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Characters over an infernal barrel

Lackofname

Explorer
I am not quite sure how to exactly handle a situation in an upcoming game. It could be very cut and dry, but it has the potential to be more interesting, and I want to inject a possible social challenge.

The campaign involves the PCs stuck inside a big underground dungeon that's been sucked into a hostile plane. They start the game with 0 equipment, wake up in a room in their skivvies. So at first they are going to scavenge any weapons they can--table leg clubs, broken glass shards, etc. Soon they will stumble across the abandoned living quarters of some well stocked arcane researchers. The arcanists have a summoning circle that connects them to some devils, that they basically use like a shop. A little blood, a little incantation, and boom a merchant in your kitchen.

The PCs are in desperate need of equipment and have no money. The sales-devil is not going to look this gift in the mouth.

What should the salesfiend charge for any purchases?

The obvious answer is "a deal/favor", but given they're stuck in the dungeon that's stuck in another plane, and all (or nearly all) the arcanists are dead/transformed/insane, it limits what the fiend can ask for.

Edit: The campaign is limited to a single dungeon crawl, so anything that involves doing something Outside the dungeon will not work.

A loaner (with a steep interest rate)? Or they disappear if not paid for in x hours? Simply on credit? I'm thinking of limiting it to a certain amount--well below the amount to outfit everyone, making them decide who would get armor, etc.

Also, the characters have a decent amount of diplomacy/bluff/intimidate among them, so if they try to haggle for a better deal, I want to give them the chance. But what is the improved offer the salesdevil might grant?
 
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Galandris

Adventurer
Have the devil propose either some costly option like "we give you items now as you stand stark naked in feont of us, but in exchange we'll take all your belonging at a later date so you're stark naked again and humble in feont of Zariel". And have them worry when the devil don't collect their debt... Giving a little equipment now won't imbalance the game but at a later point it will be useful to you as the GM as a way to make them start a new adventure "you were holding a powerul artefact? Time to go to Hell to retrieve it..." or to repair a mistake you could do in the future by giving them an imbalancing magic item.

The other choice should be innocuous and vastly preferable. So the players should be tempted to jump on the occasion. But it should have dire consequences to an NPC later as a reminder that dealing with demons is often dangerous and yet they had a choice to make some personal sacrifice to avoid this choice...
 

Lackofname

Explorer
I don'The campaign is basically just a dungeon crawl in hostile environment, so I don't plan for it to go beyond that. Nor have too many friendly NPCs.

That said, hmm. It does give me the idea of

The hard sell: Future purchases are at a 25% markup and selling is at a 25% discount

The lighter option: The PCs must find, secure, and escort a warlock to the salesfiend. The warlock after all is stuck in the compound, still alive (according to their ledgers) and he has debts. If the PCs fail to acquire him, there will be Consequences (Of which I don't know yet.)
 

I do like the idea of 'We give you what you need now, and sometime down the road, we'll just come take back what you have'. And then the PCs never knowing when that day is going to come
 

aco175

Legend
What is the angle of the devil? He could be working on behalf of his lord and wants to collect souls. This means that he will angle that way and want them to sign the contract, so to speak. He could want to move up in the devil food chain and wants his lord eliminated and sees the PCs as a means without himself getting involved and providing an alibi.

I know my party hats adventures where their free-will is taken away, like the "Start a campaign in prison", or "Wash up on a deserted island". If the PCs surrender and are taken prisoner, then ok, but to force it is a whole different problem. The answer is to give the PCs back their equipment as soon as possible. A cool idea is to have the PCs fight another group of NPCs that has equipment with the PCs having sticks and such. Maybe a few levels lower NPCs so the lower AC and such of the PCs is offset. Then, the devil can choose which group is worthy of furthering his plans.
 

