"Don't ever make a bet with a tiefling."
— Planar proverb[1]

The tiefling (pronounced "teef-ling")[2][3] is a race of planetouched humanoids. Tieflings are primarily human in ancestry, but draw part of their bloodline from a powerful evil extraplanar being.

The term "tiefling" was first applied to all humans whose ancestry included any evil extraplanar being of the Lower Planes, such as a demon, devil, evil deity or other unknown entity. This usage is common among many planar travelers.

More recently, the term commonly refers to a specific type of planetouched humanoid who draw their descent from an infernal being or power of the Nine Hells, most commonly Asmodeus. This includes the descendants of the former empire of Bael Turath who gained infernal form in a pact with Asmodeus, as well as the various planetouched of Faerûn who were transformed into infernal tieflings by Asmodeus during the Spellplague.

In AD&D 2e and D&D 3e, tieflings were humans descended from any evil outsider, but 4e and 5e retconned tieflings to be either humans, or tieflings of the former type, transformed by Asmodeus. The former type is still considered to exist within the D&D multiverse, and this article covers both types.

Appearance[edit | edit source]

Infernal tieflings[edit | edit source]

In the current era, the name "tiefling" is most often given to specific peoples whose whose ancestry is connected to the Nine Hells. In many worlds, these are the most numerous type, to the extent that "tiefling" has become synonymous with them.

The best known of these are bear the blood of Asmodeus.[4] These tieflings resemble humans, but with very obvious infernal heritage. Their skin ranges from the normal human tones to a hellish red, and their eyes are featureless orbs of solid black, red, white, silver, or gold. They possess horns, in a great variety of shapes: some curled like a ram, some spiral like a gazelle, and others ugly flat plates extending sideways from the forehead. They also possess long, thick tails and vampire-like pointed teeth. Their hair is usually dark and sometimes in unnatural colors like red, blue or purple.[5]

There are also tieflings who bear the blood of hellish beings other than Asmodeus, and consequently have a varying physical appearance. Unique traits include smaller horns, fangs, a forked tongue, catlike eyes, cloven hooves in place of feet, scaly skin, red or dark blue skin, or a smell of brimstone. Some cast no shadow, or make no reflection. Some possess bat-like wings.[4] They may possess more or fewer than five fingers in each hand, goat-like legs, furry or leathery skin, a non-prehensile tail, glowing red eyes, or skin which is hot to the touch.[6]

Planar tieflings[edit | edit source]

Across the many planes of the multiverse are countless humans who bear a bloodline from the Lower Planes. These too are historically called tieflings, although they are rare in Faerûn since the Spellplague, a magical cataclysm which transformed all tieflings there into those of the blood of Asmodeus.[4]

These tieflings are descended from various evil beings, including demons, devils, rakshasas, night hags, or the avatars of evil deities. Their appearance varies considerably, and often reflects that of their fiendish ancestor.

Those descended from devils, if they are not of the blood of Asmodeus, may resemble the infernal tieflings not of Asmodeus (as mentioned above). Those descended from demons tend to have similar traits, but without hooves or goatlike legs, which are particular to those of devilish origin. Cat eyes and furry skin belie rakshasa heritage, while bruised-looking blue skin is particular to those descended from night hags, who often also have small horns or glowing red eyes. Fangs or pointed teeth are common among all types of tieflings.[6]

Some tieflings pass almost completely for human. This is most common among the tieflings of distant planes, whose faint fiendish ancestry is ancient and unknown to them. Most have at least one feature that betrays their heritage: red eyes, small horns, or a missing shadow are common.

Rare traits[edit | edit source]

Tieflings descended from a variety of extraplanar creatures can vary widely in appearance, from the monstrous to those who pass for human. These unique traits may give a clue to the tiefling's ancestry. Some have few of these traits, while others have several.[7]

A tiefling's skin may be an unusual color, tinted green, blue or red. It may be leathery, scaly, extremely greasy, or covered in striped markings. They may be covered in fur, hair, or small feathers, or even entirely hairless. The tiefling's hair may be green, blue, or multicolored.

