The Infernal Plane is extremely close to the Material One. Clashes between demons and adventurers are popular in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. The lower planes corrupt nearly everyone’s ancient ancestors, and sometimes these qualities can start appearing in individuals after a while. These individuals are called Tieflings, and their infernal blood causes them to become sore thumbs in society. Despite this, most tieflings remain as dedicated to their pursuit of happiness as any race. Our Tiefling 5E guide will help you create the tieflings of your dream!
Tiefling 5E Lore
Tieflings, introduced in the Player’s Handbook, tend to have skin closely related to their infernal heritage; red, blue, green, white, with eyes and hair that can be as colorful. Their horns and tail out them as demonic almost immediately. Most Tieflings are frustrated by their appearance, knowing that it came from a pact their ancestors made and isn’t truly their fault. This causes a lot of Tieflings to be targeted by their human peers, thinking that there must be some other reason for their demonic attributes to appear.
The paranoia of humans causes the paranoia of Tieflings. They keep to themselves most of the time, where they might become leaders of crime groups or minority movements. They are extremely charismatic, likely due to the magic in their blood activating. So, their energy and silver tongues earn them respect and leadership positions amongst those who treat them well. They tend to move quickly if they cannot find a small community to join with, using nomadhood to avoid targeting. This makes a lot of Tieflings easy adventurers, though they very rarely end up trusting those around them. Those who earn a Tiefling’s trust are rare, but become friends for life.
Tiefling bloodlines do nothing to affect a Tiefling’s personality. They are unaffected by their blood, and can be just as kind and charming as anyone with a similar upbringing. However, the hostile environments that most Tieflings are forced to grow up in tend to make them more cynical and abrasive. How a specific Tiefling deals with the prejudices of their childhood is a pretty big part of most of their personalities. One that lived with parents that protected them or in a community that supported them might be rare, and interesting to look at.
Tiefling names sprout from a variety of places. Our Tiefling Names guide might lead you in the right direction.
Tieflings can spawn from many bloodlines, and thus they change a ton based on where they come from. However, without changing the bloodline, Tieflings come with a variety of demonic skills to bring to any class they become.
- +2 Charisma, +1 Intelligence. Oh, I hate this combo! Charisma is a niche skill, boosting your ability to talk to others and helping a somewhat rare saving throw. Charisma is more useful when your class needs it, like for Paladins or Sorcerers. However, no class that needs Charisma also needs Intelligence! Intelligence boosts your smart skills and also aids a somewhat rare saving throw… And both are a somewhat niche combo! No class really needs both.
- Medium Size, 30 ft Speed. The standards. Tieflings are basically humans, so you have no height or weight advantages or disadvantages. Maybe your horns will be able to be fun distractions when peeking over cover?
- Darkvision. Seeing in the dark is a universally strong skill. It lets you be stealthy, see hidden traps or treasures, and heavily influences how your party approaches fights. Remember you have this, because it comes up in most campaigns many, many times!
- Hellish Resistance. Fire damage is the most common damage type in the game, and it’s dangerous! The number of spells and traps that use fire is frankly a bit obtuse. So, you have resistance to that! This makes you extremely useful during magic duels and fighting anything that comes from a volcano or hell (which is a surprising number of creatures).
- Infernal Legacy. Thaumaturgy is a neat little distraction spell that’s fun to play around with. You can use it to augment your performances, and it can be legitimately useful if you’re creative. Hellish Rebuke is a Tiefling specialty. 3d10 fire damage can be fight-changing, and you don’t need to spend any actions on it! Huge boost in damage. Darkness is hard to use, since you can’t see through it without some ridiculous combo or magic item. If you use it correctly, it can be a great smokescreen or escape tool.
- Languages. Infernal is fine. A lot of cults and demons speak infernal, and it’s a fairly popular language for smart people to pick up. You can cross a few language gaps and bargain your way out of fights.
