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Tiefling Race Guide 5e – Infernal Abilities and History

Tieflings are a race descended from humans who were affected in some way by an evil entity, most commonly Asmodeus but including other lords of hell and demonic entities as well.

Similar to the Aasimar who have been influenced by the touch of higher planes, tiefling’s divergence from humanity is a cause of great turmoil for them. 

Tieflings are not sworn to do the bidding of the entity who has cursed their bloodline, and yet they do gain certain abilities and characteristics that tend towards malicious intent.

How a tiefling chooses to live their life with those abilities is up to them.

Unfortunately, most of society doesn’t see it that way, and as people do, they fear that which they don’t understand. Tieflings will find themselves cast out of settlements or at best grouping together and making their way through the rough parts of town. 

Lacking a culture of their own, it’s up to a tiefling to decide how they fit in the world around them. The influence of others will often send them down paths of evil; leading lives as crime-lords, charlatans, and thieves.

These tieflings take pride in their heritage and may even choose to serve a dark lord as their ancestors did.

Others may choose to rise above the hatred and violence that has surrounded them to do something good in the world. These tieflings use their innate abilities and knowledge of evil to thwart it where it stands.

The life of a tiefling can be extremely difficult. They face mistrust and scorn no matter where they go, and even other tieflings can judge them harshly. The trials they face shape them into greatness, but what that greatness means for your character is up to you.

Tiefling Abilities and Traits:  What Characterizes the Tiefling Race

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 2.
  • Age. Tieflings mature at the same rate as humans but live a few years longer.
  • Alignment. Tieflings might not have an innate tendency toward evil, but many of them end up there. Evil or not, an independent nature inclines many tieflings toward a chaotic alignment.
  • Size. Tieflings are about the same size and build as humans. Your size is Medium.
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Darkvision. Thanks to your infernal heritage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
  • Hellish Resistance. You have resistance to fire damage.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Infernal.

In the Player’s Handbook, the original section on the Tiefling didn’t include any subraces*.

The general features offered to the class as a whole aren’t anything remarkable, but there are a few things to note. 

Fire damage is one of the most common damage types in all of D&D, and is a huge lifesaver. Even a lot of AOE effects that your party could cast might cause fire damage, and being able to allow for your teammates to execute big power moves with little concern to your safety is a nice addition.

Darkvision is everyone’s best friend.

Being able to understand Infernal fluently is insanely helpful. A lot of languages can be very niche, but most campaigns, especially for beginners, ramp up to a BBEG that is in some way tied to an infernal entity.

Being able to pick up tomes and read them to discern more about your enemy, whereabouts, spells, or whatever is a huge boon.

Tiefling Subraces: Bloodlines and Variants

There are actually two types of subraces published between different sourcebooks. Bloodlines represent each lord of the nine hells as your infernal ancestor.

Each bloodline provides a second ability score increase and a set of racial spells referred to as your infernal legacy.

The spells and ASI represent different characteristics of the lord of hell which you gain your devilish attributes from and provide interesting role play hooks to boot.

The second type of subrace is the variant tiefling, a tiefling that might find their bloodline tainted by a source other than one of the nine lords. The variant offers you two options.

First you can change the charisma increase to dexterity, then you can change your infernal legacy to a few different options. 

For the following section we’ll use our Black Citadel Rating System to help make things easier to digest:

  • Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful, and might make for an interesting narrative choice, but are largely less effective than other tiers.
  • Green – B Tier. Solid but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or Green can be very good but only in very specific situations.  
  • Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. 
  • Purple – S Tier. the top of our rankings. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way.  No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are worth strongly considering when you create your character.

Bloodline of Asmodeus

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Infernal Legacy. You know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Hellish Rebuke spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Darkness spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

This is the original subclass of tieflings, and the spells offered here are great consistent spells. It can be hard to build a character who benefits from both high charisma and intelligence, but it’s not bad to let a dump stat get that +1. Based around themes of fire and darkness. 

Bloodline of Baalzebul

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Maladomini. You know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Ray of Sickness spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Crown of Madness spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Same stats as Asmodeus, a bit underwhelming. The spells switched here offer up the ability to poison and corrupt your foes. The inclusion of crown of madness makes this stand out, trading a utility spell for something that can deal some damage in the right conditions. 

Bloodline of Dispater

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Dis. You know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Disguise Self spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Detect Thoughts spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

With a combination of dexterity and charisma this makes for a great bard or rogue. The spells are also focused on deception and subterfuge for some great synergy.

Bloodline of Fierna

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Phlegethos. You know the Friends cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Charm Person spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Suggestion spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

A wisdom increase isn’t very synergistic, but the spells do make for a very persuasive character. Best to choose this for those spells and dump the wisdom stat to the wayside.

Bloodline of Glasya

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Malbolge. You know the Minor Illusion cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Disguise Self spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Invisibility spell once as a 2nd-level spell. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Another excellent rogue or bard. The trade out of minor illusion for thaumaturgy becomes a little more deceptive, and invisibility is way more important to someone focused on stealth.

Bloodline of Levistus

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Stygia. You know the Ray of Frost cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Armor of Agathys spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Darkness spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

This is an excellent subrace because it’s the only one that offers a constitution bonus. It’s also very defense centered which is extremely useful to a sorcerer or even a warlock looking for those traits.

Bloodline of Mammon

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Minauros. You know the Mage Hand cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Tenser’s Floating Disk spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Arcane Lock spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Another intelligence increase, along with some very particular spells. The floating spell is fun in certain situations but the arcane lock is so situational that it’s not worth it to choose a subrace with it as the capstone ability.

Bloodline of Mephistopheles

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Cania. You know the Mage Hand cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Burning Hands spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Flame Blade spell once as a 3rd-level spell. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Again, intelligence increases, but the latter two spells can deal significant damage which sets this apart a bit.

