The tiefling, in the Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) fantasy roleplaying game, is a humanoid race. Originally introduced in the Planescape campaign setting in the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, they became one of the primary races available forplayer characters in the fourth edition of the game.
Tieflings were originally introduced as humans with demonic ancestry, whose lineage can be traced back to some degree or another to that of a fiend or demon within the Dungeons & Dragons universe. A tiefling should not be confused with a half-fiend, as half-fiends are generally half mortal and half fiend or demon, whereas the demonic lineage of a tiefling’s ancestry often lies further up the family tree.
In 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, Tieflings are a race whose human ancestors made a bargain with devils to increase their power. Their origin is similar in 5th Edition.
In the setting of Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, the tieflings trace their origins to the ancient human Empire of Bael Turath. In the Empire, the noble class was completely obsessed with preserving and gaining power. Rumors of their schemes and obsession with power reached a realm called the Nine Hells, located around the Astral Sea. The devils that resided in the Nine Hells gave the ruling classes of Bael Turath visions while they slept, containing the directions for a grisly, month-long ritual that would extend their rule into eternity. The details of the ritual have been left unclear in the books from the Player’s Handbook series describing the events, though it is described as being very horrible. As the ritual demanded the participation of every noble house, those that refused were wholly slaughtered. Once this was done, the ruling class began their ritual. Afterwards, devils from the Nine Hells began to appear, and the nobles gladly made pacts with them. These pacts gave power to the nobles and their descendants forever, but also gave them the devilish features of horns, non-prehensile tails, sharpened teeth, and red skin. From that point forward, the former humans were the race known as the tieflings.
In 5th edition, the overlord of the Nine Hells, Asmodeus, is cited as the ancestral source of their devilish features.
In earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons, 3.5 and previous, Tieflings have any of a number of features that reference (directly or indirectly) their fiendish lineage. These include, but are not limited to, horns located on their heads, pointed sharp teeth, extra fingers, cloven hooves in place of feet, tails, and unusually colored eyes. They exude a feeling of “evil” even though their race has become civil and no longer lusts for power. Many races distrust or outright hate Tieflings seeing them as devil worshippers. Tiefling villains often live up to this reputation, whereas player characters have the choice to abandon this stereotype.
In 4th edition and later, tieflings are a core character race and have had their appearance altered from 3.5 and earlier. All tieflings possess large thick horns of various styles on their heads, non-prehensile tails approximately 4 to 5 feet in length, sharply pointed teeth, and their eyes are solid orbs of red, black, white, silver, or gold. Tiefling skin ranges through common human shades right into the reds, ranging from brick red to a ruddy tan. Tiefling hair, which starts behind their horns, ranges from dark blue to purple to red in addition to more normal human colors.
In Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, tieflings do not associate with a specific god or gods. Their lack of faith also means paladins and clerics are seldom, if ever, found. Tieflings have no homeland and are very rare due to a long lasting war with the dragonborn, another race seen in the 4th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Most tieflings prefer to be adventurers and rarely ever adventure with their own kin due to the prejudices of other races (people are concerned when two or more of their kind travel together).
In most editions, tiefling naming conventions consist of ancestral Infernal names. In 3.5, tieflings use human names until they seek to differentiate themselves from their parents, after which they usually take fiendish “names” of Infernal or Abyssal origin that sound menacing. In 4.0 onwards, tieflings usually take an ancestral Infernal name, although some young tieflings, striving to find a place in the world, choose a name that signifies a concept and then try to embody the concept.
In most editions, tieflings are described as slow to trust, but those who do earn their trust and loyalty earn a firm friend or ally for life.
Unlike half-fiends, tieflings are not necessarily of evil alignments. Tieflings of all alignments exist, including good, although many take more shady jobs, such as that of thieves, assassins or spies. Tieflings are often portrayed as antiheroes.
In a standard 3.0 and 3.5 game, Tieflings tend to have an unsettling air about them, and most people are uncomfortable around them, whether they are aware of the tiefling’s unsavory ancestry or not.
In 4th edition Tieflings have the same alignments choices as any other starting character.
In 5th edition Tieflings do not have an innate tendency towards evil, though many usually end up going down that path due to the prejudice against them. Also due to the prejudice against them, Tieflings have a fierce independent streak and are inclined towards being chaotic.