Not everything with horns is a Tiefling: Fiendish Options

From deep within the archives of the Magic Tavern, when I’m not brewing MTG decks, I’m digging through the ancient tomes of D&D history.  I’ve spent most of my life, including my studies in college, learning to love the joys of research.  That and my love for ancient history has fueled a passion to dig through old forgotten texts looking for golden nuggets of information that hadn’t seen the light of day for eons.  Learning from history, discovering places and names that you can no longer visit, has become a past-time of mine.  So, turning that passion and my particular skill and thoroughness of research toward the five editions of my favorite RPG was a natural progression of my story.

Welcome to D&D FORGOTTEN

Now, before I continue, I need to preclude this article by saying that this series is not for the new player.  It is meant to aid the DM or the veteran player who is looking for something different.  If you’re like me, playing the given races the same ole way can get old.  The Tiefling is one of the most flavorful races in all of Wizards of the Coast’s games.  Usually it’s a go to if you want to play something ‘different’, something exotic.  But even the outlandish appearance and the out-of-the-box ancestry could get a little old.  So, imagine my surprise when I find, digging through some old D&D books, that not every race with horns is a Tiefling.

As a matter of fact, although we don’t think about, the very description of a Tiefling (phb p.42) states ‘Tieflings are derived from human bloodlines’.  It also fact that Tieflings are generally of INFERNAL heritage.  Now, the facts of life and genetics begs the question, “What if they came from other bloodlines?”

The truth is that the word Tiefling goes back to the first PLANESCAPE Monstrous Compendium Appendix back in 1994.  In the original entry, nothing was said about an ‘Infernal heritage’.  In fact, a tiefling was a plane-touched, pure and simple.  So, in the beginning, it was a more general term that it is in fifth edition.  The fact is that leaves bloodlines of all sorts; not just Infernal, but Celestial and even Abysmal.  This leaves the DM or the well-read player plenty of options. 

Here are just a few.


Debuting back in 2001 in the Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn, the Fey’ri were listed as the product of Sun Elves who interbred with powerful tanar’ri hoping to strengthen their line with demonic blood.  Most of the mentions of Fey’ri are found in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting centering around one particular bloodline: the Dlardrageths of Cormanthor.  But this is just game lore, of course, and doesn’t restrict a DM or Player from using this race in any setting.

As exotic as the human stock Tieflings are, replacing this with an Elven ancestry and interjecting abysmal not infernal allows for a great deal of area for character flavor and storytelling fodder.  The Feyri, much like Tieflings, come in a vast array of forms.  But having the powerful elven blood gives them either an uncanny control on their form or a more demonic looking form. 

Many of them are born with a quite ‘normal’ look.    In fact, they walk among their elven brethren for the most part without being detected.  Many of the write ups I found in homebrew allowed for shapeshifting at will.  This may be a little too free but that is between the player and the DM.

Many of the others are not only born with horns, tails and larger than normal elf ears, but also an amazing set of human sized bat wings.  This brings another concern to the character option.  Giving a new character a fly speed is something to consider and not to be taken lightly.  This may take some serious negotiations with the DM and possibly a little compromise. 

 Add to that the possibility of elven aids like immunity from sleep and charm spells or fire resistance or fiendish abilities from their darker side and you may come off a little op in a beginner group.   But a deceptive NPC who isn’t what he seems and can take to the sky can be a considerable threat as a big boss down the road.  Either way, this brings a powerful bit of flavor to the game.


the Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (2001)

The Monsters of Faerun (2003)

Dungeon Magazine #208

Cool Homebrew I found:

Tanarukks (Art below by xiaok on artstation)

Don’t like elves?

Elves and humans are not the only races who have experimented pacts and/or breeding with beings of the planes.  Orcs have had their own chances to mix with a varied bit of interlopers.  It is interesting that, unlike entries for the Tiefling and Fey’ri, the write up for the Tanarukk gives a new detail.  It specifically mentions that these creatures were ‘orcs whose blood had been tainted by an evil outsider.  Although the Tanar’ri are mentioned once again, this tome says what we all wanted to say or hear before; that races like Tieflings and Fey’ri could come from the blood of other outsiders rather than just devils or tanar’ri.

“Similar to tieflings, tanarukks are a mortal Faerûnian creature with the bloodline of an evil outsider.”


Those infused with tanar’ri blood are shorter, broader orcs with bristle-like hair, horns (of course) with razor teeth and enlarged tusks; smelling of brimstone. They tend to have both an affinity for and a certain ability with fire.  Many of them lean toward the magic side of D&D.  Wizards and, especially, sorcerers seem obvious, but could you imagine a tanarukk warlock whose patron is his ancestor or the being his great grandfather made a deal with?  Yet, I would think that so much rage and power could make an amazing barbarian also.

Showing up along side the Fey’ri, they, unlike the elven stock, breed at a grander scale; so, the tanarukk would probably be more numerous.  But, as the Fey’ri are more ordered and tend to plot from behind disguise or shadow, the tanarukk are far more belligerent and aggressive.  Taking the worst, most dangerous traits of both, an ill temper coupled with the power of a demon, makes this race a dangerous genetic cocktail.

