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Infernal Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 5
The best known and most direct form of diabolical corruption, infernal contracts form a binding tie between a devil and a mortal. Such contracts take a variety of forms, typically parodying the laws and terminology of the mortal’s society. An infernal contract takes the form of an offer, usually for extravagant goods or seemingly impossible services, presented by a devil to a mortal who has summoned it for exactly such a purpose. These contracts are exceptionally powerful and can alter lives—or even reality—in diverse ways for those who agree to sign such hellish documents. In return for fulfilling the terms of the contract, the devil receives the mortal’s soul when the signer dies or at whatever time the contract specifies. While a mortal’s soul is nearly always the target of such contracts, oftentimes devils occlude their desires, either within confusing legalese, sub-articles, and addenda, or by tailoring their fulfillment of the contract to provide the contractee with the means to damn himself. Thus, some infernal contracts are simple accounts of a blasphemous exchange, while others are rambling documents cloaking diabolical intentions. While more complex agreements are better at hiding a devil’s desires, they might offer clever mortals opportunities to escape damnation.

Infernal contracts are an expression of a timeless truth: mortals always desire more. Many mortals dream of worldly wealth and otherworldly power, but in the vast planar scheme, their existences are brief and their bargaining power limited. The devils of Hell offer a way around such limitations. Banking on mortals’ ignorance of how the multiverse works and the true value of their intangible souls, devils offer mortals the fulfillment of this dream for what appears to be no price at all. To seal the bargain and prove their honesty, they create officious infernal contracts—elaborate written promises no less binding than the chains of Hell.

Of Hell’s contract makers, phistophiluses-also called contract devils—are considered the finest authors of infernal bargains. The rulers of Hell—Asmodeus, the archdevils, the infernal dukes, and the malebranche—are also storied deal makers. But infernal contracts are not the purview of contract writers alone. The forces of Hell stand as a largely unified threat against mortal life, and most specimens among the legions of devilkind can requisition tools from a vast, treacherous arsenal. Thus, a mortal encounter with nearly any devil has the potential to end in an offer: What would you give for greatness?

Variant Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 202
Before exploring the intricacies of the infernal contract, it should be noted that other fiends are often willing to enter into contracts with mortals as well. Lawful evil fiends are generally the most trustworthy in this regard. Neutral evil fiends usually honor a contract as long as they get something out of the bargain or feel like they come out ahead, while chaotic evil fiends will almost always look to cheat or blatantly disregard the wording of a contract. All contracts with non-devil fiends carry with them a markedly increased level of risk to the mortal, and in many cases, the only possible outcome of such a foolish endeavor is the forfeiture of the mortal’s soul—yet there are always extenuating circumstances that make the forging of such a risky contract a viable (or perhaps the only) option. For example, a king might agree to sign a contract with a powerful demon, knowing full well that the demon will break the contract, yet if signing the contract can buy even a few extra hours for a group of adventurers to attempt a desperate gambit to save the kingdom, such a sacrifice may be worth it in the end. How a non-devil fiend honors a contract is generally left up to the GM, but the basic mechanics work as for infernal contracts.

Negotiating Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 203
Not every devil is interested in entering into a contract. Most devils focus their energies on fulfilling orders from diabolical superiors, and others simply prefer not to waste time negotiating with mortals. If a remarkable mortal presents herself, though, a devil might be convinced to enter into a bargain.

At its most basic level, an infernal contract is a simple trade. The devil provides whatever the mortal requests (within the devil’s power) and in exchange receives the signee’s immortal soul, to be delivered to the devil at the moment of the mortal’s death.

Some devils, such as pit fiends, can grant wishes, effectively giving a mortal almost anything she desires. In the case of such powerful devils, the terms of a contract should be agreed upon between a player and the GM.

Less potent devils don’t have the power to grant wishes, but they can certainly still create more specific sorts of infernal contracts, such as the ones detailed at the end of this article. In all of these cases, the price is the same—the mortal signee’s soul, which is damned to Hell upon the mortal’s death.

At the GM’s discretion, a devil might accept some payment other than the signee’s soul. In any situation, what the devil gains should be significant and unique, such as a one-of-a-kind object or even an artifact. Alternatively, it might require the mortal to commit an act that’s certain to damn her soul, such as destroying a good or chaotic artifact, murdering 1,000 innocents, or turning traitor against family, nation, race, or religion.

