Is an infernal contract signed under duress valid?


Advice


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Basically as the title says. If someone is compelled/forced to sign an infernal contract, or agree to modifications of an existing infernal contract, is that contract or the modifications valid?

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

It isn't.
Infernal contracts are all signed willingly, see more details in book of the damned.


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As long as the person signing the contract does so of their own free will the contract is valid. Any magic that directly affects the persons free will, will render the contract void. Torturing the person until they agree will also render the contract void. Using trickery and deception is a perfectly valid tactic and does not void the contract. Likewise threats to other people including using magic that violates the other person’s free will also work.

So using charm person to get the person to sign the contract is useless. Using charm person on someone the person cares about on the other hand works fine. Poisoning or cursing the person signing the contract would also not work, but doing it to another person works fine.


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I'd say it should be valid. It doesn't particularly matter the reason for them to adhere to a contract, the fact of the matter is that they signed the contract, which means they are bound to whatever rules or laws it conveys, as enforced by the underworld.

People forget that this is an infernal contract, created by a devil, which means all of these fancy real life rules regarding nullification via duress (which is enforced by the government) do not apply.

Unless those nullifications apply for the underworld (which there hasn't been any citation for this sort of thing being true), then quite frankly we're inventing concepts that aren't actually there, something that those devilish bastards are certainly counting on you to accept.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
People forget that this is an infernal contract, created by a devil, which means all of these fancy real life rules regarding nullification via duress (which is enforced by the government) do not apply.

It does still say

"To receive any of these bonuses, however, the mortal must sign its true name to the document of its own free will."

which is what I think the issue is about -- at what point is free will violated? Clearly being dominated and signing a contract wouldn't be valid.


Balkoth wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
People forget that this is an infernal contract, created by a devil, which means all of these fancy real life rules regarding nullification via duress (which is enforced by the government) do not apply.

It does still say

"To receive any of these bonuses, however, the mortal must sign its true name to the document of its own free will."

which is what I think the issue is about -- at what point is free will violated? Clearly being dominated and signing a contract wouldn't be valid.

They still freely chose to sign their name in an attempt to get the torturing or what have you to stop, which is what is important in regards to the feature. The factor that the torture prior to the signing affects the signee is irrelevant to the ideal that they chose to sign the contract so that the suffering would end.

While Domination wouldn't apply (due to the rule you cited), torture as a means of persuasion is still certainly on the table, since all that matters for the ability in question is the mortal choosing to sign the contract; the reasons for their choice are irrelevant.

Even Charm Person would work, because Charm Person isn't a catch-all effect like Domination is, where you're doing the work for them, and Charm Person perceives you as a friend, which means using Charm Person plus some good ol' fashioned Diplomacy still results in a person willingly signing the contract. The only difference between Domination and Charm is that the person in question still has the option to decline signing the contract if the persuasion to do so isn't strong enough in regards to Charm. Domination means you control their body to do so via telepathy, which doesn't count because there is no choice being made in relation to the signee.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

heh devil don't have to try hard for people to sign their contracts. The contractee is usually the one making the first contact. It is fairly easy for mortal to sign away their souls, when the devil simply tell them that they can get all their heart desire just for signing their soul away.

Most mortals have no concept or idea of what a soul mean and what is the value of it or even understand what's going on in the nine hells.

Sovereign Court

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I think it's one of those things the designers left intentionally vague, just like the Contract of Creation. We know that there are rules and agreements between the gods intended to avoid full-scale cosmic free-for-all divine warfare, but we don't know what the precise rules are.

In the case of infernal contracts, I think there would also be rules about how far a devil is allowed to go to get a mortal to sign a contract. "Free will", yes, but at what stage are we still talking free will?

If the devil says he'll only stop torturing you if you sign? If he says he'll only stop torturing your beloved if you sign? If he says he'll only rescue your beloved from a demon if you sign? (Even though you suspect he originally put the demon up to it...)

Consider that these might be devils with millennia of experience in temptation. They could have skills that a mortal can't hope to win against in an opposed test. Is that "free will"? That's a philosophical question.

However, what is stopping devils from forcing everyone to sign away their souls under duress? Probably the other deities, who don't want their followers stolen away.

So there's some kind of threshold devils aren't allowed to go over. Of course they'll be experimenting with workarounds, but that means that it goes to trial at Pharasma's court when someone's guardian angel tries to argue the contract shouldn't be valid.


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I think there's a point where torture breaks free will, but that's probably a GM call. Drunkenness or drugs ditto. Certainly there's a potential adventure seed here -- "help, I got sorta-forced into signing this contract, can you bold adventurers track down the copy on file in the eighth level of the Nine Hells and destroy it". Or "courtroom drama in the Boneyard with the devil waving the contract and the signee arguing it wasn't under his full free will".

