Tieflings and evil tendencies / temptations


Pathfinder Second Edition General Discussion


I like the whole infernal temptation thing that tieflings have to contend with. While their heritage page makes it clear that nothing is actually forcing tieflings to do evil, their curse does tempt them in one way or another. What I'm wondering is how exactly that works or how would one play a tiefling that is struggling with that. Is it an actual devil on your shoulder situation? Do you hear voices? Or is it more mundane in nature? Probably different to each tiefling but what are some thoughts on it?


Personally, I would generally let it fall somewhere between natural aptitude and a sense of fulfillment.

A devil tiefling might have a natural gift for manipulation. Or, regardless of whatever else they find fulfilling in life, "using the law" and "getting someone to agree with what I want" are both on the list. The overall results is that a tiefling who chooses to act like their fiendish counterpart will generally find themselves doing something they are good at and that provides them with a sense of fulfillment. That's more than plenty of people get, so it can be easier to fall into those patterns than trying to find those things such a combination the hard way, or settle for something "good enough".


QuidEst wrote:

Personally, I would generally let it fall somewhere between natural aptitude and a sense of fulfillment.

A devil tiefling might have a natural gift for manipulation. Or, regardless of whatever else they find fulfilling in life, "using the law" and "getting someone to agree with what I want" are both on the list. The overall results is that a tiefling who chooses to act like their fiendish counterpart will generally find themselves doing something they are good at and that provides them with a sense of fulfillment. That's more than plenty of people get, so it can be easier to fall into those patterns than trying to find those things such a combination the hard way, or settle for something "good enough".

That's an interesting take. Certain aptitudes could nudge tieflings down paths of evil. If the curse manifests that way, it's quite sinister since you couldn't distinguish between the curse and happenstance. Maybe that's the point.


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I like making the curse, if there is one, super blurry and difficult to quantify. Like a tiefling might be good at manipulation because devils are good at it, or because societal expectations pushed them toward those sorts of interactions so they had lots of practice, or both.


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There's a tv show called Justified, about a US Marshall & his trials & tribulations dealing with criminals in the hill country of Kentucky, living as essentially a modern day cowboy. Pretty good, on the whole.

In one episode, one of the main characters who's a career criminal and child hood friend of the Marshall, is trying to go straight & reform, but gets roped into a heist plot with some of his coworkers at the local coal mine, who plan on betraying & murdering him after the heist is done. However, he outsmarts them, catches onto their plan, outmaneuvers them & foils the heist, killing them both and saving the life of the security guard at the mine in the process.

Later when explaining to his romantic partner what had happened & why he did what he did, she asked him why he didn't just call the Marshall & turn the criminals in, rather than going through with the heist & murdering them before they got the chance to kill him.

His response was something along the lines of, "Would you believe that the thought of doing that legitimately never occurred to me?"

All that's to illustrate, for some people, when faced with a problem, the instinct is towards the dangerous, the violent, the destructive, the manipulative. And the idea of doing something in what society would consider the "right way" doesn't immediately enter their minds as an option.

Take that to an extreme, it can lead towards behavior that can be categorized as evil.

Now, that can be checked by introspection, consideration, and self control over impulsiveness.

Anyway, that's my thoughts on the subject.

Shadow Lodge

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Personally I disregard such notions.

If you have your own brain and the ability to make your own choices you are able to shape your own morality.
There is nothing biological that pushes you towards evil.

Quite frankly I do not even assign evil impulses to full bred demons.
Demons traditionally and culturally chose to maintain the evil and chaotic ways they are born and raised into but they are not irremediably hardwired to be chaotic evil.
Is just simpler for them given their circumstances, also those who do not exhibit a chaotic and evil mindset tend to not make it far in the abyss but they are as morally independent as any other thinking being.

The real thing that risk pushing Tiefling towards evil is prejudice and societal expectations


Scarletrose wrote:

Personally I disregard such notions.

If you have your own brain and the ability to make your own choices you are able to shape your own morality.
There is nothing biological that pushes you towards evil.

