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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    In this write-up, I attempt to ham the Hell(s) out of Mephistopheles, with the ever-present resource of Anime. If you want to make you group's battle with the Lord of Cania memorable...well, I've certainly made it that.

    This write-up assumes you're not in one of the groups to have used Mephistopheles as the main focus in a campaign. If you have, cool! Share your stories below about how your DM played him. Constructive discussion is always welcome.

    The Problem

    In the courts of the Nine Hells, Mephistopheles doesn't get a lot of credit. Despite being the second most powerful devil in existence, he's often relegated to a background character, shut away on Cania messing about with dark fire. In the grand scheme of things, Asmodeus simply makes a better BBEG.

    This is due, in part, to his characterization in the sourcebooks. Mephistopheles has a small to nonexistent cult. His only real claims to fame are ruling Cania and inventing hellfire. He seems more like a shut-in nerd, especially compared to the other Archdukes of Hell, than a real threat. Even his own subjects, the gelugons (ice devils), seem pretty dismissive of him.

    But we can change that. How?

    Because Mephistopheles is more than a bookish Archduke. He's a shonen rival.

    Shonen Rivals

    Shonen, for the unaware, is a genre of anime and manga that caters to young men. These works are often about fighting, and may include enormous muscles, insane powers, and a lot of screaming. The most well-known example of shonen is Dragon Ball Z, which codified a lot of the tropes that shonen anime now uses. But we're not looking at DBZ right now.

    Yu Yu Hakusho is a manga and anime much older than Dragon Ball Z, and is considered one of the progenitors of shonen as a whole. The manga and anime follow Yusuke, a boy who has a brush with death and gains magical powers. By the second season, he's met and fought several powerful demons, some of whom become his allies. One of them, Hiei, is a rival character for the rest of the work.

    Now would be a good time to talk about shonen rivals as a concept.

    "Rivals" in shonen works are typically latecomers to the protagonist's squad. Sometimes, with characters like Vegeta, they're former villains. Their character arcs focus on their struggle to get stronger than the protagonist, and sometimes they uncover new and exciting sources of power in order to do so.

    In looking at Mephistopheles, I want to focus on Hiei's relationship with Yusuke, and what that means for Mephistopheles and Asmodeus.

    Hiei is a demon sent to kill Yusuke, but when Yusuke beats him they decide to team up. A natural fire demon, he had his fire powers dimmed somewhat when he underwent surgery to get a magic third eye implanted in his forehead. This eye allows him to interact with "The Dragon of the Darkness," which grants him dark fire powers. However, at least at the beginning, using these powers causes great harm to his body.

    In the second season, "The Dark Tournament," Hiei calls upon his dark fire powers often in order to pull out a victory. By the end of the season, he has mastered it, allowing him to become the Dragon of the Darkness, gaining an incredible power boost in the process.

    In many ways, this arc is similar to how Mephistopheles and Asmodeus have long interacted. Mephistopheles is a blatant rival to the Lord of Hell's power, and openly proclaims his intent to kill his overlord at some point in the future. But each time he attempts such a thing, Asmodeus defeats him. "Recently," Mephistopheles has begun experimenting with hellfire, a super evil fire that is really the concentrated essence of the Hells themselves. This allows it to deal great harm to even fire-immune creatures, but also causes much consternation among his ice devil servants, as his experiments have started to warm up Cania. (I assume they have a union meeting or something where they discuss these things.)

    So Mephistopheles is really a shonen rival to Asmodeus. Not just a bookworm, he's invested in seeking more power in order to get stronger than his dark master. So we can use this information to inform how we, as DMs, roleplay and actually play Mephistopheles for our players.

    Going Full Anime

    When interacting with the characters (and others), Mephistopheles should be arrogant and self-assured, basking in his own power. Around those more powerful than him, he's openly defiant, knowing that most of them don't want to bother to destroy him. But should anyone lesser than him mention that Asmodeus is more powerful than him, he will lash out angrily.

    Mephistopheles is cunning, and knows that it's best to convince the characters to join him. He will probe their thoughts with piercing questions and thought-provoking ideas, attempting to gauge their willingness to partner with him. As a scientist of magic, Mephistopheles may invite similarly-inclined characters to help him in his investigations. Perhaps he is willing to trade servitude for magical assistance on his part.

    Not just a scientist, Mephistopheles is a go-getter. He may journey personally to dark corners of the multiverse, seeking out new sources of lore and magical power that can help him kill his hated enemy. Likewise, if characters can offer him new power to assist him in his quest, he may be willing to bargain with them.

    In combat, Mephistopheles is swift and perilous. He will proclaim his enemies' deaths moments before he makes them happen. He will call to his legions to watch as he pummels demigods and heroes to the ground. But if he is seriously threatened, he is likely to vanish with a smirk, leaving his would-be killers at the mercy of his ice devils.

    Don't forget that Mephistopheles is a powerful wizard in his own right! He is intelligent, crafty, and has many contingency plans in place. Don't be afraid to deploy dirty spell-based tricks against your players.

