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  • #16
    Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
    I think I'll stick to what the book says.
    You conveniently ignore that 1) that is mentioned only at the level where the person has permanently damned their own soul, and thus the demon has won, and 2) you leave out the sentence that the infernalist pays for it heavily after death. At no point does it indicate the infernalist is able to cheat himself out of damnation, or play two demons against each other so they charge the infernalist a lower price. It's just a comment that allows the ST to make some very rare exceptions if it makes sense for them. It doesn't point to the scenario you are pushing.

    So yes, the House does win.

    Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
    Second, you do have the trope of the person that fools the Devil, so I won't say that succeeding at this endeavor is impossible.
    Yep, there are people who fool the devil. However, it is rarely the person who is greedy or evil who wishes to increase power by making deals with the Devil. In every case I can think of, the person who fools the devil is a person of high moral character with deep goodness, wisdom, and courage who only agrees to enter a contest with the Devil in order to save the soul of someone else (there are some fairy tale deviations from this, but in these cases the "devil" is more a stock character from fairy land, not the true Devil IMHO - but I'm sure somewhere there are exceptions). The Devil makes him wager his own soul as the bargain. The Devil does it because the Devil is greedy. He knows that in no other circumstance would he ever get the chance to ensnare that soul. In these contests, the Devil loses because he is at a disadvantage against someone who is not acting out of selfish desire, and he doesn't understand that kind of person. Good can "cheat" the Devil. Evil can't.

    Last edited by Black Fox; 01-11-2022, 05:49 AM.

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    • #17
      But I wasn't thinking about fooling the Devil.
      I was thinking about something much more simple:

      make other people pay the price for the Infernalist loot.

      The demon always gets more than the infernalist? That's ok, as long that it's other victims, and not the infernalist in himself, that take the brunt of the cost.

      - - -

      Because if demons really arrange things in a way that every infernalist gets the punishment he deserves and none can exploit the weak for their gain, they're backing up a form of karmic justice and that is very un-demonic.

      - - -

      About what happens after death, Black Fox, who cares? An Infernalist worth his salt is aiming for some form of immortality anyway.

      Be a vampire, or a ghost, or an immortal with a paint-by-numbers portrait in the rec room. Hell, even a brain-in-a-jar, in a pinch.
      Anything to avoid the Big Fire Below.
      Infernalists who dies are chumps who didn't have the balls to stay in the game.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
        Yep, there are people who fool the devil. However, it is rarely the person who is greedy or evil who wishes to increase power by making deals with the Devil. In every case I can think of, the person who fools the devil is a person of high moral character with deep goodness, wisdom, and courage who only agrees to enter a contest with the Devil in order to save the soul of someone else
        I can assure you, there are A Lot of european folktales where the people outwitting the devil aren't necessarily "good people" and plenty where they do it just to make their own lives easier rather than for the sake of saving anyone. For example:

        Devils bridgeCeredigion: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%...ge,_Ceredigion

        A lot of these are hold-overs of older folk-tales where "the devil" is a replacement for what used to be the trickster god or a malicious spirit of an ancient religion that existed before the area was christianized.

        Fittingly, this would likely be the case in the WOD as well considering that between the consensus, different layers of the spirit world, entities that exist Outside the spirit world ecosystem, and the fact that idea of "infernal pacts" is older than christianity, the "demon" you're making a pact with isn't necessarily going to be a creature from the abrahamic meta-reality.

        It is honestly 100% believable for a true villain to outwit the devil. I just don't think the the Players should be the ones doing that unless you're doing a full pink mohawk session with heavy leanings into 90's style campyness.

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        • #19
          But....
          it's not necessary to outwit the Devil, just to persuade a demon to be content with a number of souls and services and let that single one alone.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Black Fox View Post
            Yep, there are people who fool the devil. However, it is rarely the person who is greedy or evil who wishes to increase power by making deals with the Devil.
            As Prometheas pointed out, this is only true under specific theological assumptions. And while those are sensible, they are not granted as true in the game, and are actually unlikely given the broader WoD. By the very nature of the game (including the fact that it is a game), we have no reason to treat the possibility of a greedy mortal outwitting a demon as out of question. Although I do agree that, as a literary device, this is a more interesting option, as is the options of this infernalist coming to either have to redeem themselves and relinquish the gains or get their due anyway.

            Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
            But....
            it's not necessary to outwit the Devil, just to persuade a demon to be content with a number of souls and services and let that single one alone.
            We got it, but this must be addressed because you're the one who presented the option of the infernalist making threats and whatnot to keep the demon in place, so trickery is on the table.

            The point is that the demon has no reason to play like you say. It will trick the infernalist into doing this work and giving up their own soul and will stay doing that work after this. The 10th level pact isn't the end of their life, it is the beginning of complete servitude. Which doesn't mean their life will immediately become terrible, although it is a probable outcome after some time.

            You're still assuming the demon as a reasonable negotiator. It isn't. While they won't necessarily cheat their pacts, they are pretty much unreasonable. This entity has all the time to get its due, and its plans span far beyond the infernalist. Again, the infernalist may think it is giving the demon a priceless service, but it isn't. The demon may empower any idiot to do the very same thing.

            If you refuse to give the demon your soul for more things after you built the cult, the demon will first pretend to go with your plan and let you reap some benefits. Then things will start to go sour, but nothing that can be traced back to the demon. The demon may even accept minor bargains for helping with them for a time, but ever more tempting you with the ultimate solution if you give your soul.

            And if you staunchly refuse to give it your soul? It will just leave you alone with the increasing problems and find someone else to do your job. Probably someone among your cult followers will swiftly raise in power and take it from you, happily giving their souls because yes, they're idiots. That's a lot of those around. When the demon comes back to you you'll be in a far worse situation despite all your powers, and you'll have nothing more to offer because someone else already does your job. At this point you'll give your soul for as little as escaping your current predicament.

            For the question of karmic justice, that's not how the demons work, although that is how God works in most depictions of such tropes. The demon isn't doing it for the justice, but because it can only get their hands on damned souls. The demons covets a resource that you have and that's it, you're a tree and it wants lumber. If the tree deserves to be felled is a moot point except they can only fell deserving trees. What it will do with this resource is anyone's guess.

            On the matter of immortality, there is no such a thing as absolute immortality, and the demon is a timeless being. Reaping your soul in 100 years is the same as reaping it in a million years or a week. If you achieve immortality you only give it more time to screw you and probably makes your 10th level pact more desirable.


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            • #21
              In the New Wod: Inferno it's stated that sinful actions fuel pacts and investments. I don't know if it's the same in the Path of Screams setting. But if it is, then even minor pacts fuel the demon's overall might.
              If not, well, I find difficult to believe that demons would handle out powers only for collecting single souls. At the very least they're fighting a greater war against the forces of light.

              On the matter of immortality, there is no such a thing as absolute immortality, and the demon is a timeless being. Reaping your soul in 100 years is the same as reaping it in a million years or a week. If you achieve immortality you only give it more time to screw you and probably makes your 10th level pact more desirable.
              Only if you spend your time like Dorian Grey - or Doctor Faust for the matter - by having decadent fun and little else.

              If the Infernalist uses his time to train his body and mind, learn new occult lore and master magic, he can become something akin a demigod.

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              • #22
                I mean, Technically true. An infernalist with the right information can gain the right combinations of powers, subordinates, and pacts can ascend as something to rival the Ante's, or maybe even Caine.

                The issue comes with the fact that this is also kind of common knowledge to an extent. Everyone who isn't a neonate knows that infernalism gives you superpowers compared even to normal supernaturals, and there are entire organizations dedicated to both abusing this And to stopping this.

                Trying to become a demigod in setting requires years of effort, during which you need to avoid being noticed by Every non-infernalist organization, Every Other Infernalist, and Even your own demonic Patron(s). Otherwise, you'll reach final death before you can finish saying "I can Explain".

