"Let's make a deal…"
— M. Hall
Once there was a man named Faust; an learned and erudite man of deep scholarly wisdom. But all his learning left him unsatisfied; he wanted more. And so he made a deal…
Faust is the main character in an old German legend which has been retold numerous times over the centuries. The scholarly Faust makes a pact with Mephistopheles, an agent of The Devil, in order to gain deeper knowledge of the mysteries of the universe and magic powers with which to indulge his physical pleasures. At the end of the agreed-upon term, the Devil will get Faust's soul. Most versions of the story end with Faust being dragged off to the torments of Hell, although in some tellings he manages to find some measure of redemption.
The legend may have been based on a a 16th century German alchemist named Dr. Johann Georg Faust who lived from 1480 to 1540, although some scholars identify him instead with Johann Fust, who was a business partner of Johann Gutenberg.
Apart from countless episodes of The Twilight Zone, there are two great interpretations of the Faust legend: The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, by the Elizabethan Era playwright and poet Christopher Marlowe, and Faust, by the brilliant German writer and scholar Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The American writer Stephen Vincent Benét translated the story to 19th Century New England in his short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster."
Game and Story Use
- It may be difficult to sucker a genre-savvy PC into making a deal with the devil; but not impossible. The key is a smooth and convincing Mephistopheles who can play on the character's cynicism and persuade them that Heaven isn't giving them the full story.
- If the players do make a deal with the Devil, give them consequences: both good, (after all, they have to get something out of it), and bad (subtle at first, but growing in intensity).
- Ideally, you should try to leave open an escape hatch; but you don't have to make it easy for them.
- Of course, if they don't manage to escape damnation, this could be the start of a new campaign: Fun in Hell!
- Alternatively, it may be difficult to persuade players to give a damn about their character's immortal soul and the prospect of it being lost to hell - or that there won't be a simple, violence based way out.
- On a less personal note, a magician who has sold his soul to the Powers of Darkness can make a formidable NPC opponent.
- Hm… maybe Mephistopheles can help you against him. Just sign right here next to the "X". You don't mind using your own blood, do you…?
- Alternatively, you could just stick with the "sold his soul for knowledge" idea and have it as part of the backstory of an apparently miraculous scientist in your campaign … of course the chances are that whatever he's "discovered" will turn out to have some unintended consequences once placed on general release.
- Someone like Oppenheimer might be a good candiate in a Wierd-War 2 style setting, or, less contraversially, one or more of the Nazi scientists behing the wunderwaffe.