to leech the soul from the wielder; overusing it causes them to sicken and die. Jonathan's father was killed by this. Jonathan himself is safe, because it takes more use than is covered in one game.
In Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, Dominus. Its three forms when not combined all do damage to you, but when combined, everything (you included) dies. Aria Of Sorrow and its sequel also have a soul that steadily drains your health while boosting attack power.
The Life Orb of Pokémon fame gives a 1.3 power boost to attacks but costs 10 percent of your health every time you attack. Other moves, such as Healing Dance or Memento, do certain helpful things while the Pokémon faints. The Life Orb is less of a problem in Gen V. The ability Sheer Force gives certain moves a power boost and can then stack the power boost with the Life Orb and somehow negates the Life Orb's recoil damage. However, this trick only works on moves that normally have positive secondary effects, such as Flamethrower.
One of the items you can find in some of the games is the Cursed Ring. Its effect varies from game to game, but VI and VII fit this trope.
VI puts you on the clock by Condemning you at the start of a fight—you die if you don't win or escape the fight in 60 game ticks. OTOH, it also lets you learn one of the most powerful One-Hit Kill spells in the game at 5 times the normal rate. You can subvert the curse with a Lich Ring (this turns you into a zombie and invokes Revive Kills Zombie logic—death spells heal you instead).
VII is similar. It gives whoever it's equipped to a good stat boost, but there are two major downsides to it: The first being that as soon as the battle starts, the person who it's equipped to has Death Sentence cast upon them, which kills them after 60 seconds have passed (unless you finish the fight before then), and the second being that once it's equipped, it's a physical nightmare to unequip unless you meet certain conditions. Tifa tends to make the most of the curse since two of her weapons get big power boosts when she's Condemned.
Also featured in Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII. It gives the stat boosts, but inflicts Curse upon the user which stops their DMW from spinning, preventing Limit Breaks and Level Ups.
VI also has another "cursed" item, the Cursed Shield. It adds Condemn and a smorgasbord of bad status effects, and has terrible stats. But if it's used enough it'll become uncursed and transform into the Paladin Shield, a high-stat shield which is also one of the few ways to learn the Ultima spell.
In the PS2Shinobi, main character Hotsuma wields Akujiki, a cursed sword that devours the souls of whoever it kills. If he does not kill constantly, the sword will turn its hunger back on him, weakening and eventually killing him.
The Rune of Punishment of Suikoden IV is a decidedly powerful rune that grants powerful magics to the wielder. The possessor can generally destroy entire fleets of heavily-armed battleships with ease. But such attacks consume a tremendous amount of energy and can easily kill the wielder after using ONE of those blasts. Even worse, the rune itself is heavily hinted to be somewhat sentient, and will actually manipulate events in order to force the wielder to use the rune as such. In other words, if you're unlucky enough to gain command of this rune, you'd best make sure your will is up to date.
The main character can, however, subvert this: by forgiving the one person that does NOT deserve or want forgiveness, the Rune of Punishment becomes the Rune of Forgiveness, retaining the incredibly destructive power and removing the cost.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. After your suit has been corrupted by Dark Samus, you run the risk of becoming fully corrupt and turning into Dark Samus (thereby resulting in a Game Over) whenever you enter Hyper mode. This can be averted, however, by exiting Hyper Mode before the corruption starts, or by firing rapidly to prevent the Phazon overload.
As a Genius Bonus, the Space Pirate logs in the first Metroid Prime mention that Space Pirates exposed to Phazon began firing indiscriminately. The scientists mistook this for a symptom and euthanized the test subjects.
The Black Marker, Red Marker and Golden Marker in Dead Space all qualify as this trope, in that their presence causes severe hallucinations, mostly of (deceased) friends or relatives; this might be a way for them to communicate with humans, though, given that they were probably designed to deal with radically differentlifeforms. It's implied that the mere presence of a Marker is too much for the human brain to handle, and most people who spend too much time near them end up committing suicide in a grisly fashion, whether that's because the Marker commanded them to or not. Dead Space 3 reveals that the Markers are Artifacts of Death for entire civilizations.
World of Warcraft used to have a wearable cursed trinket as a quest item, until they removed the "wearable" part away in a patch. You were never supposed to actually wear it, simply deliver it to a questgiver, but if you did wear it, it would quickly sap away at your character's life (note that this part is clearly signified in the item description as part of its effects). Nevertheless, some people would pass up on the experience and actual (lackluster) rewards provided by the end of the chain and would choose not to complete it, keeping the Artifact of Death instead because believe it or not, there are situations where quick death with no durability damage can be useful.
Grand Theft Auto IV and its expansion packs have the diamonds. Of everyone who comes into contact with the diamonds only the three protagonists (it is a videogame after all) and the random character (perhaps because he didn't actively pursue them) live. Four exceptions is a lot but so many other characters do die and the diamonds are the common element.
The eponymous Elysian Box from Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. Eventually, it's revealed that its notoriously lethal fame is the reason why it's so fatal. The box is made from a material that releases powerful hallucinogenic fumes that makes people experience what they believe. Since most people expect death to befall them when they open the box, that's exactly what happens. The reason why our heroes survive is that they were skeptical of its reputation.
