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Troy’s Crock Pot: The Devil Made Me Do It

What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

No Tieflings Allowed

James Wyatt (whose work on the 3E accessories Oriental Adventures and Magic of Incarnum I greatly admire) provides his player handout for his Fourth Edition D&D Greenbriar Chasm campaign in the Dungeon 156 “Dungeoncraft” article. Overall, it’s an instructive piece, and a fair template for other DMs to follow if they are preparing a similar document for their games. 

One interesting tidbit: Wyatt allows the players the use of the shifter using the rules in the Monster Manual (an influence from his landmark contributions to Eberron, perhaps) and any Player’s Handbook race with one notable exception. He’s banned the tiefling for the game he’s DMing.

Now, I don’t know if this is simply a creative decision, a reflection of any personal beliefs (Wyatt ,a former minister, has blogged about his Christianity) that are in conflict with the tiefling’s origins (a human bloodline tainted by diabolic liasons), or if he’s decided like many of us with an old-school bent that tieflings are best kept out of PCs hands and reserved for Planescape games (if Planescape can be considered “old school”). It’s even possible this is in  line with the as-yet-unseen Forgotten Realms campaign guide.

It’s probably not even worth commenting on, except for one thing: Wyatt was a member of both the 4E design and development teams, as well as being the lone author credited on the Dungeon Master’s Guide.  You’d think the first representation of a DM’s campaign on the Wizards of the Coast Website would feature the race that his teams decided should dropkick the poor, misunderstood gnomes from out of the PHB and into the pages of the Monster Manual.

What’s in a name, really?

Did you know that Wolfgang Baur, the outstanding editor of Kobold Quarterly (and a fellow member of the Werecabbage freelancing group), had a hand in naming the tiefling? During his days at TSR, he was asked by a member of the Planescape design team for a German word to describe a creature of devlish origins. The result: “tiefling.” 

It’s a trifling thing, really

OK, but how should you pronounce it?

TY-fling? TEEF-ling? ty-a-FLING?

(For goodness sakes, the first game company to produce an honest-to-goodness pronounciation key for fantastic words gets my thumbs up.)

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21 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: The Devil Made Me Do It"

#1 Comment By Rafe On July 24, 2008 @ 5:45 am

TEEF-ling is the only way I’ve ever heard it pronounced.

I think the Tiefling and Dragonborn both introduce “monster” races to the core races. I know my old DM and a good friend was a little annoyed by the monster-ification of the core races. Personally, I like that they’re both in there. They provide non-Tolkien races.

The decision, I think, may be roleplaying based. I didn’t disallow Tieflings in my game, but I did give a bit of a history for my game which informed the players that Tieflings are not well liked due to their demonic heritage and that they made war against the old empires in the golden days – to resist the empire, the humans made pacts with demon lords (basically, what the PHB says). The players’ decisions were based on what would work for them, and most went human (which is typical for these players). One is a Dragonborn and one is Eladrin. The other three are human.

I think James Wyatt’s decision was similarly arrived at. In earlier ‘episodes’ of his Dungeoncraft articles, he explains why the other races that live in and around Greenbriar are there. He had no explanation why Tieflings or a Tiefling would be in the area, so he simply said they weren’t there and so didn’t include them as start-up playable races.

#2 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 24, 2008 @ 6:39 am

If it’s of Germanic origin, it’s TEEF-ling. (in German, the second vowel of a pair is pronounced long, so my last name has an EYE sound.)

The introduction of Tiefling and Dragonborn are negatives in my book. They needlessly change the game from earlier editions (unlike some of the needed changes), and give the game a bit of a MMORPG feel. Your mileage may vary, etc.

No idea if Wyatt’s religion gets in the way of the race, or if he’s reserved it because of other elements in the game, the way I made the Tiefling race (and the Drow, and many others) off-limits in my Greyhawk game. Rafe’s comments seem to fit.

Quick question: Do members of other religions get questioned about their gaming choices? Or is it only the “uncool” ones? 😉

Finally, it’s the GM’s game. There is nothing stopping a GM from going back to the “old school” races. I’ve had to rewrite both the Gnome and the Halfling race so they wouldn’t step on each other’s (little) toes.

