In Fighting Fantasy Adventure and its last remake Adventures of Mana, the Dark Lord is an unabashedly evil tyrant, without personality aside from cruelty, ruthlessness and sadism.
He revels in watching slaves risk their lives in his arena, slaughters indiscriminately, and seeks to rule the world of Fa'Diel purely for the sake of domination. He is exceedingly arrogant, scorning any foe as worthless despite their resistance.
While a talented general and top-tier swordsman, his bark is worse than his bite, being played all along by his much more dangerous right-hand.
In Sword of Mana he is way more ambiguous, despite retaining his villainous role and being a mightier half-demon. Here, the demons are neutral and he is more misguided than evil, a formidable conqueror but liked by his subjects. He is a bitter and dangerous extremist, albeit poised, polite, and honourable, bearing no ill will to foes.
He wants to eliminate Mana to mend the rift between Fa'Diel and Mavolia, and save his mother no matter the cost. He mistakenly believes that the Mana Clan is oppressing Mavolia and hoarding Mana power, repaying them in kind, and fancies himself as a necessary evil who can build and lead better world.
The Dark Lord has ruled for before the fall of the evil Vandole Empire, which syphoned the power of Mana sustaining everything to rule Fa’Diel. Shortly after, he found Julius as a baby and raised him, likely sensing his enormous potential for magic. He then started his own try at world domination.
In Sword of Mana, Stroud is the hybrid son of Lord Granz (the leader of the Gemma Knights who toppled the Vandole Empire) and Medusa, Queen of Mavolia and counterpart of Anise.
But the law separating mortals from Mavole forced his father to raise him as prince of his realm, away from his mother and twin brother, the Illithid Davias whose power was running too wild to remain in Fa'Diel.
Medusa's memories and her life are ebbing away because of her marriage. Stroud renamed himself the Dark Lord, deposed his father and began outlawing the Mana Clan as "heretics", believing that Mana is what makes his mother ill. He killed Duke's parents when he was a child, despite his father Hermann being a consul of his realm, for sheltering Elena. And later captured Duke.
Role in the Games
Final Fantasy Adventure/Adventures of Mana
The Hero (named Duke in adaptations) starts as a gladiator slave in the Dark Lord’s arena. His best friend Willy dies in his arms, likely after failing to escape, revealing that the Mana Tree is in danger.
Duke escapes through the pit of monsters and eavesdrops the Dark Lord ordering Julius to find the key to the Mana Tree. He is spotted and thrown down the waterfall by the despot.
Duke survives by miracle and saves the Heroine (named Elena in adaptations), the sole survivor of the Mana Clan that was slaughtered by the Dark Lord. They seek help in the Holy City of Wendel, but the Dark Lord attacks it and Elena is abducted by Julius, for her pendant is the key to the Mana Tree.
Duke boards the Dark Lord's airship but is thrown out after Elena gives him her pendant, later stolen by the Illithid Davias (Devius) and given to the Dark Lord's pet Garuda. But Duke can storm the castle and avenge his friends at last.
With the Dark Lord gone, Julius takes centre stage and eventually gains divine power from the Mana Tree. Duke slays him in turn with the Sword of Mana, but Elena must merge with the Mana Tree and Duke becomes its guardian.
Sword of Mana
Here, the Dark Lord is genuinely friend with Julius and seems to canalise his worst impulses. He has Goremand as his "vassal" and later starts a relationship with the Demon Lady Isabella (counterpart of Belladonna). He notices Duke's and Willy's escape and offers to name them officers, but Duke attacks in a rage, only to have his sword blocked bare-handed and get thrown off.
Here, Duke and Elena fight together, and the Dark Lord is with Julius when Elena is abducted. After the heroes kill Medusa in self-defence, her furious sons barge in, but the Dark Lord agrees to let Devius settle the score.
The heroes later confront the Dark Lord, who calls them out for they have killed as well. Duke retorts that they only did reluctantly when forced. The Dark Lord forbids his vassals to intervene. Before dying, he asks the heroes and Isabella to beware Julius, but Goremand devours his soul to Isabella's outrage.
In the original, the Dark Lord is strong, fast and sturdy, but easy to beat. He strikes at close range, blocks frontal hits with his shield, and resists magic. Duke must keep away and hit from the sides, mostly with dashes.
Adventures of Mana makes him mightier but just as easy. He tails Duke, lands energy-infused dashes, and fires blue energy blades.
In Sword of Mana the Dark Lord fights Duke and Elena together. He is fast and powerful, but not very hard, especially against sufficiently powerful heroes. He strikes, performs stabbing dashes that can paralyze, and fires three energy blades causing the darkness status. He is highly resistant to magic, so he must be harassed with weapons.
Circle of Mana
The Dark Lord is playable in this card-based game featuring most characters of the series, under his Sword of Mana aspect. Each character is played as cards to save the Mana Tree from monsters, and can gain power, equipment and Class Changes. Several cards featuring her are available, each evolving following a distinct path.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King
Final Fantasy Dimensions
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
Final Fantasy Tactics
Trials of Mana
Heroes of Mana