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Magically Binding Contract

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"Hah! You see? The contract's legal, binding, and completely unbreakable, even for you."

In fiction, particularly fantasy fiction and Deal with the Devil plots, normal Leonine Contracts just don't cut it. Part of the reason for this is because it's usually pretty vague what kind of government most fantasy cultures use, so nobody really knows how contracts would work anyway. What do you do if the other party decides to welch on their end? Besides, we have contracts in Real Life, and they're usually pretty boring Walls of Text. So one sure way to get some excitement is to have a character sign one that is magically binding. There's a good chance that the contract may also be a Comically Wordy Contract.

Where a normal contract is bound by regular laws, this one is bound by the laws of magic. Rather than being enforced by threat of punishment by a lawful governing body, this contract is simply physically impossible to break. Sometimes it is implied that the magic punishment for breaking a clause is somehow contingent on the permission being given by the one who signed the contract.


Really, the easier explanation most of the time is that A Wizard Did It. The basic idea here is that magic is the law, and will punish anyone who tries to go back on a contract. In other cases, the question of punishment doesn't even arise — the magic compels signatories to abide by the terms whether they want to or not. Even the person who receives the benefits may be unable to release them.

Any character who makes such a contract — even if it's a Leonine Contract — has no choice but to fulfill it somehow. Loopholes are, as always, still permitted, and there may be a Curse Escape Clause. Physically destroying a contract can also absolve the penalties. In some cases, magic apparently only works with the magicee's permission. Even Releasing from the Promise may require such trickery; the other character often can't just let you go, even should he want to.


Most of the time this is how the Deal with the Devil works. In all likelihood, this started out as a subtrope of Deal with the Devil but branched out as writers found they could apply the same basic concept to any magically-empowered contract-maker, not just Satan.

