D&D 5e: Let’s Build A Tiefling!

August 11, 2021 11 min read

Author:Rhenn Anthony Taguiam

 

Meta Description:A Tiefling's infernal heritage becomes a hallmark of their existence in Dungeons & Dragons 5e. In this D&D 5e guide, we'll explore how we can get more out of a Tiefling character.

 

Society fears a Tieflingfor their connection with demons, often called demonspawn for their human and infernal heritage. Stereotypes show Tieflings as rogues, warlocks, and beings shrouded in mystery and always in the shadows. In Dungeons & Dragons 5e, Tieflings in most settings are treated as outliers and outcasts for this very nature. And chances are, your Tiefling will most likely be the same. It doesn't have to be though, as your D&D 5eTiefling can offer more than just brooding and being a social pariah.

 

This quick guide will give you a gist of what Tieflings can offer and what spin you can add to this popular race. If your Dungeon Master allows Tieflings in your next campaign, let's surprise them with quite the unique Tiefling character. Here's how you can pull it off:

Basics: The Traits

Tieflings often get the short end of the stick due to their infernal ancestry. Tieflings in most D&D 5esettings are descendants of demons, which puts them in a very odd position whenever they walk in cities and encounter townsfolk. As such, they tend to be brooding, mysterious, and critical of the way they and others are treated by others. However, some Tieflings look at their infernal heritage as a gift, as this trait does imbue them with special characteristics:

 

  • Ability Score Increase:INT + 2, CHA + 2
  • Age:Tieflings age along the same rate as Humans, but most of them live a bit longer.
  • Size and Speed:Medium (akin to a Human), 30ft walking speed.
  • Alignment:As independent creatures, Tieflings appreciate the freedom that comes with Chaotic alignments. However, while not necessarily Evil, a lot of them stray towards this path.
  • Racial Features:Tieflings have these racial characteristics:
    • Darkvision, where Tieflings can see 60ft into dim light as though it were bright and see in darkness as though it were in dim light. They can only see greys in darkness.
    • Hellish Resistance, making them Resistant to fire damage.
    • Infernal Legacy, which gives Tieflings access to these spells, of which they use CHA as a Spellcasting Ability:
      • At 1st Level, they gain the Thaumaturgy cantrip.
      • If they reach 3rd Level, they can cast Hellish Rebuke as a 2nd Level spell once every long rest.
      • If they reach 5th Level, they can cast Darkness once every long rest.
    • Languages,of which Tieflings know Infernal and Common.

Tiefling Subraces

If your Dungeon Master allows you to look into the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, you may be interested in trying out some Tiefling variants. Here are some of them:

 

  • Feral Tieflings, which have these benefits:
    • Ability Score Increase:INT + 1, DEX + 2, which replaces the base bonuses of the regular Tiefling.
  • Winged Tieflings,which have these benefits:
    • Flight, which gives them access to bat-like wings that grant them flying speed of 30ft. If they choose to be Winged Tieflings, Flight replaces their Infernal Legacy trait.
  • Devil’s Tongue, which has these benefits:
    • Infernal Legacy, which gives the Tiefling access to spells, of which they use CHA as a Spellcasting Ability. These replace the spells available from the original Tiefling’s Infernal Legacy trait:
      • At 1st Level, they gain the Vicious Mockery cantrip.
      • If they reach 3rd Level, they can cast Charm Person as a 2nd Level spell once every long rest.
      • If they reach 5th Level, they can cast Enthrall once every long rest.
    • Hellfire, which has these benefits:
      • Infernal Legacy, which gives the Tiefling access to spells, of which they use CHA as a Spellcasting Ability:
        • At 3rd Level, they can cast Burning Hands as a 2nd Level spell once a day. This replaces Hellish Rebuke from the original Tiefling’s Infernal Legacy trait.

 

Depending on the adventure, Tieflings may have different ancestral “links” to one of the Lords of the Nine Hells. You may read about them in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes.

Tieflings under any of these subraces have a modified Ability Score Increase and gain access to different spells, all of which they use CHA as their Spellcasting Ability. In terms of these special spells, they can only use these once every long rest.

