The Malefactor

While writing up a submission last month, I had a hankering to develop a good ol’ fashioned deal-with-the-devil sort of encounter (or with across-roads demon, if you are a Supernatural fan).

The Malefactor can be any devil of your choosing or one of your own design, if you wish. It may appear when the party has a dire need or when a dungeoneer shows evil tendencies that leads the Malefactor to believe they may be corruptible. It may also be summoned by ritual starting at the paragon tier (Arcana) but only if the caster is earnest in his pleas for help.

The Malefactor does not cater to evil characters as they are invariably damned already.

Introducing the Malefactor is easier than striking a good bargain. It is a cunning haggler and will extract a price regardless of the player’s efforts. Even if it is restrained from acting directly upon the party, the Malefactor is immortal and there’s always someone willing to cause the party harm in exchange for what it has to offer.

I tried something new with the skill challenge. Since the devil will inevitably get its due, the challenge doesn’t determine whether the dungeoneer receives his boon or not–it sets the price by the degree of failure. This devil drives a hard bargain, but he won’t draw out the negotiations to entrap the unwilling.


The Malefactor appears to exploit a weakness in character or to take advantage of a great need. It offers to fulfill the desire of one dungeoneer, but does so at a terrible cost.

When the Malefactor appears, engage in a hard, complexity 1 skill challenge (DC 15 + 1/2 the character’s level) to determine the cost of the Malefactor’s boon:

  • 1st Failure: Commit an evil act at the Malefactor’s discretion. It will choose the time and manner of the act and the act will forever stain the dungeoneer’s soul. This act will require a personal sacrifice on the part of the dungeoneer–be it a loss of reputation, position/rank, or wealth.
  • 2nd Failure: Defile or destroy a holy site, relic, or artifact. Murdering a good NPC that draws from the divine power source is also acceptable. This evil act must significantly impact a community of at least 500 souls (per player’s tier) and will forever stain the dungeoneer’s soul. The dungeoneer has one month to perform this act.
  • 3rd Failure: The Malefactor claims the dungeoneer’s soul in return for the boon. When the character is bloodied or dying, he takes a -2 penalty to all saves, including death saves. He also loses 1 healing surge per round unless he is standing on hallowed ground. If the dungeoneer dies, he cannot be brought back as the Malefactor has claimed his black soul at last.

If the dungeoneer negotiates the skill challenge with no failures or choose not to accept the Malefactor’s terms, his most valued magical item is drained of enchantment as payment but his soul will be unaffected.

Should the dungeoneer renege on his deal after accepting, the Malefactor will claim his soul as forfeit (just as if the dungeoneer had failed three times).


  • Gain 1 automatic failure if a dungeoneer freely offers to commit an evil act in exchange for the Malefactor’s boon.
  • Gain 1 automatic failure if the dungeoneer summoned the Malefactor in order to ask a boon.
  • End the negotiations in complete failure if the dungeoneer offer his soul or sacrifices an innocent for the Malefactor’s boon.


  • Gain 1 automatic success if the Malefactor is trapped or imprisoned and the dungeoneers have the means to set it free.
  • Gain 1 automatic success if one other person present offers to pay the Malefactor’s price for the dungeoneer. You main only gain this benefit once.

Only one dungeoneer may benefit from the bargain and that dungeoneer alone is responsible for paying the price unless another offers themselves in his place during the negotiation (see trumps). The beneficiary’s soul must be his own and not previously claimed by the Malefactor or another entity.

What is the Malefactor’s boon? I tried to come up with a few possible rewards, but what I think is worth the cost of your PC’s soul and what a player thinks may be two very different things. A DM should be creative where he can, but I suspect that the players will step up and tell us what their dungeoneer’s soul is worth.

For some reason, I’m particularly proud of this encounter. I haven’t used him yet, but I hope that to hear from you if it makes an appearance in your game.


~ by Hunter Rose on September 9, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Malefactor”

  1. Overall, I like it.

    A few nitpicks: The Malefactor should only drain a PC’s magical item if the PCs summoned him or initiated it; It shouldn’t just be able to show up unwanted, make an offer, have it rejected, drain an item, and leave.

    Also, clarification: If a PC wagers his/her soul, does the loss of a healing surge/round happen regardless, or only if the PC is bloodied/dieing?

  2. Point taken on the nitpick. I’ld like to say that this is something that would have occurred to me at the table before my players howl with outrage!

    As for the clarification, the intent is for the damned soul to be imperiled when the character is in distress. The loss of healing surges is in addition to the penalty to saves. Among friends, the damned can be saved in good time. Alone, the damned is sure to be claimed.

    This was part of my submission for the Fourthcore gambits book (now delayed). If the penalties seem a little stiff, you can feel free to lighten them but I wouldn’t go too far. Any deal with the devil should be a perilous endeavor at any tier.

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