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Angelmaker
2017-10-30, 07:45 PM
In a d&d 5e ebrron campaign, i ran my 3 players across a powerful entity, oferring them a pact to help them.

A little background first: they entered the lair of the bbeg in newthrone, a general of the army which with good intentions made paccts at his prrsonal expense to build up an army to counter the qubarran threat. It was planned that they could solve subplots in the city to weaken his power base, thereby reducing his level from level 18 (my players are level 9) to ten, depending on the amount they chose to resolve.

In probably a piss poor execution on my side, my players decided to ignore the city on their second adventuring day after having either turned down investigation quests or neglected to follow up on any of those they started (ranging from braking into a trader's post to illicit arms dealing to corrupt city protectorate guards). They stormed of with bravado towards the castle. They were probably frustrated with being stuck in a city when all they wanted to be were pirates. Talking to my players we resolved that issue by me changing my inital plans and instead putting in a simulacrum (with a bit of change-i did not only halfed his hp, but halved his effective level) of the bbeg so he was only level 9. i didnt want to punish my players for my poor adventure planning.

Anyway, the entity I described as being a friendly looking human woman. Two of the players saw through some part of the illusion and saw minor gritty details like mummified hands, but the illusion was so strong, even a successful save did cover the most unpleasant looks.

Here is the deal in bullet points
- the deal would be beneficial to the players and no payment upfront or afterwards was to be expected.
- the entity would drop his pact with his current ally, the bbeg, for reasons unbeknownst to the player.
- the entity expteced that her goals in the future migt align wihth my player goals and thus would ask them to remember her help fondly.

After a quick discussion, one of my players who didnt see through the illusions simply refused the pact simply being stubborn "dwarves don't get involved in pacts" even though noindication of her being a devil or demon was present . One of my okayers who did see throug wanted to take the pact, even though her being aome form of undead was clear to her. And the last player got caught in indecision because his girlfriend and his sturbborn buddy disagreed.

There wasn't even mcuh discussion going on. They just presentd their statements and finally the offer was rejected.

So, i know you weren't present, so I don't expect much insight into this particular event.

However, why couldn't i sell the pact? How did you manage, if ever, to sell your pacts? Should i have included free samples of elvish soap to sweeten the deal?

Hellpyre
2017-10-30, 08:29 PM
Selling a pact is very difficult if your players are at all inclined to paranoia. It's too easy to come back to bite you (as a PC) to trust them.

JAL_1138
2017-10-30, 08:56 PM
Selling a pact is very difficult if your players are at all inclined to paranoia. It's too easy to come back to bite you (as a PC) to trust them.

Pretty much this. It's near-impossible to get players to even make a wish with a non-evil genie. Any kind of supernatural-sounding deal, or even any deal where the exact cost or future service is unspecified, is going to be a hard sell. Too many ways it could go all Monkey's Paw. Old-school players will barely even consider casting the Wish spell (at least for anything not explicitly listed as a "safe" usage in the rules)--a deal with a powerful entity (that they're not practically forced into making) is right out.

You can put them between a rock and a hard placeótake the deal or face horrible immediate consequencesóbut that's about it. That could be in the form of an "offer they can't refuse," i.e. a Corleone-style threat (take the deal or the dealmaker will hurt them), or due to having the deal be their only way out of guaranteed harm (the dealmaker isn't threatening them, but can offer a way around a current problem that is otherwise basically insurmountable). Players tend not to like these, since they can easily be railroady.

JoshuaZ
2017-10-30, 09:25 PM
General paranoia as already noted is an issue. Even if a PC might be do something like this, it is something that is very hard not to metagame. (Although I've played at least one hopelessly naive PC who would have jumped at this chance.)

In general, in order to get PCs and players to agree to pacts one needs it to be with a being that has been helpful for them for free enough to establish trust on multiple occasions before any pact is proposed.

Green Elf
2017-10-30, 09:37 PM
Use misdirection. If you're playing with a party who opposes something the first opportunity they get, make the opportunity the opposite outcome, making them want to take the proposition to fight the other outcome. Also, put some pressure on them. Use character interests and values to your advantage, making it seem as if it were their duty to accept.