They may have small horns on their forehead or temples, or a single horn on their forehead. Their eyes may be red, catlike, or pure black with no whites, or extremely deep-set, and they may have long eyelashes.

Their teeth may be pointed, or they may have vampire-like fangs. They may have a forked tongue, or a long thin face. Their ears may be pointed or fanlike, and their nose may be very long or almost unnoticeably small. Their hands may have six fingers, or three, and their fingers may be a full inch longer than a human's. Their fingernails may be naturally red or black. Their arms may be considerably longer or shorter than normal.

Their legs may be like those of a goat or horse, and they may have goatlike hooves instead of feet. They may have a tail, which might be long and thin, or more like that of a horse or lizard. They can have a spiny ridge on their black, or spines all over their body. A few have clawed fingers which can be used as effective weapons.[7]

Other unique traits are recorded, including pale white skin, horrid translucent skin and vestigial hands growing from a tiefling's neck.[8]

Personality and alignment[edit | edit source]

Attitude and psychology[edit | edit source]

"We're distrusted and viewed as evil malcontents for so long that we start to believe it ourselves. It's hard not to try to live up to the hype, eh?"
Enkillo the Sly, tiefling[9]

Tieflings are widely stereotyped as wicked, cruel, and criminal individuals. While many live up to this image, tieflings run the full range of good and evil, and vary considerably based on their bloodline and on an individual level.

Tieflings have a tendency to be solitary loners. They are adaptable and resilient to hardship, and possess strong aptitude at whatever pursuit they dedicate themselves to, whether that be fighting, art, or anything else.[9] Their solitary, driven nature makes tieflings well suited as adventurers, wanderers, and researchers of magical lore.[10]

When facing adversity, the tiefling instinct is not to withdraw from the world, but rather to challenge it head-on. Tieflings seek to make their own fates, defy the odds, and take risks that even most humans would not dare. They are fiercely independent.[7]

Since planar tieflings are so dissimilar from one another, they rarely feel a sense of kinship with other tieflings.[7] The ritual transformation of all tieflings of Faerûn into those of the blood of Asmodeus has done little to improve this situation, in part due to the species' rarity and continued social exclusion. No tiefling kingdoms exist.

Tieflings are known for their quick temper, stubbornness, self-confidence, and fickleness in relationships. They are said to move with a slithering walk.[1] Tieflings learn from a young age that they cannot count on others to care for them, and develop a strong sense of self-reliance.[7]

Tiefling hirelings have a reputation to be self-determined and disobedient.[11]

Alignment[edit | edit source]

Those of the bloodline of Asmodeus have no inborn tendency toward evil, although social rejection due to prejudice against their race leads some to reject society and its rules. They tend slightly toward a chaotic alignment, and many are evil.[5]

Those of Faerûn prior to the Spellplague were often killed at birth by their own parents, and most who survived in that harsh environment had a strong tendency toward evil. Many in that society had strong fiendish blood, being the grandchildren of evil wizards and extraplanar beings such as succubi, or evil deities.[6]

Among the planes of the Great Wheel, where human bias against tieflings is strong, lawful good tiefling adventurers are almost unheard of.[10] Rare examples of lawful good tieflings include Lamia Nightblossom, ruler of Gizekhtet;[12] and the pale priestess Sarazh.[13]

According to the Planescape Index, which lists 145 tiefling NPCs, the most common alignment for notable tieflings is true neutral. The Index lists 30 TN, 18 CN, 16 LE, 15 NE, 13 CE, 11 LN, 10 CG, 7 NG, 2 LG, and 23 of unknown alignment.

Relationships[edit | edit source]

Tieflings often develop a cautious admiration of the powerful true fiends to whom they share a connection. The social rejection they typically face often leads tieflings to enter a life of crime, which futhers social prejudice against their race. The innate abilities of a tiefling give them an advantage in the criminal field.[6]

Tieflings have a slight affinity for dogs, rats, snakes, and ravens. They feel surprisingly comfortable carrying an unholy weapon.[6]

Abilities and traits[edit | edit source]

Supernatural abilities[edit | edit source]

Tieflings almost always possess some supernatural abilities, which vary by bloodline and on an individual level.