#3 Comment By kmalantic On July 24, 2008 @ 7:03 am

Hey, what about Eladrin? Is it EL-uh-drin or is it el-a-drin (as the a in plant)?

Regardless, I seem to have an unconscious dislike to Tieflings due to my own judeo-christian upbringing to the point where I tend to develop a sour face should a player consider using one. They are a very interesting race, though.

#4 Comment By Ben Overmyer On July 24, 2008 @ 7:18 am

@Kmalantic – Neither. Eladrin is pronounced “el-AH-drin,” at least as far as I’ve been led to believe.

I love tieflings as a concept – anti-heroes struggling to overcome their dark heritage. They tread a fine line, and some succumb to temptation. There is a wealth of roleplaying possibilities there from such a high amount of conflict inherent to the race. No other core race has that.

Dragonborn I’m also enamored of, but for different reasons. I’ve always been fond of the “honorable warrior” archetype in fiction, whether it be Sir Galahad, Worf, or Allen Schezar. A race that is inherently geared towards that is practically tailor-made for me, and the addition of dragon traits makes it only that much better.

However, in the campaign setting I’m writing and using for my own 4E games, Dragonborn have the unfortunate fate to be bastard kin of the Dragons, god-kings that rule the world in a similar way to the dragon-kings of Athas (Dark Sun). Hated for their heritage by common folk and ignored or hunted by their sires, the Dragonborn struggle to maintain their sole guiding light – their undying belief in the Greatest Good and the rules that thus direct their lives. In that, they’re kind of a cross between 4E Tieflings and 3E aasimar.

#5 Comment By LesInk On July 24, 2008 @ 7:38 am

James Wyatt may also just be exploring the time before Emperor Bael Turath. There were no tieflings until then. Heck, that may even be a corner stone to one of his story elements.

I have really strong doubts his religion plays a factor in it.

And, yes, I’ll second TEEF-ling and el-AH-drin pronounciations.

#6 Comment By wampuscat43 On July 24, 2008 @ 9:28 am

Huh. We’ve all been calling them e-LAD-rin, as in “What are the lads up to now?” Who knew?

#7 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On July 24, 2008 @ 9:48 am

What now, brown drow? eh?

My pronunciation sins are well-documented at my gaming table and at work.

Included in my list of woes: a soft i for lycanthropy (li-can-THROW-pee instead of LI-khan-throw-pee), to the aforementioned E-lay-drin instead of el-AH-drin to yes, even my preferred TY-fling instead of the germanic TEEF-ling. I could go on and share with you my real-word vocalization failings, but it only highlights my ignorance.

As I say at work, “There’s a reason I didn’t go into broadcasting.”

#8 Comment By kmalantic On July 24, 2008 @ 9:55 am

Wow, glad I asked. Thanks guys!

#9 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On July 24, 2008 @ 10:16 am

Telas said: Quick question: Do members of other religions get questioned about their gaming choices? Or is it only the “uncool” ones?

You know, that’s a more than fair question. And in my post I tried not to put give any more weight to that possible motivation than any other. Point in fact, I think it’s great that Wyatt is upfront about his faith and gaming interests. And if I had to bet, I’d say it was simply a creative choice, perhaps influenced by whatever is cooking in the Forgotten Realms.

As a member of an “uncool” faith (I’m a Congregationlist) I have to admit that the idea of a tiefling as a player race is a little unsettling to my own sensibilities. I don’t think I would ban it from my game, or even refuse to play such a character, but I can’t shake that feeling.

Given a choice, I’d rather play a gnome (and they’re not exactly the most innocent or saintly folk in mythology, if you get right down to it).
Our gaming conventions are being challenged by this new edition, and that’s not a bad thing either.

Still, it seems an odd choice, doesn’t it? A new game, a new player race — and the first glance we get into a principal designer’s approach to a setting consciously omits it. Perhaps future posts will illuminate this decision.

#10 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On July 24, 2008 @ 10:44 am

Thanks for the answer, Troy. The easy choice would have been to leave it hanging.

Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem playing a Tiefling; per Christian doctrine, we’re all flawed. My wife (practicing Catholic, novice gamer) wouldn’t choose to play one until she was more comfortable with gaming, but she doesn’t have a problem with the concept.

After all, we don’t choose our families, or our heritage. I don’t get to choose if my grandfather’s brother was a Nazi, or my great-grandfather an IRA bomber. (BTW, they weren’t.) I only get to define my life by the choices and decisions I make.

#11 Comment By Millsy On July 24, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

Personally, my problem with the tiefling is more with them being a core race. When the tieflings (and aasimar) were kinda optional, and came with a hefty +1 LA (that was never really worth it, if you were wanting to min-max your character) you had to justify your origins. I liked the idea that they were an unusual race, with some kind of planar involvement somewhere, becuase of the story potential invovled in it.

Making them a core race robs us of that. And I feel a little unconfortable about that (I’m a member of a non-cool religion, I guess, by the way… I’m a Quaker… although I don’t know how cool/non-cool that is in the US… I’m British). And I think it’s great that James Wyatt talks about his religion … and possibly a bit of a shame that we then interpret his decision to ban tieflings as a possible consequence of his faith. Although I’m not having a go at any of you; it is interesting, from a game design point of view, and James Wyatt has made it a discussion issue by his talking about it.

The tiefling (and the dragonborn) inclusion does annoy me more because gnomes got left out.

#12 Comment By Kavonde On July 24, 2008 @ 12:49 pm

Personally, I pronounce them TEEF-ling and el-AH-drin, and my players have picked up my habit. I’ve heard the eladrin pronounced EL-adrin at least a few times, though.

I agree that it’s a bit strange Mr. Wyatt’s not allowing tieflings into his campaign, but I’m actually sort of pleased to hear it. I think it’s an excellent representation of something I’ve been shouting at the winds since 4E came out: you don’t have to use the D&D “world” and the things within it if you don’t want to. No one’s forcing you to have dragonborn, or preventing you from having several massive, civilized empires warring with eachother. If the credited author of the DMG doesn’t allow tieflings, then dammit, then you don’t have to, either. He’s setting a good example.

Of course, it’s a bit late for me, since I already went and shoehorned tieflings and dragonborn into my setting…

#13 Comment By farfromunique On July 24, 2008 @ 1:16 pm

I pronounced them TEE-Flings and el-DAR-in (I’m dyslexic, and so are my roomies). Now that I’ve seen the word more clearly, I pronounce it el-AH-drin.
As far as not allowing Tieflings, I’m more willing to disallow Eladrin. How many races of elf do we need? OTOH, noone in my campaign has yet rolled a tiefling, so…

#14 Comment By Patrick Benson On July 24, 2008 @ 3:53 pm

I was considering not allowing Tieflings, Dragonborn, and Eladrin at all in the 4e campaign that I am planning to start this weekend. To me it just seems like the game is allowing too many exotic choices for the core races. Why play a Human paladin when you can be a Dragonborn paladin? Why be an Elf wizard when you can be an Eladrin wizard? Why be a Halfling rogue when you can be a Tiefling rogue? Those races carry some huge advantages with certain classes (as it seems that they were designed to do). Yet what bothers me more is that they make some of the more traditional races seem less cool and beneficial to play. I could be wrong, but that is the impression that I first had.

Finally I decided that I would trust the game and let the races be included for starting character options. I’ll give them a chance and see where it goes from there. What’s the worse that can happen? They break the game? Not like I haven’t had to recover a session from that kind of problem before. I would hope that if the playtesting revealed the races to cause problems in the game that they would have been scratched from the system. They weren’t, so I might as well take them for a test drive.

As for why Wyatt excluded a race and did his religion influence that decision, well I don’t think that it matters. GMs can choose to do whatever they want with their game. The only people who have the right to question those decisions are the players at that GM’s table. If Wyatt’s beliefs, ideas for the setting, or whims are why he chose to do it those are all fine reasons. It is his game. That is all there is to it.

In the end, I can change whatever I want with the game once I am more familiar with it. Right now I’m not familiar enough with the system. I have to play it some more and run an actual campaign before I can question the design and come to meaningful results. Otherwise I’m just cheating myself and my players.

