The demonic heritage of tieflings is not something anyone can call into question. It is apparent from their look, the way fire interacts with their bodies, and the faint scent of brimstone detectable when they sweat. However, there is a great difference in opinions regarding what that heritage means.
If you ask a tiefling, he’ll likely tell you that his people are the next step in demonic evolution, that they broke free from their once-hellish natures millennia ago, and that they are a sophisticated, civilized people. Tieflings are to Demons what Humans are to Apes. While demons and tieflings share a history, their realities are very different.
If you ask anyone else, they’ll tell you about how the great tiefling empire of Bael Turoth probably summoned a super-demon which caused the Great Cataclysm, destroying Bael Turoth and the dragonborn kingdom of Arkhosia and creating the tumultuous Sea of Cataclysm.
The truth? Well, that’s up to each tiefling to decide. Tieflings will tell you that overzealous dragonborn summoned flights of dragons to exterminate the Turathi Empire, and their attempts to defend themselves kept the Cataclysm from being much worse. Not that anyone really knows EXACTLY what happened, but one story is as good as another, isn’t it?
Tieflings feel magic and power in their blood, and that informs much of what they do. They are a proud race that takes control whenever possible. They are not known for things like mercy, but rather for quick strikes that demonstrate power, using shock and awe to quell foes into compliance.
Many tieflings in civilized society abhor the idea of communing with demons, and some even seek to slay any who would maintain ties with their distant, hellish cousins. Still, for every high-minded tiefling seeking to prove her people are noble, there’s an infernal pact warlock grabbing the power that seems to come naturally to those with horns. It’s a tough life, but nobody ever said looking like demons would be easy.
Stuff My Racist Relatives Say
“Tieflings are named for Tiefon, our first great leader who defeated demon lords and lead us out of the Nine Hells at the dawn of time. Dragonborn are named for… dragons. Which one do YOU think is the nobler sounding race?”
“Eladrin could not handle the power of the fey magic within their blood, which is why they are dying.”
“Drow could aspire to be greater than they are, if only they could find a way out of their insane spider goddess’s web.”
“Minotaurs hope that one day they’ll be like us, casting aside their monstrous natures to become truly great.”
“Humans have the ambition to do anything. A pity they were not also gifted with power or sense.”
“Humans are forced to make deals with demons to get their power, because they have none inherent in their blood.”
“The nice thing about dwarves is that you can forget about them for a few decades, and they’ll still be doing the same thing when you come back.”
It’s not really a “secret”, as many non-tieflings suspect this already, but there are, in fact, a great number of tieflings who do traffic with demons, devils, and worse.
Only the most refined and calm of tieflings have taste buds. Whenever a tiefling uses his racial Infernal Wrath ability, his taste buds burn away. It is only after a week or so of not using that power that a tiefling can taste anthing more refined than general terms like “sweet”, “sour”, or “alcoholic”. That is, to a recently Wrathed tiefling, all alcoholic drinks will taste pretty much like Bud Light, all sweet things will taste like Nutra-sweet, etc. As a result, there is not much variation in tiefling cuisine, and no tiefling cooking culture to speak of. As long as the meat is fired and the drink is wet, that’s all they need. Of course, many pretend to be able to taste, as poisoning attempts against them might increase if this info were to be widely known.
There’s a growing group of tiefling elders who believes that maybe they were responsible for the Cataclysm. They seldom speak of it among younger tieflings, but there are even arcanist tieflings locked away in study to try and determine exactly what magics might have been summoned by their ancestors. Whether this is to reverse the magic or use it again is somewhat unknown.
The greatest tiefling sage is Mestiza Ferana, who currently holds open audience south of the Sea of Cataclysm for any who seek to learn. Most tiefling tribes will have someone who knows where her tower is, but part of the “seeking knowledge” bit of finding her is being able to respectfully ask a tiefling who can give you that information.