Note that another sub-trope of Deal with the Devil, the Faustian Rebellion, is rarely if ever presented as viable countermand to a Magically Binding Contract. However, should the person accomplish whatever Impossible Task was provided in the contract, then the The Devil has to follow his part too. In this trope, you gotta beat 'em at their own game. Characters who break one of these can become The Oath-Breaker. Compare Geas, which is more of a spell or curse.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ah! My Goddess, Keiichi unwittingly puts himself under one of these he half-jokingly wishes a goddess like Belldandy would stay with him forever. Much Hilarity Ensues follows as various people, demons, and deities try their best to rend these two asunder only to find themselves unequal to the task.
  • In Black Butler Ciel has a contract with his demon butler, Sebastian, which basically means that when he has accomplished all of his endeavors his soul will be devoured by said demon. In the meantime, Ciel gets a multi-talented butler and bodyguard who will follow his every command.
  • Pilots in Bokurano are normally contracted by them placing their hand on a metallic scanner-like pedestal and stating their names. The contract is unbreakable and unvoidable; once contracted, your only way out is either dying or getting killed. The fun part of this particular contract is that the only being that knows it fully and is able to enforce it is Dung Beetle; the game is actually booby-trapped so that the pilots automatically lose the whole game if anybody from their home world (including themselves) gets hold of any information contained within the contract outside of what little information Dung Beetle is allowed to (or is willing to) disclose. So far, the closest to a loophole the contract has is that people are not limited to one battle, so you can spare a pilot if you get chosen as the pilot twice in a row and win both battles. Good luck pulling that off with the current set of rules, though.
  • One of these is exploited ruthlessly by Emiya Kiritsugu in Fate/Zero. He holds the fiancée of another master hostage and agrees to let her go if Kayneth signs a geas with the terms that he will use his command spell to force his Servant to commit suicide and withdraw from the Grail War, and in return, Kiritsugu will be unable to harm him or have someone else do so. Kayneth signs the contract and makes Lancer kill himself- and then Kiritsugu's accomplice Maiya follows the orders she had been given before the contract was signed and shoots Kayneth and his fiancée Sola-Ui. To top things off, while Sola-Ui is killed instantly, Kayneth is left bleeding out and begging for a Mercy Kill. Kiritsugu replies he can't do that... because he signed the contract. Kayneth ends up being put out of his misery by Saber.
  • In Log Horizon when Rudy dies, Shiroe writes up a magical contract that will grant Rudy all the benefits of an Adventurer (which he would retain even if the contract is later nullified) so he will respawn at a cathedral instead of dying.
  • A requirement for Familiars on Lyrical Nanoha. The contents of Linith's contract, which stipulated for her to be erased after she had trained Fate as a first-class mage and completed Bardiche, was the reason why she was dead before the start of the series.
    • In a reversal of the usual bindings, Fate's Contract with Arf is much more open ended. Arf is contracted with Fate to "live her life in any way that she pleases, for as long as they both live."
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi had a magical item that makes contracts magically bound so that they have to be followed through. Fate attempted to use it: he nearly got Negi to promise not to interfere with his plans, in such way that Fate himself would not be bound to what he proposed in exchange. The girls later use it against Dynamis, making him promise to stop trying to interfere with their plans. Dynamis only agreed because he thought he'd already won anyway, and because while conductive to the Fatettes, it wasn't conductive to the Averrunci.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica:
    • Kyubey makes contracts with girls to become Magical Girls. Notably, his contracts are entirely verbal, and are without any form of fine print mentioning the downsides and side-effects, meaning that they aren't actually legally binding under most systems of law, despite being magically binding. There is no compulsion but not doing as the contract states leads to dire consequences. Contract?
    • Also, Kyubey will always follow through on his end of the contract. Always. Unfortunately, while he gives the girls exactly what they wanted with no Literal Genie side-effects, the girls don't wish for the right thing in the first place. Given that one of the anime's main themes is that a truly Selfless Wish doesn't exist, this isn't surprising.
  • In No Game No Life, war has been replaced with games where anything, great or small, up to and including global matters, is decided by the outcome. In the backstory, the gods of that world had had a war that left it in ruin, leaving the only one who'd stayed out of it - the god of play - as Top God, and he instituted a new system, enforced by magic. Bets made by two parties who formally agree to both the game and the wagers will be upheld no matter what. (This means you shouldn't bet, say, a single favor. Stephanie Dora, Crown-Princess of Elchea did that, was told "Fall in love with me" by Sora, the winner, and spent the rest of the story as the most justified Tsundere ever.)
  • So, I Can't Play H!: The shinigami of Grimwald form contracts with humans that allow them remain in their world by periodically feeding of their contractee's energy. But to establish the contract, the shinigami stabs them through the chest with a ceremonial sword that's attached to a soul binding chain. Ryosuke tried to hit on Lisara, shortly after meeting her, which she mistook as an offer to form a contract. She accepted.
  • Undertaker Riddle: The main protagonist, Hayato had to do one with Riddle to save his life. Now, half of Riddle's soul is bond to Hayato's in change of Hayato becoming Riddle's assistant and fellow Undertaker. The trick is, Riddle needs to be close to him to be at the whole capacity of his power and if Riddle dies so does Hayato.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 8 episode 16, Little M. makes a deal with a talking book that allows him to freely wish four times for whatever he wants, and he decides to use this ability to impress Big M. so that he doesn't think he's useless. He signs a contract that this is the case under two conditions: Firstly, he must not tell anyone about the contract, and secondly, if he uses up all of his wishes but still isn't able to impress Big M., the book will take one thing from him.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The background of the plane of Ravnica includes probably the largest example on the list: the Guildpact, a magical contract between the ten Guilds that essentially governs the entirety of the plane. The main plot of the novels turns out to be a convoluted attempt to break the Guildpact. Which eventually works due to a loophole. Also they have advokists and lawmages. Yes, ''lawyer mages". "Law Magic" is basically used to do two things: make the witness tell the truth, and memorize the code of laws, no matter how convoluted. The plot of the "Return to Ravnica", "Gatecrash", and "Dragon's Maze" block revolves around the consequences of breaking the Guildpact and a contingency plan to restore it.
    • Geth, Lord of the Vault, specializes in making magical tablets into which contracts can be willed. If they break the contract, Geth controls them forever. These are actually very popular, and his agents take them all over New Phyrexia, so that two parties who don't trust each other can use one of Geth's tablets and be assured that neither of them would dare break the agreement.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • In Cinderjuice, Beetlejuice has to sign one of these with the Fairy Godfather; naturally, he doesn't read the fine print.
    Beetlejuice: "Who actually reads a Terms of Service Agreement?"
  • Presented to the protagonist of Fair Vote, a Dresden Files fic, by a literal Devil's Advocate.
  • Harry Potter: Several Triwizard Tournament fics involve Harry deliberately defying the "magically binding contract" enforced by the Goblet of Fire, despite the strong possibility of losing his magic.
    • In The Power of the Press, the prophecy turns out to be stronger than the contract, making the Goblet explode.
    • While in Banking on Her it was Barty Crouch Jr. who lost his magic.
    • Although a few fanfics have taken to making it more than just the Champions who are bound by it; the Judges and Anyone who interfers can suffer too.
  • My Little Animaniacs: The contract that all of the Animaniacs signed (but only Yakko and Slappy actually read) for their own show. It requires them to help out whoever summons them to another world.
  • Queen of All Oni has one of these show up when Blankman forces Verde into submission and makes him sign into servitude. Notably, aside from the signature, it's totally blank, with the binding terms to be filled in later.
  • Read the Fine Print (Evangelion): Asuka finds a soul-selling contract on the internet. Believing it to be a silly hoax, Shinji sells his soul to Asuka in exchange for chocolate. After coming to Nerv, Shinji finds out that Asuka now truly owns his soul. When they try to alter the contract, a demon shows up to reiterate their contract is legally binding and cannot be broken or altered even if the paper it is printed on was destroyed.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles has both magically-enforced and magically-unbreakable contracts:
    • Harry and Riddle use the Unbreakable Vow to ensure that their deals are kept. Any time Harry contemplates a course of action that threatens to break the Vow, she can feel her blood start to heat up.
    • Harry uses a sealing curse to ensure that Marcus Flint literally can't tell her secrets (and thus has Plausible Deniability if someone asks about it afterward). She has to make a Vow of Undisclosed Debt in exchange, but she considers it a good trade.
  • In Robb Returns, a fanfiction based on A Song of Ice and Fire, any oath sworn on the Fist of Winter is magically enforced on penalty of death. According to Roose Bolton, a Bolton once broke an oath on the Fist and died shortly after. When Willem Bootle falsely swears his innocence in the death of Torgen Surestone on it, he is immediately killed by its magic.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney Animated Canon:
    • Even the power of Triton's trident has no effect upon the contract Ursula makes Ariel sign in The Little Mermaid, implying that there must be some source of power in the ocean greater even than his. Ursula even uses it as a shield to keep King Triton from killing her on the spot. Of course, once Ursula dies, her contracts are no longer legally valid.
    • Hercules:
      • A similar unwritten contract stating that his deal with Hades is forfeit if Meg is hurt in any way. It's part of Disney's larger theme with Hades and his propensity for Deals with the Devil: Hades may be a sleazy, double-dealing scumbag who will do everything short of murder to get you to sign, but the one thing he will never do is welch on a deal.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the film version of Ghost Rider, the Devil presents Johnny with a contract for his soul in exchange for his father's health. Where this moves beyond Deal with the Devil is that Johnny cuts himself on the contract while reading it, and the Devil takes his blood on the deal as agreement. But because he never actually agreed, Johnny eventually is able to resist Lucifer and keep the Rider's powers.
  • In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones is under a Magically Binding Contract to ferry souls to the afterlife (he can also draft dead sailors using contracts of his own). His neglect of this duty is the reason he and his crew look like Fish People.
  • In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry finds himself entered into the Triwizard Tournament when his name is selected from The Goblet of Fire. The thing is, Harry never entered his name for the contest; the Hidden Villain did. Ever the Reluctant Warrior, Harry expresses his disinclination to take part in the tournament. Alas, "The Goblet of Fire constitutes a Binding Magical Contract," says one of the grown-ups, so Harry has no choice but to participate.

