12: The Bagger – Justice Arman

With all the warlock pacts and deals with the devil made in Dungeons & Dragons, who comes to collect when the devil’s payment is due?

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Justice Arman:  They’ve just put on their nightcap and footie pajamas,  resting in a large bed that they’ve, gotten from all the gold they’ve won over adventuring.

I imagine a hollow knock deep into the night before the handle would begin to turn on its own and just slowly open. And baggers, they’re so tall and gangly, that you would probably just see up to its chest as this very thin horned devil, just leans under the doorway. And it’s just looming in this room and you’d probably hear the hooves of this bloodhound, sniffing and snorting, as it points its way towards you and that’s the point where the bagger would probably try to bag you up.

Episode Transcript

Lucas: Hello, and welcome to Making a Monster, the weekly-ish podcast, where game designers show us their favorite monster, how it works, why it works and what it means. I’m Lucas Zellers.

You know the story of Faust, the magician who bargained his soul for magical power. We’ve been telling it for centuries.

The great names of every form of creative endeavor have turned their keen minds to This from unrivaled Dramatists, such as Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe and the giant of German literature Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, to artists such as Rembrandt and Eugen Eloqua. Two musical geniuses, such as Ludwig Von Beethoven, and Ricard Wagner all have been inspired by the story of fastness to produce masterpieces . . . It’s no exaggeration that the fastest Smith has been central to the formation of Western consciousness.

Faustus: The Life and Times of a Renaissance Magician by Leo Ruickbie

But like every story that ends with happily ever after. This one stops before the good part. When the devil’s payment is due.   Who comes to collect.

In the game of Dungeons & Dragons, where pacts with a fiend are a legitimate path to power, someone had to answer that question and that someone was justice Arman. By day, he’s a surgical clinic manager with an MBA from Baylor University. And by night he’s a prolific writer and collaborator on the DMS Guild, which if you don’t know, is D&D’s digital storefront for user-created content and the place I’ve discovered most of the designers on this season of making a monster.

Justice Arman: My first big supplement was all about like infernal contracts and, and, you know, devilish pacts, something that you see so often in D and D that there’s not really. Explicit rules for, and you know, to send over and this was coming out and I wanted to provide like a bigger resource that people could look at before that released.

Lucas: Do you know, which monster you want to look at?

Justice Arman: Yeah, a monster that I’ve written that I really enjoy?

Lucas: Yep.

Justice Arman: you know, I am particularly drawn to the three collection agents that I put in Devil’s Advocate: Guide to Infernal Contracts. And if I could pick one to focus on it would probably be the bagger.

Lucas: Justice’s book has sold over 2,500 copies on the DMS Guild, making it one of less than 200 products to earn the designation Mithral seller. Of course, it’s a Mithral seller. This is an excellent idea, It solves a problem, and it’s really clever.  But this, this isn’t like a written adventure as such, is it?

Justice Arman: No, and it’s, only got these three creatures in it. just as part of. the consequences of running out on a contract. theoretically, if you were given 30 years by a devil, what happens if you try to run at fear, an adventure, you start getting all kinds of really awesome powers like plane shifting.

If you last long enough, you get to teleport. And some of these devils are really strong, but high-level adventurers are also really strong. So who comes knocking on your door when it’s time? And so I built these three collection agents, and one of which is a backer, that, puts you in a sack of nightmares, a bag of horrors, and brings you back to the archdevil to which you made the deal.

Lucas: As ubiquitous as the legend of Faust is, I was surprised to find Justice didn’t reference it at all to create the bagger. He didn’t need to. D&D surpassed Goethe’s Faust like it did with Lovecraft’s Dagon, like The Matrix did with Ghost in the Shell: a derivative work usurping its inspiration.

Don’t get Thrown in the Bag!

Lucas:   What little bits and pieces were you drawing from to stitch the bagger together?

Justice Arman: So yeah, so the bagger, the idea comes from this one time that I gave a bag to an ogre in a session. and they, it became the most hated monster in my home game ever, because being restrained is like one of the worst things that this barbarian could happen. And I attacked them at night with these ogres, whose job was to grab this barbarian and take them back to these giants.

And so he’s sleeping and, they’re surprised – nobody caught the stealth check – and suddenly the barbarian is in a bag. This person historically absorbs all of the damage for everybody else. The entire party is just mortified, seeing their brawny barbarian reduced to a grocery bag full of fragile eggs in the middle of the night. And they finally destroy these enemies, they send one of the ogres running back, And from that moment on, they were horrified of anything remotely bag, like in a game, anytime they saw like a character running – If I described a backpack too much, or a box or a crate, they’re like, “It’s one of them, isn’t it?!”