Mordekainen’s Tome of Foes Bloodlines
The following bloodlines are found in MToF. These bloodlines replace the +1 Ability Score and Infernal Legacy abilities of the baseline Tiefling.
These are the baseline Tiefling; they spawn from a contract with Asmodeus made in the past. They have the same statistics as a baseline Tiefling.
The demon of corrupting, these Tieflings tend to be made by evil ancestors, rather than desperate ones.
- +1 Intelligence.
- Legacy of Maladomini. Thaumaturgy is kept, but you get Ray of Sickness. That’s a small amount of poison damage and the poisoned condition. This becomes better than Hellish Rebuke later on, but it takes your action and requires 2 rolls; the attack roll and the saving throw. That’s a lot of dice to make it good! Crown of Madness is probably more interesting than Darkness in most situations, allowing you to turn lackeys on their boss (or the boss on their lackeys!).
These Tieflings are bred from the Demons of Dis, where secrets are traded like fresh gold coins. They tend to be created from pacts but… Who knows how they were actually spawned?
- +1 Dexterity. Probably more useful for most classes that a Tiefling becomes. Dexterity boosts literally everything a Tiefling might want; attack rolls, AC, a great saving throw, and some common ability checks. A much better combo with Charisma than Intelligence is.
- Legacy of Dis. Thaumaturgy’s still here, and Disguise Self… Is a completely different spell than Hellish Rebuke. You’re losing a powerful weapon for some out-of-combat utility, which is completely fair to do! Detect Thoughts has amazing applications for in and outside of combat; you can read minds to find information or just to know where the invisible guy is. Overall, probably a bit stronger than the base spell list.
These Tieflings likely had ancestors that were tricked into contracts and deals.
- +1 Wisdom. Not amazing. Wisdom is a more popular saving throw than Intelligence, and it’s applied to more commonly rolled skill checks. However, no class that loves Wisdom also loves Charisma. Not optimal!
- Legacy of Phlegethos. Friends is more mechanically viable than Thaumaturgy, if only because it tells you exactly what it does. Oddly enough, this is a great spell to start a fight in a way that makes you seem innocent. Charm Person is basically Friends as a spell slot, though you can throw it out during fights much more reasonably. Charm is a really strong effect in a fight, and 1 hour can be long enough for you to get what you want in a social gathering. Suggestion is really fun to use, but eats your Concentration slot for a really long time. It’s low combat power makes it a little bit weird to make effective.
The criminal mastermind of hell, Glasya likely formed a pact with a desperate individual in your ancestry.
- +1 Dexterity. It only makes sense for the criminal mastermind of hell to throw Rogues a bone! Dexterity is a great combo with Charisma, since Dexterity gives its strength to so many different stats!
- Legend of Malbolge. Minor Illusion is about as strong as Thaumaturgy, with many less options. Disguise Self is fun, but useless in combat (unless your goal is to frame someone). Invisibility can be immensely powerful, especially at level 5. This gives you the option to give your Rogue a consistent way to turn invisible and approach fights.
Levistus writes bargains for doomed souls, likely saving your Ancestor from an untimely demise. Now, you’re paying for it.
- +1 Constitution. Great combo with Charisma. This gives you health, which keeps you from dying. Useful so that you can keep throwing out spells, and maintaining Concentration.
- Legacy of Stygia. Ray of Frost is a purely offensive Cantrip, and can give melee Tieflings a ranged option that uses Charisma. Armor of Agathys is a defensive tool that can deal massive damage; you basically have 10 Thorns damage until they break 10 health. That’s… fine, early on and when fighting things that make many small attacks. At the very least, it’s 10 health. Darkness makes a return, and is just as “meh” as it is for Base.
Your ancestors likely made a deal with this demon to restore their money or keep their wealth safe.
- +1 Intelligence.
- Legacy of Minauros. Mage Hand has a ton of powerful things it can do, especially out of a fight. Even in a fight, you can do silly things with Mage Hand that puts it a step above most other utility cantrips. Tenser’s Floating Disk is a good replacement for a Strength-based character, but offers no combat power. If you’re lucky, perhaps the DM will let someone ride it across a pit of lava. Arcane Lock also has no combat power, but it lets you avoid the pickpockets or burglars in cities fairly well, and gives you some time to stop higher level thieves before they make away with your goods.
