If you do a Google image search for “tiefling” the images you get run the gamut of character archetypes. Bards, wizards, warriors, thieves, and impractically clothed, sexy women appear in a crazy number of artistic styles. This is a clear indication that this PC race has captured the imagination of many players. Here’s one of my favorites from Dragon Magazine 368 illustrated by Steve Argyle.
And here’s some others I like.
All of these artists have different styles, but you can see the one thing that shines through in all of the tieflings – their devilish nature. It’s not just the horns and tail. The eyes of these tieflings seem to burn red or gold, their expressions display moody emotions like anger and sadness, they dress in darker colors, and when magic is involved it is of a fiery variety.
What makes tieflings interesting to me is that they have to either embrace or deny the devil within their very soul, and it’s a constant battle. They can’t just deny or embrace their inner devils once and be done with it. Rather, they must keep the devil bottled up until the time is right to release it or, perhaps even more interesting, visa versa.
Tieflings in Exploration Age
On Verda, tieflings are the descendants of part of an army of devils summoned to Verda by metallic dragons to fight the aberrants. In many ways this move by the dragons was a mistake, as some of the devils formed alliances with the aberrants, and even produced offspring with these creatures creating horrifying devil-aberrants who are still a threat today (more on that in a later post). However, many devils did choose (or were bound) to serve the metallic dragons. After many generations on the material plane, these devils evolved into tieflings. They aren’t humans with a little bit of devil ancestry, as in most settings. They are what devils became after hundreds of thousands of years on the material plane.
Tieflings have lived through a lot in their time on Verda. They’ve driven the aberrants underground, experienced plagues and wars, seen the rise and fall of The Tarrasque, and the creation and desolation of other races. For the most part, Exploration Age’s tieflings try to hold back their devilish nature, remaining mostly isolationists, studying the world, and always trying to better themselves.
Almost everything the tieflings in Verda do is about bettering themselves. They believe that overtime they will lose their devil urges altogether as a people if they continue to resist them. The tieflings may be right, after all look what millennia of living suppressed has done for them so far.
To that end tieflings are constantly at work to better themselves individually and as a society. As young children, they are constantly taught lessons in science, magic, history, planar lore, literature, arts, philosophy, and skill at arms. The last is an especially important discipline to tieflings, for they must learn to control their devil bloodlust in battle and how to harness and focus those urges when necessary for their own survival.
When a tiefling comes of age, he or she is brought before the individual’s Spire Council. The Council and the tiefling together discuss the individual’s best possible career path and how the young tiefling may better serve the community as an adult. The tiefling is assigned a discipline and leads his or her life in that trade. At anytime a tiefling may appeal to The Council to change careers.
As adults tieflings mainly value discovery and invention. A sound mind and body are important to bettering oneself, so soldiers still spend time studying and meditating while scholars still find themselves training and exercising.
Some of Canus’ most beautiful music, most powerful spells, most informative tomes, and greatest arms and armor are made by tieflings and some of its greatest warriors and mages come from that same race since they are always training, discovering, and inventing in the name of betterment.
Tieflings live in settlements that spiral up into the sky. These Spires are surrounded by walls on the lowest levels and the private tieflings often keep their gates closed.
If travelers are allowed into the city, they are often confined to the lower half of the Spire, where most of the shops and services reside. The upper half of the Spire are the residences, military, academic, and government housings. The very top of the Spire houses The Council Chambers and a magically enhanced lookout post which allow a tiefling mage known as The Spire Guardian to look out 50 miles in all directions, day or night.
The Seven Spires are spread up and down Verda’s West Coast and connected to each other via linked teleportation circles and crystal balls. Each Spire is governed by an elected council of seven tieflings. Elections occur every ten years. Each council chooses a tiefling from their Spire to serve a ten-year term on The Grand Council, which gathers in times of crises to determine the best course of action for its people.
The Seven Spires are each named for a different gemstone. Each tower specializes in a different school of magic and fighting style.
- Amber Spire – Specializes in Abjuration Magic and Great Weapon Fighting
- Amethyst Spire – Specializes in Evocation Magic and Sword and Shield Fighting
- Emerald Spire – Specializes in Enchantment Magic and Archery
- Jade Spire – Specializes in Transmutation Magic and Two-Weapon Fighting
- Moonstone Spire – Specializes in Illusion Magic and Polearm Fighting
- Ruby Spire – Specializes in Conjuration Magic and Thrown Weapons
- Sapphire Spire – Specializes in Divination Magic and Unarmed Fighting
Only since the recent discovery of Verda have the dragonborn learned of the tieflings’ existence. The tieflings, however, have long known about the dragonborn. The dragonborn race is a creation of the metallic dragons, who were once close allies of tieflings. When they created a humanoid race in their image, the tieflings felt threatened and misplaced. They prepared for war against this new race and the metallic dragons. The metallic dragons, knowing they had hurt their old allies, sent the dragonborn across the sea to make amends, but the damage was done and the relationship was irreparable. The metallic dragons stopped meddling in the affairs of the mortals of Verda and retreated deep into their lairs.
Now that the dragonborn have returned to Verda the tieflings are less than happy to see them. The dragonborn often come to Verda, seeking out metallic dragons and books in the libraries of the tieflings to learn more about their roots, but they will find that in The Seven Spires they are at the very least unwelcome.
Not all tieflings fit the description above. Here are two groups that break form.
- The Spireless – It is rare, but when some tieflings come of age, they are deemed undisciplined and a danger to the community. It is believed they will embrace their devilish nature and succumb to the evil and immoral temptations of their ancestors. These tieflings are sent out of the community and forced to make a life for themselves in Verda. They are known as The Spireless. Many of these tieflings will give into the darkest parts of their souls, profiting through evil schemes and manipulations. Others will try to find a more righteous path and hope that they can be accepted back into the society of their people.
- Bloodstone Spire – The Seven Spires were once Eight. The Bloodstone Spire still stands, but during the day it’s gates and windows are shut tight. The Spire of tieflings that specialize in Necromancy and Stealth Tactics experienced a vampiric scourge a little over three hundred years ago. Now every tiefling within Bloodstone Spire is a vampire. At night they pour forth from the city, looking for tribes of humanoids to feast upon and bring back as slaves and livestock.
Tiefling adventurers can be found in Verda and parts of Findalay and Parian. Though often isolationist in their actions, tieflings like to keep tabs on the other folk of Canus. Many are sent into the world when they come of age, to observe and learn more about a culture, or map uncharted lands, or serve as a diplomat.
A tiefling adventurer could also be one of The Spireless. For some reason he or she was deemed unfit for society and has to earn his or her way back in. Or perhaps a Spireless tiefling has forsaken his or her people and is now out for personal glory, wealth, or darker intentions.
Or perhaps a tiefling has become an adventurer of his or her own free will, despite a lucrative opportunity and career path back at home. This could be an interesting back story for a character indeed…