Quite frankly I do not even assign evil impulses to full bred demons.
Demons traditionally and culturally chose to maintain the evil and chaotic ways they are born and raised into but they are not irremediably hardwired to be chaotic evil.
Is just simpler for them given their circumstances, also those who do not exhibit a chaotic and evil mindset tend to not make it far in the abyss but they are as morally independent as any other thinking being.

The real thing that risk pushing Tiefling towards evil is prejudice and societal expectations

I mostly agree with you, but do disagree about evil aligned outsiders. I do believe they are naturally going to be evil, however like any creature, with effort they can change so they are not irredeemably evil. However, I also believe the amount of effort is incredibly high, because the souls that created the devil/demon/daemon in the first place were evil. They are made from the essence of evil.

But tieflings, no. I do not believe one wit that they are predispositioned innately to evil, but do think that the societies they tend to grow up in will make them like resented outsiders and it is easy for them to fall down an evil path.


For tieflings, aasimars, and other "leans towards X alignment" ancestries it is not a curse that's causing it, just the natural way that they process things.

First, there is the whole "altruism gene" (which yes it is a real thing) where an individual is more likely to help someone that shares said gene. So depending on your genes you might be more or less altruistic and as defined by the game (when greatly simplified) "altruist = good" and "selfish = evil". In the case of extra-planar creature there would not only be a gene, but also straight up aligned matter influencing what you might want to do. Afterall, angels behave "gooder" than devils so an angelkin will behave "gooder" than a devilkin.

Second, there is the whole "aggressiveness genes" (again it is a real thing) where a set of genes can increase the chances of a creature being aggressive. This one has been specially shown with selective breeding and domestication of dogs that result in a spectrum of how aggressive a dog might be. Even humans have a bit of it, and it stands to reason that extraplanar creatures might have even more of it.

Third, there is the mental/psychological reasons why some people behave more or less selfishly/violent. Some people are born sociopath/psychopaths, others are born caregivers, etc. being born with extraplanar matter can easily influence this such that a given type of personality trait or mental condition is more likely to appear. For example, hungerseed tieflings are more likely to search and hunger for pleasure by nature of their Oni blood, in other words they are more likely to be hedonistic.

Fourth, just straight up how they grew up and how much they liked it. The very first aasimar in Pathfinder is evil because they were effectivelg abandoned, made fun of, and otherwise abused with the only consolation being visions from an evil god. Tieflings looking like some of the most evil creatures would naturally get bad looks by nature of most people only looking at the surface. This can easily lead to a creature deciding to either prove them wrong (do good) or prove then right (do evil).

Finally, do also note that some tiefling ancestries are related to creatures who on a fundamental most primal level want to destroy everything and whose physical traits are revolting or disturbing. The idea of the hot tiefling is a very narrow one that only really fits some of the ancestries. The motherless more often than not kill their own mother to leave the womb or the shackleborn having scars since before they are born. All of this and the association with evil creatures makes it so people in general outright dislike tieflings, prompting a tiefling to either accept how people treat them and double down (do evil) or refute the whole thing and prove then wrong (do good).

Scarab Sages

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It could be something as simple as social pressures. If everyone expects you to be evil, treats you like you're evil, and does evil to you what's that do your perception of the world. Maybe there's no cosmic call towards evil that tieflings feel just like there's no cosmic influence on an celestial sorcerer. The cross section of nature and nurture are nuanced areas of discussion and nothing says you have to be burdened by a call to evil or goodness b/c of an ancestor getting nasty in the past-y.

For an example:
Maybe that sorc gets up to propping themselves up as the head of a cult and does some wicked stuff in 'the name of heaven.' Maybe the tiefling's skepticism due to years of getting dumped on make them the perfect needed hero to point out that sorc is just using everyone.


I've played a N leaning NE Aasimar Thief that resented the impression that his parentage should somehow determine his goodness...


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Pixel Popper wrote:
I've played a N leaning NE Aasimar Thief that resented the impression that his parentage should somehow determine his goodness...

reminds me of the first major villain of rise of the runelords is an assimar cultist of lamassu who resented the expectations and assumptions people placed on her by the nature of her birth


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Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I imagine it as dark thoughts coming to mind unbidden. Like walking into a bank and imagining robbing it, even though you'd never do such a thing.