Devils generally don’t enter into infernal contracts with evil creatures, as such creatures’ souls are already bound for evil-aligned planes. In any case, regardless of a mortal’s intentions or any potentially positive results, entering into an infernal contract is always a lawful and evil act.

Creating Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 203
Once terms have been agreed to, a devil has to create the infernal contract. Contract devils have the easiest time of this, making use of their infernal contract ability to instantly generate such a document. Devils of demigod-level power can likewise instantly call tailor-made infernal contracts into being as though they also had the infernal contract ability, though the effects they can create prove more potent and variable. Other devils can also produce infernal contracts but might have to employ less immediate techniques.

Barring any extraordinary circumstances, most devils with the greater teleport ability know a place they can go to have an infernal contract created. This might involve opening a portal back to Hell, finding a contract devil lurking on the same mortal world, or other means. In any case, the devil can use this method to have an infernal contract made to meet its needs. However, doing so takes time. The Creation Time entry listed in each contract’s description notes how long it takes for most common devils to have an infernal contract of that kind produced. This represents a combination of the devil’s travel time, its influence in negotiating with other devils, the detail put into the contract’s creation, and the time it takes to return. At the end of this period—unless the mortal has done something extraordinary to hide himself— the devil returns with a contract.

Although most devils cannot instantly create an infernal contract, there are those that see the value of such an ability and develop the talent over ages of study. This exceptional training, which takes place deep within the Fallen Fastness of Dis, the sunken libraries of Stygia, or the other blasphemous vaults of Hell, manifests as the Infernal Legist feat.

Researching Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 203
An infernal contract is a baffling linguistic labyrinth, rife with eons-old legalese, otherworldly citations, and near-endless clauses and counterclauses. One might consist of single scroll covered in fine handwriting, while another might consist of volumes of printed text bound in sable.

Skimming an infernal contract and getting the gist of it takes only a matter of moments. Reading one in its entirety, though, can take hours, if not days, and is similar in many ways to performing research in a library. All infernal contracts have a number of knowledge points (abbreviated as “kp”) representing the sum of the contract’s information. To research an infernal contract, a character must succeed at a Linguistics check or a specialized skill check as indicated by the contract in question. The DC of this Research check varies, but if the researcher uses the more specialized check to perform this research, she gains a +2 circumstance bonus for using precisely the correct skill for interpreting the contract, as opposed to the more general use of Linguistics. Attempting a Research check requires an uninterrupted 8-hour period of research, and characters cannot take 10 or 20 on this check. Each additional 8-hour period of research on the same contract grants a cumulative +1 bonus on Research checks. Up to two characters can use the aid another action to assist a researcher.

Succeeding at a Research check reduces the contract’s knowledge points, similar to dealing damage to a creature’s hit points. As the knowledge points decrease, the contract reveals its secrets. The amount of kp reduced on a successful Research check depends on the intellectual capacities of the contract’s primary researcher. A character with the ability to attempt any Knowledge check untrained (such as a bard, loremaster, or skald) reduces a contract’s kp by 1d12 + the character’s Intelligence modifier. Other scholarly characters (alchemists, arcanists, investigators, wizards, and so on, at the GM’s discretion) reduce the contract’s knowledge points by 1d8 + the character’s Intelligence modifier. All other characters reduce the contract’s knowledge points by 1d4 + the character’s Intelligence modifier. Rolling a natural 20 on a Research check acts like a critical threat. If the researcher confirms the critical hit by immediately succeeding at a second Research check with all the same modifiers, the resulting knowledge point reduction is doubled. Rolling a natural 1 on a Research check results in an automatic failure, and the contract’s knowledge points increase by 1d8. Because of the purposefully obtuse nature of infernal contracts, some researchers reach a dead end in their understanding of the document and are unable to further decrease a contract’s knowledge points. Failing two consecutive Research checks means the researcher has misunderstood the contract’s terms. In this case, the contract’s knowledge points return to maximum and the researcher can’t attempt to research that particular contract again until he gains a level.

