Basic Pact Rules
Demons can make written contracts with mortals for pieces of their soul (or their entire soul) in exchange for temporal luxury. Pact benefits and terms are rated as +1, +2, and +3.
+0—Term: A day, a week.
+1—Mortals: A one- or two-dot Merit, a one-dot increase to a Merit, +1 to a Skill, a Skill Specialty.
+1—Demons: A small patch worth one Cover Experience.
+1—Term: A month.
+2—Mortals: A three- or four-dot Merit, a three-dot increase to a Merit, +2 to a Skill.
+2—Demons: A medial patch worth two Cover Experiences, dots in the Cult Merit.
+2—Term: A year.
+3—Mortals: A five-dot Merit, a three-dot increase to a Merit, +3 to a Skill.
+3—Demons: A major patch worth three Cover Experiences or +1 Cover, dots in the Cult Merit, a Soul Pact.
+3—Term: Permanent (Soul Pacts must be permanent).
To seal a Pact, it must be signed by both parties, and the demon spends one point of Willpower, plus 1 for each point in the demon’s benefit over the mortal’s (duration always counts for the demon’s side). Soul Pacts require a dot of Willpower, plus 1 point per, as above. A demon can take their side of the Soul Pact at any time by touching the mortal and willing it so. All other exchanges are immediate upon sealing. All terms and conditions of the pact must be written out (though they can be written as simple or complex as the demon desires), and the mortal must sign of his own free will (i.e., no mind control, but “sign this or I’ll kill you” is, more or less, fair game).
Demons frequently find it easier to convince mortals to part with unpleasant relationships and connections — abusive spouses, loan sharks, criminal acts, etc. While a dedicated stalker or jealous boyfriend can provide more Cover Experiences than a kindly great uncle or friendly co-worker, these connections frequently create complications for any demon who bargains for them. A demon who bargains for distinguishing physical frailties or signature possessions often faces similar challenges — whether it means struggling to climb a flight of stairs or being easily picked out of a crowd because of her noteworthy scarf.
• If a demonic pact rids the mortal of a significant complication that will instead inconvenience the demon, reduce the demon’s effective benefit from the pact by 1. For example, if the demon buys a violent and obsessive stalker worth two Cover Experiences, it increases her effective benefit from the pact by +1 instead of +2. This applies to each complicating factor, so a dedicated stalker (two Cover Experiences) and an abusive spouse (three Cover Experiences) would increase the outcast’s effective benefit by +3 instead of +5. The demon still gets the Cover Experiences at their normal value, though.
• Create a Condition based on the complicated connection. Once per chapter when this relationship comes into play in a way that disadvantages the demon, the player may earn a Beat, as with a Persistent Condition (p. 307 of Demon: The Descent). The demon cannot earn more than one Beat per chapter from these Cover Conditions, regardless of the number of complicated connections he labors under.
A demon can assemble an improvised Cover from a temporary pact. These paper thin Covers, called façades, do not hold up to close scrutiny. They also do not count against the maximum number of Covers the demon may have at any given time, which makes them handy for demons with very low Primum.
Sometimes the demon doesn’t need an elaborate history to complete a mission objective. A Cover as basic as “a gardener” or “a security guard” may get him into places his established Covers would not. Moreover, he loses virtually nothing if he must abandon the façade. In short, they function as burn Covers for demons who might not ordinarily have burn Covers — whether their objection to them is moral or financial. A handful of demons even carry boilerplate pacts so they can secure temporary pacts at a moment’s notice by making a passerby a deal she is unlikely to refuse.
• The façade created from a temporary pact is in some way related to the pactbound, but is not anyone in particular. A pactbound might give the demon access to her summer home for a month; the demon creates a façade out of this and becomes the groundskeeper or the house sitter. Another mortal might grant a demon his former roommate — the demon’s façade might be a janitor who cleaned their apartment building or an unnamed neighbor, but probably not their landlord.
• Once a pact is invoked to create a façade, it cannot be incorporated into any other façade. Each temporary pact can only support a single façade, regardless of its duration.
• A façade has an effective Cover rating of 1 and the demon cannot increase this.
• A demon cannot Go Loud while wearing a façade.
• A façade ceases to exist upon the expiration of the pact that creates it or the first time the demon fails a compromise while the façade is active. However, any benefits the pacts grant the involved pactbound remain in force until the pacts expire.
