An Introduction To The Tiefling Race in Dungeons and Dragons 5e
The tiefling is one of the nine core races in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. It is a humanoid race with close ties to the lower planes. The name derives from the German word “tief”, which means low. It is also believed that the name may refer to the German word “Teufel” or devil. In either case, the implication is the same: these are humanoids with devil-like ancestors. Christopher Perkins from DnD confirmed that the correct tiefling pronunciation is “TEEF-ling”.
The History Of The Tiefling
The tiefling has changed somewhat since it was first introduced in the 2nd Edition of DnD. They were originally introduced as additional characters available during specific campaigns. It wasn't until the 4th Edition that they became one of the core races available to the players. The tiefling originated from the Planescape setting, which is a campaign setting designed by Zeb Cook. But with their addition to the core races, they can now be played in a variety of different settings.
The original tiefling available in the Planescape campaigns was listed as a mixed breed character that was part human and part “something else”. That “something else” was not clearly defined at the time, but it was implied that it originated from the lower planes. This was clearly visible in the character's appearance. While mostly human, the tiefling has many visual characteristics of fiends or devils.
More information was eventually made available that further described the history of the tiefling. They were not half-breeds in the sense that one parent was human and the other was from the lower planes. Rather, they had ancestors long ago who were from the lower planes. This allowed them to maintain a primarily human appearance with subtle fiend-like features. In comparison, a half-fiend creature is always hideous and very clearly the immediate offspring of a fiend.
The definition of the tiefling remained the same until they became available as core races in the 4tth Edition. At that time, their history was altered slightly and more defined. It also meant there was a lot of new information that could be used to help players create new tiefling characters. In addition to the history of the race, new information included details about tiefling horns, names, traits, alignments, and how they were treated by the general public.
The origin store of the tiefling is generally the same between the 4th and 5th Edition of DnD. The tiefling were no longer considered a mixed-breed race despite having physical characteristics of humans and fiends. Instead, the tiefling ancestors made bargains with various devils to gain certain abilities and to increase their overall power. These bargains affected their bloodlines and their appearance. The particular devil that the ancestor made a pact with also affects the character's sub-race.
Tiefling Physical TraitsThe tiefling is a medium-sized race. This means they are generally the same size and height of a human. The tiefling also matures at the same rate as a standard human character. However, they do have a slightly longer lifespan. The standard walking speed of the tiefling race is 30 feet. As for languages, they come equipped to speak the Common language and the Infernal language.
There are generally a few visual features that are derived from their fiendish ancestors. These can include horns, a tail, eye color, and skin color. The tiefling tail is long and thick. The average tail is between four and five feet long. The tail is often a good indicator of the tiefling's emotion. For example, when they are nervous the tail will coil around their legs. It may also lash back and forth when they are upset.
Tiefling horns may be their most defining feature. Their horns can come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some horns are very tall and straight while others curl on the sides. There are no strict rules when it comes to deciding how the horns will look. They may resemble any number of animals, such as gazelles, rams, or antelopes.
The skin color may also be a clear indication of their fiend bloodline. Some tieflings have standard humanoid skin tones. It's also possible for the skin tone to be any shade of red. Their eyes may also be red, silver, black, white, or gold. Unlike other humanoids, the tiefling does not have a visible pupil. The entire eye is a solid color.
Additional Tiefling Traits
Understanding the additional traits of the tiefling will help you understand how the race behaves as well as a few advantages they possess. One of their most important traits is the ability score increases that they receive. All tieflings receive a boost to Charisma of 2. Most of the sub-races will also receive an Intelligence boost of 1, though one particular sub-race receives a Strength boost of 1 instead.
The sub-race is determined by the bloodline.
Charisma is important for the tiefling because of their Infernal Legacy trait. With this trait, all tiefling know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. They can also use the spell Hellish Rebuke upon reaching level three. The spell is cast as second level spell and can be cast again once the character has completed a long rest. Upon reaching the 5th level, the tiefling can cast the Darkness spell. This spell can also be cast again after a long rest. Each of these spells relies on Charisma as the spellcasting ability.
Darkvision and Hellish Resistance are both racial traits that the character receives due to their infernal heritage. Darkvision allows the tiefling to see clearly in dimly lit conditions for a maximum distance of 60 feet. If it is complete darkness, then the tiefling can see as if the area was dimly lit. The character cannot detect color in either of these conditions. Instead, everything appears as a shade of gray. Hellish Resistance is a standard elemental resistance to fire-based damage.
Finally, the tiefling's race will often influence its alignment. A tiefling is not evil by nature despite their appearance. Their infernal heritage actually has no impact on their personality. It is the way that they are perceived by the public that tends to have a negative impact on their behavior. Tiefling are not trusted and are viewed with resentment.
This leads to many tiefling wanting to live up to this evil stereotype. On the other hand, there are many who attempt to be as virtuous as possible. The tiefling is most often oriented towards a chaotic alignment due to their independent nature.
Choosing A Tiefling Name
Tiefling names can come from a few different sources. It often depends on where and how the tiefling was raised. Tieflings do not have a homeland and tend to live in small groups in human cities. They are most often found with other minority races in the worst parts of the settlement. A tiefling that is born into a specific culture is going to have a name that reflects that specific culture. Thus, when naming a tiefling, you should carefully consider their origins.
Their name may originate from two other sources. Many tiefling choose simple names that reflect a specific virtue. They believe that they can live a life which perfectly reflects that virtue or concept. Such names might include Creed, Glory, Hope, or Despair. The name may reflect a personal goal of the tiefling or it may symbolize what they believe to be their ultimate destiny.
Finally, the tiefling may have a name that originates from the Infernal language of their fiendish ancestors. These names are handed down from one generate to the next. These tieflings tend to embrace their heritage.
A Race Worth Playing
Overall, the tiefling is a unique and diverse race. They have a troubled history, yet they are not innately evil. Their resistance to fire is an extremely useful trait. How they react to the general mistrust of their race is entirely up to you. Your tiefling may embrace is dark heritage and become the embodiment of evil or they might fight against it at every turn with virtuous and noble acts.