Infernal contracts contain only the overt terms of the agreement and, potentially, oblique provisos. Unless a GM stipulates otherwise, no knowledge other than that specified is gained through researching a contract. Not every infernal contract has hidden language—some are completely forthright. Those that do conceal cunningly disguised traps, though, can have their secrets revealed by reducing the contract’s kp to its hidden condition threshold. Note that it is possible for a contract to have multiple hidden condition thresholds, though the ones detailed in this book have only one each. If such an unfavorable term is called out to a devil, it will usually acquiesce to changing the contract, though doing so means creating the contract all over again, and the new contract is by no means assured to be free of insidious new stipulations.

Once a contract’s kp is reduced to 0, the researcher discovers a flaw that could allow for an early termination of the contract. A mortal might exploit such a loophole to end the contract. In doing so, she would lose the contract’s benefit but regain her soul. The specifics of this loophole might not be simple to engineer, but they provide hope of an escape. Not all infernal contracts contain such flaws, although the four detailed in Sample Contracts do.

Escaping Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 204
The easiest way to avoid the consequences of an unfavorable infernal contract is simply not to sign one. If that isn’t an option, thoroughly researching the contract and learning of dangerous provisos and potential loopholes can mean the difference between life and damnation.

When an infernal contract is signed, two copies manifest: one for the mortal signee and one for the devil. The mortal is free to do whatever he pleases with his copy, though destroying it is rarely directly helpful. Devils tend to do one of two things with their copies: Some keep the documents close at hand, securing them in vaults or in the care of guardians of their choosing. Most, however, send their contracts back to Hell for safekeeping, typically to the Fallen Fastness in Dis. In this infernal library, contracts are protected by countless diabolical scholars, the sanity shattering complexity of the library’s organization, and its planar inaccessibility. For most mortals, retrieving a contract from Hell is practically impossible. Yet even once an infernal contract is signed and secured, there are still routes by which it might be changed—or escaped.

Transferring a Contract: A devil might be convinced to adjust the terms of an infernal contract to apply to a different mortal. Just as in the case of the original signee, the new mortal must enter into the contract freely, accepting the benefits but also the damnation. Occasionally, a damned mortal can convince a second mortal to take his place in an infernal deal, or a particularly self-sacrificing mortal might decide to take on a loved one’s contract. In either case, the devil must deem the new signee an equal or more valuable soul. Only the devil that created the original document (or had it created) can adjust the terms of an infernal contract, which must be done in the presence of the former signee, the new signee, and one copy of the original contract. Once the new signee commits her signature to the contract, with the devil as witness, the former signee’s name is erased and both copies of the contract immediately change. The effects of the adjusted contract are left to the parties involved, but most commonly, the former signee loses all benefits and conditions of the contract, while the new signee gains them.

Destroying a Contract: If both copies of an infernal contract are destroyed, the contract ends. The mortal and devil lose all benefits of the contract, and the mortal’s soul is released to follow whatever natural course it might take upon death. This requires obtaining both copies of the contract, which isn’t easy; a devil guards its contracts and isn’t likely to let a mortal go back on a contract without a fight. Recovering the devil’s copy of a contract might require the mortal to plunge into the depths of Hell itself.

If the mortal signee has already died and her soul is already in Hell, destroying the contract does not transport the soul to the afterlife where it otherwise would have been sent. The best the petitioner can hope for is to be liberated from her tortures, and her escape is made even more challenging by the fact that her soul is now free game for all of Hell’s various deadly denizens. Moreover, the weight of having made a deal with a devil stays with a soul for the rest of its existence. Even after escaping a contract (or Hell itself, in the previous case), a mortal might still be forsaken by her deity and find herself condemned to Hell or any of the other evil-aligned planes. Actual salvation might require much more than the mere destruction of the infernal contract.

Sample Contracts

Source Book of the Damned pg. 205
Though the denizens of Hell share many goals, their schemes are far from uniform. The infernal contracts they create vary widely in cost, effect, terms, and methods of escape. The following are contracts common to some of Hell’s bestknown inhabitants. Most reflect the power, influence, and predilections of the devil offering the contract. However, GMs should feel free to use these examples as guidelines for creating their own custom infernal contracts. Complexity, kp, and Research checks are further detailed under Researching Contracts.