The Pact Market
The rules for pacts in Chapter Four of Demon: The Descent are based around the demon making the pact immediately gaining the benefits, but many demons make deals with a view to future investment rather than immediate gain. Many more make pacts they have no intention of ever collecting themselves, instead trading them to other demons for use in building their own Covers. Even after a pact has been used to create or enhance a Cover, a demon isn’t wholly stuck with it if she has no further use for it — demons can sign pacts between one another to transfer whole or partial Covers from demon to demon.
Pacts usually come into immediate effect, but like a banknote containing a promise by a treasury to pay the owner, demons can write activation clauses into their agreements to delay the pact’s onset. These delays add more flexibility in how a demon uses a pact, making them more useful in trade with other demons. The promissory delay can apply to either or both sides of the pact — some demons provide the benefits of a pact to the signatory up-front and collect their part of the reward later, as in the classic soul pact. Others agree to several small rewards delivered on intervals.
• Immediate or At-Will (0): The rewards enshrined in this half of the pact either come into effect immediately or when the two signatories touch. This level of delay is built into the Soul (demon only) reward listed on p. 193 of Demon.
• Specified date (1): The rewards enshrined in this half of the pact are delayed until a date and time specified in the pact’s wording. If the recipient dies before the date arrives, the pact does not count as being broken.
• Conditional (2): The rewards are delayed until an event specified in the pact’s wording takes place. Some demons list several possible conditions for a pact’s activation, with the fulfilment of any one bringing the pact into effect. Each additional condition adds (1) to this side of the pact. If the recipient dies before any condition takes place, the pact does not count as being broken.
Some demons use promissory pacts to bargain for speculative rewards; agreements to take the signatory’s firstborn child, or ownership of a business they don’t yet own, for example. These kinds of pacts are difficult to enforce with Primum and require especially intricate wording. Speculative pacts require an additional point of Willpower, and are usually formed around a Conditional or At-Will activation. If the pact activates when the agreed-on rewards do not exist, the pact does not count as being broken. Expert pact-makers sometimes arrange different speculative benefits, linked to different conditions. In these cases, the Willpower cost for the pact is calculated at the highest possible outcome plus one.
Example: Ms. Echo is developing a robust Cover as a side project and is willing to take her time about it. Having decided that she needs a family for the new identity, she searches local hospitals in the guise of a nurse until she finds the right sort of desperation. She approaches the mother of a critically, incurably ill boy and makes her proposition: she will heal the child, giving his parents years they wouldn’t have with him, but after three years the boy will belong to her.
Mother: Asset (Stamina) +2, Duration: Permanent +3
Echo: Cover (Greater) +3, Duration : Permanent +3, Promissory Delay (Specific Date) +2
The total cost for Echo is four points of Willpower.
The backbone of the pact markets, transfer pacts specify “the bearer” instead of an individual and leave space for the bearer to sign their name on the agreement. A transfer pact requires an extra Willpower point, and adds 2 to the side left open. Despite repeated attempts by Tempters, no demon can enforce a pact without at least one named beneficiary — some demons use transfer pacts granting riches to whoever signs them in blood at the cost of their soul, and the usual use of a transfer pact is to grant benefits to whichever demon owns it rather than whoever first agreed it, but one side must be set at the time of writing.
Example: A ring of Saboteurs in Mr. Gaunt’s agency are planning an offensive against a facility being constructed by pawns of the God-Machine, and require cheap Covers with a reason to be in the area. Mr. Gaunt’s research has revealed a struggling cab driver named Yuri who lives in the area. Gaunt pays Yuri a visit and promises to save his business by improving Yuri’s skill and injecting cash, in exchange for borrowing it for a week at an unspecified future date. Gaunt makes it clear that it won’t be him taking the cab over himself.
Yuri: Asset (Resources 2) + 2, Asset (Professional Training: Cab Driver 4) +2
Gaunt: Duration (week) 0, Cover (Medial) 2, Transfer Pact 2
The total cost to Gaunt is two points of Willpower — the pact balances, but he must still pay one base and one for leaving the demonic side of the bargain unnamed.
