Jordan's Page of Useless Babble

Origins of the PCs: Tiefling

Introduced in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, tieflings are a planetouched race descended from humans and fiends. While they may be sired by demons, devils, yugoloths, oni or even evil deities, they are not in themselves necessarily evil, but a unique class that can be used in several ways with extreme effectiveness.

Tieflings at first glance appear to be the antipathy of heroism. Descended from couplings between humans and fiends from generations past, these poor souls seem better suited as villains. But although the seeds of evil are sown deep within their hearts, tieflings have enough human blood within them to be able to determine their own paths in life, be it for good or ill.

Half-fiends, cambions, tannarukk and fey'ri all possess the blood of demons, devils or yugoloths by virtue of their lineage, but their decent is much more direct. For a tiefling, a fiendish ancestor may be removed from them by several generations (and my quite possibly still be alive).

Due to this nature, evil appeals to tieflings, but some strive and are able to overcome their lineage, a few even become bastions of purity and light.

Tiefling Strengths

  • High Dexterity
  • High Intelligence
  • Unaffected by effects that target humanoids
  • Access to darkvision
  • Ability to cast darkness as a spell-like ability
  • Bonuses to Bluff and Hide checks
  • Resistance to cold, electricity and fire damage

Tiefling Weaknesses

  • Low Charisma
  • Level adjustment

Playing a Tiefling
Tieflings as a race have only two major drawbacks, but both of these can cripple a character if proper planning is ignored. The first is their lower Charisma scores. Tieflings possess some fiendish traits and mindsets that tend to make others uncomfortable and as a result their personalities are not as strong as some other races.

Since evil appeals to tieflings, an evil-themed class may be well received for a tiefling character. However, several of these classes such as hexblade and dread necromancer use Charisma as a primary ability score. This can mean taking a penalty in order to become an effective character.

In addition, the race's bonus to Bluff checks is deceptively underpowered. A tiefling character with average statistics (that is to say a base score of 10 in each ability score before racial adjustments) has a Charisma score of 8. That means that a tiefling character's Bluff skill is effectively only a +1 after ability score adjustments are taken into account.

Also beware of this race's level adjustment. A level adjustment means that your tiefling character will not have access to the same class features that a member of another race may have at the same level. As with all races that carry a level adjustment, you must try to make every level count. Avoid "dead levels" and make sure that you can make your character all it can be.

Tieflings play best to their strengths. They are stealthy and smart. Characters that exemplify those ideals will do better. Also, if you're wary about the level adjustment, consider talking to your Dungeon Master about using the alternate rules for creating "lesser tieflings" from the Player's Guide to Faerûn. These variant rules would allow you to create a tiefling character without level adjustment in exchange for taking the humanoid creature type (and giving up the outsider type).

Class Suggestions
Tieflings do surprisingly well in a large variety of roles. A tiefling character can be a front-line fighter as easily as they can be a spellcaster or a rogue.

When playing a tiefling fighter, being lightly armored is almost a must. Tactical fighters who rely on the combat expertise feat (and related feats) or those who primarily use ranged weapons can do equally well. If you want to play as a fighting type, consider the swashbuckler class. It's a natural fit for the race, allowing them to excel using their natural abilities, disappear in the black gloom of darkness or avoid damage from a dragon's breath. Also think about the warblade class (Tome of Battle) which allows the tiefling to become an extremely effective front-line bruiser with access to several devastating attacks, and allows them to use their speed and intelligence to deal even more damage.

Divine spellcasting is not one of the tiefling's strengths, but there are still some good options available. The archivist (Heroes of Horror) allows the character to both cast divine spells using Intelligence and make knowledge checks to provide various effects during battle. Tieflings also tend to make fairly descent favored souls (Complete Divine), as many of the class's non-spellcasting abilities can be put to excellent use by the race.

Arcane classes appeal to many tiefling characters. They excel as wizards, especially as evokers due to their ability to both use an evocation-based spell-like ability and their innate resistance to several energy types. Tieflings in asian settings may also consider the wu jen class (Complete Arcane), for the same reasons. Also consider both the dragonfire adept (Dragon Magic) and the warlock (Complete Arcane). Both of these classes allow the tiefling character to use a small variety of potent abilities while getting in touch with their destructive sides (and learning a few defensive abilities on the side). Also consider the shadowcaster (Tome of Magic) for a tiefling spellcaster, especially one who wants to get in touch with his dark side.