The sample infernal contract stat blocks detailed below contain the following sections.

Contract Name: This is the name of the type of contract, potentially used by diabolic scholars and infernal barristers.

CR: This entry lists the challenge rating of the infernal contract. It is usually equal to the CR of the devil that most commonly creates it (as listed in the Devil entry), but in the case of unique contracts created by demigods such as archdevils, infernal dukes, and Queens of the Night, the infernal contract’s CR can vary (but is rarely over CR 20).

XP: This entry lists the experience points gained for reducing the contract to 0 kp.

Devil: This entry lists the type of devil that commonly creates the contract in question.

Creation Time: This entry lists how long it takes for a devil to create a contract and return to a mortal signee (assuming it doesn’t have the infernal contract special ability or the Infernal Legist feat).

Benefit: This is the benefit the contract grants the signee.

Payment: This lists an alternative payment the devil might accept in return for the contract’s benefit in lieu of a soul. Not all devils are open to alternative payments.

Description: This entry is a brief description of the style of the contract’s text.

Complexity: An infernal contract’s complexity is equal to 10 + twice the infernal contract’s CR. The number listed in this entry is the DC of the Linguistics check or other specialized skill checks required to reduce the contract’s kp.

Specialized Skills: This entry lists the skills other than Linguistics that can be used to research the contract. Using one of these specialized skills grants the researcher a +2 circumstance bonus on the check.

kp: This entry lists the contract’s maximum number of knowledge points. This is typically equal to the contract’s CR × 3.

Hidden Condition: This entry lists a hidden condition that the devil has slipped into the contract. If the signee reduces the contract’s kp to the value listed in parentheses in this entry, the hidden condition is revealed.

Termination Clause: This entry lists a flaw in the contract that could allow for an early termination of the contract. If the signee successfully exploits this loophole, she loses the benefit of the contract but regains her soul.

Unique Features: Some powerful devils add specific characteristics to their contracts, such as special magical protections. Such features are listed in this entry.

Pact of Blood-Taking   CR 5

XP 1,500
Devil bearded devil (barbazu)
Creation Time 2d6 months
Benefit Attacks made with melee weapons by the contracted mortal deal persistent wounds that cause 1 point of bleed damage. Bleeding caused by these infernal wounds can be stopped with a successful Heal check, but anyone attempting to magically heal a creature with an infernal wound must attempt a caster level check. Success indicates the healing works normally and stops all bleed effects on the victim. The DC of each of these checks is equal to 10 + the contracted mortal’s Strength modifier.
Payment The signee can no longer regain hit points through natural healing.

Research

Description Infernal contracts created by barbazus are typically inelegant and rife with references to ancient battles, bloodletting, and tactical maneuvers.
Complexity 20
Specialized Skills Knowledge (history), Knowledge (planes), Profession (soldier)
kp 15
Hidden Condition (6 kp) The barbazu becomes the owner of any weapon the contracted mortal finds. Once per year, the barbazu can appear and take the contracted mortal’s best weapon. The mortal must comply as though affected by dominate monster (no save; this effect bypasses normal immunities to mind-controlling effects).
Termination Clause (0 kp) The contract seems to assure that the barbazu will not kill the contracted mortal, but vague phrasing opens the door for a broader interpretation. If the contracted mortal is killed by any barbazu or by bleed damage, the contract is terminated.

Shadow Coin Bargain   CR 11

XP 12,800
Devil barbed devil (hamatula)
Creation Time 1d6 months
Benefit The contracted mortal gains the ability to speak with shadows (as per the spell stone tell, but with any shadow cast by a living creature) once per day. Additionally, he gains the see in darkness ability common to devilkind.
Payment Once per week, the contracted mortal must kill a sentient creature with a piercing weapon and leave a platinum coin in the victim’s mouth. If the mortal neglects to do this, his soul is damned to Hell upon his death.

