The Evolution of Tieflings in D&D: Interviews with Zeb Cook and Colin McComb

[FONT=&amp]D&D Planescape creator Zeb Cook and designer Colin McComb graciously answered my questions for the following article about the evolution of Tieflings from 2e to 5e. The article also links to the full text of our interviews, where they share their insight into the race and the design decisions behind developing it.[/FONT]
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[FONT=&amp]I had a lot of fun researching and writing this article, and was beyond thrilled that these gentlemen took the time to answer my questions. I hope you enjoy.[/FONT]



 
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Comments

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
I'd certainly use the PHB entry and the expansions in other products as the basis for the more diverse Tieflings in 5e, I've given a little thought to how one might handle variant abilities. Of course the appearance and origins of the characters are up to the player's personal choice.

It's very useful to hear from Zeb Cook and McComb about Tielfings, but I think Monte Cook's opinions also matters a lot on the subject.
 

gyor

Adventurer
I'd note the other Setting that Tieflings were important to was the Forgotten Realms, where they have a very different history from the Nentir Vale or Pkanescape Tieflings. In fact Tieflings might be present in other Settings like Greyhawk, Darksun, and others, but the three Settings Tieflings are important too are Planescape, Nentir Vale and the Forgotten Realms (with Tieflings being tied as much to Dark Gods as Fiends in FR, making them more different then in Nentir Vale with it's more unified Tiefling history of Bale Turath, or Planescape super diverse Tieflings).
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Nice article! I missed Planescape back in the day, so much of that early lore is still being backfilled for me.

Of the new races, tieflings are probably my favorite. I really liked the whole Bael Turath implied history of 4e’s setting; my first 4e character was a tiefling, too.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
So, top tier cool race, but with even more unfair maligning of their character from internet cretins and dirty mud heathens? :D
More unfair maligning?

I mean, I can't even be bothered to insult Tieflings. It's too easy- like mocking Druids. Why bother?

Sure, I could say, "Tieflings, when you can't even be bothered to hide your love of Hot Topic," but that would be mean, right?
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
4e and the Bael Turath background is what I see as a low point for Tieflings, it's best just to ignore all that or completely downplay it. I'd advocate go with diverse 2e-era appearances for Tieflings first, variant mechanics as a distant second concern.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
4e and the Bael Turath background is what I see as a low point for Tieflings, it's best just to ignore all that or completely downplay it. I'd advocate go with diverse 2e-era appearances for Tieflings first, variant mechanics as a distant second concern.
To each their own. I found it a great setting story hook that plugged both tieflings and dragonborn into Nentir Vale's past.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Adventurer
More unfair maligning?

I mean, I can't even be bothered to insult Tieflings. It's too easy- like mocking Druids. Why bother?

Sure, I could say, "Tieflings, when you can't even be bothered to hide your love of Hot Topic," but that would be mean, right?
See, now, why would I hide my love of kitschy pop culture goth-punk?

Fun stuff is fun, man!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Anyway, I should also say that [MENTION=6988694]ThePlanarDM[/MENTION] did some excellent work, especially in getting responses from the individuals involved.

It's always great to see someone putting in the legwork instead of just speculating!
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
See, now, why would I hide my love of kitschy pop culture goth-punk?

Fun stuff is fun, man!
Well, I mean, sure. But just because something feels good, doesn't mean you should do it.

Because otherwise, I'd be all naked driving a scooter and eating a tub of raw cookie dough.


The very nature of civilization depends on keeping up some small level of appearances, man! It's why you don't order a drink with an umbrella.
 

doctorbadwolf

Adventurer
Well, I mean, sure. But just because something feels good, doesn't mean you should do it.

Because otherwise, I'd be all naked driving a scooter and eating a tub of raw cookie dough.


The very nature of civilization depends on keeping up some small level of appearances, man! It's why you don't order a drink with an umbrella.
But I like those drinks. They taste good, and frivolity is good for you! Embrace the frivolity!

Play at a half-Gnome tiefling Paladin/Hexblade with a magic singing rapier! Or two! They can harmonize!
 

ThePlanarDM

Villager
Anyway, I should also say that @ThePlanarDM did some excellent work, especially in getting responses from the individuals involved.

It's always great to see someone putting in the legwork instead of just speculating!
Thanks, this took a lot of time and is not the type of article I'll be able to write often. I was struck by how helpful and responsive everyone I contacted was. I coldcall contacted Colin and Zeb on Twitter and Facebook, then sent them questions, and they gave so much of their time to help a random blogger. Plus the artists (and Anna, creator of Judge on The Chain of Acheron) were equally helpful.

Really gave me positive vibes about the DND community.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Thanks, this took a lot of time and is not the type of article I'll be able to write often. I was struck by how helpful and responsive everyone I contacted was. I coldcall contacted Colin and Zeb on Twitter and Facebook, then sent them questions, and they gave so much of their time to help a random blogger. Plus the artists (and Anna, creator of Judge on The Chain of Acheron) were equally helpful.

Really gave me positive vibes about the DND community.
That's great- and it makes me so very happy when people take the time out to get responses from the sources about how certain things came about.

I mean, Tieflings may not be my cup of tea, but a LOT of people really like them, and doing this type of research helps the whole community! :)

I hope you keep it up and do some more research into Planescape. I'm sure there are a lot of fascinating stories to tell.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
As a Goth of old, few things will get me grinding my teeth like the mention of Hot Topic. The fungal-like growth of Hot Topic in the 1990s directly impacted and lead to the closure of many independent clothing shops. It also contributed to increased homogenization of the goth scenes throughout the country. I could go on at length about its evils…

But, back to the subject at hand, now that I think about it, I can’t say I’ve seen that many other Tieflings in play. There’s one in my home group. But zero have come through my open table, and I think I’ve encountered no more than single digits worth at con AL games. Weird. I still dig them.

Sure, I could say, "Tieflings, when you can't even be bothered to hide your love of Hot Topic," but that would be mean, right?
 

EthanSental

Explorer
That 2e DeTerlizzi art has not grown well on me...thought it was a bad Jim Henson dark crystal influenced style back in 2e and even now I cringe most time I see any of it....and think man I’m glad they did it use him much past it. To each their own though :)

tiefling related - never was excited enough to play one and no one in our 30+ year group has either.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Explorer
Isn't it curious? I would rather the aasimars. In my setting they are "ugly little duckling with a pretty face". I mean they are unpopular between the rest of humanoids because they suffer the syndrome of tall poppies.

I guess some "evil-like" PC races are popular because they are wearing Halloween costumes or clothings of urban tribes of "bad guys".
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
I feel that the Aasimar and Tiefling dichotomy is an example of a "model minority" group vs a marginalized minority group. I may belong to a "model minority" group in North America, but I certainly find role-playing ones in the other category of minority groups more appealing.

Though I admit some of the appeal of Tieflings might be me liking bands like NIN, Rammstein, Ministry and Marilyn Manson back in the 90s, before getting into bands like Slayer, Pantera, Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir to the tastes I have now.
 

Aaron L

Adventurer
I really liked the original Tieflings, people with some distant fiendish ancestor that gave them random deformations and dark powers... it fits with a medieval magical mentality, that being born with a deformity is a sign of having a tainted ancestry. I even love the name; from Teufel, the German word for Devil (they're Devilings.) But I cannot stand how they wrecked them in 4E, into a race of uniform devilmen (Devilmans?) with red skin and tails and ram horns and a unified culture. It's way too blatant and tacky, and it defeats the purpose of the race; an entire race of "misunderstood outsiders" is pretty ridiculous. All I can think is that Tieflings were turned into "More Drow than Drow."
 

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