                The thing is, Infernalists actually achieving the goal of demi-godhood in-setting is actually Rare to the point of almost being unheard of, and it's like that for a reason. The only examples I know of Started at-Least around methusela level of strength already, because everyone who doesn't start that powerful is trying to punch up against the already-existing demigods of evil who don't want more competition.

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                • #23
                  Or do things in isolation, safe from outside perils and influences.
                  Like a Lovecraftian village.
                  Or the swamp-dwelling satanists in Black Death ( 2010 ).


                  The point is that the demon has no reason to play like you say.
                  Of course he has. Plenty of reasons indeed. A steady trickle of sacrifices and dedication that can go on for a virtually infinite time with next to no maintenance from the demon's part.

                  It's like a mobster who insist in burning the business he could instead milk for years. This would cross the line between unreasonable to stupid, making the demons nearsighted cartoonish villains.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                    Or do things in isolation, safe from outside perils and influences.
                    You can only go so far in complete isolation, and this is already the default strategy of all other candidates and already established god-like powers. And your demonic patron by default will be aware of you and won't be easy to fool in this regard. Again, you must consider the demon itself as an active character in this relationship.

                    Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                    A steady trickle of sacrifices and dedication that can go on for a virtually infinite time with next to no maintenance from the demon's part.
                    And you're fully forgetting that a 10th level pact is still someone completely capable of doing that, not to say that, again, the demon has others to do this in your place.

                    It seems you still underestimate how little effort the demon puts on all that. Even in D:tF a Thrall isn't a Ghoul. It is far easier to create and dispose off. The effort the demon puts on a pact is entirely mundane on its part, costing little more than the time spent with the infernalist, so the demon can work on several simultaneous pacts and still have free time. In personal power it costs almost nothing.

                    This is exactly one of the most common errors of infernalists, you keep overestimating your own relevance for the demon. It isn't that you can't offer an interesting service, but that you're not the first or the last to offer it, the demon already has people doing those elsewhere, it will keep you working after having your soul. It has experience managing several such arrangements for who knows how many ages. Why would it see you as special?


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                    • #25
                      Just to chime in with a couple points to support monteparnas and Blackfox :

                      1) You've actually provided a reason why the demon wouldn't just be OK with the arrangement you've described: you are describing a process where the infernalist is actually trying to become something of a threat to the demon, intentionally or not. Even if it's just a threat to its influence or its ego, the demon is never going to aid you in gaining enough power that it won't have an overwhelming advantage in any negotiations that you have with it. No demon is going to help you become a demigod no matter how beneficial its arrangement with you might be otherwise. Your only chance is one of those crazy playing-several-demons-against-each-other scenarios that is way more likely to blow up in your face and leave your soul shredded into hamburger than you coming out the victor.

                      (small correction: the only demon that will help you become a demigod is one that is already well above a "mere" demigod, once again maintaining the massive disparity in power, influence, and advantage in negotiations.)

                      Which leads to the big point...

                      2) Everything you're describing (aside from the demigod bit, for reasons noted above) is theoretically feasible as long as the demon's arrangement with you continues to be profitable. In other words, you can acquire a significant amount of power and immortality for exactly as long as you are useful or entertaining for the demon in question. Such an arrangement can only last indefinitely if your character is perfect: never makes a mistake, or at least ALWAYS comes out on top. As has been noted above, the demon can replace you with a dozen schmucks at any given moment, so why wouldn't the demon just take your soul and then move on to the next promising up-and-comer the literal second that keeping you in power becomes more trouble than its worth? That's a tight rope you can walk for a long time, maybe, but a character that could walk it forever is pretty much the definition of a Mary Sue.

                      The end of Death Note really comes to mind here. Not exactly a demon, but gets the point across.

                      No matter how much power and influence you get, you are never going to become infallible. Which means your usefulness to a demon is never going to be absolute or unassailable. Which means there's no reason for it to view any one person as too precious an investment to not reap their soul whenever it decides to move on to greener pastures. Which probably means that it will constantly be angling to get its hooks into said soul even if it does not plan on taking it for several centuries.

                      And all of that completely ignores the fact that demons being petty and self-destructive is not exactly a ridiculous notion?

