Racial Bias: Tieflings
If it looks like a devil, talks like a devil, and smells like a devil, it is probably a tiefling. These misbegotten creatures have blood coursing through their veins that got dirtied somewhere along the line when grandma decided to make the beast with two backs with an actual beast with two backs.
Untrusted, unwanted, and unwavering, tieflings remain one of the most complex and rewarding races to play at any level of experience. Many have a tragic past, most have a tragic present, but the future really seems to be what drives the motivation for the sometimes horned fiend-spawn.
Today, we will take a look at why the tiefling is the best race in the game.
"Now 13% less evil."
As I said before, tieflings are the unfortunate carries of tainted blood. Somewhere down the line in their family tree, someone consorted with a fiend. Fiend is a catch-all word for an extraplanar entity of pure, uncompromising evil (demons, daemons, devils and politicians). The kind of evil that leaves marks when you look at it. The kind of evil that sticks around awhile long after said fiend has taken off, like an unholy crop dusting (#driveby). The kind of evil that lurks in the blood of a family, sometimes for generations, until it decides to pop up at the most inopportune time.
"That's a face only a mother could love... from a safe distance of 120 feet,"
With that kind of bad mojo lurking in the veins, it's no wonder why people are a bit apprehensive when it comes to dealing with, talking to, or suffering to allow the continued existence of a tiefling. A great number of those with the fiendish heritage don't often make it past the birthing chamber. Those that are "lucky" enough to survive often have a pretty rough road ahead, full of bigotry, disdain, and righteous do-gooders trying to "smite" them at every opportunity.
However, there is a bright side to this muddied up blood. Well, more of a slightly less shadowy side. The extraplanar menace that bumped uglies with the tiefling's ancestor long ago left more than the world's best reason for abstinence. They left a portion of their latent magic behind to grow and suffuse itself with the soul of the poor creature that would eventually become a tiefling. This magic manifests itself in a number of different ways, depending on which unholy plane they can trace their linage to, like the command of hellfire and the control of unnatural darkness.
You know... PR-friendly stuff.
"Grymdhark Blakdhuum is a media darling."
To say you know a tiefling when you see one is a bit of an understatement. A lot of times they stick out like sore thumbs, what with the horns and all. But despite their fearsome appearance, no two tieflings look exactly the same. Their physical features are as varied and terrifying as the fiends that dirtied their blood in the first place. They could be sporting long powerful tails, short wiry tails, medium prehensile tails, or a coat with tails. Their horns can be anything from tiny nubs to big o'le ram horns, and their skin color runs the gambit from porcelain white to blacker than midnight, with every huge and shade in between, though red seems to be popular amoung the hellspawn kids these days.
"Thug life? Hell life!"
But jagged boney appendages aren't the only physical aspects the tielfling gains from their fiendish heritage. Their bodies, minds, and demeanor are heavily influenced by the nightmarish plane of eternal torment their less than savory kin hail from. Those who can trace their ancestry back to the abyss are often hardier, stronger, and more prone to destroy things. Those who could vacation with pop-pop in the pit (Hell, if you aren't hip to the lingo) are more lithe, graceful, intelligent and charismatic, with a strange desire to make deals.
"I hope you brought a pen."
However, these fearsome aspects occur in only the most unfortunate sect of tieflings. A sizable population bare little to no resemblance to their fiendish forebearers. They could look like any other person, with the same hair, skin, teeth, etc. However, there is always some manner of telling sign they aren't entierly a part of the mortal world. Often these are subtle things that are either hidden or corrected for, like tiny horns beneath a head of wavy hair, off-colored eyes they are concealed beneath dark glasses, or a complete lack of shadow, which... well, I guess you become a night person at that point, and avoid torches.
Those that can blend in often do so without a moment of hesitation. It is no doubt they are aware of how society feels about their ilk, and the best way to avoid a mob with pitchforks is to march among them and hope they don't notice the tail.
Talk about awkward.
Not Just Human-ish
When a lot of folks think tiefling, they see a human with devil make up on. However, demons, devils and the forces of darkness are not exactly prejudiced against any particular race, and like any desperate person with 5 long island iced teas in their system at last call, they will sleep with just about anything.
Elves, gnomes, and even dwarves are susceptible to the darkened influence of tiefling blood. Somewhere long ago an ancestor could have made a deal or forged a pact with forces they didn't quite understand, the result of which is a tiefling that doesn't look quite the way we think...
"Everything is better as a dwarf."
No Place To Call Their Own
If it looks like a devil and sounds like a devil (deja vu), then odds are no one is going to want it moving in next door. Who wants to bump into that at the grocery store? It doesn't take a cleric to recognize where these folks hail from. Tails, horns, bat wings, the smell of brimstone, these types of things can incite mobs. And that right there is the real danger to the tiefling, large groups of people.
A wise wizard once said "People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People's heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool."
While it makes take no time at all for a tiefling to befriend a person, or convince them that they are not there to eat their babies, a group of people often looses any semblance of kindness, intelligence, or rationality. In short, they become a little less human? Don't believe me? Scroll through a YouTube comments section sometime.
Nightmares for days.
There are few safe harbors for tieflings. You aren't very likely to happen upon them in a small village or a little town without one hell of a story to go with it. Usually, the fiend-spawn find themselves crowded into large cities where they can blend into the eclectic makeup of these diverse locations, perhaps even start their own communities in certain neighborhoods. Even then, there is a large contingent of people who still look down on the tiefling with disdain, fear, or a mix of both.
One Hell Of A Dark Side
While not all tieflings are inherently evil, there are those who have little to no problem playing into the fears of the people who would otherwise oppress them. They murder, steal, or worse, and do so with a smile on their face and a song in their heart.