MarkB

Legend
One soul, payable within 24 hours, no preference as to whose. The fiend will supply them with a primed soul jar, which will suck in the nearest humanoid soul within a 60 foot radius under any of the following circumstances:
  1. A character speaks the command word.
  2. 24 hours passes.
  3. There is no longer at least one party member within 10 feet of the jar.
Once activated and filled, the jar will teleport back to the salesfiend.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
I know my party hats adventures where their free-will is taken away, like the "Start a campaign in prison", or "Wash up on a deserted island". If the PCs surrender and are taken prisoner, then ok, but to force it is a whole different problem.

The players know they're signing up to it. I made it clear at character creation.

Also the devil isn't using the PCs to kill his lord because again, the PCs aren't leaving the dungeon. It is a very contained, specific campaign with the goal of "return the dungeon to the material plane" and "solve the mystery of your identity". From an out of game POV, the devil is there to give them the opportunity sell loot and buy magical items. I'm only trying to add spice to that arrangement.
 
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GMMichael

Guide of Modos
The campaign involves the PCs stuck inside a big underground dungeon that's been sucked into a hostile plane.
So all bets are off. Got it.

Also, the characters have a decent amount of diplomacy/bluff/intimidate among them, so if they try to haggle for a better deal, I want to give them the chance. But what is the improved offer the salesdevil might grant?
That smells like D&D to me. Which means the PCs do have a currency to spend: hit points.

The Merchant-Devil (isn't that redundant?) extracts a "vial" of blood for each hit point. Want better stuff? Give up more HP.

Negotiation: if the PCs want better prices, they have to give the MD stories from their lives outside the infernal planes - an experience the devil can't easily get and therefore values. Let the character development ensue!
 

Lackofname

Explorer
So all bets are off. Got it.


That smells like D&D to me. Which means the PCs do have a currency to spend: hit points.

The Merchant-Devil (isn't that redundant?) extracts a "vial" of blood for each hit point. Want better stuff? Give up more HP.

What's the downside for the PCs here? The salesfiend is in a relatively safe area, so they'll just rest and heal up. Is it the blood to be used in rituals against them for whatever reason? Because, while that's not a bad idea, the "for what purpose" is again limited; congrats, you have power over a monkey in a cage, basically.
Negotiation: if the PCs want better prices, they have to give the MD stories from their lives outside the infernal planes - an experience the devil can't easily get and therefore values. Let the character development ensue!
Great idea, but part of the mystery is that the characters have amnesia (actually, they're clones that accidentally woke up), so they have no memories to give.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
What's the downside for the PCs here? The salesfiend is in a relatively safe area, so they'll just rest and heal up. Is it the blood to be used in rituals against them for whatever reason? Because, while that's not a bad idea, the "for what purpose" is again limited; congrats, you have power over a monkey in a cage, basically.
What's the downside? Of losing HPs? I guess I didn't consider a dungeon in a hostile plane to be a safe area, particularly when dealing with some devils.

ace ventura satan GIF


Great idea, but part of the mystery is that the characters have amnesia (actually, they're clones that accidentally woke up), so they have no memories to give.

Oh. Whoops. Missed that part. Maybe it's more significant if they think they're real, but later realize they're just clones? Ala Blade Runner.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
What's the downside? Of losing HPs? I guess I didn't consider a dungeon in a hostile plane to be a safe area, particularly when dealing with some devils.
If the location is too perilous to rest, it's too perilous to haggle at length with a merchant.

Oh. Whoops. Missed that part. Maybe it's more significant if they think they're real, but later realize they're just clones? Ala Blade Runner.
They have no memories is what I'm sayin'.
 
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MarkB

Legend
What's the downside for the PCs here? The salesfiend is in a relatively safe area, so they'll just rest and heal up. Is it the blood to be used in rituals against them for whatever reason? Because, while that's not a bad idea, the "for what purpose" is again limited; congrats, you have power over a monkey in a cage, basically.
Maybe it's a permanent reduction in maximum hit points - by giving over their blood to a fiend they're symbolically giving it a portion of their life.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
First, there's all kinds of things that are sending up warning flares for me about your premise, but, putting that aside, @MarkB is on the right track -- have them trade hp max or stat point reductions to the devils in exchange for goods. Maybe 50gp of goods per hitpoint or 200gp per stat point. They can buy these back at 10x markup, or spend the loot on more gear. This creates an interesting decision point.