But generally I'd say that, yah, if you weren't directly forced to sign the contract, you chose to sign it. The other side can offer threats or inducements or various forms of pressure, and that's par for the course. On the other hand, a wise devil would probably prefer trickery rather than force -- force may get the mortal twigged to what's going on:

<scene: diabolical torture chamber>
<devil, twirling mustache: "Sign this or I start the Machine up! MWA-HA-HA!">
<mortal: "Out of the depths, O my God, I cry unto thee!">
<devil: "Hey! Stop praying!">

<scene: prayer monitoring board in heaven>
<junior angel: "We have a Code 7 from Sandpoint in Varisia">
<senior angel: <coded trumpet call>>
<senior-er angel: "A vision of what's going on, please...">
<quick telepathic briefing>
<SFX: plane shift>
<SFX: lots of simultaneous greater teleports>

<scene: suddenly very crowded diabolical torture chamber>
<devil: "Oh sh--!">
<SFX: FLANKING AIDING FIVE-DIMENSIONAL GLORIOUS SMITE OF HOLY DISPELLING WRATH OF GOD!>
<grateful mortal: "Thanks for the rescue! May I please have a level of paladin so I can do some of that myself and help others out?">

Sovereign Court

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As a shorthand, assume that:

1) There are rules for what devils can and can't do when getting people to sign contracts. Those rules sort of keep the peace between Asmodeus and the other gods.
2) Those rules are wickedly complicated, built upon thousands of years of precedent from multiple worlds, races and cultures. Too big to fit in any book Paizo would publish.
3) Your players should never feel secure negotiating with a devil. Never come out clear and tell the player whether the contract he's considering would be nullable.

Your best chance of getting out of an infernal contract is probably to find another devil who wants to sabotage the career of the one you're signed to, and get him to help you find a loophole.


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Ascalaphus wrote:
However, what is stopping devils from forcing everyone to sign away their souls under duress? Probably the other deities, who don't want their followers stolen away.

Erastil: Hey, have I ever told you about Farmer Bob?

Iomedae: No, who is he?

Erastil: He's a mid-fifties human male, raised a family, staple of the community, all around great guy. Never put a foot wrong his whole life.

Iomedae: Sounds like an ideal follower of yours, I take it something happened to him?

Erastil: Yeah, he got tortured and murdered by devil worshipers. But at least he'll join me in my sacred realm and -- hang on, breaking news. Apparently he was tortured to the point he signed an infernal contract and is now damned to Hell for eternity. Oh well!

Iomedae: Sucks to be him, I suppose. Moving on to another topic...


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Ascalaphus wrote:
Your best chance of getting out of an infernal contract is probably to find another devil who wants to sabotage the career of the one you're signed to, and get him to help you find a loophole.

Understanding and getting out of most infernal contracts by yourself is difficult, but not necessarily impossible. The adventure The Kintargo Contract includes rules for designing contracts and how to find hidden clauses and loopholes in them to possibly even escape them. However, ruling that only another devil can get you out of that contract is a highly interesting plot hook, so I don't know if I would adhere to those rules too closely.


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Balkoth wrote:
Ascalaphus wrote:
However, what is stopping devils from forcing everyone to sign away their souls under duress? Probably the other deities, who don't want their followers stolen away.

Erastil: Hey, have I ever told you about Farmer Bob?

Iomedae: No, who is he?

Erastil: He's a mid-fifties human male, raised a family, staple of the community, all around great guy. Never put a foot wrong his whole life.

Iomedae: Sounds like an ideal follower of yours, I take it something happened to him?

Erastil: Yeah, he got tortured and murdered by devil worshipers. But at least he'll join me in my sacred realm and -- hang on, breaking news. Apparently he was tortured to the point he signed an infernal contract and is now damned to Hell for eternity. Oh well!

Iomedae: Sucks to be him, I suppose. Moving on to another topic...

Sounds about right for Iomedae, honestly. She's basically a devil with good PR.


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Ascalaphus wrote:

I think it's one of those things the designers left intentionally vague, just like the Contract of Creation. We know that there are rules and agreements between the gods intended to avoid full-scale cosmic free-for-all divine warfare, but we don't know what the precise rules are.

In the case of infernal contracts, I think there would also be rules about how far a devil is allowed to go to get a mortal to sign a contract. "Free will", yes, but at what stage are we still talking free will?