Just some general ideas. It should work.

FocusWolf413
2017-11-01, 08:32 AM
Red Fel, Red Fel, Red Fel.

I'm too sober for poetry this time.

DeTess
2017-11-01, 08:52 AM
yeah, any sane denizen of a fantasy world isn't going to make a pact with a supernatural creature if they don't know what they are paying.

So step 1 is making sure the players think they know what the payment is. Note that I'm not saying they should actually know the price, they just should think they know. For example: "In return for my aid, I ask only this; If you come across something that belonged to me in the next year, you'll return it if I come ask for it." Seems like a fairly straightforward price, and there's any number of possible was this can come to bite them in the ass. Depending on the situation, the creature might even play the deal entirely straight, though red fel will be better able to describe the more nuanced situations.

The next step is that the players actually need to want what the entity is selling. If they think they can take the general irrespective of the creatures help, they won't want to deal with it. If you want to have them make the pact, make sure they know that they'll have a bad time if they don't. If you don't want to railroad them you shouldn't make it impossible, but make things harder (General-dude will have a couple of minions to back him up if the entity remains on his side, for example).

Finally, step three is....ehm.....*flips furiously through notes*......profit?

Red Fel
2017-11-01, 09:06 AM
Red Fel, Red Fel, Red Fel.

I'm too sober for poetry this time.

And I'm not awake enough to be witty. Let's do this.


In a d&d 5e ebrron campaign, i ran my 3 players across a powerful entity, oferring them a pact to help them.

Just, offering? Out of nowhere? Heh, yeah, nope.


A little background first: they entered the lair of the bbeg in newthrone, a general of the army which with good intentions made paccts at his prrsonal expense to build up an army to counter the qubarran threat. It was planned that they could solve subplots in the city to weaken his power base, thereby reducing his level from level 18 (my players are level 9) to ten, depending on the amount they chose to resolve.

"It was planned?" By you, I assume? That's adorable. Chief, you appear to have forgotten the first rule of DMing: No plan survives an encounter with the PCs.

Not blaming you for this. Everyone makes mistakes. (I'm told. I have no personal experience with it.) But yeah, always assume that the players will either (1) completely ignore, or (2) completely subvert any plans you have for the game.


In probably a piss poor execution on my side, my players decided to ignore the city on their second adventuring day after having either turned down investigation quests or neglected to follow up on any of those they started (ranging from braking into a trader's post to illicit arms dealing to corrupt city protectorate guards). They stormed of with bravado towards the castle. They were probably frustrated with being stuck in a city when all they wanted to be were pirates. Talking to my players we resolved that issue by me changing my inital plans and instead putting in a simulacrum (with a bit of change-i did not only halfed his hp, but halved his effective level) of the bbeg so he was only level 9. i didnt want to punish my players for my poor adventure planning.

Okay. Decent of you to not want to punish the players, I get that. A bit disappointed that you didn't simply give them exactly what they asked for, a curb-stomp battle with the final boss, but I get not wanting to end the campaign upfront.


Anyway, the entity I described as being a friendly looking human woman. Two of the players saw through some part of the illusion and saw minor gritty details like mummified hands, but the illusion was so strong, even a successful save did cover the most unpleasant looks.

So it appeared under an illusion. Oh, nice, yeah, they definitely won't buy anything this creep is selling.

First rule of selling a pact: What you see is what you get. You try to hide the fact that you're a monster, the client will assume you're hiding other things. Go for a full reveal, call it "full disclosure." You can put the illusion back on afterwards.


Here is the deal in bullet points
- the deal would be beneficial to the players and no payment upfront or afterwards was to be expected.

"I get something for free, no payment upfront? I can't see how this could possibly be a trick."


- the entity would drop his pact with his current ally, the bbeg, for reasons unbeknownst to the player.

"You'll conveniently switch alliances? I'm sure you'll be 100% loyal to me after that, and never betray me like you just betrayed your current buddy."


