D&D: Are winged Tieflings an abomination?

March 03, 2019

About a month ago I started cooking up an idea to make a Witcher/Supernatural inspired campaign (which may or may not come to fruition). Inspired by the half-angel nephilim, I wanted to take it further and create an half-angel half-demon character, so I started doing some research on lore. I found out that, both in the Supernatural universe and in Chatolicism, there is no such thing as a half-angel half-demon creature. On top of that, in Chatolicism there aren't even demons as we know them since demons are only fallen angels, so technically you couldn't even have an half-demon either. But I could still have my half-angel half-demon concept... in D&D. If I paired a celestial and a fiend, I'd end up with a creature half-aasimar half-tiefling.

Eventually, I found out that there is a Winged Bloodline tiefling variant, which is basically a tiefling but with an added flying speed.

And that's how it all began. That's how I went down the rabbit hole. I started doing some research on winged tieflings and found threads upon threads of people trashing this variant, stating that they would never allow this variant in their games because Fly is a 3rd level spell and having a flying speed at level 1 was too OP. Some even went as far as saying they'd never allow winged tieflings in their games because they were "pointless" or "an abomination".

That reminded me that, the first time I saw the Avariel (which are basically winged elves) that was exactly my first reaction: they were pointless abominations.  They were abominations because since when are elves supposed to have wings and fly!? and pointless because, when I looked at the image of the avariel, I didn't see a winged elf, I saw a celestial. Therefore, I thought this was not bringing anything new to the game, thus being pointless.


When I see a winged tiefling, I don't see an "abomination", a concept I was never faced with before, liked the winged elves. I see an imp, I see an incubbus/succubus, I see a cambion, I see a horned devil... I see a fiend.

However, after my initial visceral "The fuck is this?" reaction to the avariel, I realized that winged elves are not pointless. Yes, they may look like celestials, but celestials are not a playable race and, the closest thing we have to a celestial, the aasimar, don't have an inherent flying speed. So they do fill a niche in D&D that some people might find appealing.

Also, I never questioned the avariel having a flying speed at level 1 and never thought it would be "too OP" (I guess I just sort of trust that WotC know better than that), so why do some people (a lot of them) so passionately believe that having an inherent flying speed at level 1 is game breaking, and are they right? Are they seeing something that Wizards missed?

I think the problem here is that most people see the winged tiefling as a counterpart for the aasimar, and the half-celestials only get cosmetic wings, but not an inherent flying speed. But the winged tiefling and the avariel are just variants, the core race is not a flying race.

There is, however, an inherently flying race in D&D: the aarokocra. Aarokocras have been around for a while and they have a flying speed of 50 ft. and not 30 like the avariel and the winged elves. Anyways, let's get back on track here.

Is having an inherent flying speed at level 1 really so OP and game breaking?

If I'm being honest, since I'm fairly new to the world of D&D, I've never played a flying race so far and neither have the players in my group but, from what I read online, the DMs that are banning such races from their games before the campaign even starts seem to be overreacting and suffering for anticipation. Here's what the players (and some DMs) who have actually played such races have to say in their defense:

  • Run the first adventure in an underground dungeon and give a toon of Winged Boots as treasure. Flying doesn't matter in the first dungeon and now everyone can fly.
  • There are plenty of situations where fly either can't be used or is actually not that useful: inside a building, inside a dungeon, in a forest, during a social encounter, in an encounter where the opponents have ranged attacks, in an encounter where the foes can also fly.
  • A flying speed of 30 ft. isn't hard to deal with. As others have said, ranged enemies. There are gunslinger weapons with a max range of 1200 feet.
  • Weather. Not all the time, 'cause there are plenty of sunny days. But if you have a melee focused boss in the outside, maybe it's raining that day, or it's windy. Maybe there's a fire and the smoke blokes their field of view.
  • Flying is deeply overrated as a mechanic. Flying is downright dangerous in some situations, useless in others.
  • No one fears being knocked Prone quite like a flying character. Your speed becomes 0 and you instantly fall and take falling damage.
  • You increase your chances of falling during a battle since there's all sorts of effects or status that would result in a fall (hold person, sleep, unconscious, etc).
  • I had an Astral Deva PC in a 3.5 game die outright from being knocked out in an aerial battle with an Erinyes about 100 feet up. Flying ain't all it's cracked up to be, especially in an edition where average damage from falling 30 ft. means instant death.
  • If the wings get injured, you might not be able to fly for a while.
  • Consider a situation in which flight is useful. Crossing a chasm? Great - it's still a medium humanoid who cannot carry others, but might be able to carry a rope. Is that truly a subversion, or just a solution?
  • A tiefling with wings looks an awful lot like a demon. Play that up. If the peasants and people they are trying to help are scared of them, they can't get any jobs. If they're trying to hide from someone or trying to do espionage then a winged tiefling is easy to spot and easy to remember as there aren't a lot of those in most worlds. Encourage them to hide it while in public so as to avoid confrontation.

What do you make of all this? Would you still be reluctant to accept such races in your games, or would you welcome them with open arms? Let me know in the comments below.

Go ahead, treat yourself to something else:


:) :( ;) :D :-/ :P :-O X( :7 B-) :-S :(( :)) :| :-B ~X( L-) (:| =D7 @-) :-w 7:P \m/ :-q :-bd