Bloodline of Zariel

  • Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 1.
  • Legacy of Avernus. You know the Thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Searing Smite spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Branding Smite spell once as a 3rd-level spell. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

This is the only bloodline that increases your strength ability. If that wasn’t enough to convince you to grab this up for your next paladin let’s just look at the fact that the two special skills are both smites!

As a paladin those spells are your bread and butter so getting extra access to them is a rare treat.

Tiefling Variants

  • Feral. Your Intelligence score increases by 1, and your Dexterity score increases by 2. This trait replaces the Ability Score Increase trait
  • Infernal Legacy Replacement. Choose one of the following
  • Devil’s Tongue. You know the Vicious Mockery cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Charm Person spell once as a 2nd-level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the Enthrall spell once. You must finish a long rest to cast these spells again with this trait. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells. This trait replaces the Infernal Legacy trait
  • Hellfire. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the Burning Hands spell once as a 2nd-level spell. This trait replaces the Hellish Rebuke spell of the Infernal Legacy trait.
  • Winged. You have bat-like wings sprouting from your shoulders. You have a flying speed of 30 feet while you aren’t wearing heavy armor. This trait replaces the Infernal Legacy trait.

Now, there are a few options within the variant tiefling subclass, and different combinations will yield different results. A

dditionally, the SCAG (Sword Coast Adventures Guide) where the variant tiefling originates was published three years before Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes introduced eight additional bloodlines.

This implies to me that your variant could be using any bloodline as it’s base. As always, talk to your DM to see what’s allowed at their table.

At face value the option to go for dexterity instead of charisma opens up stat synergies for more classes which can be great for someone wanting to play a character who isn’t focused on charismatic spellcasting.

Where the variants get exciting are their infernal legacies. The first two are just more spell options to get as a racial bonus. Devil’s tongue essentially does a better job at being a bloodline focused on control than Baalzebul does.

Hellfire replaces one fire spell with another, the only real difference being that burning hands target a cone while hellish rebuke only targets one foe.

To top it all off, for those of you that came to the tiefling race because they look cool and have no interest in casting spells, there is an option here to gain a flying speed.

So long as you don’t plan on wearing heavy armor you’ll get to fly all around the battlefield with your aarakocra friends. No time limits, no spells necessary, no problem,

What Classes Are Well Suited to the Tiefling?

Because of the overwhelming variety tieflings have, most classes can benefit in some way from one subrace or another.

The only classes that would really suffer from being a tiefling are barbarian, cleric, and druid.

And even at that, you could make it work in the right circumstances. Any classes that I don’t mention are decent picks but didn’t make the cut for my top picks.

Bard

Every subrace is going to offer you great charisma. Choosing dexterity or constitution as your second increase is a great choice.

The protection Levistus offers can be great. Devil’s Tongue variant is also a nice selection of spells to compliment your own spellcasting.

Paladin

Obviously, Zariel offers smites and strength, making it stand out as the paladin choice. Any of the subraces that increase dexterity or constitution could serve you as well.

Rogue

Rogue’s can benefit greatly from the feral option, Glasya, or Dispater. If you’re looking for sneaky spell access check out the bloodlines. If you want high stats go for the feral.

Sorcerer

Levistus is going to be excellent in providing protection to a sorcerer along with the perfect stat spread. 

Warlock

Should be choosing a dexterity bloodline to gain some extra AC bonus as well as that sweet charisma. 

Tiefling Appearance:  General Looks found among them

Image of Tiefling 5e Standing
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Tieflings are humanoid with characteristics that take their roots in their ancestral bloodline.

While their skin can range in the normal human colors it also can get into a range of colors from blue to red.

Their eyes are generally solid colors, devoid of pupils, but can take on more animalistic features in some cases, such as catlike or reptilian eyes.

Their canine teeth are much sharper than the average humans, sometimes to the point of being considered fangs.

Hair colors common to tieflings are dark blues, reds, purples, browns, or black. 

Perhaps most notably are the characteristics which are unique to tieflings. One of the first things you would see walking up to you would be their horns.

These horns vary greatly from large and curving to short and straight. Their horns start just above the brow and take a large amount of real estate on their foreheads. 

Next you’ll notice the fact that tieflings have tails. Their tails are very reptilian in appearance, except for the lack of scales (although in rare circumstances some tieflings are born with scales).

Stretching about 4 to 5 feet, these tails are often used to strike out in danger but have no actual effect in combat. Some tails are forked and others may end in a barb instead of just tapering off. 

Since tieflings are mutants in nature, sometimes even more outrageous features can develop, such as goatlike legs, cloven hoofs, or even a sulfurous odor. In very rare situations a tiefling may even have no reflection or shadow.

Tiefling Names:  Male / Female / Neutral

Tieflings tumultuous relationship with a culture of their own is represented in their naming traditions.

There are essentially three different ways your tiefling may have come across their name. They could have adopted their name from a human culture that raised them or from a tiefling society that uses infernal naming traditions.

The third option is for tieflings who choose to make their own way in the world and take the name of a virtue they wish to uphold. 

Male Infernal Names. Akmenos, Amnon, Barakas, Ekemon, Leucis, Pelaios, Therai

Female Infernal Names. Akta, Bryseis, Damaia, Ea, Makaria, Phelaia, Rieta

“Virtue” Names. Art, Fear, Hope, Music, Open, Quest, Reverence, Torment

This link can bring you more options for each of those.

As for human names, take a scroll through your facebook page and roll some dice until you find a friend’s name you can steal.

*The original description you will find in the PHB describes the Bloodline of Asmodeus. If you are wondering why certain features are missing from this general class outline it’s because we’ve moved them to the subclass section for clarity.