- the entity expteced that her goals in the future migt align wihth my player goals and thus would ask them to remember her help fondly.

"You'll ask me for an indeterminate favor at some indeterminate point in time? I can't imagine how I would ever regret that!"

I have to stop you here. You seem to think that selling a pact is about trickery and vagueness. It's not. It's about giving the client exactly what they ask for, when they most want it, for what seems like a perfectly reasonable price. Here:
- You've been far too generous, which raises red flags.
- You've shown a willingness to betray an ally, which makes you untrustworthy.
- You've refused to actually disclose the price of your services, which is instantly suspicious.
Between those three, not only have you not given the PCs reason to trust you, you've given them ample reason not to.


After a quick discussion, one of my players who didnt see through the illusions simply refused the pact simply being stubborn "dwarves don't get involved in pacts" even though noindication of her being a devil or demon was present . One of my okayers who did see throug wanted to take the pact, even though her being aome form of undead was clear to her. And the last player got caught in indecision because his girlfriend and his sturbborn buddy disagreed.

Well, one guy was probably metagaming, one was a coward, and one was an idiot. So, hey, you've got the trifecta there. Nice.


There wasn't even mcuh discussion going on. They just presentd their statements and finally the offer was rejected.

So, i know you weren't present, so I don't expect much insight into this particular event.

However, why couldn't i sell the pact? How did you manage, if ever, to sell your pacts? Should i have included free samples of elvish soap to sweeten the deal?

As I've said, here and elsewhere, there are multiple steps to selling a pact.
Come to clients who need it. Yes, they may be a bit suspicious, but beggars can't be choosers. Here, your PCs may need it, but they don't think they do. They decided to confront the BBEG immediately out of the gate; they have no concept of how screwed they are. So they have no reason to accept the assistance of a suddenly-appearing and inexplicably-generous benefactor. Wait until they need it, or at least think they do - that's when they're most likely to accept.
Full disclosure. The pact-maker's role isn't to trick the client. It's to let the client trick himself, usually by letting him think he's so clever. And you do that by being honest. "This is what you ask for. This is what I ask for in return." No fancy legalese, no indeterminate tricks. Now, if your client is particularly desperate, you can ask for innocuous things, like "Tell me your name the next time I ask for it," or "Pick up my favorite coin the next time you see it," but generally, it's enough to have a stated price in mind. That's because you...
Know your goal. Why are you entering into a pact? And don't say "For funsies" or "Because plot." You have a reason. Maybe you want the client to destroy an enemy of yours. Maybe you want to increase the amount of Evil or corruption in the world. Maybe you have a long-standing plan that requires a certain person to do a certain thing. Make sure your pact functions accordingly. If you just want to promote Evil, for example, make your price a fair one - the client will pay it, receive your dark blessing, and likely become corrupted by the promise of free power.
Avoid the (para)noid. You can't pact with paranoid people. You can trick them, and easily - name an action as your price, and they're almost guaranteed to do the opposite after refusing your offer. That's how you can benefit for free. But once their guard is up, you're not getting what you want out of them.
You were too generous, too forceful, and too obviously Evil. It was clearly a trap, and they avoided it.

Angelmaker
2017-11-02, 06:06 AM
Hi all, and thanks for all your input.

I just wanted to clarify on the bullet point conditions given above.

- it was made clear that no payment either upfront or at a later time was to be expected or enforcable.
- anything that could be asked for would have to be given freely by the players.

I made sure that I answered any questions my players had in the most absolute terms possible ("yes, there will be no payment now or later, at any point in your life.", "why Do i drop my current ally? Well, it's nothing of your concern, but if you must ask: he overextended the terms of our agreement." ) .

So I feel I haven't been overly vague and insecure, but I will recheck with my players on this point, if they simply felt they'd be cheated out of general paranoia, or if they felt the creature was insincere, especially with the illusion going on. Then again, nobody asked "why are you hiding behind an illusion?" ...