 

If they have this option available for your setting, you may choose any one of these other subraces:

 

Lord of the Nine Hells

Description

Traits

Asmodeus

Tieflings connected to Asmodeus gain control over darkness and fire.

Player’s Handbook’s Tieflings.

Baalzebul

Tieflings under Baalzebul are capable of corrupting others in whatever way they can.

CHA + 2, INT + 1

Legacy of Maladomini, wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Thaumaturgy

●       3rd Level: Ray of Sickness (as a 2nd-Level Spell)

●       5th Level: Crown of Madness

 

Dispater

Tieflings tied to Dispater specialize in obtaining secrets, making them great spies.

CHA + 2, DEX + 1

Legacy of Dis,wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Thaumaturgy

●       3rd Level: Disguise Self

●       5th Level: Detect Thoughts

Fierna

Tieflings tied to Fierna inherit her forceful personality.

CHA + 2, WIS + 1

Legacy of Phlegethos,wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Friends

●       3rd Level: Charm Person (as 2nd-Level Spell)

●       5th Level: Suggestion

Glasya

Tieflings with a connection to Glasya love to conduct heists.

CHA + 2, DEX + 1

Legacy of Malbolge, wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Minor Illusion

●       3rd Level: Disguise Self

●       5th Level: Invisibility

Levistus

Tieflings tied to Levistus solve problems by bargaining with those who can’t escape a certain fate.

CHA + 2, CON + 1

Legacy of Stygia, wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Ray of Frost

●       3rd Level: Armor of Agathys (as 2nd-Level Spell)

●       5th Level: Darkness

Mammon

Tieflings linked with Mammon excel in guarding and obtaining wealth.

CHA + 2, INT + 1

Legacy of Minauros,wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Mage Hand

●       3rd Level: Tenser’s Floating Disk

●       5th Level: Arcane Lock

Mephistopheles

Tieflings with a connection to Mephistopheles are given arcane power.

CHA + 2, INT + 1

Legacy of Cania, wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Mage Hand

●       3rd Level: Burning Hands (as 2nd-Level Spell)

●       5th Level: Flame Blade

Zariel

Tieflings of Zariel’s blood ties are stronger than other Tieflings.

CHA + 2, STR + 1

Legacy of Avernus,wherein they know these spells:

●       1st Level: Thaumaturgy

●       3rd Level: Searing Smite (as 2nd-Level Spell)

●       5th Level: Branding Smite

 

Tiefling: The Best Classes To Build

Thanks to their natural Charisma, Tieflings possess a kind of allure that draws people to them. Tieflings who know how to use this allure become excellent performers or even mercenaries, capable of both putting on a show and staying unseen. Likewise, it's this same "appeal" that might attract unnatural forces to their direction - there's just something with their infernal heritage and their life that makes them special and unique.

 

And whether your Tiefling ends up becoming the quiet type or the life of the party, a Tiefling's story and penchant for Charisma will most definitely make any class they pick up potentially interesting. Here are some great choices:

 