  • Ascendance of a Bookworm happens in the sort of setting where status holds such a big role that the law will almost always favor the person of highest status, reaching a point where in most cases, commoners who defy nobles run the risk of being executed on the spot. Because of this, sufficiently important business deals tend involve magic contracts that carry penalties that can be as serious as death for being broken to keep the side with the highest status from breaking at a later time just because they can get away with it. Such contracts can be anywhere from city-wide to country-wide and need to be stamped in blood if the at least one of the people involed isn't part of the Supernatural Elite. It's also a good idea to have a non-magical copy of them made, as the real thing tends to seemingly spontaneously combust once it's completed.
  • In the Apprentice Adept series, any promise accompanied by the Splash of Truth (a flash of rainbow light, signifying the speaker is speaking absolute, heartfelt truth), is treated as absolutely binding. The consequences of going back on one's word (or even not giving one's all towards said promise) are never spelled out past "there are some."
  • The heroine of The Assassins of Tamurin learns towards the end that a character has been bound by this all along.
  • In Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Torak swears revenge for Bale's death on his three souls. Of course, this is in the book titled Oath Breaker, so you can guess how it turns out. In the next book, Renn mentions that this may have weakened the bond between his souls and made him vulnerable to Eostra. In an earlier book, during his exile, Torak tries to get Renn to swear on her souls and her bow, her most prized possession, not to follow him.
  • Graydon Saunders’ Commonweal has built its overarching mechanisms of government into a vast enchantment called the Shape of the Peace. Formal legal testimony cannot lie, for example; and being a sorcerer requires agreeing to be bound by the Shape, on pain of death should the sorcerer attempt to circumvent its strictures.
  • In Counselors and Kings, if a Halruaan wizard-lord swears to do (or not do) something "by wind and word" they are compelled to follow through, though they can interpret the Exact Words rather creatively to find loopholes. For example, when Basel Indoulur promises under such an oath to "deal appropriately" with his apprentice after she humiliates a rival wizard, Basel actually rewards her instead of punishing her, as he felt the other man had it coming. More seriously, supporting villain Dhamari is under an oath to never summon "any creature he doesn't understand and can't control", which means he has to find an Unwitting Pawn to conjure the malevolent fairies his plans require, as he'd be physically incapable of doing so himself.
  • Cradle Series: Sacred artists can make vows on their souls; the more powerful they are, the more damage they do to themselves if they break the vow. The vow is purely verbal, and the exact words unimportant. The vow can be for anything, and can even be used for things that should be impossible (such as someone sealing themselves at a lower power level). The only real caveat is that the vow needs to be between two people. Even if the vow is completely unbalanced in one side's favor, it still counts, and the vow is closed off and both sides have to abide by what they agreed.
    • Early on, Lindon vows to help Yerin against the Heaven's Glory school, while she vows to help him escape Sacred Valley and protect him until they're out. This oath is rendered moot within a couple days once they're out of Sacred Valley and in semi-civilized country, but they stick together regardless. Lindon also mentions that the specific wording they use is sometimes used for marriage ceremonies in his clan. Yerin doesn't notice.
      Yerin: You were all shiny and polished about it, but you didn't have to be. Say what you want to say, and your soul will do the rest.
    • When Jai Long is killing his way through the Jai clan, the patriarch Jai Daishou defeats him and forces him to swear a lopsided oath—Jai Long will protect the clan, while Jai Daishou will protect Jai Long and his sister as long as their loyalty remains true. It was very much a Join or Die situation, and Jai Long is locked into essentially slavery. Jai Daishou makes the mistake of activating a weapon within range of both Jai Long and his sister; the patriarch dies, and Jai Long is free to just walk away because Jai Daishou broke the oath first.
      Jai Daishou: You will only guard the clan in my absence, of course, you will not succeed it. You are a stopgap measure, a deterrent to keep the jackals at bay until a true heir can be raised from the Path of the Stellar Spear. Swear your soul to my control, utterly and completely, and you are a tool that can be used.
    • Naru Gwei, captain of the Skysworn, hates Eithan and nearly kills Lindon and Yerin several times because he is absolutely convinced that they are secret weapons that Eithan is planning to use against the Empire. Once Eithan has finally had enough, he swears an oath that Lindon and Yerin are being trained for the good of the Empire, and Eithan will obey all lawful orders if he is allowed to join the Skysworn to continue their training. But what finally gets Naru Gwei to agree? Eithan swears not to bother him unless it's an emergency.
      Naru Gwei: Done!
  • In the Craft Sequence, the Craft and Practical Theology are both powerfully rooted in these. It plays out to the extent that "powerful magic requires as much lawyerly skill as sorcerous ability" can be called a key conceit of the series. It's definitely a key conceit of Three Parts Dead, the first book of the series, in which a contract coming due at just the wrong time kills a God and sets off a high-intensity legal wrangle over His estate.
  • In The Dresden Files, it's frequently mentioned by Harry that a wizard who swears an oath "by their power" must hold to it. If it's broken, the wizard loses a portion of their power, to the point that a serial oathbreaker may lose the ability to work magic entirely.
    • Oaths and bonds issued by the Sidhe are also binding, and if they break a promise it causes them intense physical pain. However, they are only bound to the exact wording of a contract, and they subsequently abuse the hell out that.
      • In Cold Days, Harry finds he is now bound by Winter Law himself, so when he tries to break it (something the Fae cannot even conceive of doing), there are immediate, serious consequences. His Winter Knight Mantle vanishes, leaving him paralyzed as he was in Changes.
    • These contracts are so binding that not even Michael, who wields a holy sword and serves God Himself, can do anything against a valid contract, as such an act would be dishonest and break his power if he tried.
  • Isaac Asimov's "Gimmicks Three": Isidore Welby signed a contract with demons to gain a decade of good living, but exactly ten years later, he must pay the price. He suddenly appears in a perfect cube made of metal, and if he cannot escape before noon, his soul will be damned.
  • In The Guardians, if bargains and wagers are broken, that person or demon is damned to the field of frozen faces when they die.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: When the Goblet selects Harry to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, well, Harry has to compete, and the characters refer to it specifically as a "magically binding contract." However, Harry didn't enter himself, nor does he even want to compete; someone else confunded the Goblet to accept a fourth school and then submitted Harry as the only candidate for the school, ensuring he'd be picked and forced to compete. The consequences of breaking the contract, however, are not explained.
    • Introduced in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the "Unbreakable Vow", which kills you if you attempt to break it.
    • After Sirius dies, he officially leaves Harry everything, but there's still concern that control of his house and property (including Kreacher) might magically pass to his next living relative, Bellatrix. Dumbledore and Harry field-test this by giving Kreacher an order - when he has to recognize Harry as his new master, it confirms Sirius knew what he was doing, magically speaking, when he made his will.
  • The Heartstrikers has a few. Dragons are bound by blood contracts (exactly what it sounds like, binding all signatories to the terms as written), and by oaths sworn on their fire. The former compels obedience; the latter either does the same or snuffs out the fire of a dragon who breaks their word.Humans have the unbreakable curse called the Sword of Damocles, which is inscribed on skin and cuts off the relevant body part (heads are most popular) if they break their word.
  • Hero Series: Lee and Taro sign one when they join the troupe in Heroes Adrift, though they don't seem to really "get" that things would rebound on them badly if they ran away.
  • In The Hexslinger Series, it transpires that the "hexes", or magicians, of the series can get around their otherwise-irresistible urge to parasitically devour each other's magic (and ultimately life) in a variety of different ways by swearing a binding oath with their magic — although depending on what you swear to and whom, this can have a variety of much nastier consequences as well.
