Aarakocras, also known as "those fucking birdmen with the stupid name", (pronounced “air-uh-cock-ruh) are a race of avian beastfolk hailing from the days of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. They look like 5ft tall bipedal birds with clawed hands coming out of their wings, allowing them to use tools like human beings. Known for pissing people off with their habit of flapping in the air beyond reach and throwing javelins with pinpoint accuracy, culturally they are generally depicted as pretty Generic Stone Age Tribal Culture (Non-Evil) #377. They have an Athasian variant who look like giant humanoid vultures (7-8ft tall) with psionic powers (Clairsentience and Telepathy, if you gotta know).
As some books openly state that they speak with birdlike noises in their speech, if you play one without squawking profusely, you are not playing properly.
The aarakocra are actually one of the races that debuted as monsters in the original Fiend Folio for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition, and so from that perspective they've actually done pretty well! They were further developed in the article "On the Wings of Eagles" in Dragon Magazine #124, which was also the first presentation of the race as a PC option. They made it into AD&D 2nd edition in the Monstrous Compendium Volume 2 in 1989, and from there into the Monstrous Manual in 1993. They received a PC writeup in the Complete Book of Humanoids.
In the Monstrous Compendium and Manual, they are described as a peaceful and reclusive tribal race that inhabit high mountain peaks; they do sometimes steal farm animals when hunting, but that's by accident rather than malice, as they don't practice agriculture themselves and so have no idea they're taking somebody else's property.
Aarakocra are described physically as being about 5 feet tall, wit a wing span of 20 feet. About halfway along the edge of each wing is a hand with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. An elongated fourth finger extends the length of the wing and locks in place for flying. Though the wing-hands cannot grasp during flight, they are nearly as useful as human hands when an aarakocra is on the ground and its wings are folded back. The wing muscles anchor in a bony chest plate that provides the aarakocra with extra protection. The powerful legs end in four sharp talons that can unlock and fold back to reveal another pair of functional hands, also with three human-sized fingers and an opposable thumb. The hand bones, like the rest of an aarakocra’s skeleton, are hollow and fragile. Aarakocra faces resemble crosses between parrots and eagles. They have gray-black beaks, and black eyes set frontally in their heads that provide keen binocular vision. Plumage color varies from tribe to tribe, but generally males are red, orange, and yellow while females are brown and gray. As you might reasonably expect for an avian race, aarakocra are extremely claustrophobic and will not willingly enter a cave, building, or other enclosed area.
Due to their isolation, the aarakocra obviously speak their own language, but very rarely have knowledge of the common tongue - any individual has about a 10% chance of being fluent in Common. They can speak with giant eagles, though.
Aarakocra live in small tribes of about 11-30 (1d20+10) members. Each tribe has a hunting territory of about 10,000 square miles with colorful banners and pennants marking the boundaries; they are quite reclusive, and have little to do with any other neighboring races, not even other aarakocra tribes. Actually leaving their tribes is rare, and normally happens only in extreme circumstances... or when a human manages to bribe an aarakocra into serving as a guide with the use of a shiny jewel or coin.
Each tribe lives in a communal nest made of woven vines with a soft lining of dried grass. The eldest male serves as the tribe’s leader. In tribes of more than 20 members, the second oldest male serves as the shaman, leading simple religious ceremonies involving the whistling of melodic hymns at sunset on the first day of a new month. Males spend most of their waking hours hunting for food and occasionally for treasure, such as gems and other shiny objects. Females spend eight months of the year incubating their eggs, passing the time by fabricating javelins and other tools from wood and stone. While resting on their backs, aarakocra females can use all four hands at the same time to weave boundary pennants, javelins sheaths, and other useful objects from vines and feathers.
The aarakocra religion isn't very well fleshed out in the Monstrous Compendium or its Monstrous Manual reprint, but has vague implications of revering elemental powers of air. A shaman with the backing of at least four other aarakocra can even summon a friendly air elemental and attempt to bargain for its services by means of a intricate aerial dancing ritual that takes 3 rounds.
In aerial combat, an aarakocra fights with either talons or the heavy fletched javelins that he clutches in his lower hands. An aarakocra typically carries a half dozen javelins strapped to his chest in individual sheaths. The javelins, which can be used for throwing or stabbing, inflict 2d4 points of damage. Owing to the aarakocra’s remarkable skill at throwing javelins in the air, it incurs none of the attack penalties for aerial missile fire. An aarakocra will always save its last javelin for stabbing purposes rather than throwing it. Its favorite attack is to dive at a victim while clutching a javelin in each hand, then pull out of the dive just as it reaches its target, and strike with a blood-curdling shriek. This attack gains a +4 bonus to the attack roll and causes double damage, but an aarakocra must dive at least 200 feet to execute it properly.