Lucas: So this is what I’m hearing is this is an inside joke that got way out of hand.

Justice Arman: Oh, a hundred percent. A hundred percent. Yeah. The, ogre baggers, when they started realizing they could cut the bags open, and they let a single ogre get away in our old campaign. The ogres went back and they were like, we need to make the bags out of chain mail. so they came back with a chain mail bag.

And when everybody realized what that was, they were like, Whoa, how are we going to get out of this one?

Lucas: so you’re just this you’re telling me that you got in an arms race with your players.

Justice Arman: yeah. Yes. the chain mail, the chainmail bag was the ultimate, was the ultimate attack because if you let a monster get away a couple of times and you have a, you know, you have a prevailing strategy, the monsters are going to go, how can we stop this? They keep cutting our bags up and they’re going to say, well, what can’t you cut through? And they’ll be like, well, chain mail would be pretty good.

Lucas: let’s talk about the bagger as a demon. other than “tall and thin” and the bag, were there any visual elements or any key design features that you wanted to make sure this thing had?

The Consequences of your Deal with the Devil

Justice Arman: Yeah. so the bag itself, I wanted it to be. a representation of the consequences of these deals.  I mean, making an infernal pact is like the ultimate procrastination. It’s about saying, “I want something now and I’m not going to worry about consequences down the line.”

So having this bag, grapple someone when they’re. put in it. but they also take psychic damage, for as long as they’re inside this bag. basically they’re seeing their worst fears, all of the terrible things that are going to happen to them, and how, because of this deal that they made and running away from it, they get a tiny taste of it.

and what’s important is, I mean, you’re not going to role play out those things. Once the characters reach the end of their career, you know, you would, if they ended up going to hell, they go to hell, whatever you don’t really dwell on that make a new character that sort of thing, but that tastes that they get when they’re inside the bag of horrors is, it’s, it’s significant.

it’s a taste of hell, which makes it that much more frightening when you realize the mistake you’ve made.

we also have forks so that they can poke people in the bags.

Lucas: Hold up – forks?

Justice Arman: They also have forks. Yeah. So, and, and, and I would send them in twos every time, because there’s nothing like being wrapped in a bag. And then the other one just prodding, it feels very classic devil. I mean, devils and pitchforks always went together. So I, I think it just kinda adds insult to injury.

Lucas: Let’s talk mechanics!

Justice Arman:  so the bagger is a medium fiend. it’s a devil, it’s lawful evil.  Although it’s very tall and I could see someone making a huge-sized banger, I feel like they needed to be medium so that they could get into rooms, without taking up so much space. I also liked the idea of. someone of medium size being dragged well in this bag, it makes it kinda more visceral as opposed to a giant who just throws you over their shoulder.

the devil is exerting effort to drag the character away, which makes it seem more. You know, scary like a horror movie when, one of the people as being dragged away and their nails are clawing against the floor or something.  the bagger can make two attacks, one with the fork and one with the bag , or they can make two attacks with the fork if you want.

but the bag of horrors, is a. They have a plus five to hit. They have to be within five feet. and it’s one creature. If they hit it does bludgeoning damage, minor a mountain, just six as well. but the creature is grappled and it takes a DC of 16 to get out of this grapple. during that time they are restrained inside a bag filled with nightmarish visions.

and at the start of each of its terms, the creature has to make a wisdom save or take seven psychic damage. on a failure, there only one person can fit into the bag at once. and then a creature who exit the bag, exits prone in an occupied space. So even if you get out, you lose a little bit of your dignity as you’re crawling outside of this bag.

as you exit the bag, you are frightened of the bagger until the end of your next turn. which kind of has some. It lends itself towards the description there, the idea you just exited this bag, it’s terrifying in there, and it’s going to be apparent to the rest of your party that whatever’s in.

That bag is super scary, which will make your parties, , scared of the bagger in a different way. maybe not as a condition, but wondering what’s there.

Lucas: A weird majority of the people I’ve talked to have been like “My favorite monster is the biggest, baddest thing I’ve ever made.” I just did an interview about a CR 23 Demon Lord of the abyss. I expected the bagger to be a bit more, just more,

Justice Arman:  it’s not that powerful. it’s more of a nuisance than anything.  the reason why it’s not that big is one. I wanted this to be a foe that you could introduce earlier in the game. I think as far as D and D beyond data, they said something like.

I think 85% of campaigns and characters made on DND Beyond are like level 11 or lower. so I love those big, bad guys. but it’s so rare that you actually get to use them to their full potential. Which is not that high when the level goes up to 11, And so I wanted something that you could experience at a low level and that it wouldn’t be alone when you fight it. because the bagger has to find you and that none of the baggers abilities help it find you.