  • Inheritance Cycle: Anything someone swears to do in the Ancient Language will be done, because it compels them. The only out is if their personality gets changed so much that they really aren't the same person as they were when they swore it. That or death, of course, or otherwise becoming physically or mentally incapable of fulfilling the promise.
  • In the Malediction Trilogy, any promise made to or by a troll is absolutely binding. That is, unless you find a loophole in its wording, or the person to whom the promise is made dies.
  • In Pact and its spinoffs Poke and Pale, such contracts are usually made between powerful Others and human practitioners, and are a source of great power-in fact, most all human practitioners rely to one extent or another on deals with Others for their power.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians and its sequel series features swearing on the River Styx. Nobody knows what happens when you break this vow but apparently it's bad. Apollo breaks one in The Trials of Apollo and he's had worse luck than even the unluckiest of protagonists ever since.
  • In The Quest of the Unaligned, eight hundred years before the story started, Cohilt magically bound himself and all his descendants to the land of Caederan. This turned them into the first natural unaligned, born with access to all four Elemental Powers instead of just one. The contract also came at a cost, for if the royal family ever favor one of the elements over the others, the magic of Caederan itself will become imbalanced, unleashing hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, and floods.
  • The Reluctant King: Wizards force demons who they summon to swear oaths that make them perform services under compulsion.
  • In Septimus Heap, wizard apprentices seal their bond with their master by eating an "Apprentice Supper" within a day of making the agreement, which magically binds them for seven years and a day. Alther mentions that his was just a cheese sandwich, but he regretted eating that sandwich for the next seven years, since in bound him to DomDaniel. Merrin didn't even get a meal when he was kidnapped as a baby, which made his bond with DomDaniel and his magical talent be much weaker than otherwise (he didn't have much magic to begin with anyway).
  • Schooled in Magic: A person who swears a magical oath but refuses to fulfill it, or deliberately puts themselves in a situation so they cannot, will die. If they're unable to fulfill it because of something beyond their control, though, it won't kill them. It's discussed by name at greater length in book 3, when Emily starts taking a class in Law.
  • Spells, Swords, & Stealth: Promises made by the gods are absolutely inviolable. A god who makes a promise can not break it, even if circumstances change. In the fourth book, Siege Tactics, this is exploited by the dark god Kalizdar to take revenge against Grumble, god of the minions, and Thistle the gnome, Grumble's paladin, for destroying a piece of his very divinity in the second book. When Thistle became a paladin, his one condition was that, upon his death, he be allowed to be Together in Death with his late wife Madroria rather than go to the afterlife generally reserved for paladins. Grumble agreed. In Siege Tactics, Kalzidar uses the confusion caused by his plots to steal Madroria's soul from the gnomish afterlife. Because Grumble must uphold his word Thistle's soul will reunite with Madroria's when he dies and, if Kalzidar still has her when that happens, he gets Thistle, too.
  • Tamora Pierce's Tortall Universe: In the Trickster's Duet, breaking an oath signed in blood will result in one's blood boiling in one's veins. (It applies to the 'verse in general, but we see it most in that series.)
  • Dennis Wheatley's horror novel To the Devil a Daughter hinges on the need to find and retrieve a Faustian contract signed in blood; the novel hinges on the signee's sincere repentance not being enough; the physical contract has to be located and destroyed by burning, leaving no trace. This has its basis in some old Christian polemics.
  • The Warrior and Witch series has these where a witch forms a pact with somebody. The ritual involves making a lethal cut on the wrist, and then magically sealing it up. If the person does not meet their end of the deal, then the cut will reopen, letting the person bleed to death. Once the deal is over, the wound permanently heals over, and can become a badge of pride. The ritual is intended for deals that are met, such as discovering the culprit in a murder, or hunting a bounty. One witch in the sequel uses it to hold others to secrecy, a deal that never ends, and thus never permanently seals, and thus they will be in danger of it reopening for as long as they live. This is considered a gross perversion of the ritual by the witch's peers.
  • In The Wheel of Time, any oath taken by a mage while passing her magic through a tool called "the Oath Rod" is magically binding, though it can be removed by the same object. When created in the Age of Legends the rod was simply called a "binder", and was only used against intractably criminal mages (understandably, given the side effects - also now forgotten) to seal their powers.
  • In The Witchlands, Wordwitched documents, most notably the Twenty Year Truce, are this. Each copy is identical to the other, even if one is modified, and when someone breaks the rules established in the document, their signature disappears and no-one else is bound by the contract any more.
  • A Wizard in Rhyme: If a wizard swears to do something, fate will force them to follow through on it. This applies even when the wizard is a new arrival from another world who didn't know about the rule and makes the idle boast that he'll topple an enemy Sorcerous Overlord and her country personally — his next spell misfires to teleport him deep into enemy territory.
  • The Young Wizards series has the "Binding Oath", which if broken permanently strips you of all supernatural energy. This version of the Magically Binding Contract is interestingly different in that:
    • The person extracting the Oath can only do it once in their lifetime.
    • The person extracting the Oath will eventually suffer a backlash from the Oath, with the backlash being worse the more powerful the Oath is.
    • The Wizards Oath itself is one in that if you break the oath, you will invariably lose your wizardry. Many spells also effectively end up like contracts where a wizard promises to pay later for an effect now, and spells are transacted in a Language of Magic which is also a Language of Truth.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 10th Kingdom, Wolf binds himself to do the queen's bidding, in return for his release from prison. He first accepts the contract eagerly, only later getting second thoughts, after it's too late to renege.
  • In Angel, contracts with Wolfram and Hart are often magically enforced. High level employees sign away their lives and afterlives to work for the firm. After being killed by Darla, Holland Manners continues to serve the Senior Partners, and the same happens to Lilah Morgan after being killed by Jasmine. Wesley attempts to free Lilah from her contract by retrieving it and burning it. It simply reappears back where he found it.
    • In the fifth season, Angel is forced by members of the Blackthorn to sign a contract in which he refuses to fulfill a prophecy that would make him human again.
  • In the Charmed episode "Soul Survivor" (episode 7 of Season 6), a demon makes Faustian deals using magical contracts. They have a special clause that says the souls are to burn forever if he himself is killed, to discourage people from trying to break the contract by killing him. The main characters manage to deal with him by locating the vault and burning all the contracts, then killing the demon!
  • The Magicians: Quentin agrees to make a contract with Alice as a niffin which is subject to "Word as bond", which neither of them can break. She finds ways to circumvent the contract's restrictions despite this.
  • Once Upon a Time: Magic will severely punish anyone who breaks one of Rumplestiltskin's contracts, which is made even more dangerous by the fact that he's a master of exact words and his victims often fail to Read the Fine Print.
  • Supernatural is positively drowning in these, most often made with demons, notably Dean's deal with a crossroads demon to bring Sam Back from the Dead, which he can't break or else Sam's life will be taken away again. Played for Laughs when the demon Crowley proposes a deal with the Leviathan Dick Roman and pulls out a comically long scroll of Latin legalese, which they're still amending in minute detail in their next scene.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Escape Clause". A hypochondriac signs a Deal with the Devil to live forever. Then he kills his wife, is not afraid of the death penalty obviously so mocks the proceedings, but his smart lawyer manages to get a life sentence. The man is horrified by the prospect of an eternity (literally) in prison, and uses the "escape clause" from the contract, dying of a heart attack in his cell. He should have known The Devil has ways of subverting contracts.
  • In the Xena: Warrior Princess episode "Soul Possession", there is a magical contract saying Xena had to marry Ares. Xena escapes from him, so Ares later troubles Xena's modern day reincarnation Annie, since they look identical. Since the contract can only be destroyed by Ares, Xena/Annie tricks him into hitting it with a fireball.


