"The medieval folk-concept of the Devil, as distinct from that preached by the Church, is of Rex Mundi - large, dark, and handsome, infinitely attractive, a jolly fellow full of pranks and merriment and still displaying some of the attributes of his counterparts in pagan times."In older English legends, the Devil tends to be a ferocious adversary, often scaly or horned, whose main function is to make saints look cool. And making those early British saints look cool is quite a task.
When we meet the Devil in English folk tales, though, he usually comes clothed as a squire or, if he's feeling particularly wicked, maybe a monk or a parson. In this guise he has a little bit of faerie about him, and seems to borrow the aspect of Odin or Cernunnos rather than God's erstwhile favourite angel. He enjoys a challenge - building a bridge in a night, a riddling contest, or even a simple wrestling match. He is a trickster, sometimes so cunning that he outwits himself. If you are familiar with the TV show Once Upon A Time, this is pretty much the character of Rumpelstiltskin, only without the Hollywoodized origin story.
Saints are far too boring to appear in any decent folk tale, all preachy and chinbearded as they are, but many an English hero named Jack shows his mettle by outsmarting the Devil. Souls are sometimes wagered, and in the wager the Devil's greed will usually see him come off worse. I'm sure we're supposed to sympathize a little when, returning a farmer's wife, he gripes that...
“...I've been the Devil the whole of my lifeI'm not just rambling, honest. There's a point to all this. If you cast your mind back to midwinter, at the end of the Legend scenario "Silent Night", I put in a throwaway line that had Mitch Edgeworth justifiably raising an eyebrow:
But I never knew hell till I met your wife.”
"At midnight on Christmas Day, the Devil comes to Crossgate Manor and offers to play a game of chess for a favour."Clearly this was to be a story seed for the referee to extemporize a minor epilogue incident, perhaps with a single player, to contrast with the desperate danger and action of the preceding few hours and possibly to set up an ongoing relationship in the campaign. The Devil might enjoy having one mortal friend to play chess with just as much as Morpheus is fond of an occasional glass of wine with Hob Gadling.
Mitch did preface his comment by saying that he's not a role-player, which explains the confusion. Encountering the Devil over chess might very well develop into an interesting ongoing storyline, but setting up the idea in a scenario takes no more than one line. In real games, half a page of notes are ample for running a session of several hours, and scenarios like "Silent Night" are written up only to explain to somebody else how that adventure might be run. In our own game, the denouement came in the forest, not in Crossgate Manor, and the key to defeating Duruth and his knaves was completely unexpected and yet perfect. It arose out of nowhere, a story created from the participation of the group where the best parts have no individual origin. Which, in a nutshell, explains why I am a role-player.
The picture, by the way, is Pan, not the Devil. Image copyright Ian Greig and used here under Creative Commons Licence.