    Bonus Mechanics

    I'm really big into giving powerful monsters unique abilities and actions outside of those typically taken by enemies in the game. While magic can fix some of these problems, it can't fix all of them. Hellfire powers aren't really fleshed out in the game itself. In 3rd edition there are hellfire engines, but Mephistopheles himself doesn't have that many hellfire-based powers. So I added some!

    Working off the premise that hellfire is a shonen-tier powerup, I created this small assortment of abilities for the Lord of Cania to use in combat, all organized in a short table. Be sure to ham these up!

    (Don't be afraid to let Mephistopheles deal some damage. He's the second most powerful devil in the cosmos, and if your players aren't prepared for that, they should expect some consequences.)

    Every few rounds, or maybe for many in a row, roll a d6, and see what hellfire powers Mephistopheles uses that round:

    1: Mephistopheles says something anime-y and hammy. For example, something like "I won't even need 10% of my power to destroy you!" or "I don't need to get close to you to beat the crap out of you!" Ham this line up. Mephistopheles will gain advantage (or a +4 bonus, depending on your edition) on the next Charisma-based roll he makes. He cannot use this ability again until he does this.

    2: Mephistopheles unleashes a sweeping kick that trails hellfire. Treat this as a burning hands spell appropriate for Mephistopheles's caster level, but with double the area of effect. In addition, the spell ignores resistance and immunity to fire damage, but not resistance or immunity to hellfire.

    3: Mephistopheles performs a dark combat art, fortifying his fists with hellfire. The next time he goes to make a melee attack, he unleashes a flurry of blows. Mephistopheles makes 10 melee attacks with his fists, and each one deals 4d6 bonus hellfire damage.

    4: Mephistopheles spends the round charging up in the classic DBZ "constipated Saiyan" position. He screams, and a powerful aura of hellfire surges around him. All his attack and damage rolls, and save DCs, gain a 2d4 bonus for the next 10 minutes. He may spend multiple rounds in this position, with each consecutive bonus adding onto the previous one.

    5: Mephistopheles releases a burst of hellfire from his body, tearing up his surroundings as he lets out a bellowing roar. All enemies within 30 feet must make a Dexterity saving throw or take 6d6 hellfire damage (success halves the damage). Allies in range gain that same amount of temporary hit points.

    6: Mephistopheles hurls a ball of hellfire. Treat it as a fireball appropriate for Mephistopheles's caster level, with double the range and area of effect. In addition, this fireball ignores resistance and immunity to fire damage, but not hellfire resistance or immunity.

    I also created a second table for how Mephistopheles interacts between rounds. As a reaction or bonus action, whenever Mephistopheles is attacked, roll a d4 if you want him to do something.

    1: Mephistopheles redirects the attack with a deft movement, causing the source of the attack to make the attack against themselves with half the attack bonus that they applied to the original attack.

    2: Mephistopheles leaps into the air just above the attack and begins hovering using his wings. If there is no room for him to fly, on the next turn (anyone's turn) he comes crashing down to his original location, suffering no adverse effects.

    3: Mephistopheles blocks the attack with his arm, with the blade, shaft, or flat of the weapon shivering under the impact of his infernal thews. The source of the attack must succeed on a Constitution save (with the DC being the damage roll of the missed attack) or become stunned until their next turn.

    4: Mephistopheles sidesteps at lightning speed, appearing almost to teleport. He appears on the opposite side of the attacking creature and performs a single melee attack with his hand. If there is no room for Mephistopheles to move there, he simply shifts 5 feet to the side.

    If you like, you can ignore the rolling and just give Mephistopheles powers that seem to fit into the situation. For instance, if the party encounters him at a distance, have him charge up for a few rounds.

    In addition, Mephistopheles is a wizard, but most stat blocks give him a very low caster level. This is ridiculous. He's old and powerful enough to have 20 levels in a single class. Let him use his full repertoire of spells! (I can think of so much shonen goodness with time stop alone.)

    The Bottom Line

    Mephistopheles doesn't get enough credit. He's ancient and powerful, and hellfire gives him a unique power found nowhere else in the cosmos. The Lord of Cania has the potential to be an awesome and memorable villain. Hopefully, you can now make him so, with the gods and anime on your side.

    I'll stop now.
    Last edited by Uvexar; 2019-10-24 at 01:48 AM. Reason: Removed scrubbed words

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Another DM, here.
    I like these.

    Although I went more Ghost Rider than you.

    (In my game) Like all Outsiders, Devils must be Summoned into the Mortal World;
    Celestials, Demons, Devils, Yugoloths, Succubus/Incubus, Slaad, Elementals, etc.

    Only the most powerful can remain for any real amount of time, usually not Exceeding a year.

    While the Archdukes (Demon Lords, Archfey, etc) can exceed this limit, most would rather remain in Hell so that they don't lose status (a form of power) by being away too long.

    But, Mephistopheles is different.
    His power isn't tied to his status in Hell.
    It's actually the reverse: his power gives him Status in Hell.
    (Asmodeus is both Power and Status)

    As such, Mephistopheles spends more time on the Mortal plane, seeking out those that desire (magical) power, and offering Deals.

