Haunted by an ancient crime that robbed them of their wings, the kenku wander the world as vagabonds and burglars who live at the edge of human society. Kenku suffer from a sinister reputation that is not wholly unearned, but they can prove to be valuable allies.


The kenku once served a mysterious, powerful entity on another plane of existence. Some believe they were minions of Grazz’t, while others say that they were scouts and explorers for the Wind Dukes of Aaqa. Whatever the truth, according to legend, the kenku betrayed their master. Unable to resist the lure of a beautiful sparkling treasure, the kenku plotted to steal the item and escape to the Material Plane.

Unfortunately for the kenku, their master discovered their plan before they could enact it. Enraged, the entity imposed three dreadful curses upon them. First, the kenku’s beloved wings withered and fell away from their bodies, leaving them bound to the earth. Second, because their ingenuity and skill had turned toward scheming against their patron, the spark of creativity was torn from their souls. Finally, to ensure that the kenku could never divulge any secrets, their master took away their voices. Once the entity was satisfied that they had been sufficiently punished, the kenku were set loose on the Material Plane.

Since then, the kenku have wandered the world. They settle in places that accept them, usually bleak cities that have fallen on hard times and are overrun with crime.


Above all else, kenku wish to regain their ability to fly. Every kenku is born with a desire to take to the air, and those who learn spellcasting do so in hope of mastering spells that will allow them to fly. Rumors of magic items such as flying carpets, brooms capable of flight, and similar objects provoke a great desire for the kenku to acquire the items for themselves.

Despite their lack of wings, kenku love dwelling in towers and other tall structures. They seek out ruins that reach to the sky, though they lack the motivation and creativity to make repairs or fortify such places.

Even so, their light weight and size allow them to dwell in rickety structures that would collapse beneath a human or an orc.

Some thieves’ guilds use kenku as lookouts and messengers. The kenku dwell in the tallest buildings and towers the guild controls, allowing them to lurk in the highest levels and to keep watch on the city below.


As, a result of their lack of creativity, kenku function comfortably as minions of a powerful master. Flock leaders enforce discipline and minimize conflicts, but they fail at effective planning or crafting longterm schemes.

Although unable to speak in,their own voices, kenku can perfectly mimic any sound they hear, from a halfling’s voice to the noise of rocks clattering down a hillside. However, kenku cannot create new sounds and can communicate only by using sounds they have heard. Most kenku use a combination of overheard phrases and sound effects to convey their ideas and thoughts.

By the same token, kenku have no ability to invent new ideas or create new things. Kenku can copy existing items with exceptional skill, allowing them to become excellent artisans and scribes. They can copy books, make replicas of objects, and otherwise thrive in situations where they can produce large numbers of identical items. Few kenku find this work satisfying, since their quest for the freedom of flight makes them ill-suited to settle into a routine.


Kenku gather in groups called flocks. A flock is led by the oldest and most experienced kenku with the widest store of knowledge to draw on, often called Master.

Although kenku can’t create new things, they have a talent for learning and memorizing details. Thus, ambitious kenku can excel as superb spies and scouts. A kenku who learns of clever schemes and plans devised by other creatures can put them to use. The kenku lack the talent to improvise or alter a plan, but a wise Master sets multiple plans in motion at once, confident that underlings can follow orders to the letter.

For this reason, many kenku make an easy living serving as messengers, spies, and lookouts for thieves’guilds, bandits, and other criminal cartels. A network of kenku can relay a bird call or similar noise across the city, alerting their allies to the approach of a guard patrol or signaling a prime opportunity for a robbery.

Since kenku can precisely reproduce any sound, the messages they carry rarely suffer degradation or shifts in meaning. Human messengers might switch words or phrases and garble a message inadvertently, but the kenku produce perfect copies of whatever they hear.


Kenku adventurers are usually the survivors of a flock that has sustained heavy losses, or a rare kenku who has grown weary of a life of crime. These kenku are more ambitious and daring than their fellows. Others strike out on their own in search of the secrets of flight, to master magic, or to uncover the secret of their curse and find a method to break it.

Kenku adventurers, despite their relative independence, still have a tendency to seek out a companion to emulate and follow. A kenku loves to mimic the voice and words of its chosen companion.


Given that kenku can duplicate any sound, their names are drawn from a staggering variety of noises and phrases. Kenku names tend to break down into three categories that make no distinction between male and female names.

Kenku thugs, warriors, and toughs adopt noises made by weapons, such as the clang of a mace against armor or the sound made by a breaking bone. Non-kenku refer to the kenku by describing this noise. Examples of this type of name include Smasher, Clanger, Slicer, and Basher.

Kenku thieves, con artists, and burglars adopt animal noises, typically those common in urban settings. In this manner, kenku can call out to each other while those who overhear them mistake them for common animals.

Non-kenku use names that refer to the sound made or the animal a kenku mimics, such as Rat Scratch, Whistler, Mouser, and Growler.

Some kenku turn their back on crime to pursue legitimate trades. These kenku adopt noises made as part of their craft. A sailor duplicates the sound of a fluttering sail, while a smith mimics the clanging of a hammer on metal. Non-kenku describe these folk by their trade sounds, such as Sail Snap, Hammerer, and Cutter.


Your kenku character has the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Wisdom score increases by 1.

Age. Kenku have shorter lifespans than humans. They reach maturity at about 12 years old and can live to 60.

Alignment. Kenku are chaotic creatures, rarely making enduring commitments, and they care mostly for preserving their own hides. They are generally chaotic neutral in outlook.

Size. Kenku are around 5 feet tall and weigh between 90 and 120 pounds. Your size is Medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Expert Forgery. You can duplicate other creatures’ handwriting and craftwork. You have advantage on all checks made to produce forgeries or duplicates of existing objects.

Kenku Training. You are proficient in your choice of two of the following skills: Acrobatics, Deception, Stealth, and Sleight of Hand.

Mimicry. You can mimic sounds you have heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds you make can tell they are imitations with a successful Wisdom (Insight) check opposed by your Charisma (Deception) check.

Languages. You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.


Volo’s Guide to Monsters

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