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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?

GreyLord

Adventurer
I don't have a problem with Tieflings but I wish that they'd always also offer their counterpart (Aasimar) as a core race as well. If they have Tieflings they should also have Aasimar as default.
 

Prakriti

Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I don't have a problem with Tieflings but I wish that they'd always also offer their counterpart (Aasimar) as a core race as well. If they have Tieflings they should also have Aasimar as default.
Meh, too much bloat for me. I'd rather they just made a Planetouched race and included Tieflings, Aasimar, and maybe Genasi as sub-races.
 

dnd4vr

Explorer
Don't know why tieflings seem to be popular... they aren't in our group really. Only one player has played them. Personally, I dislike them as much as Lowkey and his gnomish paladins. ;)
 

Kurotowa

Explorer
"Devilspawn trying to make good (or not)" is a narrative role with a lot of history. You see it in myths, you see it in fairy tales, you see it in comic books. Everyone knows it and a lot of people want a turn at playing it out. It's that simple.

And it's the same for all the major races. Half-Orcs fill the "muscular wildman with powerful emotions" narrative role that goes back to Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh, 4000 years ago. Elves and Dwarves and Halflings have their roots in common folk tale tropes, though indelibly re-imagined thanks to Professor Tolkien. Other races, like Aasimar and Genasi? They don't have the same instantly recognizable narrative legacy. Some were very rare types in myth and story, some were D&D originals, so none of them have the same weight.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
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.
Bah, you haven't lived until you have played a gnome ranger as the party tank!
 
Meh, too much bloat for me. I'd rather they just made a Planetouched race and included Tieflings, Aasimar, and maybe Genasi as sub-races.
The problem I see is that those races don't share anything (much) in common. There is no common ability bumps, no common abilities beyond darkvision, even languages beyond common is different. I mean, its the same as making goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears sub-races of a "goblinoid" race.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
The current tieflings are Drow 2.0.
You can make them sexy and/or edgy and its expexted. You can make them "rebel against the system" and avoid all of that, but still be expected. And finally, they are born magical and special, but are shunned for it. Which is basically having your cake and eating it too when it comes to origin stories.
 
I

Immortal Sun

Guest
Yeah I mean I think it's been pretty well covered all of the edgy reasons why Tieflings are popular.

But to give them some credit, I think it's also because so few DMs bake Tieflings into their setting as anything more than random anomalies. Very rarely do we get to see a massive Tiefling civilization with pre-set cultures and behaviors and appearances, and to some degree, making a Tiefling is sort of a way to "escape" from the chains of the DM telling you how to run your character. There's no real worse outcome than making your character only to be told "Oh well you come from XYZ culture and place so you'd never know/do/act/the thing." Sometimes DM forget that characters are more often the exception rather than the rule and Tieflings are the ultimate exception.

Frankly I know "monstrous" races get a lot of flack, but I've had more trouble playing with people who play Dwarves.
 
Same reason why Shifters, Warforged, Aasimar, Dragonborn, and other races like them got popular. And that's perfectly fine IMO. More options are almost always better.

Player: "I wanna play as a Fiend/Lycanthrope/Golem/Angel/Dragon."

DM: "That's OP as hell, you can't do that. Play as these things instead."
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
My own theory is that it's got to do with the popularity of half-demon chicks in bikini mail.
I think this is how Drow became a standard race. Some may blame that poser Drizzt but really, if you do a google for images of Drow, well, it's a thing.

For serious though: What is it about tieflings that gave them staying power over multiple editions? What's their enduring appeal?
For this, I need to reach back into the annals of RPG history.

Real Men like half nekkid demon chicks. And playing the "bad boys".
Real Roleplayers feel Tieflings have such wonderful pathos to build upon.
Real Loonies like to blame actions on their heritage. "A scorpion can't change it's nature".
Real Munchkins take whatever race has the best ability score modifiers for their class.

(Apologies to any Real(tm) Men, Roleplayers, Loonies or Munchkins - that was the format from way back when. Now get off my lawn!)
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad day
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.
I'm with you. Heck, you can play a Fallen Aasimar as a subrace so they can be edgy too, but no "Redeemed Tiefling".
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
I think this is how Drow became a standard race. Some may blame that poser Drizzt but really, if you do a google for images of Drow, well, it's a thing.



For this, I need to reach back into the annals of RPG history.

Real Men like half nekkid demon chicks. And playing the "bad boys".
Real Roleplayers feel Tieflings have such wonderful pathos to build upon.
Real Loonies like to blame actions on their heritage. "A scorpion can't change it's nature".
Real Munchkins take whatever race has the best ability score modifiers for their class.

(Apologies to any Real(tm) Men, Roleplayers, Loonies or Munchkins - that was the format from way back when. Now get off my lawn!)
1st heard that real men, loonies etc back in 1994 in my first campaign ever from the DM.
 

doctorbadwolf

Explorer
When you are very strange, crappy people very quickly and enthusiastically tell you precisely who they are.

There is an appeal in exploring that in a safe environment such as a role playing game.

Lotta folks have felt like freaks in their life, and also they look fracking cool.

It’s probably that simple.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Explorer
Some day I fully intend to play a Tiefling whose Devil forefather is the least interesting ancestor they have for the past five generations.
 

Kobold Avenger

Explorer
Planetouched were in many ways Mutants of the planes, as being exposed to planar energies especially when one lives on the planes can mutate some people.

In 2e Tieflings were definitely more varied in appearance, many had more subtle features, horns tended to be smaller. I remember there also being some Tieflings in 2e who were of a non-binary gender. There was also a Tiefling that had something like snakes for eyes, another NPC sort of lacked a nose. Even the iconic Tiefling, Annah had something like only 3 or 4 fingers on her hands.
 

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