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Is it possible to have a pact with a fiend that does not involve the fiend owning your soul?

This came up in thinking about whether it would be complicated to raise a dead fiend-pact Warlock. If the Warlock has "sold his soul" to a fiend, it would seem that it is not free to return to the body if a raise dead spell is cast, unless the fiend wishes the Warlock to return to the material plane and continue serving it.

My impression from "lore" is that a demon or devil that makes a pact with a mortal is almost always doing it to claim the mortal's soul upon the mortal's death, but that doesn't seem to be built into the rules, so I assume other types of service are possible. What other types of service such a patron might require? Precedent drawn from lore or literature outside of the game rules is welcome.

It seems that a DM should ask a player building a Warlock to be very specific about the nature of the contract the Warlock has entered into with the fiend, and who the fiend is, in order to determine whether he can be raised if he dies (along with a ton of roleplaying information)? Are there any good examples of 5e-compatible fiend pact contracts available online?

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    \$\begingroup\$ With the right backstory, even the transfer of your soul can be worked around... \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Sep 19 '15 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage that is a fabulous story! \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 19 '15 at 2:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the curious, I'm the DM, first time, Out of the Abyss adventure, and the Warlock is the youngest player at the table by at least a decade, so I didn't want to get trapped in a situation where he couldn't be raised if necessary. Awesome replies so far, all very helpful. :) \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 19 '15 at 4:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't answer in comments. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Sep 19 '15 at 14:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @OblivousSage, the link to the right backstory does not appear to be valid anymore. Any chance you have an updated source for that content? I love a fabulous backstory. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Jul 8 '18 at 4:08
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The Soul Is Not Required Collateral

(But it Provides Good Leverage for the Fiend)

In the MM, page 51, a demon is described as

regarding any mortals in its service as tools to use and then discard at its whim, consigning their mortal souls to the Abyss.

As written in the Player's Handbook, the Warlock's pact does not necessarily involve the Warlock's soul for the transaction, or the relationship, that leads to powers being bestowed by the Fiend as patron. The discussion on PHB 108 and 109 declares that the patrons

expect significant favors in return.

Furthermore, the Fiend desires

the corruption or destruction of all things, ultimately including you {the warlock}

Nowhere is the bargaining described explicitly as the soul being traded for the powers. There are plenty of other ways to destroy or corrupt a Warlock. Consigning the soul to the Abyss, or making the Warlock wear a metal bikini while chained to the Demon for eternity is one way it could play out, but it isn't a necessary condition.

Were one to try and raise a Warlock whose soul was the collateral, the Fiend

  1. May not wish to release that soul,

  2. May consign the soul to the Abyss and then no longer cares

  3. May require some form of payment or other favor.

On point 3 ...

  • "Bring me the heart of a virtuous priestess of (x deity)"
  • "Bring me an innocent child of Prince (____)"

On point 2 ...

  • An adventure to the lower planes! Mission statement: recover the soul of our party member, the Warlock.

The options are only limited by the imagination of the DM. So, work with your DM.

If you are the DM, figure out a bargain, up to and including the soul as collateral for power, and then apply leverage. That's what demons do. (The trope is as long standing as the idea of making a deal with the devil/demon for earthly power. )

For example, a Warlock whose contract is with a Fiend, per page 105, may lead a cult. In that case, the Fiend may demand/require that the Warlock feed the Fiend the souls of cult members, offering them up in some exotic or dark ritual. The Warlock's soul is not at risk so long as the quarterly payments are made. Miss a payment and you get a collection agency showing up at first, a few lower level demons, and then it gets more interesting.

As to "are there any on-line" sub question, you can take a look at reddit or a pact example like this. The favored beer in Hell is apparently Falstaff. (Taken from Marlowe's Play Dr Faustus, wherein Falstaff and Mephistopheles work a deal ...)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, great answer. I have googled, and I did find the reddit link you posted, and this one as well reddit.com/r/rpg/comments/2qqi12/actual_text_of_a_warlock_pact which has some great stuff in it. (feel free to add it to your answer) I had seen another few examples a while back that I can't find again, though -- was kind of hoping someone had them bookmarked. :) \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Sep 19 '15 at 2:43
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At least one old fairy tale has the devil cut a deal to gain a man's child, rather than his soul. A certain webcomic has a character get extreme power in exchange for a lease on her soul. While he may be more of a faerie than a devil Rumpelstiltskin bartered for a woman's firstborn. So there definitely is some precedent for deals with the devil not putting the bargainers immortal soul as one side of the bargain. If you don't mind your devil looking a touch inept you could go the Devil Went Down to Georgia and have a Warlock carrying a boon that he won from the devil in a bet, rather than one he actually paid for. This of course leads to quest fuel from the Devil occasionally making the Warlock's life difficult by trying to get the boon back.