@ Randuir: I made it expectantly clear, without going to explicitly say "this guy will have three legendary lair actions if you don't take this pact" as possible, and my players knew he had backup in terms of minions. So I feel i had the threat side of things covered. :smallcool:

While we are at the topic: if somebody would like to share a story about their successes and failures when trying to offering pacts to their players, and why they think it succeeded or failed, I'd be intrigued to listen. :)

NRSASD
2017-11-02, 08:00 AM
I made sure that I answered any questions my players had in the most absolute terms possible ("yes, there will be no payment now or later, at any point in your life.", "why Do i drop my current ally? Well, it's nothing of your concern, but if you must ask: he overextended the terms of our agreement." )

Two things right there:

"No payment now or later, at any point in your life" Looking at that, I'd be instantly suspicious she was intending to zombify me (especially since she seems to be undead) and then collect on her debts. I'm not alive anymore, so pay up.

"He overextended the terms of our agreement." This pact seems to have no end clause, and I will not believe that this entity is offering a better deal to us out of generosity's sake. How will I know when the terms of our agreement are overextended, since the penalty for doing that is being sold out to my enemies?

I'm one of those paranoid people Red Fel was talking about

What is this entity's long term game plan anyways?

As far as successful pacts go, take a look at V's plot in that comic in the sidebar, or the Master of Mirrors in the Witcher 3 Heart of Stone expansion (note: very spoiler heavy! Don't look if you're intending to play it at some time!)

I haven't tempted a PC yet, but I have plans to. Like Red Fel said, be up front and honest about what you want from them, put the PCs in a position where they can't refuse, and then betray them with unintended side effects of the up front and honest deal.

Red Fel
2017-11-02, 09:01 AM
I just wanted to clarify on the bullet point conditions given above.

- it was made clear that no payment either upfront or at a later time was to be expected or enforcable.

See, that makes it sound like an incredibly powerful being just came out of nowhere and was, effectively, offering the PCs a benefit for free.

Ever hear the saying, "There's no such thing as a free lunch?" How about, "If something seems to good to be true, it probably is?" This falls back onto my first bullet point above, which is that this character was too generous, which immediately raises red flags.

Ask a price, but just make it a reasonable one.


- anything that could be asked for would have to be given freely by the players.

If you tell me, "I may want something from you, but only if you give it freely," I would assume that you will put me in a position where I have to give it freely. Which is to say, it's not really given freely. Which is a paradox, and makes me more nervous about dealing with you. Again, this isn't actually making your character less untrustworthy.


I made sure that I answered any questions my players had in the most absolute terms possible ("yes, there will be no payment now or later, at any point in your life.", "why Do i drop my current ally? Well, it's nothing of your concern, but if you must ask: he overextended the terms of our agreement." ) .

See, this latter bit - "overextended the terms of our agreement" - is inconsistent with the earlier bits, because the terms are so open-ended. If I tell you, "You can pay me now, or later, or never, however much you want," and then I betray you because you didn't pay me enough, I look at best like a deliberately treacherous person, and at worst like an impulsive lunatic. It doesn't work.

Absolute terms are good. But absolute terms of pure generosity raise immediate suspicions - they make it look like a bald-faced lie.


So I feel I haven't been overly vague and insecure, but I will recheck with my players on this point, if they simply felt they'd be cheated out of general paranoia, or if they felt the creature was insincere, especially with the illusion going on. Then again, nobody asked "why are you hiding behind an illusion?" ...

Not every character asks, "Why are you hiding behind an illusion?" Not every character is that forward or incautious. Not every player even thinks about the fact that hiding behind an illusion makes this character untrustworthy; it's just an unconscious reaction for some.

Going back to your players, at a session wrap-up, and asking them broadly about their reaction more broadly, is a good idea. I'm a big fan of communication. Just be careful how you do it. Asking them specifically about paranoia, or insisting that they should have trusted this NPC, is just as likely to make them more paranoid in the future. Instead, keep it open-ended. "So, an NPC offered you power, you rejected it. Any particular reason?" It could be as simple as, "NPC was obviously Evil, so we said no." It could be, "We didn't trust the offer." It could be, "Undead are creepy." Lot of possibilities.