    Like all the other Devils, Mephistopheles uses contracts - mostly physical, but can be verbal - to interact with Mortals. (DMs can easily have the PC become a Fiend Warlock this way)
    Unlike the rest, Mephistopheles is more inclined to use complicated "legalese" in these contracts. Even Asmodeus is more direct, most of the time.

    As noted, Mephistopheles is Old, and studies magic. Giving him the spells of a 20th level Wizard (no school specialization) with both (5e) Metamagic and Sorcery Points, is believable. (With access to Warlock powers/spells and Invocations.
    Imagine a 600' Eldritch Blast that ignores all but Full Cover and does 4d10 Hellfire damage, ignoring Fire Resistance and Immunity.)

    However, he only uses Wish for Mortals.
    Watch out for that Monkey Paw!!!

    I tend to give Mephistopheles access to Older (Edition) Spells, and he always desires to acquire new spells. Mephistopheles loves offering the spells in his collection to Mortal Wizards, in the hopes of adding another "Researcher" to his Laboratory.

    Like you said, Mephistopheles is smart.
    When dealing with Mortals, he will use tactics (including Detect Thoughts) to figure out what the goals and (especially Secret) desires that they have, and then cater his tempting offers accordingly.

    ****
    Now, as for ways to ham Mephistopheles up:
    I like your ideas.
    Especially for those rare times that Mephistopheles engages in combat.

    For extra ham - having it where the ice devils will assist Mephistopheles in combat, but won't ever get close enough to use the Help Action for him, despite their Lord yelling at them. They stick to ranged attacks, or engaging in melee with foes that are isolated away from the main combat.
    (I'm picturing behavior similar to Minions - except more deadly.)

    (I have it where Mephistopheles will not fight in Cania. Anytime anyone attacks him there, they find that they were actually fighting a Simulacrum.)

    I have Mephistopheles with both Spell Resistance (advantage to Saves) and Magic Resistance (half damage) and being able to use Legendary Actions to cast a spell of 5th level or lower.
    (5e: An optional rule is to allow Mephistopheles to cast leveled spells even after casting a Bonus Action spell - instead of just a Cantrip)

    For 3x D&D, just make sure that Mephistopheles has Swift and Immediate Spells, and all the Metamagic Feats.

    Like you said: Mephistopheles is supposed to be a very powerful being, so don't hold back!!!

    But, if Mephistopheles wins, he simply gloats and leaves; fully confident that he can always deal with the PCs if they come after him again.

    For more powerful (read "higher level") PCs, maybe he places a Curse, or Geas, on them.
    Last edited by Great Dragon; 2019-06-01 at 01:32 PM.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Hrm, this is insanely interesting.

    I’m not sure what to add; my version of the hells is very corporate.

    You could have Mephistopheles be more of a curious entity. I mean, your PC’s are bound to find something interesting that isn’t in any sourcebook over the course of their adventures. Mephistopheles could literally KNOW that it isn’t in a sourcebook, meta style. He’s a big nerd from Research and Development (think Better Off Ted). Give him a bunch of bespoke items he made to rival Asmodeus. Some half-assed illusory Tiamat, maybe, or some free cast of disintegrate from an eyepiece.

    I think you should use him with a PC whose patron, god, or dad (if they’re Tiefling) is literally Asmodeus. Can you imagine Mephisto’s fruitless, nerdy screaming “Stop ****ing SAYING ASMODEUS!”

    Just make sure you have a decent reason that Asmodeus ain’t all that concerned. I’d suggest contractual. Maybe Meph found a loophole?

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    I'm not sure how Uvexar has his "Hells" set up.

    Note about my game: There are only three ways for any of the "Outsiders" (and a lot of Deities) to get true Power, and all of them revolve around getting Mortal Souls.

    A) When a Person dies, their Soul is pulled into the compatible plane.
    LG to Mount Celestia, CG to Arborea, NG to the Twin Paradises, LN to Mechanics, the Beastlands get all souls connected to Nature, LE to Hell, CE to the Abyss, and NE to Gehenna.
    Hades usually gets unclaimed souls, regardless of Alignment in life.
    (Although I use Forgotten Realms, I don't have the "Wailing" Wall of the Forsaken)

    Note that Sigil (Plane of Concordant Opposition) does not "get souls" although any sentient being permanently trapped in a Maze by the Lady of Pain does count for this purpose.

    B) The mortal has committed Moral Acts relating to a particular Outsider's "motiff".
    Or, for Deities, being a truely devoted "worshiper".
    (Which is why you don't find very many Humanoids outside those Planes dedicated to them and their Deities)

    C) If the mortal has made a Deal that involves the classic "selling your Soul" (knowingly or not) with that Fiend.

    *****
    Asmodeus usually isn't worried about Mephistopheles.

    There are several reasons:
    1) Most mortals seeking Deals for Power come to Asmodeus. "If you're going to do it, go to the Top!"

    While all the other Archdukes can attract Cultists (and similar) these rarely help to increase either Power or Status in Hell. (Same for the other two Fiend types, other Outsiders have their own motivations to "collect" souls.)
    Only Deals with "significant people" really grant any power. Causing a Good Person to "fall" is a favorite.

    2) Asmodeus manipulates several of the other Archdevils and Archdukes against Mephistopheles: As well as each other;
    and only Asmodeus (and the DM) knows all the details.