And when you get into bargains with Fey the payment can get very interesting, services in an selected endeavor, service for a specified span of time, memories, favors. Under some circumstances the payment could be in the form of completing a quest on their behalf, or perhaps passing them certain items they can use to their own twisted ends (magical items, artifacts, shiny objects?). The end benefit to the Patron need not be readily apparent, particularly when the Great Old Ones are involved, as their motives and means are often inscrutable to the mortal mind.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So many good examples, apologies for taking so long to +1. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 25 '17 at 0:50
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Nothing says The Fiend pact is for one's soul

There's actually nothing in The Fiend patron section that specifies that it is a pact involving the warlock's soul — just a pact. Players and DMs can wrangle this how they like, and the result may be that it must be a soul (it may be specified by the DM's worldbuilding); or that it is a bargain for something completely different than a soul, in which case the question is moot.

Assuming it is a soul…

Lore-wise, there is readily-available precedent for dead souls being “sorted” or otherwise processed before being sent off to their correct final destination. The Forgotten Realms is one such: the dead go first to Kelemvor's domain before being judged and sent where they need to go. Closer to home, the real-world concept of Limbo (rather than in-name-only D&D Limbo) could be drawn on as a place that souls go — for possibly a long time — before they're ready for their real afterlife.

If you're the DM and you've not yet nailed down the cosmological issues around death, you can easily incorporate such a thing into your multiverse. Then resurrecting a pact warlock does not become special — the time limit for bringing someone back from the dead reflects whether they're still “in waiting” or whether they've been irrevocably sent to their afterlife fate. (Resurrection has a 1-century time limit, while raise dead has a 10-day limit. You could base different stages of the process based on that, with the 10-day period being “less processed” and therefore easier to reverse/access with lower-powered magics.)

If you're the player of a warlock, float this with your DM. They may like the idea, or they may decide to make their cosmology work differently. They may decide that warlocks with sold souls are just not eligible for resurrection, like normal people are, which would certainly put some bite into the pact and put some fear of their patrons (and death itself) into warlocks.

In short, there isn't a RAW requirement for the pact to involve the warlock's soul in the first place, let alone for or against any particular answer on how their soul interacts with their patron after death. If it is a soul, where and when it goes after death is still entirely within the realm of D&D 5e's “hey DM, the multiverse is explicitly your job to homebrew out of these possible ideas; go for it” philosophy of worldbuilding.

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There is a lot you can do with a patron relationship that doesn't involve the selling of a soul. A few people have already touched on this but here are a few alternative ideas as far as a pact with a fiend could go.

Your pact is inherited, a family curse or blessing associate with a deal made long ago. As such you are an involuntary (or perhaps you embrace this) member of the fiends court, serving him as a noble might serve a king or emperor.

You make a pact with a being of chaos, but that is not necessarily a fiend. The idea behind this one might be similar to the great old one pact or even a fae pact, but you treat it as a fiend pact instead. Perhaps you serve a powerful elemental of fire or a Djinn. Either way you serve as an agent of chaos that stirs up trouble and can manipulate unrest and panic to your advantage. This one can be played with any alignment so long as it is chaotic (good neutral or evil) and can be very fun from a role play perspective as it grants and excuse for doing thing that might otherwise be inexcusable or illogical.

Suppose the pact is more traditional, but the demon in question may ask for something other than a soul. Ultimately if it can take your soul it will, but demons are smart, and it's pretty obvious that if a human can get something without selling their soul, they're far more likely to go for the deal. So the demon or fiend might make another request, they might ask for a powerful artifact that might prove instrumental in launching a demonic invasion, or they might have the warlock themselves prepare for their arrival through various menial tasks. Just remember that fiends and devils are a tricky lot and know how to manipulate their vassals and entreat with them, even those who refuse to give up something as precious as their souls.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the hereditary pact idea! \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Jul 10 '18 at 2:20
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If you are really worried about your pact with a fiend, you could try my pact idea.

  • My Tiefling Warlock has made a pact with a fiend who only desires from me the souls of those I kill (the ability that fuels this is the Dark One's blessing that grants you health whenever you bring a creature down to 0 hp). I am simply the catalyst to his feeding pool and as payment, he grants me increasing power and regeneration for my service. There are others who have accepted this gift and every death we cause grants him, and his servants, power.

This is only one way you could create a pact with a fiend without giving up your soul, so long as your DM is ok with the idea.

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Think of something that any normal human might want, perhaps in a moment of despair, and that can be the deal. That can be the leverage the fiend holds over you.

Souls are a bonus, but are a dime a dozen. A smart and powerful fiend will have bigger plans, nations to corrupt, demons to hinder and destroy, order and tyranny to be maintained.

You are limited to the creativity of yourself and the DM. Go wild!


One example of a fiend's pact might be that the devil has already paid a price for you.

Perhaps they restored a dying loved one to health and if you do not do as they say they can let that person die?

The fiend could have resurrected you from the fugue planes and when the deal is up, or if you do not do as commanded, you are dead!

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