Tieflings also excel in skilled roles. Rogue, their favored class, is almost built for the tiefling, with the same emphasis on stealth and intelligence that the race possesses. Scouts and ninjas (Complete Adventurer) are also great choices for a tiefling on the move. Tiefling soulknives (Expanded Psionics Handbook) can make excellent and unexpected assassins. One of the best choices for this style of character is the factotum (Dungeonscape). The class can fill a variety of roles in a party, and tieflings possess several traits that mingle well with it.

Tieflings can make fairly good psionicists. Tiefling psions and erudites(Expanded Psionics Handbook) are powerful, in much the same ways that tiefling wizards are. The lurk class (Complete Psionic) combines some psionic talent with some of the stealthiness that the rogue class provides and also makes a good fit.

Finally, you may also wish to consider the incarnate class (Magic of Incarnum). Tieflings have optional substitution levels for this class that allow them to unlock several unique and powerful abilities while allowing them to become powerful bastions of a chosen ideal. Tieflings can make decent truenamers if you use truespeech magic in your campaign (Tome of Magic). Also, if you Dungeon Master allows it, you may also wish to take levels in the tiefling paragon class (Unearthed Arcana). This 3-level class allows you to improve all of the tiefling's natural abilities in ways that can be extremely beneficial.

Feat Suggestions
Tieflings have few racial feats available to them. Magic in the blood (Player's Guide to Faerûn) allows the character to use their darkness spell-like ability three times per day, but is utterly useless to a character with levels in the tiefling paragon class (see above). Godsight (Lost Empires of Faerûn) is somewhat more effective and provides the character with several low-level divination-based spell-like abilities.

Tiefling characters surprisingly can get some of their best feats from Drow of the Underdark, specifically the feats that deal with darkness as a spell-like ability. At home in the deep is a necessity for any tiefling, as it allows them to see normally in the area of a darkness spell (or their natural ability to create it). Blend into shadows, fade into darkness, instinctive darkness and intensify darkness are also all excellent choices for a tiefling wishing to focus on creating shadows, or at least hiding in them. In the same vein, see deepening darkness from (Races of Faerûn). This feat allows your darkness ability to overcome some dispelling and provides you with more uses per day.

Improved energy resistance from Races of Faerûn allows the tiefling to improve their energy resistance, and can be taken a total of three times. A tiefling favored soul could potentially take this feat more often as they gain more and more different types of energy resistance.

The fiendish bloodline feat (Races of Faerûn) feat provides the ability to use bane and protection from good as spell-like abilities and opens up access to the outsider wings feat from the same book, allowing the tiefling to fly.

If you want your tiefling to become a bit more human, look into the human heritage feat (Races of Destiny). It provides the character with extra skill points and the ability to be treated as human.

Prestige Class Suggestions
Since tieflings are so diverse and adept at taking on a variety of roles, they have few prestige classes just for them.

Glorious Servitor (Lost Empires of Faerûn) - This is probably the only example of a prestige class that is created for tieflings (and they share it with their celestially-based kin; the aasimar). While the entry cost for this class is fairly expensive, a swashbuckler/archivist can meet the prerequisites without too much trouble. It provides several defensive abilities, along with the power to take on the form of an animal based on the Egyptian pantheon (or Mulhorandi in the Forgotten Realms).

Chameleon (Races of Destiny) - While it requires that the character take the human heritage feat (same book), it provides the character with a huge degree of non-specialization, by allowing them to mix and match different class features as required. This kind of prestige class is ideally suited to match with classes like factotum that allows the tiefling to show off just how versatile they can be.

Duelist (Dungeon Master's Guide) - Not specific to the tiefling race, the duelist class works well as it exemplifies the intelligent fighting that the race tends to excel in. Combining with the swashbuckler class can provide several abilities that mesh well with one another while retaining flavor through the transition from class to prestige class.

Shadowblade (Tome of Magic) - Tiefling characters should have little trouble meeting the prerequisites for this class, and it provides them with several useful abilities, especially when attacking unwary opponents. The class's ability to strike more surely, deal more damage and see within magical darkness works well, especially when combined with the darkness themed feats from Drow of the Underdark.

Shadowsmith (Tome of Magic) - This is the more practical cousin of the shadowblade prestige class, and tieflings can gain access to it just as easily. Instead of assassination-based powers, this class provides the ability to craft shadow into useful forms, such as tools, weapons and armor as well as providing the character with the ability to cast a small number of mysteries.