    3) Due to these facts Mephistopheles is (usually) limited to only being able to temp Spellcasters (usually Wizards, but also Warlocks, and sometimes Sorcerers) into making Deals with him.

    Cultists for Mephistopheles do exist, but are normally restricted to small groups, due to constantly being sought out by lots of people looking for "Evil Casters". (Darn Adventurers!!)

    *****
    Now, Mephistopheles discovering Hellfire, does put an "Ace up his Sleeve". But, he doesn't know if this is still a secret from Asmodeus, and doesn't want to try using it, until he knows he's got the Upper Hand….

    Spoiler: Corporate "Hell"
    Show

    For your game: Since I have not seen "Better off Ted", I kinda can't help but picture the comic/cartoon Dilbert. But, like being a nearly infinite series of buildings, with Fire pits, lava flows, and similar things between them.

    Not sure how close that is, though.
    Last edited by Great Dragon; 2019-06-12 at 12:03 PM.

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    Firbolg in the Playground
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Uvexar View Post
    Shonen Rivals

    Shonen, for the unaware, is a genre of anime and manga that caters to young men. These works are often about fighting, and may include enormous muscles, insane powers, and a lot of screaming. The most well-known example of shonen is Dragon Ball Z, which codified a lot of the tropes that shonen anime now uses. But we're not looking at DBZ right now.
    This was maybe true a decade ago but it certainly isn't now. Naruto and Bleach, especially in the West, are far more the poster child of what the West sees as "Shonen". Neither of which really follow what you've got below this. Sausake doesn't show up late, he's in the series immediately. You've also just skipped over Dragon Ball which started the trends of modern shonen and I'm not really sure why. Z is a sequel to it and only made because Toriyama was strong armed into doing more Dragon Ball. Dragon Ball, and Z by extension, certainly cemented the foundation of Modern Shonen but it actually fails in a lot of respects to meet what modern Shonen.

    Quote Originally Posted by Uvexar View Post
    Yu Yu Hakusho is a manga and anime much older than Dragon Ball Z, and is considered one of the progenitors of shonen as a whole. The manga and anime follow Yusuke, a boy who has a brush with death and gains magical powers. By the second season, he's met and fought several powerful demons, some of whom become his allies. One of them, Hiei, is a rival character for the rest of the work
    This is just categorically untrue. Yu Yu Hakusho's first release was December 3rd, 1990 (the tail end of the year you'll note) as a manga. Dragon Ball Z as a manga debuted in...hard to say since it was originally just part of Dragon Ball. April of 1989 was when the anime was put into circulation, so more than a full year before Yu Yu Hakusho hit Weekly Shonen Jump...which Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were also published in. Yu Yu Hakusho's anime adaption didn't hit until 1991.

    Work on Yu Yu Hakusho didn't even begin until November of 1990 after the manga-ka wrapped his previous series. So yeah. By no metric is Yu Yu Hakusho "much older than" Dragon Ball Z.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    @Razade:
    I find this interesting.

    I love finding out about the origin of things.
    In this case Anime and Shonen.
    But, also comic books and graphic novels.
    Don't ask me about Manga, I rarely have access to that.

    I'll admit that I'm no where near able to contribute to anime. Sure, I started with Pokemon, found out that what I was watching was nothing like the original (Japanese) version, and then started doing research into it, and discovered more Anime.

    I can give my opinion on some of the things that I liked (and disliked) about various shows.

    Naruto I liked the beginning, where it went against the usual "Ninja" trope. The Rivalry between the two "friends" was also nice, if a little dark.

    Bleach I'm still trying to watch all of this, but I've liked most everything that was in the show. The "restart" (ending) wasn't something I was really interested in, though.
    My Knowledge, Understanding, and Opinion on things can be changed
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    So, if I'm reading this right Mephistopheles is Vegeta to Asmodeus' Goku?

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    So, if I'm reading this right Mephistopheles is Vegeta to Asmodeus' Goku?
    That's what Uvexar seems to be saying. That he's taking a more "funny" approach to their "Rivalry".

    From my understanding of the D&D Lore, it would be more like if Mephistopheles was "Freeza" and Asmodeus was (evil) "Vegeta", and both are pretending to be BFFs: While each are secretly (at least to each other) trying to manipulate "Goku" into curb-stomping the other one.
    My Knowledge, Understanding, and Opinion on things can be changed
    No offense is intended by anything I post.
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Tangential but I’m killing time in a hotel before heading to the airport.

    In two operas I’ve seen...Gounod’s Faust and Boito’s Mefistofele, Mephistopheles is defined more than anything else by his arrogance. He has a general contempt of the world, of people, of God, of the specific individuals he makes his deals with. As in Goethe, he ultimately loses Faust’s soul because he cannot conceive of grace or forgiveness, and it’s the goodness of the woman he helps Faust seduce (Gretchen) that destroys the pact.

    Basically, he creates a plan that self-destructs because he’s too vain to think in full depth. He has all the small angles sorted, but just can’t imagine the biggest picture—divine grace, the power of love—even after he gets own. Mefistofele ends with the titular character standing before the throne of God, impotent but still expressing his contempt in that most Italian of ways, whistling (no really its a cultural thing).