They commonly possess darkvision, allowing them to see in complete darkness, although like humans they cannot discern color in such dim light.[5]

They can innately cast various magical abilities, most commonly thaumaturgy, hellish rebuke, and darkness.[5] Some of the less common bloodlines cast different spells, including vicious mockery, charm person, enthrall, burning hands,[4] deeper darkness, protection from good, bane,[6] chill touch, mirror image,[14] summon swarm, know alignment, pyrotechnics, misdirection, invisibility, detect magic, comprehend languages, blur, vampiric touch, and numerous others.[7]

Some are born knowing the Infernal language without ever having heard it spoken.[7]

They have an innate resistance to elements. Those of the blood of Asmodeus resist fire.[5] Others have the additional ability to resist cold and electricity.[15]

A little-known tiefling ability is an apparent immunity to the chaotic eighth layer of the Abyss, the Skin-shedder.[16]

Rare traits[edit | edit source]

A small percentage of tieflings have a unique side-effect, which is often not beneficial.[7]

Some are harmed by holy water or direct sunlight. They may be vulnerable to certain spells, such as spirit wrack or cacofiend, which do not normally affect humans. Some find themselves unable to enter sanctified areas.[7] A few tieflings are especially vulnerable to silver weapons.[17]

A tiefling may cast no shadow, or have no reflection in mirrors. Their skin may exude an ashy grit, and they may have a natural odor of ash, sulfur or rotting meat. Their body temperature may be unnaturally hot or cold, such that it is harmful. Their touch may gradually wither living plants. Their presence may cause a strange unease in animals or other people. They may find that demons recognize them as their hated enemy baatezu, or that devils recognize them as [[tanar'ri] (or very rarely, both).

A few lucky tieflings are resistant to injury by weapons, except for magical and silver weapons. Some have a particularly tough hide, which serves as a form of natural armor. They may have resistance to rare elements or certain types of magic.p[7]

Some tieflings of the infernal line suffer from hellish nightmares.[18]

Other unique traits have been identified in individual tieflings.

The tiefling Tenosh has the power to generate cold from her hand, climb sheer surfaces with ease, and does not need to sleep.[19] The tiefling Ghienna cannot use portals and can never leave the city of Sigil, though this is a close secret.[20] Factol Rhys of the Transcendent Order has a partial protective carapace, and her hair seems to move on its own as if blown by wind.[21].

Ecology[edit | edit source]

Life cycle[edit | edit source]

Tieflings are created in one of three ways: as a human transformed into a tiefling using powerful magic; as the offspring of an existing tiefling; or as the offspring of a human and a cambion or half-fiend.

Many evil extraplanar beings can naturally interbreed with humanoid races, or can do so by magically assuming humanoid form. The offspring of such a creature (usually a succubus or incubus) and a human is a cambion or half-fiend. The offspring of one of these powerful half-blooded creatures and a normal human is a tiefling.[22]

The offspring of two tieflings will be a tiefling, while the offspring of a tiefling and another humanoid has a half chance of inheriting from either parent. Even so, the tiefling bloodline is still carried, and may re-assert itself unexpectedly in later generations.[22] Given sufficient number of generations, it is possible for the tiefling's fiendish bloodline to breed out of their descendants entirely.[9]

A well-known counter-example to this rule are the tieflings descended from the rulers of Bael Turath, whose assertive bloodline assures that the offspring one of their kind and a human is always a tiefling.[23]

Powerful magic or pacts with powerful archdevils can transform a human into a tiefling, or else a more powerful fiendish creature whose offspring will inherit fiendish blood. In the Abyss, corrupting magical effects can cause alteration magic to misfire, corrupting a human into a tiefling.[24]

Life expectancy[edit | edit source]

Tieflings mature at the same rate as humans, and tend to live approximately the same number of years,[6] commonly a few years longer.[5]

A few tieflings live as long as 150 years.[25]

Anatomy[edit | edit source]