A master of arcane magic, your ancestors likely made a pact with him to gain arcane magic. Well, at least you have some too!
- +1 Intelligence.
- Legacy of Cania. Mage Hand is one of the best utility spells in the game, being able to manually trigger traps from a safe distance, or interact with objects without touching them. Burning Hands is a significantly worse Hellish Rebuke in most situations. 4d6 Fire Damage that takes up your action, with pretty bad range… Ick. Flame Blade is pretty cool, allowing you to become aggressive in melee with your Charisma modifier to attack. Admittedly, a bit weird that a demon of the Arcane is teaching you druid spells… Whatever! Good for emergency melee fights.
A demon of combat, Zariel likely made a pact with an ancestor of yours that was a soldier or warrior.
- +1 Strength. Awesome, a great Paladin Tiefling! Strength is great for melee fighting with the biggest weapons that the game allows. It is also a passable saving throw, lets you wear the heaviest armor, and affects carrying capacity. Good combo with Charisma, but only really for Paladin.
- Legacy of Avernus. Thaumaturgy finally returns. Searing Smite is actually pretty alright, but scales poorly; 2d6 fire damage isn’t much, and the flames afterwards don’t hurt too much. However, it doesn’t need to hit that hard; it’s a Bonus action! Branding Smite has some fine utility against casters that you think are going to turn invisible and run away.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide Tieflings
The Tieflings of the Sword Coast also have some different bloodlines to snag! These Tieflings all change the +2 Ability Score and Infernal Legacy of the Base Tiefling. In addition, they roll 1d4+1 and gain a bunch of different, fun features that slightly affect their appearance. These can range from having goat hooves to just having smaller horns.
All SCAG tieflings have the same Ability Score improvement option, originating from the Feral Tiefling Subrace. Theoretically, you could place this Ability Score Improvement on any Tiefling Bloodline, with DM permission.
- +2 Dexterity or Charisma. The choice is yours! This will depend on what Class you inevitably play, but Dexterity is usually going to be the more consistently useful option.
Devil’s Tongue Tiefling
- +2 Dexterity or Charisma.
- Devil’s Tongue. Vicious Mockery is a good ranged option spell, and a good debuff for enemies that swing a weapon around. Charm Person is fairly strong if you use it right, and fairly strong if you just throw it at someone during a fight! Keeping two creatures from fighting you (preferably before the fight starts) can be devastating for the enemy forces. Enthrall is basically the same as Charm Person, but strictly weaker. It technically lets your allies sneak around easier…? It’s just not easy to use.
- +2 Dexterity or Charisma.
- Hellfire. Thaumaturgy returns! Burning Hands is probably weaker than Hellish Rebuke (especially later on), but it can be good for clearing out low-level combats. Otherwise, make sure it’s worth the Action! Darkness is hard to use effectively, but can be a great smoke bomb or confusion tactic, since the magical darkness is nearly impossible to see through.
Infernal Legacy Tiefling
- +2 Dexterity or Charisma.
- Infernal Legacy. The same stuff as the Base Tiefling! This choice is essentially just to make Tieflings better for Wizards or Artificers. Make sure your DM is alright with this strict upgrade before you take it.
- +2 Dexterity or Charisma.
- Winged. Flight is… Good. Flight is really good. And you can even wear Medium Armor and still fly! This allows you to reposition and get good angles on fights, as well as chase down enemies who are also in the sky. Great if you don’t think the spells that the other Bloodlines offer are worth it.
So… There are 13 different Tiefling Variants that you can choose from. That allows Tieflings to be great at nearly every class in the game. However, despite this, there are still a few classes that they don’t quite get right.