    I’ve always liked the operatic Mephistopheles (in particular because I got to see the finest modern version, by Samuel Ramey) and its influence my ideals about the planar version. In particular, the concept of vanity as his harmartia. Asmodeus can rely on Mephistopheles to be generally effective in the short of game of cosmic intrigue, and to be a stumbling block to the ambitions of other devils...but his flaw means that he’s the perfect self-defeating foil.

    To Asmodeus he’s controlled opposition; in Mephistopheles’ own understanding, he’s the glorious rival.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    @Yanagi: Greetings!

    Finding information on things that D&D has "incorporated", can be very interesting.

    IiRC, both Christians and Roman/Greek had Mephistopheles in their stories?

    I'll admit that I tend to relate Mephistopheles from more "modern" stories. Mostly old Ghost Rider comics, and a little from the movies.

    Spoiler: Hades, etc
    Show

    I always felt that Hades seemed to be "tacked on" to the D&D Lower Realms. I mean it's the place where almost every Greek/Roman goes, since outside of Honorable Death, there were very few ways to go to "Heaven".

    The Nordic Hel, as well.

    I think that D&D's "Hell" is some kind of combination of Dante's Inferno and Christian Hell.

    But, I don't claim to be an expert on this stuff.


    I suppose that it really does depend on how the DM "translates" and uses the Fiends in their Game.

    Some DMs tend to only use Fiends as monsters that don't "die" when killed, they just "Go Home".

    I tend to see all the Lower Realms as being punishment by self defeating tendencies.
    And applies to even the most powerful.

    Like Hell is getting caught by the Technically of lying.

    The Abyss is their destructive hatred reflected back at them.

    Going to Gehenna might be because of their indifferent Attitude towards others, that caused pain or grief.

    ****
    Like your story on Mephistopheles and his pride/arrogance.

    But to me: Asmodeus is just as "stuck" in place, though his main flaw is that he only understands 'Power". And that there are times to not use it.

    Spoiler: Fearun
    Show

    I really didn't like Asmodeus becoming a Deity.
    To me, that defeated the purpose of his story.

    There is only a subtle difference between the "moral lessons" between Fiends and Evil Deities.

    Like a Deity represents the fundamental nature of what they have control over, and draws/grants power from that.

    Where Fiends represent the inevitable result of your actions and choices.


    But, these kind of Flaws can also be applied to all the Archdukes. (And Demon Lords)

    We can go more into the others, if you want.
    My Knowledge, Understanding, and Opinion on things can be changed
    No offense is intended by anything I post.
    *Limited Playtest Group - I'm mostly Stuck in the White Room.
    *I am learning valuable things, here. So thanks, everyone!

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Uvexar View Post
    But we can change that. How?
    I think the better question is "why?" Hell has a very strong "second place is just first loser" vibe to it. And given that Asmodeus is either always on the cusp of divinity or has outright achieved it (in other editions of the game) and Mephisto never is, it seems that he's pretty thoroughly outclassed in power, intellect, or both.

    Put another way - you call them rivals, but I don't think it's even remotely close. Meph isn't a short step below Asmodeus; he's a short step above the rest of the losers, all of whom don't have a prayer of taking over.
    Last edited by Psyren; 2019-06-18 at 10:17 AM.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
    Cheers to Psyren the MVP "naysayer".
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    I'm not sure how Uvexar has his "Hells" set up.]
    I'm running the typical Nine Hells, with Glasya in Malbolge, as is typically assumed by depictions of the Hells.

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    I think the better question is "why?" Hell has a very strong "second place is just first loser" vibe to it. And given that Asmodeus is either always on the cusp of divinity or has outright achieved it (in other editions of the game) and Mephisto never is, it seems that he's pretty thoroughly outclassed in power, intellect, or both.

    Put another way - you call them rivals, but I don't think it's even remotely close. Meph isn't a short step below Asmodeus; he's a short step above the rest of the losers, all of whom don't have a prayer of taking over.
    You're right about that. But then again, shonen rivals are typically outclassed by the protagonist anyway.

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    I think the better question is "why?" Hell has a very strong "second place is just first loser" vibe to it. And given that Asmodeus is either always on the cusp of divinity or has outright achieved it (in other editions of the game) and Mephisto never is, it seems that he's pretty thoroughly outclassed in power, intellect, or both.
    I think a problem is that it is often very difficult to set up enemies as being actually dangerous to the players in a way they'd take seriously. Players are just too inclined to run up to monsters and shout at them to fight them, one on one. Maybe it is just the people I've met, but many people who tend to play good aligned characters tend to treat evil as being really, really, really frickin' dumb as well.

    Having Asmodeus running laps around his infernal and godly rivals is one way to really set up Big Red as being an actual threat that isn't going to shoot itself in the foot because good will win because evil has the common sense of a particularly dumb potato.