Tieflings are of similar weight and height to humans, but on average are very slightly smaller and narrower. Adult males stand between 5'1" and 6'7", a mere inch shorter on average than male planar humans, while females are between 4'11" and 6'5", two inches shorter than the average female human in the same environment. Male tieflings weigh the same as male humans, commonly from 146 to 200 pounds, while females are some ten pounds lighter than female humans, usually from 136 to 190 pounds.[7]

Tieflings are slightly slimmer in build than humans,[9] with similar overall height and weight. Males usually stand between 5'0" and 6'8", and weigh from 124 to 280 pounds; while females stand between 4'7" and 6'3", and weigh from 89 to 245 pounds.[26][27] However, a few tieflings outside these norms are known.

The AD&D Planescape Planewalker's Handbook{{UnknownBook}}, p.78-80, suggests slightly different figures, with female tieflings weighing a few pounds less than their human equivalents, male tieflings an inch shorter than their human counterparts, and female tieflings two inches shorter.

Tieflings may be of either gender, or both, or none.[9] Example this variety are is the androgynous tiefling thief Ice the Thrice-Born, who once served the Celtic god Lugh, and Moonsilver.[28] Most tieflings can reproduce, with only a tiny percentage infertile.[7]

Genderless tieflings appear to be rare. The Planescape Index, which lists 145 notable tiefling NPCs, counts 75 male, 57 female, two genderless, and 11 unspecified.

Most tieflings are ambidextrous.[1]

Tieflings descended from evil Faerûnian deities have a birthmark resembling that deity's holy symbol, or else some other trait which makes their origin clear.[29]

The skeletons of tieflings are often almost indistinguishable from humans, though at least one tiefling undead could be identified as such by vestigial bone spurs on his elbows and knees.[30]

Diet[edit | edit source]

Tieflings eat normal human food, but prefer meat, and enjoy it as rare as possible. They readily consume bone, gristle, marrow, blubber, and blood. Tieflings have been known to drink mixtures of broth, oil, and sulfur.[1] They can survive on unusual food, even ash, and can subsist on coal or inorganic rock for a time.[9]

Environment[edit | edit source]

Tieflings are relatively common in the planar city of Sigil, and in various other planes and planar cities. Many inhabit tiefling-specific halfway houses in the city's Lower Ward.[31]

Many tieflings live in planar cities of the [[Abyss], the Nine Hells, or other evil planes, or serve in infernal armies,[32] or as abyssal warriors in the Blood War.[33] Those who turn their back in the Blood War maybe drawn to the Fortress of Indifference on the 348th layer of the Abyss.

Some 20% of the population of Icerazer are tieflings, the most common individual race there after snow goblins.[34] They likewise make up 20% of the population of Rigus,[35] and 5% of the Infernal city of Zelatar.[36] Some tieflings inhabit the Plane of Air.[37]

Tieflings can be found everywhere from the worlds of the material plane, though they are rare to uncommon. They can be found on the worlds of Toril, Oerth, and Eberron, among many others. Around 1% of the population of slaves in the drow Underdark city of Menzoberranzan are tieflings, as are paround 1% of the citizens of Undrek'Thoz.[38]

Culture[edit | edit source]

Society[edit | edit source]

Tieflings are uncommon in number, and in most worlds they do not have possess kingdoms or societies of their own, living instead scattered throughout human civilizations. Tieflings are distrusted in many human cultures due to their devil-like appearance and poor reputation.[5] This common mistreatment does not cause tieflings to band together as it might among humans, but rather they respond by isolating themselves and becoming loners.[1]

Many tieflings are evil, though not all. Mistreatment by the societies who raise them ironically leads some tieflings to become cruel and distrustful themselves, while others take society's distrust as a challenge to prove themselves virtuous and good.

