5 Tips for Playing Better Tieflings and Aasimar
A Pathfinder RPG Guide
The blood of fiends and angels runs through many mortal veins on the material plane. These children of the outer realms are often regarded with fear and awe, their strange powers and unusual abilities marking out their heritage for all to see.
For those who are giving some serious thought to playing an aasimar or a tiefling (as they really are two sides of the same coin), consider some of the following tips! Also, if you'd like to see more of my ongoing 5 Tips series where I cover other fantasy races, base classes, and general play styles, check out my 5 Tips archive on my blog Improved Initiative! And for more RPG content just like this, consider seeing what else is lurking in my full Gamers author page!
Tip #1: How Weird Do You Look?
When you think of a tiefling or an aasimar, chances are good you have a specific, stock image that comes into your head. Tieflings will have skin ranging from red to purple, typically with some variety of horns, a tail, and maybe some extra features (yellow eyes, claws, hooves, etc.) to complete the infernal look. Aasimar will look like perfect humans, maybe with some heavenly features to clue you into their true heritage (golden eyes, a tinkling voice, a halo, or something similar).
You should think of those stock images as the middle-of-the-bar when it comes to character customization. Because as I pointed out in The Weird and Wild World of Outsiders (Exploring Alternative Aasimar and Tiefling Heritages), the sky is basically the limit when it comes to how otherworldly your character looks.
For example, your tiefling might have subtle hints to their fiendish heritage. Eyes that glow red when they're angry, or infernal birthmarks in a band across their chest. Alternatively, they might have the hulking frame, scaly skin, and sharp teeth of their forebears, making them look like something akin to an infernal dragon roaming the mortal plane. The same is true for aasimar. They might be born with a literal silver tongue that they can keep hidden well enough, or they might have more obvious features from their celestial heritage. Raptor's talons, eyes like jewels, skin that shines like platinum, and lips like faceted rubies. Wings, tails, eyes in their palms, stigmata... there's a reason an angel's first words are usually, "Be not afraid."
So, feel free to shake this up and get as subtle or strange with it as you want. Outsider blood can have all kinds of unexpected side effects. Lastly, keep in mind that your appearance may not, necessarily, reflect common ideas of what is infernal, and what is celestial. These beings don't conform to mortal stereotypes, after all, so if you want your aasimar to have red skin and delicate horns, and your tiefling to be blue with three eyes, feel free to get nuts with it.
Tip #2: Who Is Your Parent Race?
While many people associate tieflings and aasimar with humans, it's entirely possible for other races to find themselves with a strain of these outsiders' power running through their blood. Elves, dwarves, halflings, gnomes, orcs, and other races can all find members of these native outsiders among their people.
You can only gain the benefits of one racial template at a time, but it can be an interesting exercise to ask what would happen when you combine a touch of the outer planes with a race we don't typically think of. Someone like Ba'al Skullcrusher, a hulking orc with the pelt of a bear and huge tusks that can rip steel like it was paper, might rise to a position of war leader and battle champion through the power of their infernal legacy. Van Canta may claim elven heritage, but her tread on the world is so light she leaves no footprints, and can even walk across water if she needs to.
Tip #3: Where Were You Raised?
With many fantasy races, it's expected that you'll be born among your own kind. When it comes to tielflings and aasimar, though, they tend to be significantly less common. Many times there might only be one or two of them in a region, barring the dense population of a city, or cultural norms that leave the populous more open to the influence of the outer realms.
So another thing to keep in mind is to ask what sort of community your native outsider grew up in, and how they were treated as a result of their heritage?
For example, was your aasimar a local celebrity in their small town, constantly being asked to bless children or to make light burst as proof of their divine heritage? Was your tiefling shunned, and their family whispered about since their child was considered proof of their lack of spiritual purity? Or were you raised in a place where those things were reversed? Alternatively, were you raised in a city where even your unusual traits weren't something that could disrupt the flow of the cosmopolitan neighborhoods? Or did you grow up deep in the forest, the mountains, or the desert, rarely seeing other people at all? Were you raised in a wizard's collective, the subject of study as much as a child of the community? Were you born in a monastery, or a holy sept, giving you a definite connection to the world of faith and your place within the greater scheme?
These things have just as much impact on who your character is, and how they grow up. So think through them, and remember their racial template still has to be mixed in with their family, their friends, their community, their early beliefs, religion, and so on, and so forth.
Lastly, keep in mind it's possible for some of these characters to be raised away from the material plane. I mentioned this in How To Build Thor in The Pathfinder RPG, but it bears repeating since it can lead to some unusual character backstories.
Tip #4: What Creature Are You Descended From?
While the blood of these native outsiders is quite diluted, one of the interesting things you can do is to trace them back along the celestial or infernal legacies to figure out where they came from.
There are two different ways to go about this. The first is to trace it back through the mortal side, figuring out how this bloodline came about, and what events first set it into motion. Also, while the most obvious is that someone bore a child to an extraplanar creature, keep in mind what I said back in 5 Tips For Playing Better Sorcerers; there are all sorts of ways to acquire this template if you want to get creative with it. An ancient line of warrior priests whose divine blessing from their patrons has manifested in their blood? A forgotten branch of a royal family cursed for their blood magic and depravity, their thrones long crumbled to dust but their descendants still bearing the spiritual taint of their forebears' sins and heinous rituals? Even an ancestor who was a sellsword that was bound to a cursed or blessed weapon, and fathered bastard children on a camp follower could be the single event that started the line that led to your current PC if the spirit in that bond was able to push some of their essence into the conception.
The second method is to trace where your heritage comes from on the outsider end of things. You can choose a broad category of angel, celestial, devil, daemon, or other creature, and then work that in subtly to your character's appearance to give hints to those learned in the denizens of the outer planes. Or you could craft a history for a specific individual who started your line, and how they first crossed your family's path. Was your line of tieflings first sired by an angel who fell, and your family fell with them? Did the wild tribesmen once worship a lord of the forest, and he bore them powerful children, that lineage remaining strong through the generations all the way down to you? Do you know the names and titles of your ancestor, and could you find out how to summon them if such was required? Do you suddenly find out that you're important in the society of a particular outer plane, as beings may assist you to try to curry favor with your progenitor? Or are you simply ignored, unknown even to the one who had a hand in shaping your legacy?
There are a number of directions you can go with this, and a lot of them will require getting your DM on board before you go too far. It can, however, result in a great deal of depth being added to your character.
Tip #5: What Strange Habits Do You Have?
Tieflings and aasimar are strange creatures with abilities and powers that mortals simply don't possess. They also have resistances that can play into how they experience the world, and the things they find pleasant, and unpleasant.
As an example, a tiefling might use extreme heat to help destress them. Putting their feet physically into a fire, or nearly boiling themselves in water or oil as a way to relax at the end of the day. An aasimar might need to use strong acid to get their teeth really clean, or to exfoliate their skin. Both might forget that winter clothing is appropriate, unbothered by chill that would do serious damage to those born solely of one realm. And that's before we get into the strange and bizarre things they might eat. A tiefling that likes to crunch burning coals the way some people might have an after-dinner mint? An aasimar who subsists almost entirely off of honey and wine?
In addition to their odd habits and tastes, both tieflings and aasimar can affect the world around them in strange ways simply by existing. A tiefling might curdle milk simply by walking past it, while an aasimar might accidentally turn water to wine. The scent of a tiefling might frighten prey animals, and get predators to treat them as a superior. An aasimar might have a breeze rifling their hair and cloak when preparing for battle, though no one else feels the wind against their skin.
These are the little details that can really hammer home how unusual these creatures are, and they can often be the things people find really memorable about them.