    Then again, I think WOTC wanted to solidify the appearance of the tieflings and divorce them from that 'your ancestor did unspeakable things with a demon and might or might not have survived and there could have been tentacles involved' vibe tieflings had. I mean...Bumping uglies with a demon is probably not a very pleasant or sane thing to do. Not even with succubi in the wrong circumstances. And no one makes pacts with demons unless they are very stupid, so emphasizing that your ancestor was an idiot was probably not the way to go with a very popular race. Having a guy who tricked his way into becoming a god and stole all of their tieflings? Now that's more stylish and probably had fewer insanity-inducing body parts involved.

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Spoiler: Fearun
    Show

    I really didn't like Asmodeus becoming a Deity.
    To me, that defeated the purpose of his story.

    There is only a subtle difference between the "moral lessons" between Fiends and Evil Deities.

    Like a Deity represents the fundamental nature of what they have control over, and draws/grants power from that.

    Where Fiends represent the inevitable result of your actions and choices.
    I think the designers of DnD didn't go with this as people tended to treat Bane and Cyric as Commander Stupidpants and his rival, Mr. 'How am I still alive?'...So needed an actual evil god people would take seriously. Your take is certainly very interesting...So YOINK!
    Quote Originally Posted by Oko and Qailee View Post
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Uvexar View Post
    You're right about that. But then again, shonen rivals are typically outclassed by the protagonist anyway.
    This heavily depends on the shonen I'd say. Naruto and Sasuke are not that far apart if both go all out. Natsu stomps big bads, not because he's so much stronger than Gray or Gajille (and in fact he regularly gets pounded by Erza), but because he's the one who's so stubborn he refuses to stay down and thus inspires everyone else to keep fighting. And while Goku was pretty far above Vegeta for basically the latter half of Z, they're a lot closer together in DBS.

    About the only shonen protagonist I could really say is above his rivals is Ichigo, and that's largely because none of his "rivals" can really keep up with him that long - which to me makes Bleach more of an outlier than anything else.

    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    I think a problem is that it is often very difficult to set up enemies as being actually dangerous to the players in a way they'd take seriously. Players are just too inclined to run up to monsters and shout at them to fight them, one on one. Maybe it is just the people I've met, but many people who tend to play good aligned characters tend to treat evil as being really, really, really frickin' dumb as well.

    Having Asmodeus running laps around his infernal and godly rivals is one way to really set up Big Red as being an actual threat that isn't going to shoot itself in the foot because good will win because evil has the common sense of a particularly dumb potato.
    Thing is though, I don't think you need Mephisto to be a credible threat to Asmodeus to have him be a credible threat to the players. Hell, you can have Bel and Dispater can be big bads of a whole campaign, and they're still pretty far down the totem pole from Meph themselves.
    Last edited by Psyren; 2019-06-20 at 12:51 AM.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post

    A lot of stories start at the Gate to Hell.
    Which is usually guarded.
    (Getting in is easy, getting back out, not so much)

    Cerberus is supposed to be Hade's Guardian, but it's D&D, so….

    Next, getting to the River Styx.
    Attracting a Canoloth (or Charon himself, if you prefer) and paying for passage to the second layer is needed.

    I think there were Fiendish creatures in the Styx, but don't remember what books they are in.

    Plus possible Encounters with Demons and Devils (both attacking each other on sight) while traveling on the Styx.

    Travel I tend to use the same Concept for travel as a lot of the other "Spirit Planes" where Physical movement has little to no meaning, and it's more knowing what is sought, and applied willpower, that gets the person where they desire.

    Once (in Hell) the Party might need to "hire" a guide. An Imp is perfect for this, since lots of people tend to underestimate them.
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    I think the designers of DnD didn't go with this as people tended to treat Bane and Cyric as Commander Stupidpants and his rival, Mr. 'How am I still alive?'...So needed an actual evil god people would take seriously. Your take is certainly very interesting...So YOINK!
    Thanks!!!

    Really, I completely replaced Bane, and Ceric; and Vecna replaced Myrkil(?).

    @Psyren:
    I can very easily see Hell as being "second place is first loser" kind of place.

    (all comments are about my games
    I love seeing how others do things in the game.)

    Spoiler: Abyss
    Show
    The Abyss is the ultimate "Survival of the Fittest" place, but the chaotic nature of the Abyss itself tends to replace any Demon destroyed almost immediately.

    The Demon Lords are Top Dogs here, because they know how best to adapt to the chaos around them, and use it to their benefit.

    Even a Demon Lord will "respect" a Balor.
    They just aren't intimidated by it.


    Unlike Demons (that tend to either destroy - or eat - the loser) Devils prefer to exploit those they defeat.

    Though Devils will steal the power of a fallen foe to either increase their own power, or give it to a Devil that they can manipulate.

    Like I mentioned, there are two things that apply to Devils: Power and Status.

    All Devils have Power, even the Imp.

    All the Lesser Devils could be seen as having a lesser form of Status, but this is more based on the Devil's personal power in comparing between Devil types.

    Pit Fiends are top of the Devil Ladder.

    But Archdevils outclass them, with Status.

    And Archdukes truly dominate, by both Great Power and Status. An Archduke simply cannot be stupid: being so is a quick retirement plan, of the unpleasant kind.

    Now, things get a bit tricky, so bear with me.

    D&D made it where things are fairly simple, each Archduke in a Level of Hell has more "power" than Archduke of the Level above them, until the ninth level. But, to me, this is only the visible effect of their Status.