New Material

Oni-born Tiefling

Tieflings are descended from fiends and humans. In the lands to the east, demons take different forms, such as the oni. Oni can terrorize those around them, but they also play an important part in the celestial bureaucracy, acting as untamed warriors, while the tamer can find their place as guards or even clerks, serving the gods for eternity.
    Oni-born are a special kind of tiefling descended from the couplings of humans and oni. While not as given to evil as their cousins, they are still fearsome spectacles to behold.
    Personality: Oni-born are often outcasts. They often have aggressive and overbearing personalities, which lead them to be ostracized in human communities. They often become hermits, living deep in the wilderness where their passions can be released without fear of persecution.
    One trait that all oni-born possess is a lust for life. They have a talent for enjoying life to the fullest and finding new experiences, which they eagerly relate to others, whether the stories are welcome or not.
    Physical Description: Oni-born appear mainly human, but they generally have some traits that distinguish themselves and reveal their ancestry. They may have small horns, thick body hair, bulging eyes, pointed ears, long teeth or strangely colored eyes. Some are rather lax about their personal hygiene and may not bathe or wash their clothes for extended periods of time.
    Oni-born reach adulthood at about the same age as humans, but generally live to be about 150 years old, if they don't die of misadventure first.
    Relations: Oni-born are aggressive, and their natures tend to put other races off. Those who have a history of getting into trouble due to their personalities are often extremely wary of new people, and can be very self-conscious for fear of offending them.
    Humans, especially those in Asian settings, have a hard time tolerating oni-born and their passions for very long. Oni-born often have a hard time living in human communities, except for in places as wild as they are.
    Alignment: Despite their wild passions and aggressive natures, oni-born are predominantly lawful in nature. Their bullying natures often turn them to the path of evil, although many are neutral in that respect.
    Religion: Oni-born follow the same religions as humans and worship the same deities. Many also venerate spirits, or even pay worship to their oni ancestor as a kind of minor deity.
    Language: Oni-born do not have a common language. Many learn Giant or Spirit as to better speak with their ancestors or other creatures like them, while others may take the time to learn the languages of other races that dwell in the wilderness like Tengu or Goblin.
    Names: Oni-born use human names, but many give themselves nicknames based on a trait they possess, a weapon style they might practice or even their appearance. These nicknames have no significance save that many true oni give themselves similar titles.
    Sample Names: Horse Face, Ox, Great Hammer, Black Fox, Twirling Blades.
    Adventurers: As outcasts living on the fringes of society, adventure comes naturally to oni-born. Those who follow their natural instincts often become guards or warriors. Those who fight against their natures sometimes become brigands or thieves.

Oni-born Racial Traits

  • +2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, -2 Charisma: Oni-born are strong and nimble, but their forceful personalities and pigheadedness annoy and repel others.
  • Outsider (native): Oni-born are outsiders with the native subtype. They are not subject to spells or effects that affect humanoids only, such as charm person or dominate person. Unlike true outsiders, native outsiders need to eat and sleep.
  • Tiefling-blooded: Oni-born are treated as tieflings for the purpose of meeting all racial prerequisites, such as ones for feats or prestige classes.
  • Medium: As Medium-sized creatures, oni-born have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Oni-born base land speed is 30 feet.
  • Skills: Oni-born have a +2 racial bonus on Climb and Intimidate checks.
  • Cause Fear (Sp): Oni-born can use cause fear as the spell, once per day. Her caster level is equal to her character level.
  • Powerful Build: The physical stature of oni-born lets them function in many ways as if they were one size category larger. Whenever an oni-born is subject to a size modifier or special size modifier for an opposed check (such as during grapple checks, bull rush attempts and trip attempts), the oni-born is treated as one size larger if doing so is advantageous to her. An oni-born is also considered to be one size category larger when determining whether a creature's special attacks based on size (such as improved grab or swallow whole) can affect her. An oni-born can use weapons designed for creatures one size category larger without penalty. However, his space and reach remain those of a creature of her actual size. The benefits of this trait can stack with abilities and spells that change the subject's size category.
  • Automatic Language: Common. Bonus Languages: Giant, Goblin, Spirit, Tengu.
  • Favored Class: Sohei.
  • Level Adjustment: +1.

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