Good Classes for Tieflings
- Artificer. Most Tiefling variants can make for fantastic Artificers! Intelligence is godly, and you can mix and match spells to find the perfect little support caster for your party. If you want to optimize, the Sword Coast Tieflings tend to be best, since Dexterity can be nice for an Artificer.
- Bard. All Tieflings can get a +2 to Charisma, which is exactly what you’re looking for! Mix that with your Fire Resistance and Darkvision, and you’ve got yourself a tanky individual who can see hidden treasures! Personally, I like Dispater, Glasya, or Levistus for a Tiefling Bard.
- Fighter. Fine choice. Try and get a Sword Coast Tiefling if you want to be optimal. Once you’re there, your high Dexterity, Darkvision, and Fire Resistance can be impressive on the front or backlines. If you’d rather be a Charisma tiefling, the Purple Dragon Knight (Banneret) is a great option for you.
- Monk. Infernal Legacy is an alright choice for most Monks. You don’t get your Wisdom boost, but you will be able to use your Hellish Rebuke and alright utility options to make up for it. Just make sure you can play with the Dexterity boost.
- Paladin. The best melee frontliner for Tieflings. Zafriel is the perfect choice for a Paladin build, but almost all Tieflings can be good Paladins due to their high Charisma. You’ll be a nearly unstoppable anti-mage!
- Ranger. If you want to be a Ranger, try and become a Sword Coast Tiefling of some kind for the Dexterity. Then, you’re complementing the Ranger’s kit with racial spells, Fire Resistance, and Darkvision. That’s probably worth the kind of lackluster Intelligence boost.
- Rogue. A damn good choice. Most Tiefling options work fine for a Face-based Rogue, but your Sword Coast, Glasya, and Dispater tieflings are all fantastic. Winged Tieflings especially can combo well with a Rogue’s want to reposition and find perfect opportunities to strike.
- Sorcerer. As a Sorcerer, Tieflings become some of the best magical duelists that you can ask for. Combo their Charisma and Fire Resistance with some of the spells that you get from Infernal Legacy, Dispater, Glasya, Devil’s Tongue, or Hellfire… You’ve got a spicy tiefling! You can use Winged if you would prefer to just have constant flight.
- Warlock. These guys are basically as useful as Sorcerer Tieflings… Although you sure you want to make another pact? Oh well! You can explore more melee-centric options here, like Zariel, if you want to make a Hexblade.
- Wizard. This works fine. Especially if you want to go Winged, the Wizard can be a good choice for a Tiefling. But… Why aren’t you a Sorcerer or Warlock? So many Tiefling subraces make insane Sorcerers or Warlocks! The only good subraces for the Wizard are the Sword Coast Variants.
Bad Classes for Tieflings
- Barbarian. Tieflings don’t make great Barbarians. Zariel gives you a Strength bonus, and Charisma is good for Intimidation. However, when you Rage, you’re not going to be able to cast your Smite spells, making you less effective as a combatant in general. It’s a rough combo, and you’d probably be better off as a Paladin.
- Cleric. Yes, even though Jester is an absolute treat to watch in Critical Role, the Tiefling does not tend to work very well as a Cleric. If you want to be the most effective party member for your team, the Tiefling does not give the Cleric the Wisdom, Strength, and Constitution that the Cleric needs to be an effective healer or tank. Charisma is not necessary for Clerics in most situations. In addition, the utility abilities don’t matter too much for the Cleric, who can be ready for a lot of those situations. If you just really want to do it, Fierna can be okay for a Face Cleric.
- Druid. No Tiefling should be a Druid. Fierna is the closest you get, and they just don’t give you enough to work with here. Charisma is pointless on a class that doesn’t get much Face synergy, and your Wisdom is too low to really work out well. It’s… just not really worth it. The Charisma casters might be better off.
Because of the Feral Tiefling, these guys can become almost any class (with copious DM permission). The Tiefling might be persecuted by other races, but it might be because of how talented they are! Try them out for your next Charisma caster or, if your DM is willing to let you play around with the Feral option, a ton of other class options!