Though Baldur's Gate 3 has brought them back into the limelight, those horned entities known as Tieflings have been in Dungeons and Dragons for a while. Moreover, not all of them will have horns, tails, red skin, or infernal ancestry.
Tiefling is described as a plane-touched person who traces their ancestry to the 9 Hells. "Planetouched" describes, in broad terms, a humanoid with fiendish ancestry — with one example being a Tiefling.
A name like “devilspawn” might have suited those with Infernal blood better, but the name “Tiefling” apparently relates to a German word. That word is “teufel,” meaning “devil,” or “tief,” meaning “deep” — what other facts do D&D fans not know about Tieflings?
10 Game Design Origins
They first appeared in Planescape as playable characters as anyone who had any friendish blood in their ancestry. This allowed for a wide range of appearances or any ancestral background. Wizards of the Coast (WotC) thought it would be cool if players could trace their origins back to a “bad guy” faction.
So they refined Tieflings to being more humanoid and adapting the more diabolical look.
The player’s handbook categorizes Tieflings as less common than elves, dwarves, and halflings. WotC appreciates the feeling that if a Tiefling walks into a bar, they stand out. This works from a roleplaying perspective very well for those who want to play the foreigner archetype. They only became a primary playable race in the D&D 4th edition.
9 Infinite Kinds Of Ancestry
Lineage can be from devils, demons, Yugoloths, evil deities, or other fiends including succubi, Night Hags, as well as Rakshasa. The ancestry generally manifests during childhood in the form of horns, a prehensile tail, or unique skin colors like red, blue, or purple.
But some might just have pointed teeth or black orbs for eyes instead. The physical appearance depends on their fiendish ancestry. Possible ancestral traits also include smelling of brimstone, not having a reflection, not being able to cast a shadow, a forked tongue, etc.
Players have many options when it comes to appearance customization having the option to add wings, cloven-hoofed feet, cat-like eyes, or more features. Specific features usually relate to certain ancestral backgrounds. For instance, a Tiefling with cat eyes might come from a Rakshasa bloodline. Other times, a Tiefling is created when a human is transformed with magic.
8 Establishing Culture Amidst Mass Prejudice
Tieflings generally don’t have their own society or culture. They are often born into another established society, so they try to fit into it instead. Some Tieflings might enjoy their fiendish heritage and become hedonistic warlocks. On the other hand, those with good or neutral alignments explore paladin class options.
Most Faerunean Tieflings hail from the Mulhorand and Thay regions. But the largest population of Tieflings live in Neverwinter to the north. However, it is also home to an Asmodeus cult known as the Asmodai. They have a tendency towards violence, hurting the overall perception of Tieflings.
Tieflings are slow to trust other races as a result of their heritage and subsequent treatment by others. They can be shunned by society, so they become reclusive and aloof. They do establish relationships with half-orcs on occasion since they, too, experience mixed heritage prejudice.
7 The Curse Of Asmodeus
Tieflings used to have much more varied appearances until Asmodeus and a group of warlocks forced an aesthetic on them. Instead of bearing Rakshasa or fiend features, all Tieflings became demonic in appearance around 1358 DR. The Warlock coven the Toril Thirteen completed a rite that allowed Asmodeus to claim all Tieflings as his.
This granted Asmodeus enough power to attain racial godhood now having enough followers. But it also cursed all Tieflings to appear as having demonic blood. Moreover, it marked all Tieflings as descendants of the lord of the 9 Hells. That meant red skin, more infernal type horns, and other features associated with devils. However, D&D 5e has seen the return of more unique Tiefling appearances.
6 Physiology And Innate Abilities
The infernal heritage gives all Tieflings 60 feet of dark vision and fire resistance. They also naturally pick up the Thaumaturgy cantrip at level 1, the hellish rebuke spell at level 3, and darkness at level 5. Tieflings can also read, speak, and write Infernal and Common.
But Tieflings from non-infernal heritage gain different benefits. Instead of fire resistance, they might have cold or electricity resistance. These other bloodlines also gain access to different spells such as enthrall, misdirection, detect magic, and more. They are usually ambidextrous, as well.
Tieflings also have an apparent immunity to the Abyss’ chaotic eighth layer known as the Skin-shedder. They usually live to about 100 years old with some living to 150.
5 Oops! All Tieflings
Due to the level of animosity most other races have against Tieflings, most aren’t eager to comingle. But this isn’t just due to attitudes or desires on behalf of Tieflings themselves.
Part of the curse of Asmodeus regards how Tiefling genetics works through offspring. If the Tieflings reproduced, they would also create pure Tiefling offspring. That means that they could grow their population much more quickly in comparison to other races. Like the Asari in Mass Effect, if a Tiefling breeds with a different species, they still produce a Tiefling. This serves a purpose for the Hells in that it strengthens their presence in the mortal realms.
4 Tiefling Variants Include Minotaurs
There are many, many variants under the broad term "Tiefling." This includes a variety of other races who comingled with demons and devils. They have unique features, abilities, and appearances, but here is a quick TL;DR.
Fey'ri are Tiefling/Elf crossbreeds that can have many signs of fiendish ancestry or none at all. Those with signs can have pointed tails, fangs, wings, or more. But those who look "normal" will have it kept secret from them. Maeluth are Dwarven/Devil crossbreeds with no tails or horns. In contrast, they have mostly hairless bodies and strangely long fingers with red eyes.
The Halfling/Demon crossbreed is known as a Wispling, but they lack traditional fiendish traits. Instead, they have light brown skin and flaming red hair. Tanarukk are crossbreeds of Orcs and Demons generally from the Hell's Gate Keep region. They can innately manipulate fire but are bloodthirsty and unpredictable. There are more including minotaurs and demon trolls, but that's another article.
3 Tieflings Are Straight Carnivores
Though Tieflings are humanoid and can have human blood in their lineage, the infernal or fiend blood affects their nutritional needs quite a bit. In fact, it removes the benefits they can derive from fibrous vegetables.
Like cats in the real world, Tieflings are what’s known as obligate carnivores. This means that they derive nutrients out of animal flesh primarily. They need to eat things like gristle, blubber, blood, and meat (of course) to survive. Some might also drink broth, sulfur, and oil mixtures or even ash, coal, or inorganic rock. However, many Tieflings do consider raw bone marrow to be a particularly delicious delicacy.
2 Tiefling Virtue Names
As mentioned, most Tieflings do not fit in with most established societies. As outcasts, they often try to find ways to fit in elsewhere. Virtue Names play a key role in this as they can establish identity.
In general, a Virtue Name indicates lineage or a virtue/emotion that this person has a great deal of. Note that these names need not be positive or negative in connotation; they just need to be accurate. Some examples include Sorrow, Glory, Creed, or Destiny.
1 Notable Tieflings Including a Lich And Archmage
There are actually quite a few notable Tieflings throughout D&D lore. This includes games such as Neverwinter, as well, which introduces Makos. He plays a key role in the Siege of Neverwinter in the latter part of the 15th century DR.
Shangalar the Black is a Twisted Rune member and lich wizard with jet-black and calcified skin. Vanifer was the leader of the Cult of Eternal Flame while Sylvira Savikas was an archmage who studied at Candlekeep.
However, one of the most famous might be Farideh — the adopted daughter of Mehen, sister to Havilar, and accidental pact maker with the cambion Lorcan.
ALGS, masters of the Multiview