To be greeted with stares and whispers, to suffer violence and insult on the street, to see mistrust and fear in every eye: this is the lot of the tiefling. And to twist the knife, tieflings know that this is because a pact struck generations ago infused the essence of Asmodeus-overlord of the Nine Hells-into their bloodline. Their appearance and their nature are not their fault but the result of an ancient sin, for which they and their children and their children’s children will always be held accountable.
Tieflings are derived from human bloodlines, and in the broadest possible sense, they still look human. However, their infernal heritage has left a clear imprint on their appearance. Tieflings have large horns that take any of a variety of shapes – some have curling horns like a ram, others have straight and tall horns like a gazelle’s, and some spiral upward like an antelopes’ horns. They have thick tails, four to five feet long, which lash or coil around their legs when they get upset or nervous. Their canine teeth are sharply pointed, and their eyes are solid colors black, red, white, silver, or gold with no visible sclera or pupil. Their skin tones cover the full range of human coloration, but also include various shades of red. Their hair, cascading down from behind their horns, is usually dark, from black or brown to dark red, blue, or purple.
Tieflings subsist in small minorities found mostly in human cities or towns, often in the roughest quarters of those places, where they grow up to be swindlers, thieves or crime lords. Sometimes they live among other minority populations in enclaves where they are treated with more respect.
Lacking a homeland, tieflings know that they have to make their own way in the world and that they have to be strong to survive. They are not quick to trust anyone who claims to be a friend, but when a tiefling’s companions demonstrate that they trust him or her, a tiefling learns to extend the same trust to them. And once a tiefling gives someone loyalty, the tiefling is a friend or ally for life.
People tend to be suspicious of tieflings, assuming that their infernal heritage has left its mark on their personality and morality, not just their appearance. Shopkeepers keep a close eye on their goods when tieflings enter their stores, the town watch might follow a tiefling around for a while, and demagogues blame tieflings for strange happenings. The reality, though, is that a tiefling’s bloodline doesn’t affect his or her personality to any great degree. Years of dealing with mistrust does leave its mark on most tieflings, and they respond to it in different ways. Some choose to live up to the wicked stereotype, but others are virtuous. Most are simply very aware of how people respond to them. After dealing with this mistrust throughout youth, a tiefling often develops the ability to overcome prejudice through charm or intimidation.
Half-orcs are greeted with a practical caution, but tieflings are the subject of supernatural fear. The evil of their heritage is plainly visible in their features, and as far as most people are concerned, a tiefling could very well be a devil straight from the Nine Hells. People might make warding signs as a tiefling approaches, cross the street to avoid passing near, or bar shop doors before a tiefling can enter.