Fiendish Collection Agents

There’s only three collections agents in here. The highest one is Challenge Rating (CR) 8, and, It is interesting how they work together. There’s a handler, which is the CR 8 monster and the handler has those spells that can locate people over multiple miles, miles, and, They have spells that shut down magical effects.

So the handler is the one that needs to be there for a high-level wizard who has the ability to create magical sanctums and has all these contingency spells and all these things ready. So the handler’s like. The smart, one of the group that shuts it down, the bloodhound is the one who overwhelms you and, tries to wear down your defenses.

And they get packed tactics and they can sniff and shoot snot at a range to pin you down. So the bagger and all of these other collection agents, they’re designed to work together to bring the target home. So if you are hit with this bloodhound that has sniffed you out has no eyes and it can sniff across planes.

Well, it comes onto the plane. It sniffs you out. It gets you stuck in this disgusting infernal snot, and then the bagger comes walking up and as you’re pulling and heaving your legs against this goop, that nightmareish bag is just already closing around you. and you can imagine there are probably a couple of these infernal hounds, and a couple of baggers, set to deal with anybody who might, protest.

The bagger is the one who, when you are weary, when you’ve put up all the fight and you’re just at the very end of it, and you’re saying I’m still not going, they don’t knock you out. They want to take you kicking and screaming. and I feel like creatures. They get some satisfaction out of it, collecting on these contracts.

Lucas: The whole thesis of this project is that there’s a little bit of time and every,  crazy monster we make, every story we tell, If that were true of the bagger, what do you think it would be?

Planning Bias

Justice Arman: If there is a bit of truth in the bagger, I would say that we. Hmm, it’s probably two parts.  when somebody puts something off, they underestimate, how they’re going to feel later. the idea of this bag of horrors being the worst thing that can happen.

It’s not always true that when you procrastinate something that it’s going to be terrible. But I think in the moment we say. I can do this later. We get that small bit of joy, but the cost later is so much worse. if we could have just knocked it out, you know, we could have had a little bit more sleep that night, which means that we wouldn’t wake up tired for the next day, which means that we would, you know, maybe not have been as irritable throughout the day.

the other, I would say is that, we don’t, we don’t like being pinned down. the idea, you know, there are a lot of. Conditions in D and D spells effects that shut you down. You lose your turn. Totally stinks. You don’t get to do anything but restrained. You still can do something, but it’s almost few futile.

All of your tax, all of your pushing, everything that you do, it’s you get a chance, but it’s so small that you’re going to succeed. I think, you know, it’s, it’s almost. Worse to have a chance to try at something and fail than it is to not get a chance at all. which is what you get with the bagger. You get the former,

Lucas: Thank you for taking the time talking through this. they’re delightful. They’re gonna be right at home next to this cavalcade, this rogue’s gallery I’m slowly putting together.

Justice Arman: Yeah, Anthony spoke really highly of this and, I really enjoy it. It’s it’s different, you know, it’s not just tell me about your latest thing. Let’s talk about to talk about something that I really like, which is monsters. I mean, part of the reason I came into tabletop is because I love monsters.

They’re just so cool. I love the lore. Like. Scary looking things with big teeth, like, so what’s not to like about monsters, right? So of course I have to say yes to the monster podcast.

Lucas: Thanks for listening to making a monster. If you like what you’ve heard and you want to support the show, please share it with the people you play games with. Your recommendation will go a long way toward helping people trust me with their time and attention. And it’s a real gift to me in the creators. I feature.

The intro song for this episode is called shadow puppets it’s by will Savino and you can find him at patreon.com/musicD20.

If you want to put the devil’s collection agents in your D&D game or explore the fallacy and bargain as it’s used in current popular culture, you can find Devil’s Advocate Guide to Infernal Contracts by Justice Arman.Devil's Advocate Cover

Justice Arman:   what I would ask is that you, mentioned, Gwen Bassett, somewhere on the page. so that she gets credit for it.  that covers, you know, speaking of representation, there are a lot of, Scantily clad female devils in, in D&D and fantasy.

So we, we really work together to get somebody who not only looks like they were powerful, but who had all their clothes on and, had a personality. So, that is still my favorite cover of any of my products today.

Lucas: I am happy to do it. The piece is beautiful, compelling, and not at all like a Boris Vallejo oil painting. Gwen’s attention to detail extends even to the elaborate, not her demoness used on her necktie.

you can find her online at Gwendybee.artstation.com.

Visit Justice Arman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/justicearman

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Next Episode: The Werepigeon

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