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What a devil wants

The party is fighting a devil. They're losing. In a fit of desperation, the party begs for mercy and their lives. The devil pauses and agrees*. What does the devil ask for in return?

My first thought is that for every day the party lives past that point, they must serve in the blood war under that devil for an equal amount of time. My second idea was to totally crib from the story that [MENTION=6669384]Greenfield[/MENTION] posted. Have the devil demand a "night" from the PCs to create half-fiend soldiers for the armies of hell.

What else might a devil want from PCs?

*Bartering with devils is not for everyone. Please consult your deity or agent thereof before attempting. Side effects include alignment changes, falling from grace, requirement of atonement spells, class changes, nausea and diarrhea. In the event your holy symbol now burns at the touch, please cease negotiating with any denizens of the lower planes.
 

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Gilladian

Adventurer
Yeah, right now I'd leave it totally open-ended. The devil leaves, with a whole pocket full of favors owed to him.

Later, when you think of the perfect thing, you can pull out all the stops:
1) steal a historic and powerful artifact from their own church
2) assassinate a clearly good leader of power and authority
3) betray their own side during a siege or important stalemate

Or how about things that appear more innocent but are actually worse in the long run:
1) smuggle a harmless person out of a city.
2) rescue a child from death/serious harm
3) stop a foolish young person from running away/eloping

Possibly in each of these cases, the result of rescuing/sheltering a person creates an evil result; the person smuggled is a spy who carries direly important info to an enemy; the child is returned to his horrible parents, grows up and becomes a legendarily evil conqueror/murderer; and in the third case the person who fails to escape from an arranged marriage is later sacrificed for evil so the devil can re-enter the world. Or worse...

The PCs may never know what they've done, but the niggling sense of wrongness should linger a long time.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Always, more than they can pay...

Everything, everything that they have. They've begged mercy of a creature without mercy. They want to buy their life. What price are they willing to put on their life? More to point, what can they possibly sell that's worth more to the devil than the pleasure of killing them.

So, at the very least, this is contract for your soul time, or "I'm going to cast Quest on you, you will not resist, and if you try to undo the magic, you forfeit your soul" time. Or anything else equally painful. Basically, make you players pay as much as they will pay, and kill everyone that won't pay.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
While killing a bunch or heroes is a great pastime, corrupting them is much more fun.

Yes, ask favors. The first mission is mildly "wrong", but they get good loot. The next one is no more "wrong", but includes a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" moment, a decision where there are no good choices. Of course the right choice when the challenge comes up is to choose neither side, but to find a way to finish the job wile avoiding the "devil's decision".

And, of course, the final "favor": "Pick one of your companions. Kill them, any way you want."

The whole series of favors should sully their reputation, but should be profitable enough that they'll like the jobs, and perhaps lead them to want more. To quote a certain holy book: "The love of money is the root of all evil."
 


Celebrim

Legend
While killing a bunch or heroes is a great pastime, corrupting them is much more fun.

Oh, I agree, but it's totally antithetical to a devil's mission in life to leave heroes largely free to take their own actions. Yes, they prefer to assimilate, but if they cannot dominate, then they prefer to destroy. They will not leave things up to chance. They will not leave things free. Freedom, chance, randomness, these are things as hateful to them as charity and mercy. If there is any doubt as to whether they will win, they will certainly prefer the surety of destruction to the potential of corruption only. They only play rigged games that they cannot lose. That's why you never bargain with a devil. The DM in this case should rig the game so that he thinks there is zero chance of the PCs winning. If they manage to escape fate anyway, fine and good. But this is no time to be fair about it.

ADDENDUM: Imagine it this way. That devil is reporting to another devil at least as ruthless and cruel as he is, and that devil demands results. He has to make an account of his every action. That devil will pore over his every decision, criticizing every fault he can find with it. If it doesn't live up to his supervisors standards, if anything goes wrong, he stands to face eons of unremitting torment. While it's true he can win greater esteem from the hierarchy for assimilating some heroes to his cause, if there is the slightest chance that would go wrong and along the way the heroes will in some way thwart the designs of hell, or make him to look foolish by outwitting him, he will always prefer to cover his own rear by just killing dangerous potentially uncontrollable heroes than taking a risk on a bargain he might not win and which might result in as much good as it does evil.
 
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Shin Okada

Explorer
Devils are using souls as a kind of currency aren't they? I think the devil wants the PC's souls. They will live for now. But when they die, their souls will be the devil's. The devil should demand PCs to sign some hellish contracts.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I played with this one.

"You owe me a debt, and never let it be said that I am anything but fair. I will offer you ways to pay that debt. You may accept or reject any of them.

Complete a task, and your debt is paid. Accept a task, and fail to complete it, and you're mine, body and soul.

I will make each of you three offers. If you reject all three, your life is forfeit.

Here is my first offer: It has been said that in Pompeii, beneath the ashes, lay the Temple to the Titan/deity Helios, now dead and gone. On the altar of that temple it is said there is a item, a dagger. Bring me the Dagger of Helios, and your debt is paid. For one of you.