Wizardry is fond of "cursed" (not removable without the special spell) items. A lot of them — including otherwise useful ones — also have negative Regeneration value and unless offset by equal or greater Regeneration from another item, drain a Player Character to death very quickly.
NetHack has the Amulet of Strangulation. It's usually generated cursed so you can't just remove it before it kills you. And it will kill you even if you happen to have unbreathing as an intrinsic (it cuts off blood flow). The only way to survive a cursed amulet of strangulation is to pray to your god.
Ys Origin has an artifact called the Evil Ring which, when fully powered up, either kills its wearer or drives them utterly insane. At one point, you have to use it to unlock a door sealed by a powerful curse. Equipping it does 9999 damage (well above the theoretical HP cap of 999) and kills you instantly. There is a way to counter it, however: by first equipping the Blue Necklace, a pendant that can counteract most dark magic.
In the NES Adventure GameUninvited you have the chance to pick up a ruby. Holding onto it for too long will result in various messages appearing warning you of how you are slowly losing your free will, which eventually culminates in you dying.
Chains Of Satinav features the Fairy Harp, a mystical instrument which allows, among other things, the creation and command of magical nightmare-inducing crows. Any human that tries to play it will simply die. Only Fairies can play it safely, a quality which drives much of the game's plot.
Be Trapped has the Bloodstone, a large, flawless ruby. Legend has it that after five men stole it from the African tribe they died in specific ways:
One died suddenly in his sleep;
One was ripped apart by lions;
One was burnt alive;
One was drained of all his blood;
One was disemboweled.
The legend also says whoever tries to take it will suffer the same fate.
Pokémon X and Y has one that's also a Pokémon itself. Honedge is a Steel/Ghost sword possessed by an ancient spirit. Anyone who attempts to wield it will find the sword leeching off their life force.
In Beyond the Canopy, it's strongly implied that the Remnant kills its anchor (a.k.a. the person who takes and uses it) after a few days. This is a problem because the protagonist, Glenn, is the current anchor.
Roger's golden turd, from American Dad!. Two men discover it, and one kills the other so he can keep it for himself. He then kills himself by driving his car onto railroad tracks after he finds out his wife is cheating on him. Later, a cop investigating it steals the turd and takes it home, but regrets it and decides to turn it in because he's going to retire in a week and is afraid he'll be found out. His wife then poisons him to prevent him from doing this.
The Broodwich of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Anyone who ate the whole thing would be transported to another dimension where they would be axed to death.
In Aladdin: The Series, Mozenrath's gauntlet is the source of his power but is slowly killing him.
The short cartoon Awfully Lucky has the Paradox Pearl, which grants its holder incredibly good luck — followed immediately by incredibly BAD luck.
Cornfed: Isn't there a legend about the Sharon? Huntz:Legend? I don't think so. Oh, I suppose you could find some peasant who would say the diamond is cursed... that its very presence can unleash the ghastly spirits of its former owners, all of whom died in unspeakable terror and agony, vowing to return to torment ANY WHO DARED TO POSSESS IT!!! (Beat) (dramatic thunder)
In the "World's Finest" crossover between Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, The Joker gets a hold of a glowing green dragon statue. The previous owners of said statue all died mysteriously. Contrary to the stories behind it, it's not because of a curse or anything magical. The statue is Kryptonite, and Kryptonite being radioactive is far from harmless to humans (it just kills Kryptonians like Superman faster).
Atuk, a purported cursed movie script that "kills" every comedian that signs to play one of its parts.
There was once an airship called the R-101. Devised as a part of the British "Imperial Airship Scheme," the contract pitted two competing designs against one another- the exemplary Vickers-built R-100, and the government-built R-101. The materials, design, and capabilities of the R-101 were woefully inadequate in comparison to the R-100. More consideration was given to the incredibly spacious, opulent (and heavy) ocean liner-like interior than airworthiness, to the point where the airship had to be lengthened so that it would have enough lift to fly- making it the largest airship in the world. Eager to get a lead on its rival, the government pulled strings to have flight and safety testing rushed through or neglected so that it could make a maiden voyage to India. Despite being warned of a vicious storm ahead, the captain decided to plunge straight into it. The R-101 never made it to India. The shoddy, rotting nose fabric was torn open by the storm, damaging the gas cells underneath, which caused the ship to crash into the ground, where her Hydrogenexploded in a massive fireball that took the lives of all but eight of the people aboard... Afterwards, the Duraluminum wreckage of the R-101 was collected. It was reforged into an airship, one of unprecedented size and exquisite luxury... called the Hindenburg.
Almost 80 years after her death, Marie Curie's journals are still too radioactive to be handled without protective gear.
One of the products of the Manhattan Project was a 14 pound sphere of plutonium that was used in criticality experiments. After accidents involving it fatally irradiated not one but two scientists who worked with it, it got nicknamed the "Demon core," and was responsible for an end to all hands-on criticality experiments. The core itself was installed into a bomb and destroyed 5 weeks after the second accident.
According to legend, the pieces of James Dean's Porsche Little Bastard were sold for scrap and put in other cars, every single one of which had accidents that killed or maimed people.