The tradition of summoning an extraplanar entity to bargain with is well established in the D&D lore. But they don't necessarily like being summoned for this purpose, which is why wizards usually bind them in a magic circle so they can chat without having anyone's head bitten off.

In 3.5e, at least, this was fairly simple. Gate got you the outsider of your choice, friendly to you. The Planar Binding series of spells got you your demon/devil/slaad/whatever, and a Magic Circle against Evil with a calling diagram kept it contained. Then you could make a bargain with it, it could try to twist things in its favour and screw you over, and a good time was had by all.

However, times have changed. Gate in 5e summons an outsider without restricting its actions in any way. Planar Binding will bind a summoned outsider, but specifically requires that it be in range for the 1 hour it takes to cast. It explicitly calls out a Magic Circle as the way to keep your summoned creature captive while you do this, but a Magic Circle doesn't protect you the way it used to. It will prevent the creature from affecting your mind, hold it in the circle, and give it disadvantage on attacks. On the other hand, the creature is free to cast spells, and if you're casting for an hour (600 rounds!) there's just no way it's not going to break your concentration at some point.

The Monster Manual notes that devils like to make bargains, but the only currency they will accept is the immortal soul, and that summoning demons is extremely dangerous, but some people still do it. The key issue is that while some outsiders, like devils, are happy to bargain, if they can break out of the circle and get you at their mercy it makes the bargaining very one-sided. 'I will spare your life in exchange for your immortal soul, foolish mortal' isn't the deal I'm looking to make here.

So, have I missed something, or is this incredibly risky method the only way to make a bargain with a powerful outsider?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Technically, that would be 3600 rounds, so you're 6 times as off kilter than you thought. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DraconeKing A round is 6 seconds, not 1. There are 10 rounds in a minute, so 600 rounds in an hour. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 22:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will point out that if summoned to enter into a Faustian pact for the Summoner's Immortal soul, a Devil will not attempt to get out of the circle and will negotiate terms of the pact. A faustian pact for the soul cannot be made if the Summoner was under duress. It's because they're Lawful Evil that this rule exists. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 1:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could the encounter not be roleplayed? The devil/demon would probably want to know why it was summoned before just going in fires-a-blazing. Every encounter doesn't always mean combat for the love of Gruumsh. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 13:04

5 Answers 5


If your goal is to use Planar Binding I would attempt to use Imprisonment to put the demon to sleep and then cast Planar Binding. Then dispel it when you want to talk to the demon.

If your goal is to just to talk to the demon then use Forcecage. Note that Forcecage is not a good choice if want to planar bind as it block spells from both directions.

I think it is odd that the Magic Circle advice is in Planar Binding. Give that the Magic Circle doesn't prevent spell use or attack across its boundary. Perhaps it was different in the alpha playtest that was between the last D&D Next and and the PHB release.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Considering that Imprisonment and Gate are both 9th level, this means you're needing 2 17th level casters. Definitely not a solo mission here. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 12:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ That how things appear at this time. Probably there are lover level spells that could work including the option of just beating down the demon/devil and opt NOT the kill it when it goes negative. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Oct 13, 2014 at 13:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Forcecage is actually a really clever solution to this problem, as long as whatever you're summoning fits in a 10 foot cube. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Oct 14, 2014 at 2:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Bounty awarded to this answer for finding a mechanical solution to the problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Magic circle does give disadvantage on attack rolls, and prevents charm/frightened/possession--given that they can't move either, if you're far away, you'd be protected from most things... \$\endgroup\$
    – Khashir
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 20:46

Gate requires that you know the name of the entity you're summoning.

So the answer is both simple and hard: only summon demons you know are keen on making bargains; don't summon ones known to be difficult or violent; if you don't know which kind is attached to the name you've dug up in your research, don't summon it.

But why, you ask, would any demon or devil consent to a mere bargain when it could break free instead? Well, because malevolent immortals aren't just in it for a mere eyeblink's frolic on the Material Plane or what can be obtained by force — there are worse things they want, things of value only when given willingly, things a mere mortal might think are worthwhile in trade. Some evil outsiders really want those things, and the only means possible is through bargains.

It's not called a deal with the devil for nothing…


I believe the information you seek can be found in a D&D 3.5 Sourcebook and converted over to D&D 5E with a little bit of tinkering.

The Fiendish Codex II Covers all manner of Faustian pacts that you can use to sell your soul to devils, all the information can be found on Page 23

The book itself covers each individual layer of hell as well as both "The Pact Certain" and "The Pact Insidious".