NRSASD
2017-11-02, 09:38 AM
Hereís an idea for a pact:

A knight is sworn to protect a princess. This princess gets abducted by a dragon, and the knight sets out to rescue her. At the dragonís lair, things go really sideways and the knight gets trapped inside with no way out. Thatís when the demon appears, offering a simple pact to solve the problem.

The demon promises to put the dragon to sleep and wipe its memory of the princess and the knight, so the knight can achieve his mission and get the heck out. In exchange, the demon wants the knight to sacrifice 3 black goats to him at midnight in the local graveyard next Thursday. Itís a simple favor, so it has a simple price. Human sacrifice would be better, but hey, Iím not unreasonable; goats will do.

Once the knight returns home with the princess, he is ordered to never leave her side after the dragon incident. Hereís the catch: if he leaves her side to go perform the sacrifice, the demon is free to carry out whatever nefarious schemes he wants involving the princess. The demon never wanted the goats; he wanted the knight out of the way. If the knight obeys his orders and sticks around, he has now violated the demonís pact, and that frees up a lot of fun options for the demon to pursue. The knight betrayed him, not the other way around.

Samzat
2017-11-02, 10:58 AM
I recommend reading OOTS strips 632-634 for a great example of a pact deal

Just look for every time the directors exploit V's situation and flaws to make an argument, and trick V into thinking he/she/it knows what they are signing off on.

Pacts are like any other business transaction or con, they appeal to the best and worst traits of a person to make them feel like they have no other logical choice other than to transact.

Also, the pact should have a cost defined, even if it is incidental seeming, both to stop players from worrying about being ripped off of (in this case) to keep the pactbroker from looking desperate. The OP's pactbroker seemed to be desperate enough to give away stuff for free if the PCs didnt want to pay anything. This seems to suggest it would help the pactbroker more than the PCs, and therefore the PCs didnt feel the need to make the pact to help this random being.

Reboot
2017-11-02, 12:27 PM
Hereís an idea for a pact:

A knight is sworn to protect a princess. This princess gets abducted by a dragon, and the knight sets out to rescue her. At the dragonís lair, things go really sideways and the knight gets trapped inside with no way out. Thatís when the demon appears, offering a simple pact to solve the problem.

The demon promises to put the dragon to sleep and wipe its memory of the princess and the knight, so the knight can achieve his mission and get the heck out. In exchange, the demon wants the knight to sacrifice 3 black goats to him at midnight in the local graveyard next Thursday. Itís a simple favor, so it has a simple price. Human sacrifice would be better, but hey, Iím not unreasonable; goats will do.

Once the knight returns home with the princess, he is ordered to never leave her side after the dragon incident. Hereís the catch: if he leaves her side to go perform the sacrifice, the demon is free to carry out whatever nefarious schemes he wants involving the princess. The demon never wanted the goats; he wanted the knight out of the way. If the knight obeys his orders and sticks around, he has now violated the demonís pact, and that frees up a lot of fun options for the demon to pursue. The knight betrayed him, not the other way around.

Obvious questions: Why is the demon bothering with this low-level loser in the first place? Why not let the dragon eat him and then put the dragon on mute? Why not make a deal with the princess directly, or the king? In what way can the knight *not* leaving the princess' side actually inconvenience him?

The Glyphstone
2017-11-02, 12:31 PM
Hereís an idea for a pact:

A knight is sworn to protect a princess. This princess gets abducted by a dragon, and the knight sets out to rescue her. At the dragonís lair, things go really sideways and the knight gets trapped inside with no way out. Thatís when the demon appears, offering a simple pact to solve the problem.

The demon promises to put the dragon to sleep and wipe its memory of the princess and the knight, so the knight can achieve his mission and get the heck out. In exchange, the demon wants the knight to sacrifice 3 black goats to him at midnight in the local graveyard next Thursday. Itís a simple favor, so it has a simple price. Human sacrifice would be better, but hey, Iím not unreasonable; goats will do.