Tiefling families in the traditional sense are rare. Many tieflings, born to human parents who possess a latent infernal bloodline, are abandoned at birth and raised by a monastery, church, orphanage, or adoptive parents. Such individuals often reach adulthood before they ever meet another of their kind. In Faerûn, the Red Wizards of Thay often kidnapped tiefling children to use slaves or spies, creating adoptive tiefling families of a sort.[6]

Some tieflings form merchant families, allowing them to live a life of relative safety and ease thanks to wealth and the ability to travel. Many who grow up in this environment lead a relatively sheltered and comfortable life, and are shielded from the prejudice shown to tieflings in society at large.[18][23]

Young tiefling wanderers often seek out famous tieflings as mentors.[9] Such mentors often form short-lived cults of personality called schools, which inevitably collapse when the founder dies. They variously operate as things like thieves' guilds, mage societies, and the like.[1]

Tieflings have an instinctive dislike of aasimar. They have slightly better relations with half-orcs, who are likewise often misfits in society.[6]

Asking a tiefling about their ancestry is considered a faux pas.[10]

Religion[edit | edit source]

Tieflings have no unique deity of their own. Some worship the fiend from whom they are descended, or a deity who that being serves.[6] Unsurprisingly, evil tieflings often serve evil deities.[25]

Deities appearing in the form of tieflings, or acting through the presence of tieflings, include Sharess[39] Loviatar of the Forgotten Realms,[40] and the evil Greyhawk deity Pyremius.[41]

Several tieflings have served as agents of the deities of the Forgotten Realms, including Sehanine Moonbow, Eilistraee, Urdlen, Brandobaris;[42] the god Hextor[43] of World of Greyhawk; Lugh and Manannan Mac Lir of the Celtic pantheon; Druaga and Nergal of the Babylonian pantheon; Muamman Duathal of the Dwarven pantheon; Urogalan of the Halfling pantheon; Hera of the Greek Pantheon; Bast and Thoth of the Egyptian pantheon; Sif of the Norse pantheon; the goblin deity Khurgorbaeyag; the Finnish gods Ukko and Surma,[44] and Tefnut of Krynn.[45]

Art[edit | edit source]

Tieflings often become artists later in life. Common themes in tiefling art include rage at the injustice of the multiverse, and the corruption of the fringes of respectable human society. Many tieflings make very talented artists.[9][10]

Among the best known of tiefling artists is Suruax, who works in pastels and operates a specialty shop in Chirper's, a grand restaurant in the planar citadel of Sigil.[46]

Tieflings are among the biggest fans of the howling magical music of Pandemonium.[47] Tieflings are famed for their loud and howling voice in battle, particularly with the shouts of bardic magic.[48]

Reciting the poem A Tiefling's Lament is the key to opening a portal from Shra'kt'lor in Limbo to the plane of Baator.[49]

Adventurers[edit | edit source]

As self-determined outcasts and wanders, tieflings have a natural knack for adventuring. They have natural talent in many fields, particularly as rogues, fighters, and rangers.[50] They also make excellent warlocks,[51] and often pay homage to archfiends.[25]

A few tieflings become incarnate, practicioners of the magic of Incarnum. Such individuals are known for their unique sense of telepathy.[52]

Tieflings typically begin their adventuring careers between the ages of 16 and 21, for those that require little formal training, such as barbarians, rogues and sorcerers. For classes like cleric, monk and wizard, they might not venture out until their 20s or early 30s.[26]

Warfare[edit | edit source]

Tieflings occasionally form small, highly-paid mercenary bands, where they excel as bodyguards and strike teams. They have a reputation for betraying their employer if circumstances permit.[53] Mercane will often hire tiefling bodyguards when doing business in the Abyss.[54]

The Chalice, a holy armed company in service of the god Heironeous, have a strong bias against tieflings, and will distrust anyone who is friends with one.[55]

Language[edit | edit source]

Tieflings have no unique racial language of their own.[56] Most typically speak Common, or the language of the human society in which they live.

