DnD 5e: Kenku Race, Abilities and Names, Explained


Naturally skilled and excellent at counterfeiting, the Kenku are one of the best Dungeons & Dragons races to choose when playing a Rogue character.

Many gamers like to avoid stereotypes when planning the Dungeons & Dragons characters they want to play, but some races have very particular skills that align perfectly with specific classes. The Kenku is a perfect example. These avian humanoids have a natural affinity for skills like deception, sleight of hand, stealth, and acrobatics, making them excellent thieves.

The Kenku have a unique history that lends itself well to the Rogue class and gives them certain advantages that other races have to work much harder to achieve. Their distinctive traits also make for struggling but intriguing bards, powerful monks, or capable rangers. With a little structure and a lot of imagination, a Kenku can take on just about any party role and do well.

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What are Kenku in D&D?

Although they are avian in nature, one of the Kenku’s most unique traits is their lack of wings. According to legend, the Kenku were cursed by an ancient deity they once served after they plotted to steal the deity’s most prized possession and flee to the Material Plane with it. As punishment, they were cursed in three of the most gruesome ways a bird could imagine. First, their wings burned off and fell off their bodies, rendering them unable to fly. Second, they were robbed of their creative spark so they could no longer plot and plan. The final punishment was the loss of their voices to ensure they couldn’t steal any of the deity’s secrets and share them with others.

Although they were forced to reinvent their entire way of life, Kenku lacked the mental tools to do so. Wingless to carry them skyward, they still yearn for the freedom they once knew and seek ways to get closer to the clouds by settling into tall ruins or dilapidated towers. Their lack of motivation and imagination prevents them from rebuilding or developing such places. The Kenku live in large herds, with the oldest and most capable (usually called Master) leading the rest. Their inability to think for themselves tends to make them perfect minions, meaning they can easily be corrupted if they fall under the wrong leadership.

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Kenku Abilities in D&D

Kenku Forger D&D

Despite their total lack of creativity and motivation, Kenku are excellent copycats. They are incredibly good at forgery and plagiarism, which often makes them valuable to thieves guilds. However, the same skills that make them great imitators impair their ability to communicate, as they cannot form sounds they have never heard before. Although Kenku can communicate through mimicry, it is not easy for them as they are often forced to use phrases and sounds they have heard plenty to get their ideas across to others.

Yet this ability to imitate makes them excellent information gatherers and spies who can repeat things they have heard, potentially from an unseen position. Kenku starts the game with +2 Dexterity and +1 Wisdom, which lend themselves well to stealth-dependent trades like espionage, theft, or telemetry. They have the option to choose two skills from the following skills: stealth, deception, acrobatics, and sleight of hand, all of which are useful for players looking to excel as thieves, rangers, or even bards.

Kenku Names in D&D

Kenku’s mimicry skill is how many determine their names, as they derive specific sounds from actions to define themselves. For this reason, there is no real distinction between male and female nouns. For example, a warrior can mimic the sound created by his weapons, giving himself a simple name like Clanger, because it resonates with his weapon. Roguish Kenku can be given a name that mimics the natural sounds they transmit to each other during stealth operations, such as the chatter of squirrels, the squeaks and scratches of rats, or the hoots of owls, earning them names like Rat Scratch or Squirrel. A sailor can imitate the sound of sails flapping in the ocean wind, resulting in a name like Sail Snap.

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Why You Should Play D&D as Kenku

Kenku Rogue DnD 5e

Playing as Kenku can be a real challenge due to their limited ability to communicate, but it’s also one of the most appealing reasons to create one from a roleplaying perspective. By combining the right class with the Charlatan background, they can instantly become one of the most innocently deceptive characters in the game. Their natural affinity for mimicry, stealth, and deception makes them excellent thieves and rangers, but getting creative as a player can lead to some interesting class choices.

Their complete lack of creativity combined with their inherent skills could potentially lead to an epic bard who steals and performs the greatest hits and stories of other famous bards across the land, perhaps even impersonating the original creator. These skills could also allow a would-be cleric or paladin to trick others with false miracle cures or false gods. Keep in mind, however, that these epic deceptions wouldn’t be their own idea, so it’s likely to work hand-in-hand with another in-game character or organization that the player and dungeon master might be working with. together to design.

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