Once the knight returns home with the princess, he is ordered to never leave her side after the dragon incident. Hereís the catch: if he leaves her side to go perform the sacrifice, the demon is free to carry out whatever nefarious schemes he wants involving the princess. The demon never wanted the goats; he wanted the knight out of the way. If the knight obeys his orders and sticks around, he has now violated the demonís pact, and that frees up a lot of fun options for the demon to pursue. The knight betrayed him, not the other way around.

If I was the knight looking for a solution, I'd just bring the princess with me. Sure, it's not necessarily a good option since it takes her out of the castle's protections with nothing but my own skill shielding her, and it might be difficult to convince her to cooperate, but it's better than the other two options.

NRSASD
2017-11-02, 12:46 PM
Obvious questions: Why is the demon bothering with this low-level loser in the first place? Why not let the dragon eat him and then put the dragon on mute? Why not make a deal with the princess directly, or the king? In what way can the knight *not* leaving the princess' side actually inconvenience him?

Two short answers, pick which one works best:

A. The knight is the PC. Being a PC, the game world does revolve around them, no matter how hard us DMs try to make it otherwise.

B. The King or the Princess could have other resources at their disposal to solve the problem, and thus reject the demon's offer. If the Knight fails, the King sends in his wizard or the whole army. This being a traditional values Dragon, the Princess is facing a lifetime of imprisonment as the crowning gem of the Dragon's hoard. Granted, that sucks, but she isn't in immediate danger. The Knight on the other hand? He might survive the Dragon without the demon's help, but he's as likely to succeed as a penguin is to become an astronaut. The demon offers him help because he knows the Knight can't afford to refuse.

Long story short, only offer pacts to those who have no other options.

Honest Tiefling
2017-11-02, 01:19 PM
I'm not really seeing a problem here. Players got offered a dodgy deal and avoided it. If they are upset later that you had intended for the undead (for some reason) to be on the up and up, why should they be be upset? They made a choice, they need to deal with the consequences, and one of those consequences is missed opportunity.

I think you might believe they are upset that the deal was offered honestly, and there wasn't enough communication. But it doesn't seem like they investigated thoroughly either.

Angelmaker
2017-11-02, 03:02 PM
@honest tiefling: there isn't really a problem, I just wanted to know how to approach this as I felt it would be a terrific idea as presented and my players are usually very low on feedback. So I am just trying to understand were I "failed".

@red fel: thanks for analysing each point and giving me good ideas for all those points. There's a lot of psychology involved i haven't even begun to think about. I feel it helped me a lot to understand my players better.

@samzat: This is what i didn't (and tbh) still don't fully understand about my players. Yes, it is to be asumed that the pactbroker has to gain a lot more than the players - however NOT AT THE PLAYERS EXPENSE. I put this down in capitals, because everyone in that party is playing a self-serving pirate, loyal only to booty and maybe captain. So I thought I had figured them out, but it seems I didn't.:smallredface:

So it seems the "too good to be true"-price needs adjustment and I shall consider the goats next time.

FreddyNoNose
2017-11-02, 03:27 PM
The best ones to sell the players on a pact are the players themselves.

Powerful_Being: "well, I would love to help you, but the rules will only allow me to do so if we enter a pact...."......

TheTeaMustFlow
2017-11-04, 07:51 AM
Given that this is a 5e game, also bear in mind another option - the players heard the word 'Pact', and assumed this was going to make them take levels in Warlock.

More generally speaking, I've only managed to sell Faustian pacts and such when they came from an established character the players had some reason to trust - not necessarily a friend as such, but at least the 'Devil you know'. Someone coming out of nowhere and saying "Take My Pact , Solve All Your Problems! No Catch! Hurry, Offer Ends In 15 Days!" is always going to trigger the BSometer.

noob
2017-11-08, 06:19 AM
Simple solution:
Point a gun at the players and tell them to accept the pact.
If they do not then start shooting players.
The only problem is when cops starts coming.
(alternatively you can say that them accepting the pact is a necessary step in your campaign and that you really want it to happen and that if they do not accept then your campaign ends since you will no longer have an interest in that campaign)