m: div

Roleplaying Races: Tiefling

First, Reptoids, and now, we continue with our first planetouched race here on the blog: the tiefling!
Tieflings are, for the uninitiated, the descendants of a link between mortals and fiends. This may be from the taint of fiendish influence in one’s family, such as contact with such beings or exposure to unholy power; or more classically, from the literal union between a mortal and an evil outsider.
The direct result of such unions are usually half-fiends, with tieflings being the descendants of those, but outsider influence is funny like that, and true fiends may beget tieflings, or mortals with fiendish abilities such as sorcerer bloodlines, or any number of other things.
Similarly, tieflings come in all shapes and sizes, since they can arise from nearly any mortal race (though the default in most settings is human) but also because their fiendish nature can manifest in a multitude of different ways, everything from classic demon horns, spade tail, and cloven hooves to more exotic traits and disturbing deformations. Furthermore, many tieflings also show evidence of what fiend classification or type has influenced their blood, further adding to the variation in their appearance, even changing their natural abilities if it is strong enough.

The typical tiefling, whose heritage is non-specific, is resistant to many forms of energy, capable of both seeing into darkness as well as channeling it, not to mention having a stronger connection to fiendish sources of magical power. They are also typically clever and agile, though their fiendish natures make it hard for them to interact with others.
From there, tieflings branch out in two major categories, the first being a wide array of alternate racial traits that represent the mutability of their biology and upbringings, such as those who seem human outwardly to the point of counting as humanoid, to those with wings, claws, strong prehensile tails, and even those with magic derived from antipathy towards good… or from turning away from evil.
The second way that they branch out is in terms of heritage, which change what sort of attributes they are naturally gifted in, what skills come easily to them, and even what magic is inherent to them. Such as the kyton-blooded shackleborn, who are tough and charming, but lack empathy, and can entrap foes in strands of supernatural fibers like webbing. Or the destructive and brutish demonspawn: the pitborn, who possess might and strong personalities, but are quick to anger and don’t often take time to think, relying on their own might and destructive natural magic to get by.

While they are at the same time more and less than mortals, tieflings, just like anyone else, just want to live out their own lives. Some do embrace the dark powers that sired them, but others instead fight against the forces of evil, and more still choose not to get involved in such things if they can avoid it.
Of course, when you clearly have fiendish heritage, you sometimes don’t have a choice in the matter. Universally viewed as agents of the fell powers, even the most goodly of tieflings has to endure revulsion, festishization, distrust, and outright threats and attacks from their fully mortal contemporaries. Even those who know of the equal capacity for both good and evil that tieflings possess might hold them to unfair and sometimes impossible standards of conduct, and shame them for even the smallest lapse.
Combine all that animosity and pressure with a soul geared towards evil, but able to choose otherwise, and you have individuals at war with both themselves and those that hate and fear them.

Tieflings come in so many different varieties that really any and all classes suit them, from mighty warriors that channel the power of the lower planes into their strikes, arcane caster of fiendish nature and otherwise, divine casters that either serve dark powers or rail against them, stealthy sneaks, and even masters of the mind who channel dubious power or else find strength in rising above it.
Though the struggle between good and evil is a common thread with many members of this race, it would be doing them a disservice to say that it defines them as individuals. Poorly-written “Brooding loners who struggle with their inner demons yet somehow not really do anything” are a dime a dozen, and every tiefling PC and NPC has the potential to be much more, since everyone is shaped by their experiences.
Ask your what the sum of the best and worse things that happened to them is. Were they marginalized for their nature? To what extent and how? What sort of life have they had so far? Who are their friends and their enemies? How have their experiences made them into who they are today?

There’s a (Thankfully rapidly fading) stereotype that tieflings, drow, and other typically evil races are for players that want to play an edgy loner type, only to end up not being edgy at all due to how mainstream “edginess” has become. However, I am here to tell you that no one has the right to mock your choices in creating your character. If you want to play with tiefling mechanics or feel the story you want to tell with this character would work best if they were the literal spawn of hell, then more power to you.

If you want even more thorough details on Tieflings, check out such sources as Advanced Race Guide and Inner Sea Races!