And so none may call me ungracious, you have one year to complete this task. Bring the dagger to me one year from tonight, present it during the witching hour (midnight), and one debt is forgiven.

Do you accept?"

****
Note that bargains may be offered at any time. It's an ongoing plot hook, a way for you as a DM to motivate the players.

Now the Devil, in this case, is upping the ante. He has their lives, he wants their souls. And while he won't lie to them in the making of a contract (it would invalidate the deal), he can be as creative as he wants with the truth.

Yes, it's been said that that holy item is in those temple ruins. Perhaps he asked a friend to say it to him, so he could truthfully make that assertion. There is no guarantee that such a dagger is in that temple, or if it happens to be (by chance) it may not be near the altar.

Also note that the Devil never said where to meet, nor how they should find him to deliver.

Additional nasty: The "witching hour" is after midnight. So let's say they took the challenge on Septober 17th. They don't deliver on the evening of the 17th, but very early in the morning, between midnight and one. Deliver early or late and you've failed. Can't find the artifact? You've failed. Can't find the Devil? You've failed.

Now your game may not include the real-world city of Pompeii (buried in 79 A.D.), but you can name or invent any ruined city of legend.

In my game the Devil told them where to meet, but it was on an island that wasn't always there. It appeared and vanished for weeks at a time.

If you want a similar element, make the offer while they are on a ship at sea. "Bring it to me on this spot, one year from now. I'll be waiting." Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a ship back to that exact spot?

Make it three tasks for the group, as a whole. Otherwise this becomes a multi-year plot driver.

So why would the Devil make this offer? First it keeps the heroes busy for the forseeable future. Second, it holds the possibility (nigh certainty) that he'll end up with lives and souls. Third, even if they somehow succeed, the fact that they traded a holy relic to a Devil will destroy any good reputation they might have, and may well endanger their alignments.

BTW: Devils trade contracts around. Even if they gather the power to kill the Devil rather than pay him, the contract would still be enforced by his "boss", someone bigger and nastier than he is. The brute-force solution is a guaranteed loser: If they kill him they can't deliver the dagger to him, and they lose.

Yeah, it's a Devil's bargain.
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
Lots of great answers here. Thinking about them leads me to ask you what you want to accomplish/what will the end result be?

Most of the responses add potential fun, make the PC's lives difficult, mix it up a bit--pretty much what you would expect in a D&D game.

If you want to raise the stakes, do something like post #10 proposes and make fulfilling the promise nigh-impossible. This may, of course, result in a dead/removed from game character. That might be too much or it might be awesome.
 
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Well, to be honest, it's half thought experiment and half "Having an card up my sleeve to abort a TPK".

In the game I'm DMing, there is a devil fight coming up that happens right after a series of tough fights. It's winnable if the PCs are smart. But we all know that players can be thicker than mud. ;) I wouldn't put it past my players to try and barter with the devil to save their own skins. So I wanted to be prepared just in case.

The advice here has been invaluable. I definitely think I'll be asking for favors that are either nigh impossible or deceptively simple. And they all definitely favor the forces of hell.
 

Bkeats

First Post
Oh, I agree, but it's totally antithetical to a devil's mission in life to leave heroes largely free to take their own actions. Yes, they prefer to assimilate, but if they cannot dominate, then they prefer to destroy. They will not leave things up to chance. They will not leave things free. Freedom, chance, randomness, these are things as hateful to them as charity and mercy. If there is any doubt as to whether they will win, they will certainly prefer the surety of destruction to the potential of corruption only. They only play rigged games that they cannot lose. That's why you never bargain with a devil. The DM in this case should rig the game so that he thinks there is zero chance of the PCs winning. If they manage to escape fate anyway, fine and good. But this is no time to be fair about it.

ADDENDUM: Imagine it this way. That devil is reporting to another devil at least as ruthless and cruel as he is, and that devil demands results. He has to make an account of his every action. That devil will pore over his every decision, criticizing every fault he can find with it. If it doesn't live up to his supervisors standards, if anything goes wrong, he stands to face eons of unremitting torment. While it's true he can win greater esteem from the hierarchy for assimilating some heroes to his cause, if there is the slightest chance that would go wrong and along the way the heroes will in some way thwart the designs of hell, or make him to look foolish by outwitting him, he will always prefer to cover his own rear by just killing dangerous potentially uncontrollable heroes than taking a risk on a bargain he might not win and which might result in as much good as it does evil.

As usual, Celebrim gets it right. Devils don't like taking chances unless they're forced to by desperation. Faustian bargains are normally their tool of choice for corruption, but by the rules you can't force a creature to sign one by threatening it with death or harm if it doesn't. In the initial example, the devil has already defeated the players, so unless it thinks it can persuade them to the side of evil, it'd probably just kill them unless they're worth more as living prisoners in the Bastille of Flesh or some such place. Devils are constantly doing cost/risk analysis
 

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