As we approach the Christmas season, my thoughts drift to sugar plum fairies, snow-blanketed fields, and the joy of gift giving. They say that giving is the spirit of the holidays, and they're not wrong, whoever they are. There seems to be one gift that seems to net quite a bit of traction...
"For a nominal fee, of course."
Throughout mythology and literature, folklore and reality television, we are shown people who have made pacts to sell their souls in exchange for something, be it power, money, or some other unnamed thing. Whatever the case, the being making the deal with the lowly mortal usually isn't painted in a particularly positive light...
"Dude brought his own pen. He looks legit enough to me."
Despite this, the mortal in question still signs over the only real immortal part of their being. But why? Why would someone make a deal with some (typically) extraplanar entity? Anyone would be hard up to give you one compelling reason to do such a thing, but I am Ed The Bard. I'll give you ten reasons to sell your soul.
As with the majority of these things, the material found within works with just about any edition of D&D, Pathfinder, or any other system that floats your boat.
1. Revenge - Someone wronged you. Someone really wronged you. Wronged you enough to put themselves squarely in the center of your one-man-vendetta tunnel vision. Whether they killed your family, burned your village, or took the last frickin' slice of pizza, the wrongdoer must pay. The only problem is that you don't pose much of a threat in your current state. However, after a few meetings at a crossroads at midnight, a few bloodlettings, and a copious amount of paperwork, you could become a scion of destruction, raining literal hellfire down on your enemies with reckless abandon. So what if it cost you your soul? You are past caring. As the old proverb says,"One who seeks vengeance must dig two graves; one for his enemy, and the other for himself."
2. Self Preservation - You are going to die. This is it. The end of the road. Perhaps you a drowning after a terrible shipwreck. Maybe you are being burned alive at the stake over a case of mistaken identity. Mayhaps a brisk night stroll turned into a mugging gone terribly wrong in some nameless back alley, and you find yourself bleeding out onto the cobblestones, afraid and very, very alone. Death can do a lot of things but scaring someone shitless is pretty high up on the list. In those brief moments, before the reaper takes you, you might be willing to do all sorts of things. After all, bargaining is a natural stage of grieving, and if you aren't grieving your own life as it slips away you probably didn't have a whole lot going on in the first place. Imagine a barely audible whisper in the coming darkness that convincingly tells you that you don't have to die. Wouldn't you make that deal, not matter what the cost was?
3. Power - Ah, that old chestnut. Since time immemorial there is one thing the mortal races have sought with unyielding desire; power. What that power entails is largely situational, but the end result is the same. The lust for power drives people to do some pretty extreme things, up to and including extortion, murder, or full-on war. Lives are ruined, enemies are defeated, and in the end power is the reward. Maybe it's the power to defeat a foe you don't have the strength to take on or the power that comes from having your own kingdom (cut from the hand of the previous ruler is optional). With all the things folks will do for a boost in power, selling one's soul seems kind of par for the course. After all, in the end, haven't they done that already.
4. Love - It was either Socrates or Meatloaf that said "I would do anything for love", and as a bard and one with an appreciation for fine poetry, I am inclined to agree. Love, perhaps more than power, has cause people to do some pretty radical things. If you are willing to bleed for someone, or even die for someone, would you be willing to sell your soul for someone (Note: Do not answer this question honestly with your significant other present unless you find couches comfortable)? The strange thing about love is that it works in all kinds of wacky ways. Maybe you are selling your immortal soul to save someone you love in an act of ultimate sacrifice. Perhaps you are giving your soul freely to your dark patron because they are the one you love. But just remember, love can be fleeting, but deals with succubi are a little more permanent.
5. Poor Understanding - Sometimes the buy and trade of souls might not be entirely on the level. Imagine that; a creature from another plane that buys souls might not be on the up-and-up. Occasionally the transfer of soul for nifty abilities glazes over a few important bits of information, like who has your soul, what they intend to do with it, and for how long. Sometimes folks forget to read the fine print on these deals or get tripped up on the wording so they might not be entirely sure what they are getting into when they make the deal. This is why Ed The Bard suggests attaining a degree in pre-law (at a minimum) before entering into contract negotiations for your soul, or at the very least have your lawyer present.
