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DnD 5e - The Tiefling Handbook

Last Updated: July 17th, 2019

Disclaimer

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

Temporary Note: I am currently waiting to include content from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron. According to Dragontalk (the official D&D podcast), it's in a semi-finished state and is still subject to change, which could mean that character options in the book will see major changes before final publication. Once the book is complete, physical copies will be released and I will update to address the new content.

Introduction

Thanks to the variants presented in Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide and the subraces presented in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes, the Tiefling has the longest list of subrace options of any published race, totaling an impressive 14 subraces or variants. These options make tieflings diverse, flexible, and viable in an impressively large number of builds. However, because the subraces all shuffle around the Tieflings ability increases and subraces, it can often feel like they're all the same race with a pallet swap rather than subraces which differ in theme and personality.

Regardless of your choice of variant or subrace, Tiefling is a very strong race option. Their ability score increases are good, they have resistance to the most common type of non-weapon damage, and their innate spellcasting offers a variety of useful options depending on your subrace.

Variants and Subraces

Tieflings are the only race with both variants and subraces. The reasons behind this aren't perfectly clear, but it's almost certainly because the original race was presented without subraces, and subrace mechanics were introduced in later supplements.

It's also never explicitly stated how the variants and the subraces interact. I am of the opinion that the variants presented in Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide are intended to work like subraces, and therefore can't be combined with other Tiefling subrace options, including those contained in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

Classes

Barbarian

Zariel Tiefling is the closest you'll get to a good option for a Tiefling barbarian, but even that isn't a great option. You can't cast spells (including racial innate spellcasting) while raging, so you give up one of the Tiefling's most interest racial traits while raging.

Bard

Many Tiefling usbraces offer Charisma increases, and a number of the subraces and variants have a lot to offer the Bard.

Cleric

The only Tiefling option with a Wisdom increase is the Fierna Tiefling. The Fierna Tiefling's spellcasting is all charm spells, so this could be a good option for a Tiefling planning to be their party's Face.

Druid

All of the same issues as the Cleric, but since Druids usually dump Charisma the Fierna Tiefling might not be enough to make the Druid a passable option.

Fighter

Darkvision and Fire Resistance are both great assets for the Fighter, and depending on your choice of subrace your racial spellcasting can offer a variety of useful options.

Your fighter archetype options will vary depending on your subrace, so here are some suggestions for the Tiefling subraces which work best as fighters:

  • Glasya: Consider a Dexterity-based Purple Dragon Knight with an emphasis on stealth. A good fit in a party full of sneaky characters like rogues, trickery clerics, and illusionists.
  • Zariel: An excellent option for a front-line Purple Dragon Knight. The spells include smite spells from the Paladin spell list, offering some great offensive options.
  • Variant: Feral: The only way to play a Tiefling without a Charisma increase, the Feral variant is the best option for any archetype except Purple Dragon Knight. Eldritch Knight is an obvious choice, but don't feel locked into it solely because you have a +1 Intelligence increase.
  • Variant: Winged: The ability increases won't be helpful, but permanent nonmagical flight is a massive tactical advantage.

Monk

Dispater Tiefling and Glasya Tiefling are both options because they provide relevant ability increases, but I think the Feral variant is your best bet. Glasya can be very sneaky and tricky thanks to their free spells, but the vanilla tiefling spells may be a better complement to the monk's combat abilities, offering a mix of magical utility and damage that monks can't replicate on their own.

Paladin

If you want to play a front-line tank, Paladin is the Tiefling's go-to option, beating out Fighter because the Tiefling's ability increases work so nicely for the Paladin. Darkvision is great for facing enemies in the dark where they live, and fire resistance adds to the Paladin's already fantastic durability.

Many Tiefling variants work very well for the Paladin, so you have plenty of options to make your Tiefling Paladin unique. Charisma increases are obviously fantastic, but ideally you also want a Strength or Dexterity increase too. You should also consider how your subrace's spells will contribute to your overall build. Here are some suggestions based on the Tiefling subraces which work best for the Paladin.

  • Dispater: The ability scores line up nicely for a Dexterity-based Paladin, and the spells make for an unconventional character. Disguises and the ability to detect thoughts may help you to locate and defeat enemies by more subtle means than a typical paladin.
  • Glasya: The ability scores line up nicely for a Dexterity-based Paladin, but the spells don't cater to your typical Paladin playstyle. This could be a fun option for a tricky Oathbreaker Paladin.
  • Levistus: Despite he lack of a Strength or Dexterity increase, Levistus Tiefling is a great option for its exceptional durability. A Constitution increase is obviously helpful, but you also get Armor of Agathys, which is one of the best defensive spells in the game.
  • Zariel: This is your go-to option for Tiefling Paladin. The ability scores are perfect, and the racial spells include smite spells from the Paladin spell list.
  • Variant: Winged: The ability increases won't be helpful, but permanent nonmagical flight is a massive tactical advantage.

