December 2, 2015


Comments from the Finger: My players fondly remember Aayou, a kenku vagabond who showed up my campaign. I took the opportunity to use his mimicry to flesh out his backstory, which he was unable to describe properly: sometimes he would repeat something he heard in some truly terrifying circumstances- long unbroken dialogues from people now dead, whom only Aayou survived.

A cloaked humanoid clings to the shadows. It has birdlike talons instead of hands and feet, and beneath the cowl of its robe you can discern avian features -- beady black eyes, a black beak, and russet-brown feathers. I nervously glance about, searching the shadows for the rest of his Flock waiting in ambush.
- The Duke Arston encounters a kenku Flock

Kenku are feathered humanoids that wander the world as vagabonds, driven by greed. They can perfectly imitate any sound they hear.

Speech in Pantomime
Kenku can mimic the sound of anything they hear. A kenku asking for money might make the sound of coins clinking together, and a kenku referring to a busy marketplace can reproduce the cacophony of hawking vendors, barking dogs, bleating sheep, and the cries of street urchins. When mimicking voices, they can only repeat words and phrases they have heard, not create new sentences.
     To converse with a kenku is to witness a performance of imitated sounds and almost nonsensical verse.
     Their talent for mimicry extends to handwriting, and criminal organizations often employ kenku to forge documents. When a kenku commits a crime, it might forge evidence to implicate another creature.

Shiny, Shiny
Kenku are generally enamored with shiny things, and have little qualms with stealing from others and hording shiny baubles they find. It is common to find wandering kenku with small bags of shiny things they have acquired: glass beads, polished coins, pieces of brass, and the odd gemstone in the otherwise valueless mix.

Wingless Vagabonds
Kenku conceal their sleek, dark feathers with ill-fitted cloaks, robes, and rags, which are a mark of their shame. Kenku are flightless, but legend holds that this was not always the case: they once hand magnificent wings and spoke the beautiful language of birds, but both of these were stripped away from them as punishment for their greed. Now kenku jealously hold all birds in contempt and shamefully hide their avian forms.
     In lieu of the ability to fly, kenku wander listlessly, collecting things of little value that appeal to them nonetheless. It is this lifestyle, perhaps, which spurs so many kenku toward being thieves.

Kenku Names
Because kenku have no formal language, and borrow words and sounds to form the concepts they wish to communicate, naming conventions are extremely loose. A kenku's name is as likely to be a nonsense word from Dwarven as it is the exact sound of a dog barking, as it is to be the word 'Scarce' as spoken by a dragonborn with an exotic accent decades ago. Very few rules apply, provided creatures with other languages can approximate it.
     Kenku Names: *Two heavy knocks on wood*, *Oil being poured from a flask with a bloop*, *The jingle of coins in a coinpurse*, *A baby's cry*, "Aay you!", "Leeerooooy!", "Pretty little birdie", "Uncouth", "Prim'anti".

Kenku Traits
Kenku share certain racial traits as a result of their avian ancestry.
     Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and you Intelligence score increases by 1.
     Age. Kenku can live to about 80 years old, and mature around age 10.
     Alignment. Their disposition toward greed means kenku are prone to chaotic alignments.
     Size. Kenku are thin and light, standing no more than 5 feet high and weighing around 130 pounds. Your size is Medium.
     Speed. Your have a base walking speed of 30 feet.
     Ambusher. You have advantage on attack rolls against any creature you have surprised.
     Flocking. You gain a +1 bonus to AC if at least one of your allies is within 5 feet of you and the ally isn't incapacitated.
     Forgery. You also have advantage on checks made to forge a document or mimic a signature.
     Light Footed. You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.
     Mimicry. You can mimic any sounds you have heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful Wisdom (Insight) check opposed by your Charisma (Deception) check.
     Languages. You can read and write Auran and Common. You can only speak languages you know using the Mimicry feature. You also know a smattering of words and phrases from other languages you have mimicked, but must learn a language fully in order to combine mimicked words into new, meaningful sentences.

Changelog: 12/2/15: Mimicry: Now requires an opposed Insight vs your Deception roll


  1. Regarding the Mimicry feature, I feel it would work better requiring an opposed roll of the listener's Insight roll vs the Kenku character's Deception.

    1. Yeah that's totally better. I think I tried to find an example in the Player's Handbook of the best way of doing this, but an opposed check works a lot better.

  2. I really enjoy the names section. I also enjoy the idea of a Kenku player needing to bring a soundboard to a game.

    1. I recommend it to anyone from a roleplay perspective. You have positively no idea how fun it is.

      Because a kenku is only be able to repeat things he has heard, it forces the player to interact with his character's history and backstory every session. It's a lot more immersive than you might think.

  3. What class and/or archetype do you think a Kenku would be the best at? Seems like a Rogue would be best, but what else do you think they'd be good at??

    1. Kenku make ideal rogues, but they also make a mechanically solid base for any character that uses finesse or ranged weapons, like a ranger. Another interesting choice would be to put the mimicry feature to use with a bard's skill in deception and performance, though this isn't mechanically optimal.

    2. they could also make a good bard seeing as bards use charisma modifier for spells and their mimicry would make for good roleplay

  4. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to have a bonus to charisma instead of intelligence on the basis that charisma is the vocal and acting skill ie deception performance persuasion?

    1. I actually went off the highest monster stats for this one. I don't tend to think that kenku are suave gentlemen that are great at lies and persuasion, but they have the unique property of being able to mimic voices.

      In fact, a good way to role play one of these characters might be to place those aspects at odds with one another.

    2. Charisma does not have to be how good looking or how suave they are though just was trying to feel out if it would make it easier for a player to successfully get a [Mimicry. You can mimic any sounds you have heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful Wisdom (Insight) check opposed by your Charisma (Deception) check.] ability off with Deception.

    3. Charisma controls how Persuasive someone is, how good they are at Performance, and how skilled they are at lying. I see the Kenkus being inquisitive and light on their feet, like most birds, and I expect their mimicry to act like a parrot's copying, but I don't think I want them to have the tools to make good bards. They're still sqwacky crow-people, after all. An extra +1 to Charisma might help their Deception a little bit, but I don't think a racial bonus to Charisma accurately describes this race

    4. what I'd do is have Subraces, one with the Charisma and the other with Intelligence or something, so you can have the option of playing a charismatic conman (conbird? conkenku?) or a more standard Kenku.

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