                      Peter Culliford from Pentex is probably a prime example in-setting. Literally the second he stopped being the undisputed top dog in the Board of Directors, his patron started putting the squeeze on. (See W20's Book of the Wyrm)
                      Last edited by Kharnov; 01-12-2022, 09:26 PM.

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                      • #26
                        King Solomon built a shrine dedicated to a different god for each of his foreigner wives ( he had 700 of them ) and offered sacrifices to all of them.
                        Mabye an infernalist could do the same. A shrine for every demon.

                        - - -

                        This is exactly one of the most common errors of infernalists, you keep overestimating your own relevance for the demon. It isn't that you can't offer an interesting service, but that you're not the first or the last to offer it, the demon already has people doing those elsewhere, it will keep you working after having your soul. It has experience managing several such arrangements for who knows how many ages. Why would it see you as special?
                        To make it work the infernalist must have independent powers that could be used to punish the demon if things go awry. Hedge Magic, Sorcerous Paths, Thaumaturgy, magic items... anything goes.
                        Anyway, it isn't true that every moron can organize and lead a reliable source of souls and sacrifices. 99% of infernalists are lazy, ignornant and a little insane dabbler who burn themselves in self-indulgent debauchery lasting a week at most. Next to no one has the discipline, temperance and self control necessary to organize something valuable.

                        And if 99% seems too much, just ask yourself: how many the cult leaders, and how many the glass-eyed drug-addled cultists?
                        For each master, an hundred cultists at the very least, probably more.

                        And how many cult leaders manage to lead a cult for more than an handful of years? Really, really few.

                        An infernalist able to establish a reliable, insular cult is one on a million.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                          To make it work the infernalist must have independent powers that could be used to punish the demon if things go awry. Hedge Magic, Sorcerous Paths, Thaumaturgy, magic items... anything goes.
                          Demons don't make long-standing mutually beneficial arrangements with people that coerce them into service through sorcery. They stab them in the kidney at the first opportunity. Enslaving demons to your will is ARGUABLY the safer form of infernalism, but you are in a non-stop battle to keep the demon from screwing you over in the worst possible way at every opportunity. It is, again, a tight rope.

                          Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                          Anyway, it isn't true that every moron can organize and lead a reliable source of souls and sacrifices. 99% of infernalists are lazy, ignornant and a little insane dabbler who burn themselves in self-indulgent debauchery lasting a week at most. Next to no one has the discipline, temperance and self control necessary to organize something valuable.

                          And if 99% seems too much, just ask yourself: how many the cult leaders, and how many the glass-eyed drug-addled cultists?
                          For each master, an hundred cultists at the very least, probably more.

                          And how many cult leaders manage to lead a cult for more than an handful of years? Really, really few.

                          An infernalist able to establish a reliable, insular cult is one on a million.
                          The numbers get stacked a bit when the demon can empower whatever useful tool it comes across. But to use the USA as an example, "one in a million" means about 329. Which is just over how many cities in the USA have over 100,000 people. Infernalism isn't so common that most demons more powerful than an imp don't have several options for who to go and deal with if the person they're currently working with doesn't give them what they want.

                          You're contradicting yourself. You can be extremely useful, or you can be low profile; you can't be both. It doesn't take a spectacular genius to set up some ramshackle cult of a dozen or so people in an isolated backwater. If you want to be valuable enough to the demon that it gives you significant benefits, you're going to have to take risks and get your hands dirty.

                          And the demon has no reason not to turn on you if you ever truly fail. Again, you're only safe from being tossed aside if you are infallible. There are at least 328 candidates to replace you in a single country. This year/decade. This is the point people are trying to make when they say you are overestimating the importance of the hypothetical infernalist. The demon is not going to sabotage you while you are useful, but it will turn on you if you stop being useful, and its never going to give you the power to turn the tables on it if you do fuck up. And I mean FUCK UP, not suffer a minor setback.

                          If the day ever comes where the protagonists roll up to wreck your cult and tear down everything you've ever built, the demon's not going to help you build it all up from scratch again. Good for you if you get away, but if you're cornered it is probably going to cut its losses and take your soul with it if it can.