To go back to the setup premise, it reads like you have a combat-focused dungeon crawl but also have a big story reveal you want to drop. These things fight each other, especially in the dying department -- do you want to reveal the story more or have combat be deadly more? If combat isn't going to be deadly, then the gear dilemma you're setting up isn't that important -- it has no teeth if the plan is to be just challenging enough. If you're going to run heavy combat, what's the character replacement plan, and can your story reveal survive/maintain impact through a number of character deaths? Things to consider, and hard learned.
 

Nytmare

David Jose
Do clones have souls? Is this something the devils know? Is the entire dungeon just a giant, elaborate, soul farm, presenting people with harder and harder obstacles to overcome so that they eventually sign over their souls without compunction?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So... I cant' speak to your players, but mine would not pay an entire soul for basic equipment, especially if there's good chance they will be able to scavenge as they go - get a table leg club, use it to kill a goblin and take its short sword, use that to kill an orc and take its battleaxe, and so on...

So, I recommend the fiend take the "First one's free" approach. "You need basic, non-magical weapons and armor? Wow, you guys are cheap dates! Sure, here you go, on the house. Look me up again if you need something interesting....poof..."

That basic gear can be enough to allow the to get in over their heads, to the point where they need something that isn't basic. On his second visit, maybe they have some coin, and he can charge some reasonably inflated money. The third time, they are probably in deep kimchee, and they need some serious firepower, for which he can charge something serious - like 50% of all treasure if they survive and escape the dungeon, and their souls if they don't..."
 

the_redbeard

Explorer
One bargain that I've offered players from a demon merchant is that they sell their after life to the demon. In game play terms, if they die, they can't be raised or resurrected.

I'd think the demon would have to offer all basic equipment, plus something magical for them to be even tempted, depending on the harshness of the dungeon or your play style.
 

nevin

Explorer
If you have good cleric or paladin in the party that entire scenario us iffy at best. Just staying with a party member who deals is a problem.

And personally even if I were playing an evil character you'd only tempt them with magic that you aren't going to hand out if the price is a soul. Being evil pissing off society is one thing. Selling souls to devils who are bypassing the entire cycle of death judgement and afterlife potentially even putting me crossways with evil gods who might have a problem with that, would require some serious fast talking and powerful items.
 

Lackofname

Explorer
So the PCs woke up in a magical research facility, right? The place has both Lots of funding and arcane scientists, which means lots of magical equipment. LIke the crystal that was keeping them all asleep (but it broke). And a magical "Stasis box" that works like a fridge and a bag of holding--put tons of food (or freshly dissected things in) and it doesn't rot.

The PCs surprised me by bartering this stuff with the salesdevil. And honestly, the devil just could not turn down a magical fridge.

Still, they only wound up with enough to cover a greataxe, a greatsword, a suit of chainmail, and a backpack. But that's all they needed.
 


Stormonu

Legend
"Look, whatcha got understand here is that everything here is impermanent. Except you ... and your soul. You want gear that'll last? Well, we'll have to do a little soul-shaping so it stays around. What'll it cost? Well, nothing you'll miss here, I guarantee."

Want a sword? It'll cost a point of Strength - but it will never break and will never be far from your hand.
Need a spellbook? That will cost a point of Intelligence - but you don't have to worry about it burning or being lost.
Armor? A point of Constitution will do. Won't need those hit points if the enemy can't hit you in the first place.
Thieve's tools? Look, what's a small loss of finger Dexterity if you can open any lock you find?
Holy Symbol? Give us a little faith and you don't need to be as wise (Wisdom) with your diety peering over your shoulder, do you?

"Can't afford it? Well, maybe we can make a deal and permanently swap away a few hit points in exchange for forging it into some mundane gear. I mean, if you strike first and kill them, they can't exactly do you harm, can they?"
 

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