Ranger

The vanilla Tiefling's ability scores are terrible for a Ranger, but subraces and variants offer some better options. If you want a melee ranger, I recommend the feral variant. If you want an archer, I recommend the Glasya subrace.

  • DispaterMToF: Interesting and potentially viable, but Charisma does almost nothing for the Ranger and the spell-like abilities don't directly complement the ranger's skillset.
  • GlasyaMToF: Legacy of Malbolge provides some useful stealth options not typically available to rangers.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Much better than the Vanilla Tiefling, but the Intelligence bonus is till wasted.

Rogue

Darkvision and the free spells offer some interesting options, especially with the numerous Tiefling subraces. Depending on your archetype and whether or not you want to be a Face you'll find some subraces more appealing than others.

  • DispaterMToF: Good ability spread, and interesting spell options. This is a great option in a campaign with a lot of intrigue, espionage, and social interaction.
  • GlasyaMToF: Ideal for tiefling rogues. Legacy of Malbolge offers useful spell options normally only available to arcane tricksters.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Perfect for an Arcane Trickster.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Tempting if you are building a Face with decent Charisma, but better as a Bard.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: If you're casting Burning Hands then you're not using Sneak Attack.
  • Variant: VanillaPHB: The ability scores don't work as well as Feral, but not bad for a Face.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: On a Rogue I would absolutely take flight over the free spells.

Sorcerer

Tieflings get a Charisma increase, which makes them a good option for Sorcerer on its own. Fire resistance is always welcome, and your choice of subrace allows you to customize your racial spellcasting to suit your needs.

  • AsmodeusMToF: A perfectly fine option, but the Intelligence is wasted and you can find better spells from Devil's Tongue.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, but access to Thaumaturgy could be nice.
  • DispaterMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • FiernaMToF: The Wisdom is largely wasted, but the spells are great for a Face.
  • GlasyaMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • LevistusMToF: Constitution means more hit points, and the spells offer a nice mix of defensive, offensive, and utility options.
  • MammonMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and the leveled spells are highly situational.
  • MephistophelesMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and sorcerers should rarely be in melee combat enough to use Flame Blade.
  • ZarielMToF: Way too melee-centric.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Nothing useful for the Sorcerer.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: The replacement spells are absolutely better than the normal Tiefling spells.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is probably worse than Hellish Rebuke for most Sorcerers.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight is a massive advantage, especially without requiring Concentration.

Warlock

Tiefling warlocks work well for all the same reasons that tiefling sorcerers do.

  • AsmodeusMToF: A perfectly fine option, but the Intelligence is wasted and you can find better spells from other subraces.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, but access to Thaumaturgy could be nice.
  • DispaterMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • FiernaMToF: The Wisdom is largely wasted, but the spells are great for a Face.
  • GlasyaMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • LevistusMToF: Constitution means more hit points, and the spells offer a nice mix of defensive, offensive, and utility options.
  • MammonMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and the leveled spells are highly situational.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Flame Blade is tempting for blade pact warlocks, but Zariel is still a better option.
  • ZarielMToF: Strength is wasted, but that doesn't matter much. The big draw is the smite spells.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Dexterity is normally fine for a melee build, but for Warlocks you'll be using your Charisma thanks to Hexblade.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Arguably better spell options for a Warlock.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is about as good for the Warlock as Hellish Rebuke, but doesn't require you to be hit to use it.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight is fantastic, especially for a class so dependent on ranged combat.

Wizard

+1 Intelligence makes Wizard an option, but if you're going for an arcane spellcaster you'll do better with either Warlock or Wizard.

  • AsmodeusMToF: The ability scores don't work as well for a Wizard as a race with a +2 Intelligence bonus, and as nice as the free spells are they're also on the Wizard spell list already.
  • BaalzebulMToF: ntelligence and access to Thaumaturgy.
  • MammonMToF: Bonus intelligence, but the spells are really situational.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Bonus intelligence, but using Flame Blade is dangerous for a wizard.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Marginally better because Wizards get more from Dexterity than from Charisma.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Changing the spells doesn't really improve the Tiefling for Wizards.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands works better for Wizards than Hellish Rebuke.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Permanent flight without concentration. You don't need the free racial spells on a Wizard, so this is a great trade.

Feats

Flames of Phlegethos

This works best for full spellcasters like Sorcerer and Wizard, but other spellcasters might still be interested. The ability score increase caters to any arcane spellcaster.

Rerolling 1's on damage rolls is one of those things that sounds really nice, and it's emotionally reassuring, but the actual math isn't great. This adds just 0.33 damage per die on average. It will feel nice if you emphasize fire damage very heavily, but it's not very effective.

The final portion of the feat works best for tiefling spellcasters who spend a lot of time in melee. Cast Firebolt and walk into crowds of weak enemies.

Infernal Constitution

Resistance to two more types of damage, and +1 Consitution. This is feat for front-line characters who draw a lot of fire, but unless you're tanking don't bother with this.