The Pact Certain

The Pact Certain is an instant gratification scenario. A devil provides a reward to the mark in exchange for their immortal soul and eternal damnation in Baator, and in this process their alignment changes to Lawful evil.

The only way to nullify The Pact Certain is to prove in a court of Devils that a signature was provided while the signatory was under duress, such as Torture, threats, or force.

The Pact Insidious

The Pact Insidious is gradual corruption. At each stage of a contract the signatory must provide a service to the devil and gain a reward upon this stage. Each act pushes them closer and closer to damnation. It is in essence a very long negotiation for services in exchange for rewards.

The rewards are cataloged in the book and can likely be converted over to D&D 5E with a little bit of work. I wouldn't really under any circumstance attempt to summon with gate in D&D 5E. It's more trouble than it's worth unless you're binding to your service a good outsider or an elemental you can communicate with.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't actually an answer. It answers the question in the title (though drawing wholly from prior edition materials that are not particularly relevant here), but importantly misses the fact that title is just an evocative title for a mechanical question (namely, how the heck do you contain an unwilling power). This question isn't asking about the mechanics for a Faustian bargain (which at this time 5e wisely leaves wholly to the DM), it's asking about the mechanics of containment. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I was asked by the author of the question in comments to make this answer. So I did. While it did not answer his initial question, it was intriguing enough for him to ask me to post this answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sandwich
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle I did ask him to post it up, and it's effectively the same answer as SevenSidedDie's, except that it backs itself up with evidence from a previous edition. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Oct 15, 2014 at 22:55

The other answers are good ones, but with the release of Xanthar's Guide To Everything, there is a better way now.

  1. Cast Mordenkainen's Private Sanctum covering your binding room. This is a 4th level spell and it will stop your target from being able to teleport or plane shift out of your circle. There is no save to this spell, unlike magic circle or forcecage.

  2. Cast Magic Circle inward preventing your intended target from crossing it. As others mentioned, this is not as good as in previous editions, as they can still cast at you or use ranged attacks (both with disadvantage). So have cover and possibly a friend to help. You will want to use a 4th level slot or higher to get the duration over an hour.

  3. Summon your target. Gate has been mentioned. You could also get a cleric friend to cast Planar Ally (don't worry you don't have to pay). Xanthar's Guide to Everything offers 2 more options: Infernal Calling is designed for just this use and Summon Greater Demon (SGD) cast by a friend (so they can concentrate on it) should work. SGD lasts for an hour and the next spell takes an hour to cast so check with your DM. Usually though I have heard it ruled that they last until end of round/turn so you finish your spell first, or you can take advantage of the last paragraph of SGD and have them stop concentrating 1 round before it ends and then the demon hangs around for 1d6 rounds, letting you finish the spell (roll a 2 or better).

  4. Finally, Planar Binding. Regardless of how you got the Fiend there, this will put them under your control and extend their duration to the duration of this spell. Remember, Planar Binding has a casting time of greater than 1 action, meaning you are concentrating on it and can't be concentrating on another spell.

There are other spells that could help, such as imprisonment, but Infernal Calling and SGD are both 5th level making this process achievable for a 9th level wizard, with a 7+ level friend to cast SGD or a 10th level wizard with 2 5th level slots using Infernal Calling.

Forcecage isn't necessary at this point as the circle and the sanctum will prevent them from leaving and Forcecage doesn't prevent them from casting/attacking you unless it also blocks you from Binding them. Imprisonment would work great, but it's 9th level and so would really only be expended when binding the most powerful of Fiends.


I realize that this question is years old, but I can't help noticing that there's one option that's never been mentioned.

The Scroll of Protection from Fiends is from the humble DMG (pg. 199) and prevents fiends from entering or affecting you or anything within five feet of you, which I would say would certainly prevent your target's spells from doing anything, even area effects. Of course, they can attempt a DC 15 Charisma check to ignore it, but (a) it's an ability check, which means even the more charismatic demons have a 40-45% chance to fail it, and (b) it spends their action, meaning they usually can't attack in the same turn.

That, combined with the fact the scrolls only last five minutes, means that one going this route should find a way to invest in the scrolls in bulk or talk very quickly. However, it still seems like a valid option for those who choose to parlay with fiends without high-level spell slots--a single scroll can hold off a Balor for at least one turn, guaranteed!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ooooh, nice find. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented Dec 2, 2019 at 2:05

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