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

Fauchard1520

Explorer
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?
 

Zardnaar

Hero
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.
 
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.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
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.
 
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ART!

Explorer
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.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
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.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
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 that’s just fine.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
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.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
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.
 

Dausuul

Legend
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.
 

CydKnight

Explorer
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?
My first thought on this is not all Teifling characters are female and I wouldn't want to visualize a mail Tiefling in bikini chain mail but that's just me.

A more serious thought is that perhaps it's just fun for people to experiment outside perceived societal norms. The farther the better and what can be further than a spawn with at least one parent, and probably both in most cases, that were pure evil? Even if you don't want to play the character as evil, it can be pretty entertaining coming up with ideas for why this character wants to be the opposite of its parents....and if the evil side comes out from time-to-time that just adds to the excitement. I feel like most of us have probably always wondered, if not actually experimented, with ways to add a touch of evil to their every day lives.
 

Kobold Avenger

Adventurer
Tieflings also have a bit of the "Marginalized Minority" feel (I know you could argue that for Half-Orcs too) without trying to push the "Playing the Other" to the point of being offensive to certain real world groups. Yes that also implies that Aasimar could the attempt at the "Model Minority" type.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
Planescape: Torment, the same way that Baldur's Gate cemented Forgotten Realms as the most popular setting.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Tieflings have kind of a perfect storm of traits that make them appealing. “DemonDevil people” stands out enough from the traditional Tolkienesque fantasy races to appeal to players who want to be different, but is still a familiar enough concept not to turn off most players by being too outlandish. They’ve got a clear visual identity, but with just the right amount of room for customization (“my skin is purple instead of red!” “my eyes are white instead of black!” “my character has horns like this animal!” etc.) They’ve got some built-in backstory, with plenty of room for individual flourish, which gets players’ creative juices flowing, and the mixed good and evil heritage thing is a staple of fantasy anti-heroes. They’ve got a bit of an edge to them, which is always popular, but they don’t wallow too much in their darkness that it becomes off-putting. And they’ve got great stats. By default they get +2 Charisma, which is the casting stat for sorcerers, warlocks, and paladins, all of which make for an interesting combination with the race, either by playing up the edge or juxtaposing it. And with the SCAG Feral variant, they can get +2 Dex instead, which is the best stat in 5e, and helps out the many folks who want to play Tiefling Rogues. They get a nice suite of once-per-day spells, with a ton of different options if the SCAG variants and/or MToF subraces are on the table, and even an option for a natural flight speed if you don’t mind giving up your spells.
 

LuisCarlos17f

Adventurer
Monster PCs are fun like wearing a Halloween costume. Tielfings are perfect to be the "little ugly duckling", and smarter than half-orcs.

I would rather aasimars/deva because they are outcasts in its own way, suffering the tall poppies syndrome, the hostility against who stands out above the rest by envious and rivals. I imagine them with a bad reputation of snobs and wolves wearing sheep's clothing, when they really want to help the rest of people.

I also like gnomes precisely because they are unpopular, but are too specialized in stealth and illusory magic. They need more flexible racial traits, for example these could be replaced by racial feats.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
All human beings want the same thing: To feel righteous while acting wicked. (As an aside, this is also how you get elected in today's political climate.)
 

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