Research

Description Infernal contracts created by hamatulas typically contain references to accounting principles, mathematics, and slow deaths.
32
Specialized Skills Appraise, Knowledge (planes), Profession (clerk) kp 33
Hidden Condition (12 kp) Once per month, the hamatula can appear before the contracted mortal and collect a debt in gold equal to 100 gp × the mortal’s Hit Dice. If the devil does not collect, the debt carries over to the next month, and the next month, and so on—likely without the mortal’s knowledge. The hamatula can erase the debt by taking one or more of the mortal’s appendages, digits, or similar bodily features, resulting in 2d6 points of ability drain to an ability score of the devil’s choice.
Termination Clause (0 kp) The contract is not for a mortal soul, but calls literally for “a priceless item with the contracted mortal’s name and blood.” If the mortal finds a priceless item, bleeds over it (taking an amount of damage equal to half his maximum hit points), gives it his name, and then destroys it in a fire, the contract ends.

Vow of Heartrime  CR 13

XP 25,600
Devil ice devil (gelugon)
Creation Time 1d8 days
The contracted mortal stops showing signs of aging and gains immunity to cold damage. Additionally, she can survive indefinitely on 1 gallon of water per day, as long as it is frozen—this replaces her need to eat and drink.
Payment As a sacrifice of warmth, the area within 5 feet of the contracted mortal is always 10 degrees colder than the surrounding area. The mortal’s body is unpleasantly cold to the touch. Any liquid in the mortal’s possession, no matter how well insulated, freezes in 1 minute. This includes potions and other liquid gear; consuming a frozen potion takes 1 minute of uninterrupted work.

Research

Description Infernal contracts created by a gelugon are exceedingly complex, referencing cunning extraplanar generals, natural violence, and obscure predators.
Complexity 36
Specialized Skills Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (nobility), Knowledge (planes)
39
Hidden Condition (25 kp) One year after the contract is signed, the ice devil can collect the mortal signee’s heart. The mortal survives this painful extraction, but from then on she is healed by negative energy and harmed by positive energy as if she were an undead creature. The ice devil keeps the heart safe (within its own chest, some say). Not having a heart neither aids nor hinders the mortal, but if the infernal contract is terminated while the mortal’s heart is missing, the mortal dies instantly.
Termination Clause (0 kp) A beautifully written but deliberately obtuse clause likens the contracted mortal’s existence to living, melting snow. The mortal can take advantage of this by arranging for the creation of a simulacrum. During the casting of the simulacrum spell, the contracted mortal must wound herself and bleed over the simulacrum until she falls unconscious. The mortal takes 1d4 points of Constitution drain and falls unconscious for 2d6 hours, during which time the simulacrum must be destroyed with fire. However, the simulacrum refuses to obey its creator and attempts to escape. If the simulacrum is destroyed before the contracted mortal awakes, the contract is considered to be fulfilled.

Unique Features

This contract can be destroyed only by sacred fire, such as that created by the spell from a good caster.

Curse of the Ever-Soul   CR 20

XP 307,200
Devil pit fiend
Creation Time 1 hour
Benefit The contracted mortal gains 1,000 years of life, can speak and understand any language, and permanently gains the effects of speak with animals.
Payment The signee must deliver 100 sentient mortal lives, sacrificed in rituals to Asmodeus or a demigod residing in Hell. These souls need not be paid before the contract is signed, but must be paid within 1 year of the signing; otherwise, the payment becomes the signee’s mortal soul.

Research

Description Infernal contracts created by pit fiends are among the most elaborate in existence, referencing deities, souls, and half-comprehensible cosmic truths.
Complexity 50
Specialized Skills Knowledge (planes), Knowledge (religion)
kp 60
Hidden Condition (20 kp) Once per year, the pit fiend can instantly transport the signing mortal to its side across any distance, even across planar boundaries, as if conjuring the mortal via a gate spell. The pit fiend can command the mortal to perform one service for it, which the mortal cannot deny and must attempt to complete to the best of her abilities (regardless of any immunities). After 24 hours or upon the completion of the task, the mortal returns to wherever she was teleported from.
Termination Clause (0 kp) The contract is exacting in defining the signee’s nature and home world. If the mortal were to place her soul into the body of another humanoid not native to her world, the terms of the contract would remain effective over her body, not her soul. Any soul within the mortal’s original body is damned upon that body’s death. The mortal could potentially reclaim her body after a soul within it is taken in this manner. Of course, tricking another’s soul into damnation in this way is an evil act.