    Myths & Religion 
  • Faust's contract with Mephistopheles has to be signed with blood, and can't be broken.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Castle Falkenstein the Adversary and the rest of the Unseelie are bound by the Second Compact even though they were tricked into signing it by Auberon.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The 2nd Edition Tome of Magic sourcebook had the Contracts of Nepthas. Anyone who breaks such a contract is struck deaf, dumb and blind. Ambiguities in the contract's language can be exploited.
  • Take care when signing a contract with a Devil; depending on the contract, once you sign, you're either going to Baator when you die OR you're going to have to make increasingly evil acts just to keep the benefits. Tearing up the contract isn't an option; there are always clauses that lead to the signer getting harmed if they do this.
  • In Exalted, Eclipse Caste Solars can sanctify any sort of agreement to be magically enforced by Heaven.
    • Moonshadow Caste Abyssals and Fiend Caste Infernals can do similar things - for the Moonshadows, it's enforced by the Neverborn, while for the Fiends it's enforced by the Yozis. This isn't entirely surprising, as both Moonshadows and Fiends are corrupted Eclipse Exaltations.
    • The Yozis themselves were forced into magically binding oaths when they lost the war against the Gods and their Exalted. This includes an oath to stay in Malfeas (Hell), but they think they'll be able to escape this one if they create Hell on Earth first.
    • The Perfect of Paragon can make these contracts as well. In fact, he requires them of anyone who wants to live in his city.
    • The raksha, thanks to a quirk in their nature, must abide by their sworn word, or be cursed. They know this full well, and are very, /very/ good at exploiting loopholes. The raksha can also make adjurations, oaths that empower a raksha who swears to them, so long as the raksha fulfills their conditions.
  • In GURPS, if you manage to summon a demon (fairly easy) and control it (not so easy), you can order it to do one task lasting up to one hour. The demon is bound to obey, but it will use any loopholes it is smart enough to think of, and get into as much trouble as possible along the way. Remember how we said Evil Is Not a Toy.
  • In Nomine has the Lilim, demons with the ability to read people's Needs (which really means wants most often) by looking in their eyes; if the Lilim can fullfil a target's Need she (Lilim are almost always female) gets a "hook" which she can later use to place a Geas on that person, forcing them to do a return favour or else suffer dissonance (for celestials) or physical harm (for humans). It is possible for a strong willed person to resist the Geas at the time when the Lilim tries to call in the return favour. They can also place a Geas on a willing target (including on themselves). Their Mother, Lilith, has the same abilities but her Geases cannot be resisted.
  • In Nomine Satanis / Magna Veritas has Marc, archangel of trade, whose angels can sign a binding contract. Breaching the contract causes direct damage to the breacher. This is also present in the American version.
  • World of Darkness
    • Changeling: The Lost has a borderline case with Pledges, supernaturally-enforced deals Changelings (and the True Fae) can strike with others. While the Pledge doesn't supernaturally force others to obey, most Pledges offer significant penalties, called Sanctions, which afflict an oathbreaker. These Sanctions can range from a -1 to all rolls, to owing the other party a favor, to death.
    • If you're lost in Arcadia, land of the True Fae, and you're cold, and you start a fire, the fire won't warm you. You don't have a contract for that. Water won't quench your thirst, because it doesn't know what it'll get in return. True Fae can use these contracts- and more importantly, the loopholes therein- to make things normal-ish for themselves.
  • The Old World of Darkness' predecessor game, Changeling: The Dreaming, had a similar mechanic. Characters could willingly swear Oaths to each other. An Oathbreaker not only was a pariah, but suffered serious game-mechanic based penalties as well. The Oaths functioned as magically binding verbal contracts.
  • Mage: The Ascension has a flaw called Geas or Imperative, which first gives something that the mage can or cannot do and the result of the mage breaking that condition, the relative difficulty of abiding the contract and how bad the punishment is determining how big the flaw is in terms of freebies returned. So you can have an easy geas that asks that you go outside at least once per day and turns your hair rainbow if you don't, or one as horrifying as being unable to leave a particular spot or your avatar shatters. Obviously, the high end of these imperatives are downright unplayable barring very, very creative players who might use their spheres to abuse loopholes (astral projection not counting as their body had not left the spot or sending out clones as the original is still in the required spot), though these are usually high-level sphere effects that a starting character cannot possibly access with normal building rules.
  • In Mage: The Awakening, Mages can use Fate magic to bind a person to their word. Such Oaths are permanant unless their terms are fulfilled or fairly powerful magic is used to break them. The Oath does have the advantage that it confers the benefit of giving the person so bound a potential boost of will to overcome anything that might prevent them from fulfilling it. However, if they break the Oath, they are permanantly blighted with a curse whose power is proportional to that of the mage who cast it. At higher levels, mages can bind people to Oaths that they didn't actually make.

