The most common of the planetouched race, tieflings - descendants of any of the various fiendish races - can be found just about everywhere, on both the Prime and the planes. Though they often tend towards darker pursuits and ways of life, tieflings are far from the immoral beings their ancestors are, often victims of their heritage far more than inheritors.
Though without much in the way of true heritage to speak of, tieflings have existed for millennia, ever since fiends first realized the potential in mortals for bolstering their numbers. Not content merely with corrupting mortals in life to gain their souls after death as larva or additional fiends, some realized the potential in infiltration having offspring with mortal blood could provide, or the corruptive influence such an offspring could create. On rare occasion, a fiend would even truly fall in love with a mortal suitor, though of course fiendish concepts of love are not precisely identical to those held by other races, but by far the majority of the first alu-fiends and cambions, and from them the first tieflings, were born for their potential as a tool in one way or another.
As time passed, while tieflings continued to be conceived for such purposes, others gained some level of independence, as tieflings proved to breed true; even though they held only a fraction of fiendish blood as generations passed, two tieflings would always bear a tiefling child. Over time, more and more tieflings grew apart from their origins, coming into their own as an independent race. However, even today, few tiefling settlements exist, for many fiends enjoy shattering any attempts at founding such and doing all they can to remind them what they are and what they once were.
As they can come from such varied origins and situations, tieflings as a whole have little shared culture. Extended tiefling lineage is rare, and communities of tieflings tend not to last long, for reasons mentioned above. However, there are some characteristics held in common by many tieflings.
Tieflings born and raised on the Prime often suffer from extreme bouts of isolation and loneliness. Prime tieflings are more often than not hated by their mortal kin, even at times by their own family. Many turn to their fiendish heritage to find somewhere to belong, though such efforts tend to end either in false acceptance, as their fiendish ancestors decide to treat them merely as a useful pawn, or even further ostracism, as they decide instead to deride and impugn the tiefling for their lot in life. Some find comfort in the company of other tieflings if they can (for even on the Prime tieflings are more common than most planetouched), but for others this is little comfort as, heritage aside, two tieflings will tend to have little in common physically, and little common reference psychologically or mentally. This level of isolationism tends to be worse the more inhuman the tiefling appears - those that could easily pass for pure human, elf, or whatever race their mortal kin might be find less discrimination even should they not try to, while those with more bestial or fiendish features or properties will find themselves not merely ostracized but outright shunned, even exiled. This can get so fervent that some tieflings will resort to radical attempts at purging evidence of their heritage, going so far as to have tails, horns, claws, or fangs forcibly removed - unfortunately, the features of planetouched can rarely be suppressed for long, and usually grow back rapidly. As such, the lot in life for Prime tieflings that cannot find a place for themselves can be quite painful.
Planar tieflings tend to have an easier time of things, if only because there are more homes they can find that would not reject them purely for appearance or fiendish heritage. While many regions in and along the Upper Planes can be just as cruel as mortals (even if it is believed to be justifiably so by some), there are many towns in the Outlands, the Inner Planes, and even some less dangerous regions of the Lower Planes where tieflings can live in peace without being rejected out of hand. This isn't to say no discrimination occurs in such areas, of course. Even in cosmopolitan Sigil, tieflings are the subject of any number of harsh beliefs and sayings - one will often hear people make such comments as "if a tiefling didn't do it, he was just pressed for time". Surprisingly widespread even on the planes is the belief that the fiendish heritage of tieflings expresses itself in especially strange ways, with many common planar folk buying into the rumors that tieflings feed on ashes and coal, or that they prefer to drink brews of broth, oil, and sulphur. Granted, many tieflings prefer and even encourage such beliefs both for entertainment and out of a sense of schadenfreude, but many more loathe such comments entirely. However, there are many regions upon where a tiefling could live in total peace with a minimum of bias towards them. And certainly, on the planes one needn't worry of a tiefling being killed at birth purely for having pointed horns or cat-like eyes.
Of course, these generalizations certainly do not apply to all tieflings. There are many entirely well-adjusted members that have made piece with their heritage without falling into fiendish patterns of behavior, including many prominent individuals - for example, Factol Rhys of the Transcendent Order is considered by many tieflings to be the perfect role model of how one can surpass their heritage. Just as any race, there is a broad spectrum of personality types found within this race's ranks
While true communities of tieflings tend not to last long, more short-term arrangements known as "schools" do occasionally arise. These organizations are loose coalitions of social support and mutual protection focused around a single experienced and charismatic tiefling, usually known as a "founder". Not quite a gang, these tend to fall into structures more like an informal thieves' guild or college of mages, with everyone working to help and teach one another under the direction of their founder. Founders of these schools tend to attract other tieflings to them purely by force of reputation, doing what they can to pass along their experiences in life and in their chosen profession to others, giving them a firm foundation to rely on and allowing them to either move past or embrace their heritage, depending on the founder's own leanings. And of course, the glory a successful school could bring to their founder is something few would reject - while most schools fall apart after their founder's death and are quickly forgotten, all know the name of Sergory, and many founders hope to mimic his example, to the point that many take his name in hopes of leeching off some of his renown.
Tieflings differ little from humanoids in terms of basic requirements of day-to-day life. While they do tend to be more carnivorous than their mortal kin, it's never been determined if this is because of a biological necessity or merely a subconscious response to their fiendish nature. Tieflings will, on average, live about 1-½ to 2 times as long as their mortal heritage alone would provide; a tiefling with a human parent could easily reach 150, while a tiefling born to an elven parent will usually survive up to 800 years of age. Tieflings will also always have some minor boon of magical power as a result of their heritage; the majority have the ability to create a field of mystical darkness, but many other natural abilities are known.
Those one generation removed from fiends make up the half-fiendish races, the alu-fiends and cambions. Beyond this, even the slightest drop of fiendish blood in a person's ancestry could result in their children being born as tieflings. As mentioned above, two tieflings will always breed true. If a tiefling has a child with a mortal, however, this is not necessarily guaranteed. Tiefling birth is certain in the second generation removed from the fiend, and relatively common in the 3rd to 5th generations, but chances drop off rapidly from there. However, there seems to be no true limit; there has been at least one recorded individual 15 generations removed from fiendish heritage that had given birth to a tiefling. There seems to be no good way to predict whether or not a child born to one with fiendish heritage will be a tiefling; even divination magic tends to be spotty on this regard, usually giving a vague or even misleading answer. At times, a tiefling can even be born with no fiendish heritage, but rather be literally planetouched in a manner similar to the genasi upon the Inner Planes. This is far more rare than for the genasi, however.
Tieflings tend to superficially resemble their mortal parent or parents, but they always hold some indicator of their fiendish heritage - some less prominent, some more. For some, this is as minor as small horn-nubs or rough skin. Others hold goat-like legs or feathers in place of hair. Horns and tails of all sorts are common, as are pointed ears, and those with unnatural tones tend to have skin in shades of red or orange and eyes of white or black. While most tieflings are born with their fiendish features, others don't receive them for many years after birth - most commonly puberty in this case, but rarely at other times - appearing wholly mortal to all observations before that point.
- Bastards of Erebus - Tieflings of Golarian, pp.60-67
- Pathfinder Bestiary, pg.264
- Planescape MCI, pp.112-113
- Planewalker's Handbook, pg.78