                          If the day ever comes when a Bigger Bad rolls up and decides to wreck your face, the demon isn't going to double-down on you out of compassion or attachment. It's going to cut its losses, and take your soul with it if it can.

                          Again, the scenario you are describing is only stable if you intentionally isolate it from larger forces and consequences. The bigger and more valuable your cult is, the more likely you will have to contend with these scenarios. The smaller and more isolated your cult is, the less your demon is going to pay out for it.

                          And if we're talking about someone who has already acquired a fair amount of skill with magic of some kind, why are they turning to infernalism for trinkets? Is a pact with the backwoods-swamp-demon that takes a soul every few years going to be the deciding factor in this quest for grand cosmic power?

                          The only successful infernalists are the ones who REALLY lean into it, who accept becoming literal pawns for the forces of darkness and are just happy to be along for the ride. Nergal/Huitzilopochtli. The Maeljin (those that started as human anyways). Al-Aswad.
                          Last edited by Kharnov; 01-13-2022, 01:40 PM.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                            King Solomon built a shrine dedicated to a different god for each of his foreigner wives ( he had 700 of them ) and offered sacrifices to all of them.
                            Gods aren't demons and I personally take offense on this shitty comparison. Even because most polytheistic religions do not have the notion that you're forbidden of paying respects and sacrifices to multiple gods.

                            That aside, it isn't only unlikely that the demons won't notice your arrangement at some point, it won't change their own goals for you.

                            Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                            To make it work the infernalist must have independent powers that could be used to punish the demon if things go awry.
                            ​As Kharnov said, if you do that you'll have an antagonistic relation with the demon, which isn't exactly healthy if you plan on using many pacts with the entity.

                            The demon is, again, an active actor in this drama. If you have any kind of coercive power over it, its main goal will be to get rid of this and the demons has time, cunning and other victims and allies to work toward something. It may use the pacts to turn the tables and make you dependent on its goodwill, but failing that it will never willingly work towards making you even more powerful.

                            Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                            Anyway, it isn't true that every moron can organize and lead a reliable source of souls and sacrifices.
                            ​Setting aside the numbers by which Kharnov already demonstrates that it still leaves the demon with thousands of candidates the world around, you forget again how the demon can itself act to change things. The infernalist is a moron until the demons itself concedes them the skill and intellect needed for the task, and gives instructions that work.

                            The demon doesn't need a cult that much to begin with, a few silent cultists over the world are more than enough. It can select and prepare other cultists, it can even have you do the work for it. It has several simultaneous cults and it can make more appear with little effort, why care about how long yours stay in place?

                            You keep going back to the rationale that your infernalist is an exceptional person the demon don't wan't to screw over, but the thing is that the demon has no reason to see things that way unless you present something really convincing. And being competent isn't enough, not for the long run at least. Can you be sure you'll be infallible and super-useful for the rest of eternity?

                            Immortality isn't a valuable answer. The demon is already immortal by itself and no matter how long you live, it is far older than you.


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                            • #29
                              Monteparnas, you take offense too easily.
                              I really appreciated our conversations and never meant to upset you or others.

                              And about gods or demons, in RL neither exist so who cares.


                              - - -

                              Setting aside the numbers by which Kharnov already demonstrates that it still leaves the demon with thousands of candidates the world around,
                              First. Most of those candidates are already taken by older and better established demons.
                              Second. One cult master for a hundred cultists. Sure, there may be 429 potential cult masters in the US, but how many of those potentials are ruthless and amoral enough? Much less. And how many of those live in conditions of extreme ignorance and poverty, or already have families to tend and no time to spare? A fair share.
                              Third and most important. Good luck finding that one candidate on a million. There aren't infernalist contests and selections, and I doubt a demon can scan the mind and souls of thousand candidates searching the right one. It's much more plausible that it's the potential cult master that research and contact the demon fist.


