Sequestered in high mountains atop tall trees, the aarakocra, sometimes called birdfolk, evoke fear and wonder. Many aarakocra aren’t even native to the Material Plane. They hail from a world beyond—from the boundless vistas of the Elemental Plane of Air.
They are immigrants, refugees, scouts, and explorers, their outposts functioning as footholds in a world both strange and alien.
Beak and feather
From below, aarakocra look much like large birds. Only when they descend to roost on a branch or walk across the ground does their humanoid appearance reveal itself. Aarakocra have long, narrow legs that taper to sharp talons.
Feathers cover their bodies. Their plumage typically denotes membership in a tribe. Males are brightly colored, with feathers of red, orange, or yellow. Females have more subdued colors, usually brown or gray. Their heads complete the avian appearance, being something like a parrot or eagle with distinct tribal variations.
Once airborne, an aarakocra leaves the sky with reluctance. On their native plane, they can fly for days or months, landing only to lay their eggs and feed their young before launching themselves back into the air. Those that make it to a world in the Material Plane find it a strange place. They sometimes forget or ignore vertical distances.
The resemblance of aarakocra to birds isn’t limited to physical features. Aarakocra display many of the same mannerisms as ordinary birds. They are fastidious about their plumage, frequently tending their feathers, cleaning and scratching away any tiny passengers they might have picked up. When they deign to descend from the sky, they often do so near pools where they can catch fish and bathe themselves.
Many aarakocra punctuate their speech with chirps, sounds they use to convey emphasis and to shade meaning, much as a human might through facial expressions and gestures. An aarakocra might become frustrated with people who fail to pick up on the nuances; an aarakocra’s threat might be taken as a jest and vice versa.
The idea of ownership baffles most aarakocra. After all, who owns the sky? Even when explained to them, they initially find the notion of ownership mystifying. As a result, aarakocra who have little interaction with other people might be a nuisance as they drop from the sky to snatch livestock or plunder harvests for fruits and grains. Shiny, glittering objects catch their eyes.
They find it hard not to pluck the treasure and bring it back to their settlement to beautify it. An aarakocra who spends years among other races can learn to inhibit these impulses.
Confinement terrifies the aarakocra. To be grounded, trapped underground, or imprisoned by the cold, unyielding earth is a torment few aarakocra can withstand. Even when perched on a high branch or at rest in their mountaintop homes, they appear alert, with eyes moving and bodies ready to take flight.
Most aarakocra live on the Elemental Plane of Air. Aarakocra can be drawn into the Material Plane, sometimes to pursue enemies or thwart their foes’ designs there. Accident might also send a nest of aarakocra tumbling into a world on that plane. A few find their way to such a world through portals on their own plane and establish nests in high mountains or in the canopies of old forests.
Once tribes of aarakocra settle in an area, they share a hunting territory that extends across an area up to 150 kilometers on a side, with each tribe hunting in the lands nearest to their colony, ranging farther should game become scarce.
A typical colony consists of one large, open-roofed nest made of woven vines. The eldest acts as leader with the support of a shaman.
Aarakocra enjoy peace and solitude. Most of them have little interest in dealing with other peoples and less interest in spending time on the ground. For this reason, it takes an exceptional circumstance for an aarakocra to leave his or her tribe and undertake the adventurer’s life. Neither treasure nor glory is enough to lure them from their tribes; a dire threat to their people, a mission of vengeance, or a catastrophe typically lies at the heart of the aarakocra adventurer’s chosen path.
Two other circumstances might call an aarakocra to adventure. First, aarakocra have historical ties to the Wind Dukes of Aaqa. Exceptional individuals honor that connection and might seek out the missing pieces of the Rod of Seven Parts, the remains of an artifact fashioned by the Wind Dukes long ago to defeat the Queen of Chaos’s monstrous champion, Miska the Wolf-Spider.