I believe an old coworker once referred to it as the impish impulse. Looking it up just now, I didn't see anything like that, but I did find something called "the imp of the perverse," which perfectly describes the phenomenon.


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Ravingdork wrote:

I imagine it as dark thoughts coming to mind unbidden. Like walking into a bank and imagining robbing it, even though you'd never do such a thing.

I believe an old coworker once referred to it as the impish impulse. Looking it up just now, I didn't see anything like that, but I did find something called "the imp of the perverse," which perfectly describes the phenomenon.

Haven't heard of that but I have heard of the phrase "intrusive thoughts". Intrusive thoughts are spontaneous but can also be triggered, and they tend to be disturbing.

There is also the concept of the angel/devil siting on your shoulder, and conscience. In both cases "voices" telling you "What is the correct choice".

In any case, it wouldn't be hard to extrapolate different versions for each planar ancestry.

**************

* P.S. It could very well be represented by the Id (instinct for what alignment they lean), Ego (what alignment they are), and Super Ego (what alignment society/culture supports). At least if you follow Freudian psychology.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

The eternal nature vs. nurture debate...

"Temperans' wrote:

First, there is the whole "altruism gene" (which yes it is a real thing) where an individual is more likely to help someone that shares said gene...

Second, there is the whole "aggressiveness genes" (again it is a real thing) where a set of genes can increase the chances of a creature being aggressive...

Third, there is the mental/psychological reasons why some people behave more or less selfishly/violent...

Fourth, just straight up how they grew up and how much they liked it...

zeonsghost wrote:
It could be something as simple as social pressures. If everyone expects you to be evil, treats you like you're evil, and does evil to you what's that do your perception of the world.

As with most things, the answer is usually "a bit of both" or "all of the above."

Personality traits such as aggressiveness, empathy, etc. are generally strong tendencies, like DISC or Myers-Briggs "personality types," that are not "deterministic" in most individuals. They are somewhat "hard-coded," but only in the sense of what the individual is more comfortable with.

There are "unbalanced" personalities, which can be the result of physiological (neuro-chemical, congenital, etc.) issues or the effects of trauma (drugs, injuries, PTSD, etc.), to complicate things even more. Determining the root cause of a person's actions is something that can baffle even professional psychiatrists/psychologists sometimes.

However, one of the stronger correlations to a person's attitude/moral character is the expectations of their family, peer group, and society (all three and how they interact each play a factor). Most of the time, people usually live up (or down) to what "important" (who exactly that is depends on the individual) others expect of them.

We are social creatures, after all.

Side note: I am not a professional psychiatrist/psychologist, myself. However, I spent 20 years in the military (16 of them as a non-commissioned officer/senior non-commissioned officer) and am currently a supervisor and often a team leader on projects in my civilian job. I do have a decent amount of training on and practical experience with leadership/management and dealing with various personalities to get people to work together. As many parents will relate, "I/we expect you to..." often works better long term than "because I said so."


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Our brains are both logical and emotional, as well as processing on both the conscious and unconscious level. In many cases the emotional/unconscious decision-making happens first (it's faster and better suited for fight/flight survival imperatives) with the logical/conscious decision-making happening after the fact to determine context, (internal) justification, and determine consequences.


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In the mythological version of demons, devils, and the like in fantasy types of games, evil is a real thing just like gravity or heat. It is an integral part of overall fabric of the fantasy universe manifested in creatures like devil and demons whose purpose is cause evil in some fashion which often manifests as murder, corruption, unnecessary conflict including war and feuds, and the like.

So a Tiefling being imbued with this mythological idea of evil as an existing force in the fabric of fantasy reality, then that force that is a part of their being pushes them to do things that align with the universal force of evil.

May be voices in their head, a conflicting conscience, a natural violent impulse, whatever you come up with to make it fun and interesting.

Simple stupid evil can be pretty boring with some guy that randomly murders people to be the strongest. But conflicted, complex evil can be fun to roleplay where you fight against the impulses of your nature to become something else.