"Let it go, let it go..."
This is not entirely the tiefling's fault. Well, not completely. The darkness that surrounded their souls (if in fact they have those) resonates with evil. That's some residual fiendish mojo still percolating. It calls out to the telling, beckons it, tries to lure it to the dark side, which we all know has cookies.
"Those are DARK chocolate chip cookies, both evil, and chewie."
Even if a tiefling has the willpower and quality of character to resist the unearthly call of the darkness, the constant strife they must deal with at the hands of a world that doesn't understand them, and frankly, doesn't want to. They will be kicked, spat on, looked down upon, and occasionally beaten, and those are the lucky ones. It's not surprising that someone may tire of this perpetual flood of hate, and start spreading around a little hate of their own.
"Whose laughing now, bitches?"
Even if they don't give into the call of darkness, the very world they live in has caused many a tiefling to watch out for their own self-interestests, making them entirely selfish. This is understandable. After all, who else is looking out for them?
Those That Rise Above
Many tieflings fall into the cycle of evil. For a good many it is unavoidable. Some, however, break that mold to become something far greater, and entirely more frightening. Imagine if you will that there is a tiny voice in your head that constantly whispers to you, trying to convince you to do some pretty awful things all the time. Then compound that with the fact that every person you meet, regardless of race or religion (save perhaps for Asmodeus) would like nothing more than to see you struck by lightning and reduced to ash. And after all that, somehow, you manage to pull yourself up as something more, something good and decent and incorruptible. You become a paragon, not just for tieflings, but as a prime example of all the best virtues of the good races of the world.
That is the tiefling that refuses to fall into the shadows like their kin. They are not satisfied giving into those urges, but rather resisting them altogether. They delight not in pain but healing others. They are the ultimate contrarian, giving a big middle finger to every Demon Lord and Arch Devil skulking in their unholy palaces and saying, "Come get some!"
This, however, makes more enemies than your average tiefling. An evil tiefling may have the forces of darkness at their beck and call, and can maneuver deals and pacts with all manner of deplorable things, but a tiefling that casts off the stigma of a monster has made foes of both the forces of darkness, and the foolish, misguided people who despise tieflings because they just happen to look like their deepest nightmares made flesh.
Remember this next time you see a tiefling paladin and someone scoffs at the player. Take into account all that that character has had to go through, all the things they've seen and all the things they have resisted along the way, and to top it off they have risen to a status reserved for those who don't just impress their qualities on people but Gods as well. Take solace that that character may be the most badass thing walking the world right now, and then stand behind them, cause they are quite figuratively (and possibly literally) about to raise Hell.
The Final Reward
Being good, and rising above... is it enough? At the end of the day, the soul of a tiefling (if in fact they have one) is a bi-product of infernal and/or abyssal interference. There is a taint to be considered, a stain on the very makeup that is the eternal essence they take with them into the hereafter. It is often debated if a tiefling will ever be allowed into any of the positively aligned planes, even if they were to perform acts of kindness every day of their lives. Many think that when a tiefling dies, their soul will be pulled down into the depths.
"I regret nothing! Except dying... really regretting that right now."
This has greatly impacted the lives of many a tiefling, even those of a good heart. Some become obsessed with the notion that they are going to burn forever, so they take steps to ensure they a good amount of currency (other people's souls) when they arrive at the fiery gates. Others refuse to accept such a fate, and will perform bold acts and deeds of great heroism in hopes that some higher power will smile upon them and reward them with an eternity bathed in life, where they can shed the fiendish flesh that has caused them so much persecution. In either case, the majority of tieflings live in the now, trying their best not to concern themselves with what lay behind the veil of death but rather what is going on in this moment.
When it comes to choosing a class, the tiefling has a plethora of choices ahead of it, and like the gnome, they have the fortune of making any class they are associated with more interesting. The latent magic in their blood, mixed with their canny wits and intellect make them shoe-ins for spellcasters like wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks, though these classes often tug on the darker parts of the tiefling more than any other.
Martial classes like fighters and barbarians are excellent choices for the hardier tiefling that is... ahem, tough as hell. See what I did there? Running into these guys on the battlefield is a terrifying prospect for anyone. If the devil himself, clad in full plate and wielding a sword as big as you stalked up to you with menace in his burning eyes, no one would fault you for voiding your bowels. The martial tiefling can make a scary opponent, reveling in the destruction they leave in their wake.
"I love the smell of brimstone in the morning."
Those crafty, skilled folk with a knack for getting what they want, be it with deft fingers or a silver tongue makes perfect choices for the charismatic tiefling. they seem to be made for being a rogue, and I'll be damned (see what I did there?) if the life in the shadows doesn't suit them well. If they are seeking a more solitary existence, they could rough it in the wilds as a ranger of some skill. Still, there are those that seek the limelight, despite their unholy appearance. Those tieflings that know how to put on a good show would make for excellent bards.
However, it is the members of faith that really hold a bevy of role-playing options. A tiefling paladin or cleric can seem downright heretical when you get down to it. Does the church hierarchy really approve of this? What about other members of the clergy or even the followers of the faith? Will every temple they come to devoted to their God or Goddess allow them entry, or turn them away because of their fiendish heritage? That is a juicy character right there, but it isn't just the organized faiths that lend themselves to interesting character choices. What does one do when they are an unnatural thing communing with a natural world, like a tiefling druid?
If you want to accept a real role-playing challenge where your character gets to wrestle with the lofty concept of whether one's nature is inherent or something earned over time, then I would highly suggest the often misunderstood tiefling to you, my friend. Walk in the light, or the darkness. Either way, just have fun with it.
Roll well, my friends,
+Ed The Bard
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