If the devil says he'll only stop torturing you if you sign? If he says he'll only stop torturing your beloved if you sign? If he says he'll only rescue your beloved from a demon if you sign? (Even though you suspect he originally put the demon up to it...)

Consider that these might be devils with millennia of experience in temptation. They could have skills that a mortal can't hope to win against in an opposed test. Is that "free will"? That's a philosophical question.

However, what is stopping devils from forcing everyone to sign away their souls under duress? Probably the other deities, who don't want their followers stolen away.

So there's some kind of threshold devils aren't allowed to go over. Of course they'll be experimenting with workarounds, but that means that it goes to trial at Pharasma's court when someone's guardian angel tries to argue the contract shouldn't be valid.

And let us not forget the problem of proxies.

"oh, I didn't torture you until you signed the contract. But I happen to be 'good friends' with this Chelaxian jailer that is torturing you. Maybe I could give a good word for you to get you out"

Devils love to have mortals do their dirty work. They are more than willing to manufacture a terrible situation that appears independent from their acts- you don't feel like the devil is the one forcing you into this, you just think he has the solution for getting out of it. Thus, there are questions on whether this is 'free will'.

Scarab Sages

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The answer here is that there isn't a whole lot of lore on the subject from the pathfinder side. It's just something that hasn't been explored much. It is probably up to GM interpretation.

If we go back to DnD, we have a bit more information.
1) ANY form of magical/psionic mental manipulation invalidates the contract. There's a scene from Neverwinter Nights 1, the protag can even free someone from a contract because the devil invaded the person's dreams and planted the idea in their head.

2) Specific, planned torture for the purpose of getting a contract is not allowed, but withholding treatment for a contract is. Thus a devil can't capture someone and torture them for a contract, but could appear in front of a dying man in great pain and offer a contract.

3)Like 2, deliberate kidnapping/holding someone for ransom for the purposes of getting a contract is invalid, but not if it's coincidental. So if your devil shows up and says 'gimmie a contract or I'll kill your kids' it doesn't work. But if a thousand orcs are bearing down on your house, a devil could show up and say 'contract with me, and I'll protect you and your family.'


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As a GM I just avoid this being something players can do so we don' have to argue about whats happening.

It's actually really easy because our group parties fall into 2 categories:
1) Were good aligned so no bargaining with devils in the first place. If we've fallen into a situation where we're being tortured hopefully our friends are going to rescue else or else this was a TPK. At best the character is dead, at worst he's been turned into an enemy NPC.
2) We're playing Hell's Vegenace and already sworn our souls to hell anyways.

VampByDay wrote:

The answer here is that there isn't a whole lot of lore on the subject from the pathfinder side. It's just something that hasn't been explored much. It is probably up to GM interpretation.

If we go back to DnD, we have a bit more information.
1) ANY form of magical/psionic mental manipulation invalidates the contract. There's a scene from Neverwinter Nights 1, the protag can even free someone from a contract because the devil invaded the person's dreams and planted the idea in their head.

2) Specific, planned torture for the purpose of getting a contract is not allowed, but withholding treatment for a contract is. Thus a devil can't capture someone and torture them for a contract, but could appear in front of a dying man in great pain and offer a contract.

3)Like 2, deliberate kidnapping/holding someone for ransom for the purposes of getting a contract is invalid, but not if it's coincidental. So if your devil shows up and says 'gimmie a contract or I'll kill your kids' it doesn't work. But if a thousand orcs are bearing down on your house, a devil could show up and say 'contract with me, and I'll protect you and your family.'

So if the devil attempts in any way to create a situation to get the contract it wouldn't be valid. And this is the way I prefer to imagine it. It does however mean devils are always looking for opportunities where people would be willing to makea deal with the devil.


To me, duress is not a defense. Mind control and torture are, but duress is not. It may be a choice between bad option, but so long as it's a free choice, it's good.

But you do have to know that you are making the choice. If they trick you by putting the contract in a pile of papers that you're signing, it's not valid. But they can trick you to believe that it's valid. If you then take evil acts because you thought that you were damned, that's still evil.

Scarab Sages

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Devils are almost always Lawful (especially Contract Devils). So as long as the contract was signed within the confines of the law of the country/ plane where the signing takes place then it should be valid.

That's just my take on it though.


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C'mon! Sign the contract! What have you got to lose! It's a sure thing!

Sovereign Court

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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Craig Logan 597 wrote:

Devils are almost always Lawful (especially Contract Devils). So as long as the contract was signed within the confines of the law of the country/ plane where the signing takes place then it should be valid.

That's just my take on it though.

That's the way it is written in princes of darkness about Infernal contracts. It depends on the contractee society/laws.