If tieflings can be considered to have their own language, it is Infernal, the language of devils. Others learn Abyssal after a supposed demonic ancestor, although many tieflings do not truly know their ancestry, and some learn the wrong language.[6]

Equipment and clothing[edit | edit source]

Tieflings prefer dark clothing. Maroon, green, blue, and black are common. Typical tiefling fashion includes tight-fitted leggings, a vest, a tunic, and a long cape or jacket with coat-tails.[1]

Tieflings favor thin, light, and sharp weapons. Common melee weapons include the long sword, scimitar, stiletto, punch dagger, long spear, and a type of long polearm called a ranseur. Many train in two-weapon fighting, and the use of shields is less common than among humans. For making ranged attacks, they favor the throwing dagger and hand crossbow. They often use poison.[1]

The unusual heavy sickle is the signature weapon of tieflings who inhabit the Abyss.[57]

The tieflings who inhabit the planes of the Great Wheel are known for a particular style of scale armor created from the chitinous plates of vermin native to the Lower Planes.[1] Those of the Nentir Vale particularly wear leather and favor the color red, and craft weapons and armor in a unique jagged style which originated in the fallen empire of Bael Turath.

Names[edit | edit source]

Many tieflings simply acquire normal names of the human cultures they live in.

Others choose Infernal or Abyssal names, sometimes adopting one later in life as they seek to define their own identity. They may choose a name based on its menacing sound, without actually knowing its meaning.[25]

Tiefling male names of the Infernal line include Gooruth, Kharkuk, Mexil, Takkak, Veximitron, Zarek,[50] Akmenos, Amnon, Barakas, Damakos, Ekemon, Iados, Kairon, Leucis, Melech, Morthos, Pelaios, Skamos, Therai,[23] and Mordai.[5]

Female names include Cherrakia, Keberii, Seshra, Shalim, Nessis, Ventera,[50] Akta, Bryseis, Damaia, Ea, Kallista, Lerissa, Makaria, Nemeia, Orianna, Phelaia, Rieta,[23] Anakis, and Criella.[5]

Some tieflings adopt a "virtue name", representing an ideal that represents their identity, such as "Hope", "Music" or "Torment".[5]

It is not uncommon for a tiefling to use multiple aliases as they travel, to avoid being tracked.[50]

Notable tieflings[edit | edit source]

For a full list, see Category:Tieflings.

Related species[edit | edit source]

The term "tiefling" usually refers exclusively to humans with fiendish blood. Other distinct races with the bloodline of from fiends include the fey'ri (elves), maeluth (dwarves), tanarukk (orcs), worghests (goblins), wisplings (halflings), mur-zhagul (trolls), and baphitaur (minotaurs).

A large number of humans or humanoids with extraplanar heritage are known. These are called planetouched.

Tieflings are often descended from half-fiends, cambions, alu-fiends, or evil deities.

The planar opposite of a tiefling is an aasimar, a good-aligned planetouched.

The bladelings were once suspect to be tieflings, but are more correctly understood as a distinct extraplanar race. Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three (1996), p.14

Publication history[edit | edit source]

AD&D 2nd edition[edit | edit source]

The tiefling first appeared in the Planescape Campaign Setting (1994), where they are planes-dwelling humans with some fraction of otherworldly heritage. It is implied that this means a devil, demon or other evil being, but TSR's policy in this era censored explicit mentions of such beings. They are described as being easily mistaken for humans.

Tieflings received a monster entry in the Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994) which describes all tieflings as possessing one feature that gives away their heritage, such as horns. The Planeswalker's Handbook (1996) expands upon this with a table of random tiefling traits, including physical attributes (horns, goat legs, red eyes) and various supernatural abilities. This book also introduced their good-aligned counterpart, the aasimar.

D&D 3rd edition[edit | edit source]

The third edition Monster Manual (2000) presented the monster stats for the tiefling. These became a playable race with the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (2000), which introduced the level adjustment system to allow fans of Drizzt Do'Urden to play more powerful races like drow.

Tieflings in this edition are described and drawn as mostly humanlike in appearance, occasionally having some telltale mark like horns, but often passing for human. Dungeon Magazine introduced an iconic tiefling character with wide eyebrow-like horns, a long tail and mottled pink skin, which may have influenced their appearance in later editions.

Several books introduced variant tieflings of non-human origins. Monsters of Faerûn (2001) added the elf/demon fey'ri and orc/demon tanarukk; the Field Folio (2003) introduced the dwarf/devil maeluth and halfling/demon wispling.