  • Bard:Given their natural knack for Charisma, it makes sense for a Tiefling to take up a lute or a guitar and sing their hearts out as a Bard. Moreover, given the potentially tragic backgrounds of Tieflings in an adventure, becoming a Bard to tell various tales of adventure, woe, and happiness may become an outlet for the Tiefling to make a mark in the world and tell everyone of what’s happened to them - in their own way. For Tieflings looking for a voice, they may become a Bard not just to aid the party, but to help add a more serious but hopeful flair to any adventure.
    • Tiefling Bards immediately start as early-game specialists, as not only do their Racial Traits offer them extra cantrips, being a Bard entitles them to cantrips and spells they immediately know right off the bat.
    • However, unlike other spellcasters, Bards aren’t exactly physically weak. In fact, thanks to their Proficiencies with swords (longsword, short sword, rapier), hand crossbows, and simple weapons, Bards can easily switch from fighting in the frontlines and fighting as a support character.
    • Moreover, the versatility of Bard Colleges can make any Tiefling Bard a specialist in various combat situations. After all, these Colleges may encourage the use of weapons or provide various utility spells that can be useful inside and outside of combat.
  • Paladin:Again, taking on their charismatic nature, Tieflings may make great Paladins. They may choose to reject their demonic heritage and instead take up the mantle as another deity’s defender. Or perhaps they can embrace their infernal origins and serve under the rule of their Infernal Matriarch or Patriarch. Regardless of the reason, a Tiefling Paladin adds a compelling moral compass to the party, especially if the DM follows a strictly Lawful Good system for their adventure’s Paladins. And even if the adventure follows a more alignment-fluid system for classes, a Tiefling Paladin may be capable of opening discussions on faith and duty throughout the campaign.
    • The natural CHA of Tieflings gives them great potential as Paladins, especially outside combat when their CHA skills can help with NPC interaction. Moreover, a complementary STR and CON build could greatly enforce the Tiefling as the resident tank and shield in a party. In addition, the number of Smites alone (plus the signature Divine Smite) gives massive damage opportunities for Tiefling Paladins.
    • Moreover, the Paladin has a nice selection of spells that can complement the Tiefling's bonus cantrips. The latter can give a much-needed diversity to attacks and actions, especially when Paladins on early level have a much limited number of spell slots compared to their other spellcasting classes.
    • Additionally, the Tiefling Paladin’s chosen Oath adds a whole host of spells and features that complement that Oath’s preferred fighting style. For instance, Oath of Vengeance and Oath of Conquest rely on relentlessly chasing foes. Meanwhile, Oath of Ancients, Oath of Devotion, and Oath of Crown add a lot of utility spells for the support-oriented Paladin.
  • Sorcerer:Tieflings may decide to take their fate into their own hands and dabble into the mysteries of the arcane. Instead of studying magic like Wizards, they may tap into the very nature of magic itself as Sorcerers. Tiefling Sorcerers may see their Sorcerous Origin as their birthright - something they deserve to forge their own destiny when their infernal heritage may have doomed them to a life of prejudice and judgment. This driving force in itself may make for some compelling stories, especially for Tiefling Sorcerers driven by a desire to acquire power.
    • Again, the natural CHA boost for Tieflings complement the CHA component of a Sorcerer's repertoire of spells - especially when they begin to modify their spells via Metamagic. Moreover, the CHA boost can benefit the Tiefling Sorcerer's range of CHA skills, which can help players make a more memorable character for the long-term.
    • A lot of Sorcerer abilities rely on Sorcerer Points and Spell Slots, both of which can only be restored when resting. The Tiefling's range of once per long rest bonus spells can give them resource-free attacks if they find themselves in a pinch.
    • The Tiefling Sorcerer can rely on its Sorcerous Origins to add both flavor and useful perks to the player’s spellcasting options. For instance, Storm and Shadow Sorcerers often add a special damage component to their spells, while Wild Magic and Divine Soul enhance the Sorcerer’s potential to become more of a support role in parties.
  • Warlock:Players looking at this suggestion might think a Warlock is an “obvious” choice for a Tiefling, as their Charisma and their infernal heritage seem quite fitting for the class. While this is true from a technicalities point of view, a Tiefling Warlock doesn’t always have to stick with their infernal heritage when making a pact with a Patron. In fact, there are Patrons such as the Celestial, the Great Old One, or even the Archfey that may make great antithesis or neutralizers for a Tiefling Warlock’s infernal heritage, which may introduce interesting story hooks for players.
    • Warlocks fit Tieflings, flavor-wise, given the Tiefling's infernal heritage. Moreover, their reliance on CHA-based spells and skills give players a ton of opportunities to make their Tiefling Warlock extremely appealing - be it through a brooding character, a charismatic figure, or a comic relief member of the party.
    • As with the Sorcerer, the Tiefling's selection of resource-free spells can be great tools to use in emergencies - especially when Warlocks can quickly deplete their Spell Slots with their powerful spells. These infernal legacy spells can help Tieflings diversify their arsenal more, especially if they're the primary spellcaster for the team.
    • As mentioned, the Tiefling Warlock’s chosen Patron adds not just flavor, but also specialized spells geared towards the nature of said Patron. For instance, the Hexblade Warlock transforms the Warlock into a more combat-oriented fighter. Meanwhile, the Archfey, Celestial, Fiend, and Great Old One Patrons add a whole host of utility and support spells ideal to heal allies and debilitate enemy numbers.
  • Artificer:Aside from picking classes that work well with the Ability Score Bonus of the Tiefling, they do have potential to expand their roles into other archetypes. However, instead of Fighters, Rogues, or Rangers, perhaps a Tiefling Artificer might bring a bit of necessary spice to the table. The fact that something has led the Tiefling down the road of becoming an inventor is a great personal story for a Player Character. Moreover, it’s not all the time that a Tiefling relies on gadgets and technological superiority to dominate the battlefield.
    • Artificers possess a basic Magical Tinkering ability that imbues objects of their choice with simple, but special abilities. However, it’s their Infusions that make the Artificer shine. Depending on the Specialization, an Artificer can infuse items with special properties that can turn the tide of battle. With the Tiefling’s free spells and the Artificer’s known spells, they can easily make their infusions purely support-based while their other spells focus on defending or dealing damage.
    • Despite the natural CHA bonus of Tieflings, the Artificer does offer a solution to players who don’t want to fight in melee. Artificers have Proficiencies with heavy crossbows, hand crossbows, and simple weapons which, when combined with the Artificer spells and a Tiefling’s free spells, can easily make them a ranged powerhouse and support character.