    Spoiler: Classic Fantasy Heroes in Hell
    Show

    You know the one where, by virtue of "being good", it was possible to physically fight your way out of Hell.

    This trope is so old, there are Fossils that call them Gramps!

    But, to me, this was simply not possible.

    Yes it was possible to achieve Redemption, but this was done by dint of staying true to yourself and your beliefs. Knowing when fighting was unavailable, and when combat was a moral trap.


    Now to me, part of the point of Hell, is that there is no satisfaction in having either Power or Status.

    Going into the different Archdukes of Hell would take more time than I have right now, so I'll add them later, if anyone's interested.

    So, the main focus was between Mephistopheles and Asmodeus.

    @Psyren: I agree that Asmodeus is more than "a short step above" Mephistopheles.

    But, I see Mephistopheles as being more than just "a short step above" the other Archdukes.

    I suppose that it's like all the Archdukes are aware of the "Meta" of their existence, but their own Flaws tend to blind themselves to their own weaknesses.

    Now, IMO, D&D made Asmodeus too much the "perfect" Archduke. To the point of making a mockery of Angels at his "Trial".

    Like there is absolutely no way that Mephistopheles (or any other Archduke) can ever defeat him.

    Yes, Asmodeus is very powerful.
    Yes, Asmodeus is super smart.
    But, Asmodeus can lose his Status.
    (Which would diminish his Power)

    Now, Asmodeus is very aware of this fact, which is why he constantly manipulates all the Archdukes against each other, and even uses the Archdevils, and Pit Fiends, in these schemes.
    (The stories of when this has backfired, are rarely told)

    But, like I said, Asmodeus is as much a Prisoner as he is a Ruler.

    So all the Archdukes are in the Ultimate Intrigue Game, and where (at least to outsiders) there doesn't seem to be any real change.

    For Mephistopheles, his lack of true "Status" (mostly because of his arrogance) in Hell, Combined with the need to "capture" mortal souls to increase said power, makes achieving any real chance of success for Defeating Asmodeus very difficult.

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Like there is absolutely no way that Mephistopheles (or any other Archduke) can ever defeat him.

    Yes, Asmodeus is very powerful.
    Yes, Asmodeus is super smart.
    But, Asmodeus can lose his Status.
    (Which would diminish his Power)

    Now, Asmodeus is very aware of this fact, which is why he constantly manipulates all the Archdukes against each other, and even uses the Archdevils, and Pit Fiends, in these schemes.
    (The stories of when this has backfired, are rarely told)

    But, like I said, Asmodeus is as much a Prisoner as he is a Ruler.

    So all the Archdukes are in the Ultimate Intrigue Game, and where (at least to outsiders) there doesn't seem to be any real change.
    If they all teamed up they could absolutely beat him.

    They never will.

    Such an impossible scenario could make for an interesting campaign idea though.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Giant View Post
    But really, the important lesson here is this: Rather than making assumptions that don't fit with the text and then complaining about the text being wrong, why not just choose different assumptions that DO fit with the text?
    Quote Originally Posted by gogogome View Post
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Psyren View Post
    If they all teamed up they could absolutely beat him.

    They never will.

    Such an impossible scenario could make for an interesting campaign idea though.
    Humorously, this puts Asmodeus in the role normally occupied by "the hero" in some stories. The "bad guys" could beat him, if they ever could manage to team up and not betray each other.
    It is one thing to suspend your disbelief. It is another thing entirely to hang it by the neck until dead.

    Verisimilitude -- n, the appearance or semblance of truth, likelihood, or probability.

    The concern is not realism in speculative fiction, but rather the sense that a setting or story could be real, fostered by internal consistency and coherence.

    The Worldbuilding Forum -- where realities are born.

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Psyren and Max_Killjoy

    Yep.
    Hilarious.

    What I find sad is that the Celestials are less of a "moral lesson" than the Devils.
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Uvexar View Post
    The Bottom Line

    Mephistopheles doesn't get enough credit. He's ancient and powerful, and hellfire gives him a unique power found nowhere else in the cosmos. The Lord of Cania has the potential to be an awesome and memorable villain. Hopefully, you can now make him so, with the gods and anime on your side.
    It really doesn't help when my table keeps referring to him as 'Devil Starscream'

    NWN had a fun portrayal of him in Hordes of the Underdark though.

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    It really doesn't help when my table keeps referring to him as 'Devil Starscream'
    Oh, so that's not just me. Good to know. Your table seems like a group of fun folks.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oko and Qailee View Post
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Kane0 View Post
    It really doesn't help when my table keeps referring to him as 'Devil Starscream'
    Been awhile since I have heard that.
    LoL!

    NWN had a fun portrayal of him in Hordes of the Underdark though.
    Ah.
    Looked NWN up, but Hordes of the Underdark was what told me it was a Neverwinter Nights video game reference.
    I don't do Console Gaming very often.

    Now to see if I can find an online video of it.
    If you find one, please PM me with that.
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    So this Hellfire is basically Amaterasu and Mephisto is tired of losing to Naruto-er, Asmodeus.