#15 Comment By John On July 24, 2008 @ 3:59 pm

Can I be both? I don’t like that the “monster” races are in the PHB for queasy-making reasons, but I still wouldn’t disallow them. That may be my AE roots coming out, but I guess I wouldn’t deny my players a cool thing that they want, assuming it’s balanced (and I give the core books the benefit of the doubt on that point).

~ John

#16 Comment By Knight of Roses On July 24, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

I preferred the old tieflings with different looks rather than always with tails and horns. And I do not see how they could ever blend in to a human community with the way they are drawn with massive ram’s horns and thick tails . . . (But that is another debate.)

I will not be using Dragonborn, as I already have draconic races that I prefer, in my campaign and Tieflings will remain as bit players.

#17 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On July 25, 2008 @ 9:33 am

Kavonde wrote: If the credited author of the DMG doesn’t allow tieflings, then dammit, then you don’t have to, either. He’s setting a good example.

Good point. It stresses the other aspect that D&D is always about once you purchase the books: It’s the players’ game. Change what you want and make it your own.

#18 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On July 28, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

When my group started the newest game, I disallowed Tieflings, Dragonborn, and Warlocks. Then everyone laughed at me and we moved on because I wasn’t in the DM seat for this game.

My reason was the following though: Tieflings, Dragonborn, and Warlocks have all the earmarks of the annoying-ass fanboy choices. You might as well have put “good drow” and Jedi in the PHB.

Re: “Quick question: Do members of other religions get questioned about their gaming choices? Or is it only the “uncool” ones?”

I’m much more likely to question the “Cool” ones. For the same reason as above in fact. I’m quite frankly sick and tired of hearing how awesome and oppressed wiccans et al… are.

#19 Comment By Troy E. Taylor On July 30, 2008 @ 7:16 pm

Was my wish fulfilled? At least partially?

Over at Paizo.com, there’s a pronunciation key for the proper nouns in their Pathfinder campaign setting.

It’s a start.

#20 Comment By Martin Ralya On July 30, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

The old Forgotten Realms stuff was always good about pronunciation guides. If memory serves, the old grey box included non-technical phonetic info for every fantastic term.

By non-technical I mean that instead of the (to me) gobbledygook you see in dictionaries — with all the little accents and crap — it was improvised, but made perfect sense: Moonshae = MOON-shay, Amn = AWM. I loved that approach, and used it for years in my own games.

Semi-related: The Forgotten Realms Adventures hardback had a page detailing the collective nouns for inhabitants of specific cities and locales. So a person from Amn is an Amnian, while a person from Mulmaster is a Mulmasterite. That book is crazy-awesome in all sorts of little geeky ways like that.

#21 Pingback By Random News Table | UncleBear On August 28, 2008 @ 11:50 am

[…] The Devil Made Me Do It – Gnome Stew James Wyatt provides his player handout for his Fourth Edition D&D Greenbriar Chasm campaign in the Dungeon 156 “Dungeoncraft” article. One interesting tidbit: He’s banned the tiefling for the game he’s DMing. (tags: d&d) […]

#22 Comment By GiacomoArt On May 13, 2009 @ 8:20 am

@ Matthew J. Neagley: “Tieflings, Dragonborn, and Warlocks have all the earmarks of the annoying-ass fanboy choices. You might as well have put “good drow” and Jedi in the PHB.”
Thirty years ago, I was an annoying Tolkien fanboy who kept playing halfling characters; and I’ll always think of Vampire: The Masquerade as that little indie game for annoying Anne Rice fanboys, but lately I’m hearing internet chatter about “old school” World of Darkness. The only difference between an annoying fanboy choice and a classic option is nothing but the passage of time.
Myself, I’ve always recoiled from things that are trendy or just excessively popular — I love taking the road less traveled — and I’m a little scared of where people are going to take Dragonborn characters just because I know where they’ve taken similar characters in on-line RPGs. But when we as gamers get to griping that options are inferior quality just because they (supposedly) appeal to unsophisticated emotions, we’re turning into the very people who used to sneer at us for being such childish losers that we’d play RPGs at all.