Once again, most of the data given comes from the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and one particular area and story; that of Hellgate Keep.  Unlike Fey’ri, there is a 5E writeup in Volo’s Guide that reroutes them to a clan that betrayed their orc gods in favor of the demon Baphomet.  This gives you more of an anchor in the current edition but swerves from the Faerunean sort that come mostly from Vrocks. 

It would be easier for a DM to use the information given in Volos to create an NPC or enemy.  These creatures would make an excellent invading army to put a little more punch in a mid to high level campaign.  There are 3E numbers for playing it as a racial preference in Races of Faerun, but 5E hasn’t ventured that far as of yet. Either as an exotic PC or a menacing NPC, this option can really change things up in your next game.


the Monster Compendium: Monsters of Faerûn (2001)

The Monsters of Faerun (2003)

5E  Volo’s Guide to Monsters  p. 88

Homebrews (suggested $1)


Besides elfs and orcs, halflings and dwarves have also had their liaisons with fiendish powers.  Debuting in third editions FIEND FOLIO, D&D introduced the Wispling and Maeluth.  I bring these out together because, not only were they introduced together, but they have about the same amount of info (little to none) and are never mentioned again.  Despite this, it may give our Dms and veterans out there a bit of creative fodder.

Wisplings are a lethal combination of halflings and demons.  They combine the nimbleness of their halfling nature and a dark propensity for stealth and cruelty.   They can also shape change once per day like a first level wizard.  The wispling retains their halfling traits of luck, movement and resistance to fear affects.  They also have ‘outsider traits’ which, besides 60 ft. darkvision, kind of sucks seeing that they can’t be resurrected.  They do get mad pluses in their stealth making them a perfect rogue.  Their demenor reminds me of the Joker or maybe the X-Mens Arcade.  Still playful like a halfling, but with sinister dark designs.  They would make a great enemy much like the villains mentioned above or maybe the Riddler; someone to torment them with clues that lead to more clues and torment.

Maeluths are an odd union of the stocky dwarves and the highly ordered, yet sinister devils.  Both come from very lawful backgrounds, for the most part, but clash in the area of good and evil…usually.  They are obviously dwarves who have turned from the gods of the Morndinsamman and have made deals with the literal devil.  They retain dwarven traits like racial bonus’ to fighting orcs, goblinoids and dodge bonus’ against giants with a nice caveat of bonus’ to saves versus spells and spell like abilities.  They do get a cool ability called FIEND HAMMER that, once a day, grants an unholy special ability.

That’s about it.  The bad news is that there is no mythos or campaign settings to help you mold these creatures.  That’s also the good news.  You simply have a freedom here that you don’t realize with the Fey’ri and the Tanarukk.  That freedom was there, you just didn’t realize it with all of the heavy backstory.  Any of the above four can be used in any setting to either bring a bit of surprise flavor to the table either as that odd PC or the menacing NPC. 

I was actually hard pressed to find any viable 5E material on either of these racial options.  So, if your DM doesn’t homebrew himself, you may be boned.  But if your DM is a creative sort, he may be able to help you out here.  On the converse end, he may be able to sick these fiendish freaks upon your group in a campaign near you.


Ok, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but actual D&D lore.  The Baphataur were actually ancient Netherese experiments mixing demon blood with human and minotaur in an awful genetic atrocity.  They, of course, found themselves drawn to the demonic creature, Baphomet, who actually looks a little like a minotaur but isn’t.  These poor saps didn’t get but one entry in the 3E sourcebook UNDERDARK.  Besides that, all they got was a side mention in one of the ‘PERILOUS GATEWAYS’ entries online.  Nevertheless, it would make for an interesting character and, seeing that the concoction that brought them to life could be unearthed almost anywhere, these monstrous freaks could pop up…anywhere.

However, in the UNDERDARK entry, they are described as the union between tieflings and minotaurs.  Yet, it goes on to say they are not the product of breeding but unholy magical experiments.  Quite confusing.  But you DMs make of it what you like.

Taking this into account, the Baphitaur can cast darkness once a day as well as RAGE!  They get the typical gore attack with a little umph.  They also retain their inane ability of logic and are hard to loose in a maze.  This would definitely make a great NPC boss fight.  Ramp him with a few levels in a magical class and this character is formidable both in hand to hand and from a distance.  They, of course, make great barbarians with an extra racial rage, but an appearance of a cleric or paladin of Baphomet is not out of the question.

Check out Wizards info here

UNDERDARK 3E p.82-83

Ok, that’s all I was able to find.  I’m not sure WHY I couldn’t find a gnome/fiendish creature, but we may have to brew that up ourselves.  I intend to use this research in my War of the Banks campaign setting coming soon.

If we missed anything or got something wrong, let us know.  We’re always learning, always growing here in the Magic Tavern and you are as much a part of this as we are!

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