    But of course Asmodeus, aka the Nine-Hells Foxy Devil, wants the Baator Village to be strong and so he spares his enemies and makes them allies through a 28 Charisma.

    Because it's always been his dream to be the Hellkage.
    Last edited by Kyutaru; 2019-06-20 at 11:06 PM.
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    It bears remembering that Mephistopheles' greatest asset is his consort Baalphegor, an ancient and mysterious being who Asmodeus values and possibly fears. The Archduke of Cania is not quite a hapless boy-toy who Asmodeus married off to a far more interesting and useful devil, but he is tolerated in large part because his girlfriend is way cooler than he is.
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyutaru View Post
    So this Hellfire is basically Amaterasu and Mephisto is tired of losing to Naruto-er, Asmodeus.

    But of course Asmodeus, aka the Nine-Hells Foxy Devil, wants the Baator Village to be strong and so he spares his enemies and makes them allies through a 28 Charisma.

    Because it's always been his dream to be the Hellkage.
    Well, if you phrase it like this it sounds...
    Awesome.

    I'd watch it.

    Mind you, my take would be closer to the Entities from Worm.
    With the devils (and other outsiders) making pacts and empowering warlocks to use the mortals for testing and refining their dark powers*.
    That such a investment gets them new minions and/or tasty snacks in form of damned souls is just a bonus.

    *Not that they need it, but why spend millenia carefully working on your new ideas under safe- for you -conditions if you can drop it on a bunch of those hasty, short-lived mortals and get results within a few decades?
    Besides, your lab rats might even come up with applications you wouldn't have considered.
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Kantaki View Post
    Well, if you phrase it like this it sounds...
    Awesome.

    I'd watch it.
    I totally agree.

    Humm…. Would this be acceptable?
    Maybe told from the POV of an Imp?

    Mind you, my take would be closer to the Entities from Worm.
    With the devils (and other outsiders) making pacts and empowering warlocks to use the mortals for testing and refining their dark powers*.
    That such a investment gets them new minions and/or tasty snacks in form of damned souls is just a bonus.

    *Not that they need it, but why spend millenia carefully working on your new ideas under safe- for you -conditions if you can drop it on a bunch of those hasty, short-lived mortals and get results within a few decades?
    Besides, your lab rats might even come up with applications you wouldn't have considered.
    Not far from the POV of some DMs, for Warlocks.

    A lot of Players tend to get upset (for some reason) when a DM does this…..
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by gkathellar View Post
    It bears remembering that Mephistopheles' greatest asset is his consort Baalphegor, an ancient and mysterious being who Asmodeus values and possibly fears. The Archduke of Cania is not quite a hapless boy-toy who Asmodeus married off to a far more interesting and useful devil, but he is tolerated in large part because his girlfriend is way cooler than he is.
    I've never heard of her. What book did she appear in?

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Uvexar View Post
    I've never heard of her. What book did she appear in?
    She's Old School.
    Link
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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Great Dragon View Post
    Psyren and Max_Killjoy

    Yep.
    Hilarious.

    What I find sad is that the Celestials are less of a "moral lesson" than the Devils.
    That's kind of their point in most mythology. Myth that D&D cribs from for its celestial creatures usually have those creatures as a created being of perfection, while that myth's demons/devils/infernal beasts are the object lessons, or purveyors of object lessons.

    Fables as morality tales aren't about the hero winning because she's perfect and pure of heart, they're about some jackass getting whats coming to him because he's a douche. The Tortoise and the Hare works this way: the hare loses because he's over confident and underestimates the tortoise. The Pied Piper of Hamelin is about not welching on debts (although its more likely the original source was a parable about diseases thus the rats).

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    Default Re: Mephistopheles: Luckless Nerd, or Shonen Rival? - A D&D RP Essay

    Quote Originally Posted by Beleriphon View Post
    That's kind of their point in most mythology. Myth that D&D cribs from for its celestial creatures usually have those creatures as a created being of perfection, while that myth's demons/devils/infernal beasts are the object lessons, or purveyors of object lessons.
    Everyone knows the (usually) "Infernal Adventurers". Either "rescue" or "escape".
    It takes a "dedicated" DM and group to do more.

    (Bolded) I'm kinda disappointed by the fact that D&D just left things as they were.
    I kinda thought the entire point was to "explore the possibilities" of the various Realms. Beyond just "this place is soooo Awesome/Terrible!!" Cliches.
    ***********
    Is there any way to create more "Celestial Adventurers"? Hopefully without anyone "Falling".

    Maybe on the "Deva" level?
    Since both Planetar and Solar are supposed to be "locked" into their respective "tasks".

    Or, would this need a new thread?

    Fables as morality tales aren't about the hero winning because she's perfect and pure of heart, they're about some jackass getting whats coming to him because he's a douche. The Tortoise and the Hare works this way: the hare loses because he's over confident and underestimates the tortoise. The Pied Piper of Hamelin is about not welching on debts (although its more likely the original source was a parable about diseases thus the rats).
    IME: For the most part, trying to put "moral lessons" (Celestials vs Fiends and Fables) into any RPG, tends to be rather difficult to do well, and is usually viewed as Unpopular. I'll let everyone fill in the blanks, here.
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