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Whatever seems most unfair.


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I would define it as whatever is reasonable to use on players AND feels devilish. Devils are all about plotting and scheming. While I'm sure they have no qualms about torture, blatantly forcing someone to sign a contract doesn't feel very diabolical. They would most likely scheme to reduce a person to nothing(IE: biblical Job) then offering him an easy way out.


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How many ranks in Profession: Barrister do you have?


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The way I view it is that demons spontaneously appear in the Abyss (although at a very slow rate) but devils must be recruited amongst mortals. So most infernal contracts are effectively employment contracts and Asmodeus wants unwavering loyalty from his employees. Contracts always have a termination clause and Asmodeus doesn't want his new recruits spending all their time trying to exit the contract instead of doing Hell's bidding.

Devils are experts in tricking mortals into believing that aligning with Hell is what they really always wanted and that even if they wanted to leave, the contract is iron clad, so resistance is futile. But in reality the contracts are not unbreakable and it is only after centuries have passed when devilish behaviour is ingrained and their loyalty assured that the truth is finally revealed. At which point the devil is ready to recruit new followers for Asmodeus.

Devils don't simply torture mortals into signing because that ties up the recruiting devil indefinitely keeping the new recruit under control and Asmodeus doesn't like inefficient use of resources.


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I see this as a perfect opportunity to have an infernal courtroom scene. I'm sure there's some other Devil who is happy to represent you, should you be unable to find your own representation.


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Boomerang Nebula wrote:

The way I view it is that demons spontaneously appear in the Abyss (although at a very slow rate) but devils must be recruited amongst mortals. So most infernal contracts are effectively employment contracts and Asmodeus wants unwavering loyalty from his employees. Contracts always have a termination clause and Asmodeus doesn't want his new recruits spending all their time trying to exit the contract instead of doing Hell's bidding.

Devils are experts in tricking mortals into believing that aligning with Hell is what they really always wanted and that even if they wanted to leave, the contract is iron clad, so resistance is futile. But in reality the contracts are not unbreakable and it is only after centuries have passed when devilish behaviour is ingrained and their loyalty assured that the truth is finally revealed. At which point the devil is ready to recruit new followers for Asmodeus.

Devils don't simply torture mortals into signing because that ties up the recruiting devil indefinitely keeping the new recruit under control and Asmodeus doesn't like inefficient use of resources.

Actually, if you subscribe to the Dungeons and Dragons version of Hell and The Abyss, demons outnumber devils to a massive degree.

The ranks of The Abyss are formed from souls that were chaotic and evil in life. That's not just humanoids, all those monstrous creatures count too. If you check Bestiary 1-4, that's 52 entries for chaotic evil humanoids and monstrous humanoids versus just 13 for lawful evil, not counting variation by individual alignment. It's just plain easier to be chaotic evil.

Fortunately for the mortals of the material plane, the devils and demons are in a constant state of war. The innumerable hordes of disorganised demons are checked and balanced by the numerically inferior but tactically superior legions of hell.

If this balance were to be disrupted, however...

Well, that's just the kind of thing a rag-tag bunch of unlikely heroes are needed to fix.


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As I'm currently playing the 3.5e prestige class Fiend of Corruption, this topic has been discussed at great length in our group. The conclusions we've reached are

1. I may not deliberately injure, inflict disease or torture the subject into signing my proffered contract, not use other party members to do the same.
2. I may not use Dominate Person, Command, Geas or other mind affecting spells/sla to get a signature, with the exception of Charm Person.
3. I can withdraw my favor (+3 to an attribute, -6 if i withdraw it) and use the stat penalty to encourage the subject.
4. I can bribe, lie and blackmail mortals into committing progressively more evil acts until signing is the only way out for them.
5. I can lie about the details of the contract as much as i want. If they can't read an 18 page document in Infernal, and pass several opposed profession: Barrister checks, too bad.

That being said, I'm mostly focusing on one other PC, by offering various bonuses (wings, reach etc) in exchange for her committing increasingly evil acts until the offer of the half-fiend template and/or immortality in exchange for her soul seems reasonable.
Oh, and I'm currently the only Evil PC in the group, and despite that I've made no secret of the fact I'm playing an Imp, all bar one party member trusts me.


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Asmodeus, Prince of Darkness wrote:
C'mon! Sign the contract! What have you got to lose! It's a sure thing!

He looks trustworthy.


pezlerpolychromatic wrote:
Asmodeus, Prince of Darkness wrote:
C'mon! Sign the contract! What have you got to lose! It's a sure thing!
He looks trustworthy.

Seconded.

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