Bills of Sale
Sometimes, demons decide they no longer need the benefits of a pact and sell it on, despite it not being defined as a transfer pact. Some define pacts between themselves and another demon, with the original pact as the benefit, or even a transfer pact promising to give up the benefits of the original to whoever buys the pact, but these only work for direct transfer — the demon selling has to know the demon buying. To facilitate more organized sale and resale, Agencies use bills of sale. A bill of sale is a magical-legal framework, a quasi-pact enshrining an existing pact, that gives up the demon’s side of a pact to any demon who signs it to mark herself as the new owner. The process of making a bill of sale has more in common with creating a gadget than signing a pact — the demon giving up a pact writes the bill of sale (this requires the expenditure of one point of Aether and an extended Intelligence + Academics + Primum roll, each roll taking an hour, with a target number of successes equal to the sum of both sides of the pact). If she succeeds, the demon must spend a dot of Willpower, after which she immediately loses the benefits of her side of the pact. If she has already spent Cover Experiences or applied an extra dot of Cover from holding the pact, a bill of sale won’t work — transfers of “used” Cover elements require Cover Trading, below. Any demon can then mark herself as the new owner of the pact within a bill of sale by signing her name in blood onto the bill (the player spends a point of Aether), after which the bill of sale disintegrates and the name in the pact changes to that of the new owner.
Bills of sale cause aetheric resonance like gadgets, so they are usually locked away in secure locations when not being sold. They do not have to stay near the pact they modify, and some demons attempt to con others by providing a bill of sale and then destroying the pact. Prudent buyers demand both halves of the paperwork before supplying whatever price has been agreed. Because bills of sale are gadgets, not pacts, they also don’t force the buyer to play fair — whatever goods or services a purchasing demon agrees to give up in exchange for the pact aren’t magically enforced. If the pact within the bill lists anything the demon has to give up in exchange for the benefits that haven’t already been provided, the buyer is held to those agreements.
Example: Ms. Summer made a Soul pact with a cultist, but has since discovered her mark
to be a murderer. Worse, he used the resources he gained from the pact to get away with his crime. She doesn’t want the Cover any more, but she’s feeling vindictive enough to sell the pact rather than destroy it.
The original pact was:
Cultist Assets: (Resources 3) +3 Asset (Striking Looks) +1
Ms. Summer: Soul +3, Duration: Permanent +3
The target number of successes for Ms. Summer’s attempt to write a Bill of Sale is 10.
Most Cover trades are performed at the pact level — the recipient receives parts of a mortal’s life as Cover Experiences, and then assembles them into a Cover herself. Some demons make a business of Cover design, building intricate Covers and then selling them to demons without the skill or time to develop them for themselves. Other agencies keep bills of sale containing quick “burner” identities for use in emergencies. In both cases, it’s a real Cover that’s being transferred, not simply the potential to make one. More often, demons who have no further use for developed Covers sell them on to interested parties, looking to recoup some of the effort that went to in building the Cover. Cover Trading works in the pact systems by making a pact between two demons rather than a demon and a human. Once an element of Cover has been incorporated by a demon, that demon may only trade it in whole elements — the fine details seen in Lesser or Medial pacts are too delicate to remove once bound to a demon’s Primum. If a demon agrees to give up part of a Cover to another demon, they lose Cover depending on the benefit to the recipient, as follows:
Cover Benefit Greater: The donor automatically loses a dot of Cover
Soul: The donor loses the entire Cover
The main restriction in a pact between two demons is that only mortal signatories may be granted Assets by a pact, and demons can’t serve as cultists. This leaves Cover trades as either being extremely one-sided (and therefore draining), or as Cover-for-Cover swaps. Cover trades may use promissory pacts, transfer pacts, and bills of sale like any other pact. Transfer pacts for Cover are the most common, allowing demons to trade identities on a one-to-one basis. Only especially desperate demons agree to pacts leaving their Covers for sale at any time, and for good reason — if a demon’s last Cover is transferred via pact, she is Burned (without the usual benefits of going loud). Cover trades do not have to be permanent, any more than any other pact. Some demons hand off elements of their Covers to trusted colleagues, secure in the knowledge that the Cover will revert to them once the pact’s term is up. The demon gaining the Cover must pay the Willpower to activate the pact and pay for the pact’s Duration. In the case of a balanced Pact between two Demons, one of the signatories must agree to be the one enforcing the pact’s magic. Example: Mr. Book is leaving town on an extended journey, seeking a facility he believes is linked to his Cipher. He doesn’t want to abandon the career he has built up, but Mr. Clock, a demon in the same ring, has the spare time needed to perform Mr. Book’s duties. The demons agree to transfer the job from Book to Clock for a month.
Book: Nothing! This deal is one-sided.
Clock: Cover: Greater (2)
The cost to Clock is six points of Willpower. Mr. Book will owe him a considerable favor once he returns.