Friday, May 12, 2017


(Illustration by Wayne Reynolds comes from the Paizo Blog and is © Paizo Publishing.)

Here we are, only three monsters into Bestiary 6, and we’ve already made it to the book’s bathed-in-hellfire swimsuit cover model: Hell’s #2, Mephistopheles.

(You’ll notice that Wayne Reynolds does not bury the lede in his covers, especially for the even-numbered Bestiaries.  B2 has the Jabberwock, B4 Cthulhu, B6 Mephistopheles.  I can only assume B8 will have, like, MechaZeus or a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man made of nuclear missiles.)

I won't go into too much detail on Mephistopheles.  Paizo’s @wesschneider already wrote the book on Hell and the book on Mephistopheles for good measure.  (Judging by his list of publishing credits, Wes has an affinity for charismatic but deadly schemers—presumably because he owns a mirror.)  Instead, I’ll point out an interesting difference in Pathfinder’s Mephistopheles vs. the standard D&D interpretation. 

In both cases, Mephistopheles is the consummate devil’s devil—brilliant red, horned, winged, always with a contract and quill in hand and an offer too good to refuse.  More than any other archdevil aside from Asmodeus, he is about contracts and compacts, and all that can go awry after you’ve signed on the dotted line.  But in the standard D&D cosmology, Mephistopheles is always scheming to take Asmodeus’s throne—he’s said so to the Lord of the Ninth’s face.  Why Asmodeus keeps him around is an open question—presumably, he’s too useful to do away with (his treacherous plots likely draw other traitors to Asmodeus’s attention, and he keeps Baalzebul in check) and dislodging him would cause too much trouble.  In other words, he is Starscream to Asmodeus’s Megatron (albeit a much more effective one).

Pathfinder’s Mephistopheles, on the other hand, was literally created by Asmodeus out of the stuff of the eighth layer of Hell.  As such, he’s seemingly utterly loyal to Asmodeus, and is more of Hell than even his lord.  To go back to Transformers, think of him as a vastly more charismatic Soundwave, who was so Decepticon his face even became the Decepticon symbol.  (Oh, Transformers.  Is there any metaphor you can't provide?)

Most of this won’t matter to the average party—dealing with the schemes of one archdevil is enough.  (Hell, stopping the plan of only one of Mephistopheles’s servants was worth a whole Adventure Path.)  But if you’ve got a truly plane-hopping, cosmologically cosmopolitan Pathfinder campaign, the old D&D trick of pitting the servants of Mephistopheles and Asmodeus against each other is not going to work.  It’s inevitable that the Lord of the Eighth will turn on his master one day—the literal personification of Hell can do no less; it’s built in to his nature—but that won’t happen until the plane itself has turned against Asmodeus.  If Mephistopheles is playing the long game, it’s measured in eons.  The political games that PCs can play in the upper levels of Hell simply won't work this deep in the Pit.

Of course, that’s if you’re playing in canon.  Out of canon—which is our particular end of the swimming pool—go nuts!

Those who believe travel enriches the soul have never been part of the tea and opium trade, which brutalizes colonial souls and bodies while enriching shareholders.  Adventurers fighting drug dealers, slavers, and mercenaries must eventually take the fight to the Admiralty of Iron, a council of cruel dragon-riding sea captains who control the vile trade.  The final battle takes place on the deck of the largest ship ever built, in the center of a pentagram formed by five other ships.  There the Admiralty of Iron’s infernal patron, Mephistopheles, appears and fights for 30 seconds (five seconds for each ship) per an agreement the Iron Captains struck long ago.

Typically, an independent judiciary is a defense against tyranny.  But in the nation of Concord, the judiciary has claimed sweeping powers.  Not only are they judge, jury and executioner, they are also the notaries, lawyers, bailiffs, tax collectors, and (of course) the inquisition.  The reason for this stunning usurpation of power is an infestation of contract and apostate devils, who have spent decades warping Concord’s laws to their own ends, while funneling monetary and magical rewards to the corrupt courts.  Adventurers attempting to fight this entrenched power structure will have an uphill battle throughout their careers.  Once they bring down the Inquisition Concordia, they may even be forced to defend themselves in the very courts of Hell (with words or with blades)…possibly against Mephistopheles himself.

The current Mephistopheles is a facsimile.  The real Mephistopheles died eons ago in a coup attempt; Asmodeus created the current Mephistopheles out of the stuff of Hell rather than trust another seneschal.  Only now rumors are spreading from the deepest reaches of the Everwaste.  The whispers say that the original Mephistopheles has been resurrected and is coming for his throne.  Soon all Hell—and perhaps even the entire multiverse—will have to pick a side.

Pathfinder Bestiary 6 28–29

No stats for Mephistopheles are online yet, so no link.

I have a special fondness for Mephistopheles.  I don't think he’s as interesting as, say, Mammon.  But in high school I spent part of a summer in Staufen, the sleepy German town where Faust blew himself up in an alchemical experiment in 1540.  (Or where Mephistopheles came to claim his soul in a fiery conflagration.  You decide.)

I never got into the ’90s ska band Mephiskapheles, but God did I love their name.  (I also love Streetlight Manifesto’s “Down, Down, Down to Mephisto’s Cafe,” full stop.)

We are not talking about Marvel’s Mephisto or “One More Day.”  EVER.

If you’re a fan of alphabetical order and looking for the memitim, it’s back here.

It’s radio show time!  This past Tuesday I continued to dig up (and totally dig) Stornoway's corpse.  I also played lots of new music from Diet Cig, Cold War Kids, BNQT, Waxahatchee, (Sandy) Alex G, and more. Stream/download now through Monday, 05/15/17, at midnight.

(Also note that this show was recorded before the recent PWR BTTM allegations became public.)

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