    Video Games 
  • While Baldur's Gate doesn't have the standard Dungeons & Dragons geas as a usable spell, the enchantment shows up a few times as a plot point.
    • In the first game, there is a special quest where an assassin called Lothander shows up and informs you that if you help him get rid of the geas by which he is bound to serve the Iron Throne, he'll tell you how to heal the poison he and his partner have given your whole party that was meant to kill you in a few days to get you out of the Throne's way. The geas prevents him from looking for the way to opt out of it himself, but not asking his "enemies" to get it for him.
    • In Shadows of Amn, it turns out Yoshimo is under a geas that obliges him to betray you to the Big Bad, having agreed to the contract earlier when he didn't know what he was getting into.
    • In Throne of Bhaal, Sarevok tells you that, in exchange for getting to join you, he can swear a special oath to stay loyal, which done in the Demiplane would due to the nature of the place act like a geas.
  • Renon's contract from Castlevania 64 contains a clause that if you spend more than $30,000 on merchandise from him he gains ownership of your soul. Of course, it's on him to actually enforce the contract so when he comes looking for your soul you can just kick his ass and not pay up. Be warned though, he's no pushover.
  • In Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories, demon summoning rituals are magically binding contracts that require an equivalent price to pay. This is how after the attempt to summoning Overlord Zenon supposedly goes bad, Adell is stuck with Rozalin as a party member.
  • In Thage's path in Eternal Poison, she forces a magical contract upon adventurer-hunter Retica, preventing him from disobeying her wishes as she searches for the game's namesake MacGuffin.
  • The infamous Blood Pact in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn is a contract between a ruler and another party. The ruler can do whatever they please, but the other party can invoke the pact at any time, killing one person under the ruler's, um, rule on the first day, two on the second, and so on until they decide to stop. It can be broken, though. Rip up the contract and kill one of the people who made it.
  • In Food Fantasy, summoning a Food Soul automatically forms a contract between the Soul and summoner, and the Food Souls must obey the Attendant they are contacted with.
  • In Granblue Fantasy, Mithra's power forces any promise or contract made within its domain to be carried out to the letter, regardless of situation or laws of reality. This becomes a problem during the Golonzo Island arc when the Grandcypher is incapable of leaving the island until Rackam fulfills his promise.
  • Pilgrim (RPG Maker): Master Alice's deals with people must be followed to the letter and cannot be broken, no matter how much Alice herself would like to break them (which is why she constantly looks for Loophole Abuse and Exact Words).
  • In Planescape: Torment, Fhjull Forked-Tongue is a Cornugon (a medium-high ranking Devil) who signed such a contract with the angel, Trias, thinking he'd be getting a great deal. As it turns out, Trias lied to him and Fhjull wound up being forced to do charity for all who ask him. Naturally, as a being of Lawful Evil, he hates this with every fiber of his being and is a pariah among his own kind.
  • A staple in the main Shin Megami Tensei series. Generally, when a demon decides to join a summoner as an ally during negotiations, a contract between the demon and the summoner is formed that can usually be broken upon the summoner's death. Note that the contract is binding on the fact that a contracted demon is Incapable of Disobeying the summoner. Demons summoned though fusion are also placed under a similar contract.
  • In World of Warcraft's "Legion" expansion, the Player Character gets trapped in Helheim. The player bargains with Helheim's ruler, the fallen Val'kyr Helya, to be allowed to leave if they can defeat Helya's champion. When the player succeeds in fulfilling their side of the bargain, Helya tries to renege on the deal, but is powerless to stop the player's ascension from Helheim.
  • In Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous the lich Zacharius is under one to remain in his chapel until a crusader finds and returns his wand to him, then aid them. He placed it on himself because he feared his transformation into a lich would cause him to stop caring about the crusade to end the demonic invasion, and now bitterly resents what he considers the foolishness of his former self because that's exactly what happened.

