Dungeons & Dragons started introducing kenku in the Monster III Manual for Edition 3.5. They are a race of wingless bird creatures that resemble crows. Initially just another evil human race for player characters to defeat, they were introduced as a playable race in the 5th Ed. the development of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.
You might be wondering what kenku player racing adds to the game, where there are already bird races that can be used perfectly. Aarakocra also comes with wings! Well, kenku has a lot of delicious flavors to mix with your roleplaying experience. If you’re thinking of playing, consider some of these tips.
1. Work With Your DM
Admittedly, kenku with all their familiarity might be a tough race to play. If you’re a first-time player or not convinced to get into the roleplay aspect of the game, it’s easy to understand. It is highly recommended that you use your DM as a resource if there is anything you would like to discuss your character and how it fits into the campaign. A common solution to speech issues is to have characters who are blessed with regular speech by a god or protector … as long as they do god bidding. Your DM is there to help, so see what you can find together.
2. Make Use of Lore
The kenku lore is fun! That’s what attracted a lot of players to the race in the first place. Not many other racing players have a lot of meat to play and choose motifs that are baked straight into the race mechanics. You can play kenku who are trying to find their creator and get their voice back. You can be an ambitious poet painstakingly fighting against the curse of “not creativity.” Or you can even be a witch hoping to learn a flying spell and rub it on your Lord’s face. Have fun with it!
3. Lean To The Weirdness
Talking to kenku was a strange experience. For any NPC not used to such interactions, it might be unpleasant, as some birds make incomprehensible noises at you. Or maybe your character is someone who is around old people and knows a lot of words … just they’re all in different people’s voices. How anxious is it to have some much -voiced horror trying to bargain the price of a healing potion? You might change these small attributes to your advantage. Use your terrible voice to scare the store owner and see how the situation goes.
4. Play To Your Strength
As with any race played, there are certain bonuses kenku receive to their stats during creation. They get a +2 boost for their Agility score, as well as a +1 for their Wisdom. Dex bonuses make them an obvious choice for rogues and the history in their games supports them. Many kenku are killers or thieves, so it only makes sense their statistics would reflect that.
But there are other options as well. The rise of Dex and Wis means they will also make excellent rangers, perhaps isolated individuals who repel the criminal tendencies of their peers. Or even kenku bard, who mimics the sound of instruments with their voices!
5. Dan Forge, Too
Their ability to imitate and remind doesn’t just spread their voice. They also have a property called Expert Forgery, which allows them to easily recreate any document or handwriting, as long as they have seen the original sample. Do you need certain documents to enter the city legally? Call kenku. Or maybe you want to make a note that will draw some important figures from the safety of their fort. As long as you can get your nails on the sample, you’re ready. The kenku skill set really lends itself to creative problem solving, so not every session should turn into a fight.
6. Mimic, Mimic, Mimic!
kenku‘s curse doesn’t just take their voices — it gives them incredible capacity. We’re sure there are some bad players out there already figuring out ways to exploit this little trick. You can use kenku’s natural mimicry as a means of distraction, such as the sound of shouting to attract some guards. Or you can trick NPCs into revealing sensitive information, perhaps by making them believe you are a close friend. The opportunities are unlimited.
7. Remember Your History
With your character’s background in mind, you can start building a character that is fully (even unintentionally). Remember how kenku could only repeat things they had heard before? That seems to imply that the kenku has an incredible ability to retract. Do you remember every sound you’ve ever heard, let alone enough to imitate?
So, if you have a history for your character, start thinking about sounds they might have heard before. The sound of a busy city or a living forest? Do they live around other races? Do they know any words at all? It can make a big difference during the game.
8. Come with Backstory
There is so much potential for an interesting backstory when making a kenku traveler. They were originally very large creatures, living in groups of ragtag brigands or assassins. According to their descriptions, they now tend to be small and brilliant children in the following order. Is your character a renewed son of an evil master trying to atone for sin? Are they looking for a way to undo the curse of their people? Or are they just looking for the next Big Bad to promise their services? There is a lot of flexibility for where you come from.
9. Don’t Assume All Birds Can Fly
At the same time the kenku lost their voices, they also lost their wings. They are a nation that can no longer fly. Their flavoring text explains that you often find flocks of kenku living in tall, dilapidated towers because they desperately want to be near the sky. Isn’t that sad? That’s the kind of tragedy ripe for creating a traveler. However, do not choose this race because you want to play a graceful flying bird. That is what aarakocra means.
10. Creative Speaking
When reading the Volo Guide , one of the first things you’ll notice about kenku is that they can’t talk. At least, not in the way most racing can be. According to their legend, kenku were robbed of the power of speech as punishment for plotting to overthrow their creator. So instead of the usual old conversations, instead kenku has the power to imitate. They can almost mimic any sound or voice. It adds a bit of challenge to roleplaying, but part of the fun of kenku is learning to get creative with your speech. Try to describe the sound your character makes, or imitate it yourself.