There is no hard answer to your question. In these fantasy games, you can take it in a lot of different directions.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

For Tieflings, I would just have it be societal. They aren't born evil, but there is a high probability they are going to have pretty unhappy childhoods and face a lot of discrimination from their peers. You are a walking reminder to your parents that they survived some horrific black magic event or ritual, or that they dabbled in things they shouldn't have, or that some ancestor in there past did and brought shame on them. People you meet will assume you are evil or even that you are a demon.

And you are likely to be sought out by disreputable folks you want to use your reputation and scariness, so on top of all of that there is also the "fall into a bad crowd" problem.


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Been watching Evil on Paramount. One of the most insidious forms of evil, and the type I think the villains(are they demons? Devils? Hallucinations? Just straight up crazy folks? Who knows?!?) most embody is the evil of actively getting good people to stand by and do nothing, usually through getting them to give in to despair, fear or frustration. I think Tieflings have to deal with all three of those in spades.

Also, check this out!

Scarab Sages

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Deriven Firelion wrote:

In the mythological version of demons, devils, and the like in fantasy types of games, evil is a real thing just like gravity or heat. It is an integral part of overall fabric of the fantasy universe manifested in creatures like devil and demons whose purpose is cause evil in some fashion which often manifests as murder, corruption, unnecessary conflict including war and feuds, and the like.

So a Tiefling being imbued with this mythological idea of evil as an existing force in the fabric of fantasy reality, then that force that is a part of their being pushes them to do things that align with the universal force of evil.

May be voices in their head, a conflicting conscience, a natural violent impulse, whatever you come up with to make it fun and interesting.

Simple stupid evil can be pretty boring with some guy that randomly murders people to be the strongest. But conflicted, complex evil can be fun to roleplay where you fight against the impulses of your nature to become something else.

There is no hard answer to your question. In these fantasy games, you can take it in a lot of different directions.

I want to build off this in a weird direction. In a world with an evil that is a force of nature, a Tiefling could be schmuck bait to lure people to evil through no fault of their own. Create an evil Tiefling, get one evil person. Create a tiefling in a society conditioned to fear things like tieflings, get a whole bunch of people do give into their worst selves and do a bunch of evil. If that Tiefling isn't evil, all the better. People love to dig in when forced to justify their bad actions. Cause more division and discord.


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zeonsghost wrote:
Deriven Firelion wrote:

In the mythological version of demons, devils, and the like in fantasy types of games, evil is a real thing just like gravity or heat. It is an integral part of overall fabric of the fantasy universe manifested in creatures like devil and demons whose purpose is cause evil in some fashion which often manifests as murder, corruption, unnecessary conflict including war and feuds, and the like.

So a Tiefling being imbued with this mythological idea of evil as an existing force in the fabric of fantasy reality, then that force that is a part of their being pushes them to do things that align with the universal force of evil.

May be voices in their head, a conflicting conscience, a natural violent impulse, whatever you come up with to make it fun and interesting.

Simple stupid evil can be pretty boring with some guy that randomly murders people to be the strongest. But conflicted, complex evil can be fun to roleplay where you fight against the impulses of your nature to become something else.

There is no hard answer to your question. In these fantasy games, you can take it in a lot of different directions.

I want to build off this in a weird direction. In a world with an evil that is a force of nature, a Tiefling could be schmuck bait to lure people to evil through no fault of their own. Create an evil Tiefling, get one evil person. Create a tiefling in a society conditioned to fear things like tieflings, get a whole bunch of people do give into their worst selves and do a bunch of evil. If that Tiefling isn't evil, all the better. People love to dig in when forced to justify their bad actions. Cause more division and discord.

Thanks for holding a mirror up to society and life on this planet.

Tieflings can represent whatever common scape goat is used in your neck of the woods to create division and other-ing people.

Liberty's Edge

Reminds me of a medieval take on corruption of the soul.

A demon could possess you and make you do evil things.

What mattered for the state of your soul was how you reacted to doing these things.

If you had regrets, repented and made amends, your soul was fine.

If you defended the evil acts you did and justified them, you were on the road to hell.

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