    Visual Novels 
  • Used in the third route of Fate/stay night, although agreeing to it leads to a bad end a while down the route.
    • In the prequel Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu forces Kayneth to sign a self-geas scroll to force Lancer to kill himself, otherwise Kiritsugu will execute Sola-Ui. Although the contract also prevents Kiritsugu from killing Kayneth and Sola-Ui, he uses Loophole Abuse and has Maiya snipe them from afar once the deed has been done.
  • In Juniper's Knot, there is a magical effect that echoes off the chamber when the boy strikes a deal with the Fiend.
  • In Magical Diary, the promise of a witch is always binding - break your word and you lose your magic.

    Web Comics 
  • In Champions of Far'aus, Champions of deities have some sort of magic contract with them. While most of them do whatever their deity tells them to, Champions seem to be able to enable Loophole Abuse just by talking to their deity and changing their mind, although in #3, Daryl wonders what the punishment for outright disobeying an order is. The short story “Spheres” shows that disobeying an order creates a spherical . . . thing inside of their deity that, upon coming into contact with the Champion, causes “Unimaginable pain and suffering” that only their deity can dispel. The protagonist’s deities, Leilusa and Hyperion, have no intention of using the spheres to enforce cooperation, and destroy them almost as fast they form. Unless it’s the rare occasion they want to count how many times they were disobeyed for kicks.
  • El Goonish Shive: When Immortals make a promise, they're bound to that promise, even in their subsequent lives. An Immortal who breaks a promise has what amounts to forcible, unavoidable, screaming intrusive thoughts until they fix it - thus, such a contract is effectively magically self-enforced for an Immortal. This is why Voltaire is incredibly careful with what he promises...
  • Erfworld has literal magical contracts, complete with lawyer-speak and magically enforced clauses. A non-disclosure agreement literally prevents you from talking about which you are forbidden.
  • #Blessed: The contract bound both Joanna and the gods when she swiped right on a dating app. While she theoretically had a choice, the gods didn't, and were chosen by fate. Turns out the contract itself is intelligent, and this is the third time it has tried to fulfill the prophecy.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • Spoofed in the Torg Potter parody of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
      • Anything the Goblet says is magically binding. Even when the commands are completely irrational and have nothing to do with the Tournament. Once Torg figures out how to manipulate the Goblet with Muggle methods, he's able to get it to apparently say that Gandledorf has to sit on a cactus for the tournament's entire duration. The only visible power the contracts have is that everyone obeys them, so a fake one works as well as a real one.
      • Worse yet, a wizard's name in itself is a magical binding contract, compelling the wizard in question to do whatever their name implies, which is why many wizards tend to change their name. Gandeldorf's name was allegedly Grad-fondle.
    • Played straight (in "The Circle") with the contract between Lysinda Circle and Strakoistrat vampires: the Strakoi have a magically binding contract that without Lysinda's direct permission, no more than one of them can set foot in the New World. If they try to come within more than a few feet of land, the magic will repulse them.
  • In Tower of God, the Tower is full of magical contracts that are mostly enforced on people when they enter a given area, or even because they were born anywhere in it. For example, anyone entering the Name Hunt Station is compelled to be the slave of anyone who steals their name by the Station's rules, and not to attack the ruler, Kaiser, unless they fulfill specific conditions. Usually, the contract is enforced by the fact that the local Administrator, a minor Cosmic Being, will smack you if you don't follow it. When someone tries to attack Kaiser without permission, he just vanishes into nothingness, presumably by the Administrator's direct intervention. Other contracts are just physically impossible to break; that's why God-Emperor Jahad is impossible to kill for anyone from within the Tower. (He and others have a contract with the Administrators in a different sense: they make the contract, and it's enforced on other people and external reality.)
  • In Wake The Sleepers, the Assassin Madoc enters into a contract to assassinate Locke, which when bound by a Blood Oath binds him to complete the task.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation, SCP-2221 ("A Friendly Agreement"). SCP-2221 is a EULA (End User License Agreement) that causes people who agree to it to become religious extremists. It does not affect anyone who is legally unable to form a contract (young children, mentally incompetent, slaves and D-Class personnel).
  • Whateley Universe:
    • Reneging on "sorcerer's contracts" is possible for humans, just with unknown consequences. For more magical beings, it's literally unbreakable. They're even binding when the agreement is extracted from an unaware party through trickery or coercion, with some students not above using such tactics against others. However, there are loopholes in the system. Carmilla wriggles out of another student's attempt to hold her to a similar contract because what she signed with wasn't her actual signature, and was in fact a disguised "Hell No". Note that Carmilla's was actually the related "Deal with the Devil" trope, and it's repeatedly pointed out that Jobe should have gotten someone else to look over the contract. It's stated he got LUCKY in regards to dealing with a demon. Sorcerers' contracts can be formed by literally just shaking hands, and can be verbal.
    • There is also the Fool's Circle: a magical circle which traps you inside it if you willingly enter. You do not have to agree to what is going to happen to you: you might do so because the magician is lying about the spell they will cast, or you might enter with a friend held at gunpoint. It doesn't matter. You voluntarily entered, case closed. Which is why students who learn about magic are told of the dangers.

