Tyranny of Dragons
Tieflings were human-based planetouched, native outsiders that were infused with the touch of the fiendish planes, most often through descent from fiends—demons, devils, evil deities, and others who had bred with humans. Tieflings were known for their cunning and personal allure, which made them excellent deceivers as well as inspiring leaders when prejudices were laid aside.
Although their evil ancestors could be many generations removed, the taint lingered. Unlike half-fiends, tieflings were not predisposed to evil alignments and varied in alignment nearly as widely as full humans, though tieflings were certainly devious. The celestial counterparts of tieflings were called aasimar.
Tieflings tended to have an unsettling air about them, and most people were uncomfortable around them, whether they were aware of the tiefling’s unsavory ancestry or not. While some looked like normal humans, most retained physical characteristics derived from their ancestor, with the most common such features being horns, non-prehensile tails, and pointed teeth. Some tieflings also had eyes that were solid orbs of black, red, white, silver, or gold, while others had eyes more similar to those of humans. Other, more unusual characteristics included a sulfurous odor, cloven feet, or a general aura of discomfort they left on others. In many other ways, tieflings were similar to humans physically.
The physical appearance of a tiefling often depended on the exact ancestry that spawned it, a bloodline that might have remained dormant for generations. Diabolic or demonic tieflings could, besides the common horns and tails, possess a forked tongue, leathery or scaly skin, the smell of brimstone, or unusually warm flesh. Some accounts even held these tieflings to cast neither shadows nor reflections. Some diabolic tieflings also sported goat-like legs or hooves. Tieflings descended from rakshasa might have furred skin or feline eyes. Most tieflings had only one or two of these features.
Some tieflings were not descended from mere fiends at all, but from powerful gods. These tieflings often had their own physical characteristics that set them apart. Tieflings sired by Beshaba, for instance, often had antlers instead of horns and pale, white hair. Those sired by Mask, on the other hand, were known for their tendency to cast no reflection while half-fiends spawned by Bhaal often appeared physically identical to humans, a characteristic they may have passed down to their descendants.
In Mulhorand, the most common tieflings were often those spawned from a union with Sseth or Sebek. Most tieflings were, however, the grandchildren or even great-grandchildren of fiends and in Mulhorand’s neighbor, Thay, most tieflings were spawned deliberately by powerful wizards as part of some elaborate plot for power.
Most tieflings were aware from an early age that they were different from others around them, and were given to strange urges and desires because of their unusual ancestry. Few tieflings were raised with the love a normal human child might expect to receive and this shaped most of the race into bitter individuals who expected eventual rejection from all whom they meet. While some would follow this path towards evil, others rejected it wholeheartedly and sought to make a good impact on the world around them, sometimes becoming the most heroic characters of all. Few could maintain this discipline however, and most tieflings fell somewhere between both extremes.
Because tieflings were generally distrusted throughout the world, owing to their fiendish heritage, many were themselves distrusting and self-reliant. Tieflings were also proud and secretive by nature and possessed a dark demeanor. Unfortunately, this only helped to further the reputation tieflings had for being social outcasts and untrustworthy scoundrels. However, members of other races would find that once they demonstrated friendship and trust towards a tiefling, it would quickly be reciprocated in full. Once that bond was forged, it was rarely broken.
Like other races that were the result of the breeding of two or more others, tieflings had no true culture they could call their own. However, there were many archetypal features of tieflings that were not necessarily innate. This include their attitude regarding their heritage, and while some tieflings embraced it, others were repulsed by it, forging the two most common stereotypes of tieflings.
The former tieflings, who were proud of their fiendish past, were often fascinated by the dark and sinister events that touched the world, but were not necessarily evil or inclined to perpetuate them. Some tieflings of this type chose to use their knowledge of evil and their own fiendish abilities to thwart these dark plots and schemes. Others sought to learn more and to emulate these evil deeds.
Other tieflings were ashamed or even frightened of their heritage and wished only to escape the shadow that lurked over them as a result. Some did this through constantly doing good, as though to make up for the evil that begot them. Others instead hid and tried to go unnoticed as they passed through the world, preferring to be ignored and forgotten than noticed and made a target because of their past.
Regardless of their motivations, tieflings often distrusted one another, sometimes even casting the same preconceptions on one another that others did on them. In spite of this, many secretly desired to have another tiefling nearby, if only to experience some small kind of kinship. Some of these tieflings gathered as partners-in-crime, while others were sought out by good tieflings who hoped to redeem others of their race.
MAGIC AND RELIGION
Those tieflings who sought power through arcane magic were most often warlocks. Tiefling arcane spellcasters of all kinds, however, felt a draw towards the fiendish energies of the planes and tiefling wizards commonly specialized as diviners for the purposes of seeking knowledge of the Lower Planes or as conjurers so that they might summon the dark spirits whom they called kin.
Those tieflings who were religious were a varied lot, since no god held more sway over tieflings than any other, though Asmodeus, as the lord over the fiendish race of devils, may come close. Most tieflings called on one of the primary gods of their homeland, though there were exceptions. Beshaba, the goddess of bad luck, for instance, appealed to many of the race, owing to tieflings’ collective sense of misfortune. Many evil tieflings who channeled their dark emotions into aggression often found themselves in the service of Cyric, as well. Prior to the Spellplague and the god’s subsequent disappearance, Gargauth also drew a large number of worshipers seeking vengeance, as did Mask, who gathered tiefling thieves to his church. Shar, like Gargauth, appealed to those with a taste for vengeance.
RELATIONS WITH OTHER RACES
Tieflings, in general, didn’t get along well with the other races of the world and were slow to trust others of any race, even their own. This animosity that tieflings had for others was taken to its extreme in the case of aasimar, whom tieflings instinctively feared or loathed. Devas often had a similar reaction, making it difficult for members of either race to successfully interact with each other. Of all the common races, tieflings felt the most kinship with half-orcs, who were similarly a target of revulsion and hate.
Being the result of fiendish interference with humans, tieflings had no true homeland and were found throughout Toril. The race was particularly common, however, in Mulhorand and Unther before both nations were devastated by the Spellplague, though the latter’s population was said to have been vastly exaggerated. Tieflings also once had a large presence in Thay, where many were slaves. Tieflings who were discovered in the land often became pawns in the struggles between Thay’s zulkirs, whom they served as assassins, thieves, and spies. The takeover by Szass Tam, however drove many out of the region.
In the 15th century, tieflings were most commonly found in Narfell, where the race was believed to have first appeared in ancient times, and High Imaskar, though many were also welcome in Tymanther, thanks to the native dragonborns’ policy of racial tolerance. Other tieflings allied themselves with the genasi servants of Memnon in Calimshan, where they were a valued addition to the efreeti’s war against his rival Calim. Many tieflings were also found along the Sword Coast, particularly in the cosmopolitan Baldur’s Gate, as well as parts of the Dragon Coast. In Aglarond, the race was only begrudgingly tolerated as enemies of Thay.