D&D 4th edition[edit | edit source]

D&D 4th edition made tiefling a core playable race, appearing in the Player's Handbook (2008). This edition made the biggest changes to the tiefling's lore and appearance in the race's history.

Tieflings are now descendents of humans from the kingdom of Bael Turath, whose noble houses made bargains with infernal powers to empower their bloodline. They have a distinctive devil-like appearance, almost always depicted with dark pink skin, large horns, and a prehensile tail.

D&D 5th edition[edit | edit source]

Tieflings retain much of their 4th edition appearance and lore. They appear as a playable race in the Player's Handbook (2014), although they are described as uncommon. The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (2015), p.118, defines variant tieflings who are not connected to Asmodeus.

According to D&D 5e designer Mike Mearls in 2018, "tiefling" in 5th edition refers only to tieflings connected to the Nine Hells.[2] Other creatures previously defined as tieflings, such as descendants of demons or yugoloths, have been redefined as unnamed varieties of planetouched. This contradicts the Unearthed Arcana article That Old Black Magic (2015), which allows for abyssal tieflings.

Creative origins[edit | edit source]

Origin[edit | edit source]

The tiefling is an original creation of Dungeons & Dragons for the Planescape campaign setting. The word "tief" is German for "low", suggesting the tiefling's origin in the lower planes, as well as perhaps evoking "Teufel", meaning "devil", although that word has a separate etymology.

In 2019, Zeb Cook, original creator of the tiefling, wrote about the motives which inspired the race's creation:[60]

"I created a couple of new races and definitely needed one that played on the fallen angel/reformed devil trope. It's a type of anti-hero who has always been popular in fantasy and was necessary in my opinion for Planescape. I didn't want it to be "oh, you're a junior demon" -- that would have been problematic in play for a number of reasons. At the same time I wanted them to be unable to hide their origin because that was such a defining part of their character. In the end, it was a blatant attempt to appeal to the goth/emo mindset -- plenty of opportunity for angst and drama but without giving them unbalancing power. Part of the role-play about them was the idea that you couldn't hide or escape the suspicions about your parentage, even if you were playing the most lawful/honest/good tiefling out there."

Development[edit | edit source]

The decision to promote tiefling to a core race in D&D 4th edition is described in Wizards Presents: Races and Classes (2007).

Richard Baker describes the tiefling one of the most popular and evocative uncommon races, and a natural choice for the new warlock class.

Chris Perkins defines the tieflings as an opportunity to play angsty antihero characters, much like the popular rebellious drow archetype inspired by Drizzt Do'Urden, but without the inconsistency of the subterranean drow. The decision to give tieflings normal feet rather than cloven hooves was inspired by a need to allow tiefling PCs to wear magic boots.

Perkins summed up the tieflings to concept artist William O'Connor in one sentence: "They are the forsaken people." Their look was intended to be cloaked, secretive, catlike, and undulating. The jagged look of tiefling weapons in 4e was inspired by the notion of weapons melted in hellfire. Perkins suggests that the weapons define tiefling culture, serrated and jagged to cause maximum pain and injury.

James Wyatt describes the tiefling as rebellious, equivalent to 1950s leather jacketed bikers. He notes that the tiefling allows players to explore darker character concepts.

Reception and influence[edit | edit source]

In Kobold Quarterly #6 (2008), Zeb Cook wrote The Truth About Tieflings, an article which draws inspiration from the (then new) 4e lore about tieflings.

In 2019, Zeb Cook criticized the 4e instance of the tiefling which strictly defined the tiefling's origins:[60]

"I deliberately left it vague for two reasons. One, because that's not my job, as it were. I didn't want to constrain the player about how or what they imagined their character's past and parentage to be. To my mind, setting specific limits or definitions on what that "other" part of them is takes away from the mystery and makes their background a bit more of a rules mechanic as opposed to an RP opportunity. To say it was a pact or whatever removes so many other good possibilities ..."