    Western Animation 
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • Fairy Mason helps Timmy make Norm the Genie sign one so he'll grant Timmy's last wish without any loopholes.
    • Flappy Bob signs a contract with the Pixies to restore the Learn-a-torium and make the world dull and boring while the Pixies take over Fairy World. When Flappy learns the Pixies were manipulating him all along, he exploits a loophole in the contract to make everything back to normal. The contract states that Earth should be safe and happy "as defined by Flappy Bob," so Flappy changes his definition to "everything being the way it's supposed to be". The Pixies then have no choice but to remove the boredom from everywhere in Dimmsdale (except the school) and return Fairy World to fairy control.
    • All fairies are also magically bound by Da Rules — a huge, Federal Code-sized book of, as its titles says, rules that fairies (ex. can only grant wishes to kids) and their kids (ex. lose your godparents if you ever tell anyone about them) must follow. Fairies are incapable of granting any wish forbidden by Da Rules, such as killing someone, making someone fall in love with you, or free money (because stealing and counterfeiting are crimes) — if they try, their wands sputter out. If a wish ever screws the world up badly enough, a new rule against granting such a wish can be created. On the flip side, unless it violated Da Rules, fairies are also bound to do anything their kid prefaces with the words "I wish," no matter how ill-advised (Cosmo and Wanda once even had to grant wishes Timmy made while he was sleep-wishing out of guilt for accusing Vicki of stealing town mascot Chompy the goat, when he had released Chompy himself after learning that Chompy wanted to be free).
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: As a teenager, the then-newly-crowned Queen Moon enters into a magical contract with one of Rhombulus' prisoners, the dark Queen Eclipsa, in order to defeat Toffeenote . Eclipsa would give Moon a spell that could permanently kill himnote , and Eclipsa would be freed from her prison as soon as Toffee was dead. Both parties end up able to exploit some form of Loophole Abuse: Moon deliberately avoids killing Toffee to prevent the contract from being completely fulfilled, so she basically got the spell for nothing. However, when Star and Ludo manage to kill Toffee for good without using the spell, the contract is fulfilled anyway, since the agreement was only that Eclipsa goes free when Toffee is dead. They never specified that Moon had to be the one to kill him, or even that Eclipsa's spell had to be used to do it.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) Grand Finale "The Last Adventure!" Bradford puts into a motion a plan to get rid of adventuring forever and puts Scrooge McDuck in one of these, forcing him to give up adventuring for his family. He thinks it is iron-tight as he spent 30 years refining it to get rid of any loopholes. Webby and the triplets realize that there is a loophole - Scrooge can't give up adventuring for his family because "Family is the greatest adventure of all!" Bradford thinks this is stupid, but the Papyrus of Binding, previously established as rather fickle in how it interprets what is written on it and taking its subjects' personal definitions of terms into account, accepts it as a valid technicality that renders the contract void.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Magical Contract


Unbreakable Even for You

King Triton learns that his daughter Ariel signed away her soul to the sea witch Ursula and tries to blast away the contact with his trident. As Ursula explains though, the contract is legal, binding and completely unbreakable, even for him.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / MagicallyBindingContract

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