I came across the Kenku last week and I really like them. The basic idea is that these are humanoid avians. They are great mimics, infact they have not language of their own but rather string learned phrases together from what they have heard but all in perfectly mimicked form of the original voice. They are also natural thieves.
I am debating as to whether they should be a monster or a race when converting them over to Rolemaster. As a monster they are rather weak but as a race they require a lot more effort from the GM to prepare them before time.
A basic Kenku, as per the D&D to Rolemaster conversion rules is a rather weak creature.
5th level, 55 hits, AT1 DB10 34OB (short sword)/49OB (short bow). They should have a decent Stalk and Hide Skill of at least +25 as well as a +30 Trickery. There is something of the magpie about them and their desire to steal as much as their carrion crow like behaviour. I first encountered the Kenku in a grave robbing encounter so that may have coloured my perception of them. Their big feature is their mimicry. They communicate via mimicked phrases joined together to get the message across. They can also use it to confuse and lure people into traps.
There is great roleplaying protential here with hidden Kenku masquerading as members of the party and giving conflicting orders. They also gather in social groups called flocks, naturally, so you can use any number of these guys. They cannot fly but going by their D&D stats they should have at least a +15 Agility bonus. Play them as fast, stealthy assassin types when defending their territory and there is a great adventure in here. I just want to use them to steal something from the party.
With mimicry there is a lovely opportunity to have witnesses swear under oath that they heard the party talking at the scene of the robbery and with the best megic in the world the witness would be shown to be telling the truth. How were they to know they were hearing a perfect reproduction?
I now have a urge to put a gang of Kenku into my world, set them up near the players and just see what happens. Is there an opportunity for the Kenku to over hear the parties plans? Would the Kenku be interested in stealing what ever it is the party are trying to find or steal? Who will get there first?
I will see if I can work these guys into my game some time soon. If I manage it I will let you rknow how it goes.
5 thoughts on “Is a Kenku a race or a monster?”
Monster. There’s too much inherent behavior and skill development to be a race. I have all my races be completely self-determining(not counting the divine.)
I was thinking the same thing. Orcs are monsters and no more inteligent. I can still play them inteligently even without being a race and leveling.
D&D 3.X/Pathfinder and 5E I believe all have details on treating monsters as races. The Tengu also look quite similar.
Well spotted the Kenku were derived from the Tengu (dog men).
I really liked the idea of a gang of Kenku. They could even work inside a city. Also I like how the Kenku are presented in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and I believe they can be a race.