Cook attributed the tiefling's success to their uniqueness and ability to fill a particular thematic role:

"The tiefling falls into a fantasy archetype -- the changeling, the trickster, the cursed hero/heroine -- that hadn't been represented in D&D's characters lineup to that point. D&D's roots were focused on the epic/high fantasy stereotypes (and there is nothing wrong with that) while the idea of the quasi-damned character is more a romantic/tragic/dark fantasy tradition. Therefore, they filled a gap in the choices for the player."

Planescape author Colin McComb wrote:

"Tieflings resonate because they're dark and edgy. They've got an automatic built-in secret. They're outsiders and loners, and they have a good reason to shun society (and be shunned by it). They're a perfect stand-in for misunderstood youth. "

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994), p.112-113.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Tieflings in the D&D Multiverse
  3. While the alternate pronunciation "tyfe-ling" is used by some players,[1] this is not attested in any official D&D sourcebook.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (2015), p.118-119.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 5.9 Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), p.42-43.
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 Races of Faerûn (2003), p.125-127.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 The Planewalker's Handbook (1996), p.78-80.
  8. Lords of Darkness (3e) (2001), p.107.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 Faces of Evil: The Fiends (1997), p.96.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Planescape Campaign Setting, A Player's Guide to the Planes (1994), p.12-13.
  11. The Planewalker's Handbook (1996), p.94.
  12. Planes of Law, Arcadia (1995), p.21.
  13. The Factol's Manifesto (1995), p.126.
  14. Faction War (1998), p.100.
  15. Monster Manual (3.5) (2003), p.209-210.
  16. Planes of Chaos, An Abridged Lexicon of the Abyss (1994).
  17. Hellbound: The Blood War, The Dark of the War (1996), p.54.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Player's Handbook 2 (4e) (2009), p.183.
  19. Cloak & Dagger (2000), p.107.
  20. Tales from the Infinite Staircase (1998), p.13.
  21. The Factol's Manifesto (1995), p.144.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Races of Faerûn (2003), p.112.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Player's Handbook (4e) (2008), p.49.
  24. Planes of Chaos, The Book of Chaos (1994), p.15-16.
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 Planar Handbook (2004), p.15-16.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Races of Destiny (2004), p.107-110.
  27. Player's Handbook (3.5) (2003), p.109.
  28. On Hallowed Ground (1996), p.26,99.
  29. Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (3e) (2001), p.20.
  30. Empires of the Shining Sea (1998), p.184.
  31. Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix (1994), p.93.
  32. For Duty & Deity (1998), p.43.
  33. The Planewalker's Handbook (1996), p.97.
  34. Frostburn (2004), p.180.
  35. Lord of the Iron Fortress (2002), p.6.
  36. Expedition to the Demonweb Pits (2007), p.83.
  37. Planescape Monstrous Compendium Appendix III (1998), p.8.
  38. Underdark (3e) (2003), p.161.
  39. Faiths and Pantheons, Web enhancement (2002), p.14.
  40. Faiths & Avatars (1996), p.101.
  41. Complete Divine (2004), p.123.
  42. Demihuman Deities (1998), p.14,126,158,167.
  43. Bastion of Faith (1999), p.88.
  44. On Hallowed Ground (1996).
  45. Planes of Conflict, Liber Benevolentiae (1995), p.33.
  46. In the Cage: A Guide to Sigil (1995), p.94.
  47. Planes of Chaos, The Book of Chaos (1994), p.90.
  48. Player's Handbook 2 (4e) (2009), p.80.
  49. The Planewalker's Handbook (1996), p.39.
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 50.3 Races of Destiny (2004), p.107-108.
  51. Complete Arcane (2004), p.6.
  52. Magic of Incarnum (2005), p.48.
  53. Arms and Equipment Guide (3e) (2003), p.71.
  54. Epic Level Handbook (2002), p.205.
  55. Player's Handbook II (3e) (2006), p.170.
  56. The Planewalker's Handbook (1996), p.101.
  57. Planar Handbook (2004), p.68.
  58. Faction War (1998), p.103.
  59. Planescape Campaign Setting, Sigil and Beyond (1994), p.12-13.
  60. 60.0 60.1 Interviews about Tieflings with Planescape Designers Zeb Cook and Colin McComb, 2019
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