Infernal Legacies: Interesting Character Backgrounds

The infernal legacy of a Tiefling opens them up to a lot of story hooks and potential struggles, all of which are perfect to develop their respective storylines and character arcs. As such, backgrounds with an innate mysterious and curious quality become perfect matches with Tieflings. However, Tieflings may just as well choose more “mundane-looking” backgrounds to reflect that they can have a non-mysterious everyday life like everybody else.

 

Below, we have some examples of backgrounds that make full use of a Tiefling’s personal conflict - be it their infernal heritage or something that’s happened to them on a personal level:

 

  • Acolyte(Player’s Handbook): A Tiefling Acolyte can provide a much-needed twist to their life’s tale, especially given their demonic heritage. While a Tiefling Acolyte can simply serve their demonic patriarch or matriarch as a deity, a Tiefling may very well reject their infernal legacy and instead serve another god.
    • Tools:
    • Language:Two languages of your choice.
    • Proficiencies:WIS (Insight), INT (Religion)
  • Courtier(Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): A Tiefling Courtier may be an enigmatic figure in any court - be it for a small city, a region, or an entire country. After all, the presence of someone of infernal heritage might make anyone distrust the court. Moreover, a Tiefling Courtier working in the shadows may add an interesting spice to politics in any game.
    • Tools:None
    • Languages:Any two of their choice.
    • Proficiencies:WIS (Insight), CHA (Persuasion)
  • Faceless(Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus): It’s easy for a Tiefling to be hated or discriminated upon - and while this is something anyone can inherently hate, it’s also something craftier Tiefling may use to their advantage. A Faceless Tiefling lives two identities, one public and one private. What they do with these personas may be out of a private purpose or out of a much grander plan. Maybe they want to be a pioneer of change that may change the way people look at Tieflings or perhaps they want to attain fame.
    • Tools:Disguise Kit
    • Languages:Any one of your choice.
    • Proficiencies:CHA (Intimidation), CHA (Deception)
  • Haunted One(Curse of Strahd): What better way of highlighting the presence of the infernal in a Tiefling’s life than haunting them? An interesting take on a Tiefling’s story is to tackle not the gifts they’ve received from their parentage, but rather the horrors they may face as being linked to the Nine Hells. In this regard, the Haunted One may be one of the most interesting options a Tiefling might take in terms of a background.
    • Tools:None
    • Languages:Any two, provided one is considered exotic (Undercommon, Sylvan, Primordial, Infernal, Draconic, Deep Speech, Celestial, or Abyssal).
    • Proficiencies:Choose two from WIS (Survival), INT (Religion), INT (Arcana), INT (Investigation)