When plunged into Miska’s body, the chaos in his blood sundered the rod and scattered its pieces across the multiverse. Recovering the pieces means gaining honor and esteem in the eyes of the vaati who forged it and could possibly restore a powerful weapon for defense against the agents of elemental evil.
Second, aarakocra are sworn foes of elemental earth, in particular the gargoyles that serve Ogrémoch, the Prince of Earth. The Aarakocra word for gargoyle is loosely translated as “flying rock,” and battles between aarakocra and gargoyles have raged across the Elemental Planes of Earth and Air, occasionally spilling into a world on the Material Plane. Aarakocra on that plane might leave their colonies to lend aid to other humanoids committed to fighting earth cults and thwarting their efforts.
As with much of their speech, aarakocra names include clicks, trills, and whistles to the point that other peoples have a difficult time pronouncing them. Typically, a name has two to four syllables with the sounds acting as connectors. When interacting with other species, aarakocra may use nicknames gained from people they meet or shortened forms of their full names.
An aarakocra of either gender may have one of these short names: Aera, Aial, Aur, Deekek, Errk, Heehk, Ikki, Kleeck, Oorr, Ouss, Quaf, Quierk, Salleek, Urreek, or Zeed.
Some other species refer to aarakocra by other names.
- Birdfolk is a term that aarakocra aren’t fond of. It would be akin to calling a human apefolk.
As an aarakocra, you have certain traits in common with your people.
Health. Your health increases by 6.
Age. Aarakocra reach maturity by age 3. Compared to humans, aarakocra don’t usually live longer than 30 years.
Size. Aarakocra are about 150 centimeters tall with thin, lightweight, bodies that weigh between 35 and 45 kilos. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 5 meters.
Eagle Eyes. You gain the eyesight of an eagle. You are capable with the Perception skill and you can see up to 2 kilometers away with no difficulty, able to discern even fine details as though looking at something no more than 20 meters away from you.
Low-Light Vision. Your eagle eyes allow you to see in the shadows. You can see twice as far in dim light and dim light doesn’t impose disadvantage on your Perception checks.
Limited Wings. You have wings that give you the following benefits:
- You can use Soften fall from Nimbleness even if you are not capable.
- You have advantage on Athletics checks to Jump and Nimbleness checks to Soften fall.
- As long as you aren’t encumbered by weight, you have a flying speed equal to half your walking speed. This benefit works only in short bursts; you fall if you end your turn in the air and nothing else is holding you aloft.
- At 5th level as part of your move, as long as you aren’t encumbered by weight, you can fly into the air with a flying speed equal to your walking speed for 1 minute. You regain the ability to fly with this trait when you finish a short or long rest.
Upbringing. You have learned to commune with the winds or you have trained for battle. Choose Air Magic or Dive Attack:
Air Magic. You know one cantrip from the Air theme. When you reach 3rd level, choose two spells that cost 1 mana from the Air theme. You know the spells and can cast one without expending mana. You regain the ability to cast one of these spells with this trait when you finish a long rest. If you do not have a spellcasting ability, choose Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma as your spellcasting ability.
At 5th level you regain the ability to cast one of these spells with this trait when you finish a short or long rest. At 13th level your spell is augmented to 2 mana.
Dive Attack. You know the dive attack maneuver. You can use it without expending stamina. You regain the ability to use it with this trait when you finish a long rest.
At 5th level you regain the ability to use this maneuver with this trait when you finish a short or long rest. At 9th level your maneuver is enhanced to 2 stamina, at 13th level your maneuver is enhanced to 3 stamina, and at 17th level your maneuver is enhanced to 4 stamina.
Talons. Your talons are natural weapons, which you can use to make unarmed strikes that you are capable with. If you hit with them, you deal slashing damage equal to 1d4 + your Strength or Dexterity, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
At 5th level, you become proficient with your talons.
At 9th level, your talons become more deadly; the damage increases to 1d6 + your Strength or Dexterity.