                              And being competent isn't enough, not for the long run at least. Can you be sure you'll be infallible and super-useful for the rest of eternity?
                              Why vampire princes are able to stay top dog for centuries?
                              Because they are infallible?
                              No, Actually they make even more mistakes than your average Ancilla.
                              They stay at top because they are mighty. They can, and do, crush any starscream with sheer power.

                              It goes the same for a cult master with decades of experience ( if he didn't rest on his laurels but used this time to improve himself ): he may make errors, but he's strong enough ( expert, versed in combat, knowledgeable about the occult, mystically powerful ) to identify and crush a less experienced potential upcomers.


                              - - -


                              [You're contradicting yourself. You can be extremely useful, or you can be low profile; you can't be both. It doesn't take a spectacular genius to set up some ramshackle cult of a dozen or so people in an isolated backwater.
                              A dozen?
                              I don't know how things works in US but here, in Italy, I lived for 12 years in a very isolated village in the mountains ( italian Alpi ) , 607 meters of altitude.
                              It was little but it still counted more or less a thousand inhabitants.


                              And if we're talking about someone who has already acquired a fair amount of skill with magic of some kind, why are they turning to infernalism for trinkets? Is a pact with the backwoods-swamp-demon that takes a soul every few years going to be the deciding factor in this quest for grand cosmic power?
                              An isolated infernalist village can reliably provide an hundred soul or more every generation. It's a good, steady trickle.

                              About power, well, mabye it would not be the deciding factor for "cosmic power" but it surely provides enhanced mystical might.
                              And in a thousand years or so, yes, it can grow to a deciding factor.
                              Last edited by Solomon Draak; 01-14-2022, 08:10 AM.

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                              • #30
                                Originally posted by monteparnas View Post
                                Gods aren't demons and I personally take offense on this shitty comparison. Even because most polytheistic religions do not have the notion that you're forbidden of paying respects and sacrifices to multiple gods.

                                That aside, it isn't only unlikely that the demons won't notice your arrangement at some point, it won't change their own goals for you.
                                He's also noted to have bound 72 demons to his will, possibly making infernal deals in the process, and if you use D:tF this is outright confirmed as fact that he managed to play 72 earthbound against each other before he took their infernal gifts and threw his would-be "masters" into the black sea for all eternity.

                                King solomon was a badass. He's kind of the only guy in fiction to really get away with infernalism with both the infernal gifts and his place in heaven intact.

                                Granted, being the first also made him the example that Every demon will be trying to avoid. So point still stands.

                                Originally posted by Solomon Draak View Post
                                Why vampire princes are able to stay top dog for centuries?
                                Because they are infallible?
                                No, Actually they make even more mistakes than your average Ancilla.
                                They stay at top because they are mighty. They can, and do, crush any starscream with sheer power.

                                It goes the same for a cult master with decades of experience ( if he didn't rest on his laurels but used this time to improve himself ): he may make errors, but he's strong enough ( expert, versed in combat, knowledgeable about the occult, mystically powerful ) to identify and crush a less experienced potential upcomers.
                                The issue though is that your infernalist is trying to become "Mighty" on the demon's dime, when the demon in question is going to be doing everything in it's power to maintain a master-servant relationship. It's never going to willingly give you the power to rival and/or bind it. If you try to find that power on your own, then the demon will be doing everything in it's power to stop and replace you. If you walk into the relationship already having the power to rival/bind the demon, then it isn't going to have much to offer you, and is going to do everything it can to stab you in the back.

                                It is a situation that you can Theoretically win, but doing so requires as much blind luck and a mountain of stupid decisions on the demon's part as it requires skill and cleverness on the infernalist's part. King solomon got away with what he did because A.) the demons at the time thought they'd already won the earth and all it's treasures, so they were arogant and complacent, B.) God was more willing to put up with Savagery and BS because of the state humanity was in at the time, and C.) King Solomon himself wasn't just a clever and skilled king, he was one of the luckiest bastards that ever lived.

                                This requires a perfect storm of circumstances to work. No amount of intelligence and planning, by even the greatest infernalist to ever live, can make circumstances to happen. It's entirely out of their control.

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