6. Momentary Need - Sometimes you need a big charge of juice very suddenly, so you make a few deals with some disembodied voices in exchange for something that will get you out of a jam, like being able to blow a hole through a wall before the room you are in fills with water, or if you really need to open a pickle jar. At the time it seems like a good idea, but the long-term effects might be (and usually are) far more than you bargained for.
7. Knowledge - There are secrets, dark and dangerous, that must be learned at any cost. Just ask Faust. These unspeakable truths and earth shattering revelations are often just out of reach, and in exchange for your puny soul, nameless things will teach you nameless rites to be performed in nameless places, far off and remote. The reward for which is knowledge. But, as they say, ignorance is sometimes bliss. Some things you just don't want to know, because knowing a thing could cost you more than just your soul, it can cost you your sanity as well. Lovecraftian horrors are more than willing to bargain with eager investigators, but the end result is often less fulfilling than originally intended. Also, there is a 35% chance you could end up resembling seafood.
"It ain't easy being green..."
8. Pawn Star - Selling your soul is a pretty long-term commitment. Eternal, even. It isn't something someone should enter into lightly. But what if you could sell if in exchange for something over a short period of time, and then, should you complete the task in the appropriate amount of time, you can reclaim the soul and turn your newfound powers back in. In this instance, the act of exchanging one's soul is the equivalent of going to an infernal pawnbroker. The fiend in question will give you what you want, as well as a bit of a task to complete as payment. Should you complete the task within the set parameters (as well as whatever business you sold your soul for in the first place) you are golden. However, savvy folks that buy and trade souls will make the task either very difficult, almost impossible, or will throw a few roadblocks in the way to keep it from being completed on time. When dealing with devils, demons, and fey, it is important to remember that they are always attempting to fuck you over. Still, it could be worth the risk...
9. You're Not Bargaining With YOUR Soul - Anyone can sell their own soul. I mean, there it is, resting comfortably in your body. But ask any lich worth his salt and they will tell you that the real money is in brokering other people's souls. The types of fiends that make dark pacts such of these are rarely surprised at the depths mortals will stoop to attain what they desire, but imagine their surprise when you come strolling in with an alternative deal that could be twice as lucrative to them. For instance, promising not one but 100 souls could be a rather enticing deal. Remember, fiends often work on commission for this stuff. You go in promising that every person you murder in your pursuit of adventure counts as a sacrifice, and the powers that be evil will no doubt supercharge you to hell and back, both figuratively and very literally. However, if you wish to be a supreme asshole, you can broker in souls that aren't even around yet. Yes, I am talking about selling the souls of your unborn children and grandchildren unto whatever generation you feel makes you less of a literal monster.
10. Destiny - Destiny is a dick. It can be sprung upon you through omens, portents, sooth-sayings, prophecies, or any number of cryptic methods fate uses to remind you that you are its bitch. Whatever the case, you were foretold by some very reliable people to have a major part to play in an upcoming conflict, be it the ultimate battle of good vs evil or some other equally hefty endeavor. Problem is that you are nobody of any real import. You're no warrior, wizard, thief, or priest. You could just be a regular joe with the weight of the world flung upon your shoulders. When faced with an overwhelming destiny you have two options; run or act. Sometimes acting means sacrificing yourself for the greater good (or evil, not judging). Sell your soul, and save (or destroy) the world. Would you give it all up to protect your friends, loved ones, and/or enemies?
There we are, 10 reasons one might sell their sweet, salty soul.
Now, typically Warlocks are the folks that are biggest proponents for soul-selling. I mean, come on! They're practically begging for it! But one need not be a warlock to reap the benefits of fiendish exchange. A weakling with dreams of being a powerful warrior may sell their soul to become a proficient fighter to protect their village from invaders, gaining all the muscle and skill that goes with it. A wizard's apprentice, sick of always having to endure his master's belittling comments might summon something awful from one of his locked books to grant him an equal measure of power in an attempt to gain respect. A lost woodsman, starving in the forest, might beseech an archfey for aid, and find they have been wholly transformed into a druid.
The sky is the limit for you soul-sellers out there. I should know. How do you think I became such a fabulous bard?
Roll well, my friends
+Ed The Bard
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