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I'm creating my character for a new campaign, and as it's only my third campaign I'm struggling a bit.

I have been wanting to make a Tiefling for a long time, initially I wanted her to be a warlock but I found that the personality I was giving her was a lot like my first character and my current - quiet, self-destructive, good, etc. So now I'm thinking Lawful Evil Paladin to spice it up a little.

I wrote out part of the backstory as her ancestors noble bloodline being cursed by Beshaba.

Can a Tiefling be a Paladin? If so, How can I make sense of her being that class when she's a Tiefling or would it just be easier to be a Chaotic Evil/Any evil Rogue or something similar?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unrelated to your question, but be sure your DM and party are ok with the alignment choice here, I've seen plenty of games go south when players didn't all buy in to how characters were going to behave. \$\endgroup\$ – Paul Jun 29 '18 at 10:21
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Paladins in D&D 5e don't have to be of good alignment.

Firstly, even in earlier editions of the game, a tiefling could be of any alignment, even lawful good, and become a paladin. In D&D 5e, it's even easier as there are no longer any alignment limits or racial restrictions on any character class.

In particular, the Oath of Vengeance paladin (PHB p87) may suit that character concept.

The Oath of Vengeance is a solemn commitment to punish those who have committed a grievous sin. When evil forces slaughter helpless villagers, when an entire people turns against the will of the gods, when a thieves' guild grows too violent and powerful, when a dragon rampages through the countryside—at times like these, paladins arise and swear an Oath of Vengeance to set right that which has gone wrong. To those paladins—sometimes called avengers or dark knights—their own purity is not as important as delivering justice.

Another paladin type especially suitable for lawful evil characters is Oath of Conquest (Xanathar's Guide to Everything p.37):

The Oath of Conquest calls to paladins who seek glory in battle and the subjugation of their enemies. It isn't enough for these paladins to establish order. They must crush the forces of chaos. Sometimes called knight tyrants or iron mongers, those who swear this oath gather into grim orders that serve gods or philosophies of war and well-ordered might.

There's also the Oathbreaker paladin (Dungeon Master's Guide p.97) who is a formerly good paladin turned to evil. This may not fit your backstory if your character was always evil. The Unearthed Arcana content also includes the Oath of Treachery, a paladin who similarly broke a previous oath, although the description suggests it's more for chaotic evil characters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The DMG subclasses actually do have alignment restrictions, so there's still a bit of that, but not much. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Jun 28 '18 at 16:55
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Yes, a Tiefling can be a Paladin (and Tieflings don't have to be evil)

In general, there is no restriction on any combination of race, class, and alignment in 5th Edition D&D. The very first editions of D&D did restrict Paladins to only being humans, but that restriction was abandoned by 3rd edition, and any race could take up the mantle of a Paladin. 3e and previous editions did also restrict Paladins to a single alignment - Lawful Good - but that doesn't preclude Tiefling Paladins (Tielfings can be Lawful Good despite their heritage, after all). In any event, even that restriction was dropped in 4e onwards, and in 5e the core Paladin class definitely has no restrictions on race or character alignment.

The actual description and flavour given for the class in the manuals does lean very strongly on appeals to goodness and virtue, which makes the idea of an Evil Paladin seem incongruous - this is quite deliberate, as D&D's explicitly preferred style is a story about virtuous heroes, not villains and monsters. However, no actual mechanical rule forbids a Paladin of Evil alignment.

Sacred Oaths

It does get a bit more complicated when it comes to your choice of your Paladin's Sacred Oath and the tenets of those oaths. All of the Oaths available in the Player's Handbook have explicitly Good tenets that the Paladin must follow, and the "Breaking Your Oath" sidebar states:

A paladin tries to hold to the highest standards of conduct, but even the most virtuous paladin is fallible.

...

If a paladin willfully violates his or her oath and shows no sign of repentance, the consequences can be more serious. At the DM’s discretion, an impenitent paladin might be forced to abandon this class and adopt another, or perhaps to take the Oathbreaker paladin option that appears in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

So it's clear that it's not really acceptable for a Paladin holding to these good oaths to be actively evil. It could be an interesting choice to play a character who is philosophically evil, yet for whatever reason has decided to adopt one of these Paladin oaths and be actively good; the disjunction between the way they feel compelled to act and their real feelings certainly sounds like delicious drama for the right kind of players.

If you want to be actively evil, though, you will need to look for different oaths - like the "Oathbreaker" variant from the DMG that is referenced here. Xanathar's Guide to Everything includes a couple of new Paladin Oaths also, one of which is the "Oath of Conquest", featuring tenets like:

  • Douse the Flame of Hope
  • Rule with an Iron Fist
  • Strength Above All

So that's clearly a very good fit for a Lawful Evil Paladin, and nothing seems wrong about a Lawful Evil Tiefling Paladin following the Oath of Conquest. However, as with any character concept, you should probably make sure your DM (and your group) is on-board with the idea. Any other considerations aside, it might be that they don't really want to play a game with evil characters, and would rather stick to more traditional feel-good heroics.

Tieflings don't gotta be evil

Just in case this is a misconception on your part, I will point out that Tieflings are not inherently evil creatures:

Alignment. Tieflings might not have an innate tendency toward evil, but many of them end up there. Evil or not, an independent nature inclines many tieflings toward a chaotic alignment.

The standard fluff suggests that the curse placed upon their bloodline happened far enough back in the ancestry that though their physical appearance is obviously drastically affected, it does not directly influence their morality or actions. So, there's no inherent reason a Tiefling Paladin should be unusual. It's the matter of whether a Paladin can really be evil that is the real issue.

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Yes, a Paladin can be Lawful Evil; however, D&D frequently does not call them paladins; using the terms Fallen, Oath beaker, and Dark Knight instead.

The basic premise of a paladin is:

Becoming a paladin involves taking vows that commit the paladin to the cause of righteousness, an active path of fighting wickedness. roll20 compendium

Additionally, "righteousness" is defined as:

acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin Merriam-Webster

In previous editions, this has required paladins to worship a "god" and restricted them to Lawful Good. However, what is "righteous" or "wicked" depends on who is writing the laws. With polytheism, there are gods of all alignments and any of them could grant powers to a devoted knight and create a Paladin, whose alignment would be the same as the god's.

Since 3e, a Paladin's Devotion to Faith has been replaced with a Devotion to Cause. In 4e, a Paladin's choice of alignment was opened up. Thus, his alignment is only restricted by the tenets he adopts.

For example, the Oath of Vengence would tend toward Chaotic alignments; while an Oath of Conquest could tend toward evil alignments.

Darth Vader would be a prime example of a Lawful Evil Paladin with an Oath of Conquest; Judge Dredd,Chaotic Good with Oath of Devotion; Robocop, Lawful Good with Oath of Vengeance.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a change brought in by 5e - Paladins have been able to be devoted to a cause/alignment, rather than a god, since 3e, which also explicitly allowed for Clerics devoted to pure good/evil/law/chaos. (The Forgotten Realms campaign setting retained the requirement that divine casting classes must be granted their abilities by a specific deity, but that was an exception to the general rules.) \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jun 29 '18 at 10:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer -- thanks for the clarification of 3e rules, I edited my answer \$\endgroup\$ – ravery Jun 29 '18 at 10:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ no worries. Just as a further correction 3e still required paladins to be Lawful Good, it just didn't need them to pick a deity. I think 4e was where the alignment restriction was dropped totally. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Jun 29 '18 at 10:56

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