Why are tieflings so popular? How did they manage to outcompete all the other wacky races to win their place in mainstream D&D?
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  1. #1
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    Waghalter (Lvl 7)



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    Why are tieflings so popular? How did they manage to outcompete all the other wacky races to win their place in mainstream D&D?

    My own theory is that it's got to do with the popularity of half-demon chicks in bikini mail.

    Visual aid

    Of course, the crazy customizability might have something to do with it too. The aesthetics are fun to play with when you've got everything from "elbow spurs" to "antennae" to work with, goth-kid cheesecake or no.

    For serious though: What is it about tieflings that gave them staying power over multiple editions? What's their enduring appeal?
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  2. #2
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    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)



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    2E planescape, migrated to 3.0 FRCS, into 4E core. Gotta appeal to edgelords. Not sure if them, Drow or Kender are the biggest problem races as they tend to appeal to special types of players.

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    It's good to be bad?

    I mean half-monster races were popular as far back as the half-orc. The game has seen countless versions of half-fey, half-dragons, half-ogres, half-giants, half-fiends, half-celestials, half-elementals, half-vampires, and more. It gives PC's the option of playing PC-power level monsters. They're probably the second most popular category of PC races besides Animal-folk races.

    Tieflings in particular have a wide variety of options; 2e tieflings range from Nightcrawler to Succubi-like to classic Devil looking, often with a variety of powers to match. 4e was the first attempt to codify the race for marketing purposes, but they still keep the "badass-misfit" theme. And it's not like fantasy is exactly lacking tons of good examples of demonically-powered heroes and anti-heroes.
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    The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)



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    Though 2E Planescape gave us playable tieflings, 4E rebranded the tieflings that have since propagated in 5E.

    As to why they are popular? Probably because there is a more baked-in story with tieflings. The game can't just write "these are elves, and we already assume you know what and how elves are." So offering more baked-in story in the writing for tieflings gets a lot of imaginations flowing, particularly for newer players. Similar with warlock, which is a class that essentially provides a baked-in story.
    Last edited by Aldarc; Tuesday, 23rd April, 2019 at 03:14 PM.
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  5. #5
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    Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)



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    Yeah: "fun to be "bad"", and having the horns or tail or whatever to prove it. Being an outcast or cursed-at or having an actual curse just ups the edge-lord ante.

    At some point here I'm going to write up my high elves, who are so other-worldly that they're sort of tieflings but actually terrifying.

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    A "Drizzit" Type-Thing (Lvl 28)



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    Because of the sad truth of the world.

    Stated preference:

    I like things that are cool, and hate things that suck.

    Revealed preference:

    I like things that suck, and hate things that are cool.


    See also, paladins.
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  7. #7
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    Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)



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    Even before the tieflings, before the drow became a common playable race, we saw grim adventurers wrapped in dark cloaks wielding knock-off Stormbringer black blades with red runes. Some people have always been drawn to darker characters, and thats just fine.
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  8. #8
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    Because "My momma raised me right, even though my daddy was an <fill in the blank>" is always going to be a popular fantasy origin.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoSix View Post
    Because "My momma raised me right, even though my daddy was an <fill in the blank>" is always going to be a popular fantasy origin.
    indeed

    "my popa raised me in secret away from my mom who's an evil queen/witch from another dimension/alien nation" is common in fairy tales too.
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  10. #10
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    As General Tarquin once observed, audiences always think the villain is cooler than the hero. Playing a tiefling allows you to partake of that cool factor, without having to actually be a villain. It's the same reason drow are popular.

    In addition, ancestry tends to be a big deal in fantasy fiction. People get special status or powers from their ancestors all the time. The tiefling race supplies a convenient hook for such back stories.
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