An aarakocra is reluctant to engage in grappling or ground combat, since its fragile bones are easily broken. Though rarely used except when cornered, an aarakocra’s sharp beak can bite for 1-3 points of damage.
Novels and videogames established that the aarakocra have a presence in the Forgotten Realms. Their most dedicated Faerunian-specific writeup actually comes from the Spelljammer splatbook "Realmspace", which explains that the planet Coliar is home to a substantial population of aarakocra who are much more socially advanced than the generic tribals of base-D&D lore. These aarakocra had a complex government with a matriarchal democracy, and engaged in active trade of mined gems with passing spelljammers to finance their battles against the lizardfolk with whom they fought for dominance over the gas giant's myriad sky-islands.
Because of this, aarakocra returned in 3rd edition through Realms splatbooks, with monster writeups in Monsters of Faerun and PC writeups in Races of Faerun. Sadly, these both focused on the existence of the generic tribal aarakocra from Toril and not their advanced relatives from Coliar.
Aarakocra made an early and surprise debut in the "Elemental Evil Player's Guide", a PC-orientated free web-supplement for D&D 5e released as a tie-in to the then-new adventure "Princes of the Apocalypse", a 5e update for the Tomb of Elemental Evil. This actually makes more sense than it may seem at first glance, because, beyond the obvious lazy "flying race = Air themed race!", aarakocra were traditionally associated very heavily with air elementals, and even portrayed as worshippers of the Wind Dukes of Aaqa, a set of primordial Lawful-aligned air elemental demigods, on occasion. They are best known for being the most mechanically gimped race released in 5e so far, and haven't had any updates or even official recognition since.
The Aarakocra were introduced to Dark Sun as monsters in the "Terrors Beyond Tyr" Monstrous Compendium Appendix, and as a playable race in the Dark Sun: Revised boxed set. They received a PC update for 3rd edition in Dragon Magazine #319, and were a monster in the 4e version of Dark Sun (Creature Catalog, plus some expanded ones in the article "Dark Sun Threats" for Dungeon Magazine #187).
Athasian aarakocra resemble massive - 7ft to 8ft tall! - humanoid vultures, with a wingspan of 20 feet or more. Because of its large wingspan, an aarakocra can carry as much as 75% of its own body weight and still fly easily. An aarakocra can fly a short distance carrying a burden equaling 125% of its own body weight. The average body weight of a full grown male is 100 pounds and a female is 85 pounds. Like their relatives from elsewhere in the multiverse, Athasian aarakocra possess "hands" (three fingers and an opposable thumb) at the midpoint of each wing, prehensile foot-claws with taloned fingers, and a skeletal structure mostly made up of hollowed bones, save for the armor-like bony plating on its chest. An Athasian aarakocra's Its black eyes, set in the front of the head, provide excellent vision over a long range. The plumage is generally black with a white collar for adult males and black or brown with a smaller white collar for females. Adolescents are a mixture of brown and black. The beak is large and covers most of the head. Plumage begins at the crown of the head and is darker near the head, except for the collar. Like their kinsfolk, they rarely are fluent in Athasian Common (5% to 10% chance), but can speak to the giant vultures of Athas. Unlike other aarakocra, they are not claustrophobic - they don't like being in enclosed spaces, but they can deal with it.
Athasian aarakocra live in tribes with 6-20 (2d8+4) members, depending on the prestige of the leader. The largest tribe ever recorded had 50 members. The tribal hunting territory depends on the size of the tribe, usually about 500 square miles for a tribe of 10 members. There are no rigid boundaries between tribes and border disputes are not uncommon. Said leadership consists of the oldest male, who rules the hunting party, and the oldest female, who runs the aerie; both of these aarakocra invariably have psionics, typically Clairsentience (all-round vision, danger sense, radial navigation) and/or Telepathy (Sciences: mind link, probe; Devotions: contact, ego whip, send thoughts, mind thrust).
If the tribe numbers at least 15 members, the second-oldest aarakocra, regardless of gender, acts as the tribe's shaman, serving as a Paraelemental cleric of the Sun - like their counterparts on other worlds, these shamans can also summon friendly air elementals, but they only need the assistance of the tribe's male and female leaders to do so. Summoning an air elemental is usually done only in preparation for the tribe’s most sacred ceremony, the hunt. Small tribes must band together for this ceremony to allow the triumvirate to be formed. The ceremony to summon an air elemental must be conducted at dawn and requires the oldest male and female to emit a highpitched keening whistle. The shaman conducts an intricate dance around them, simultaneously chanting an ancient summoning mantra.
Alignments of tribe members are similar to the alignment of the leader. A tribe that has a leader who is neutral good may have neutral good, chaotic good, lawful good, and true neutral members. A predominantly evil tribe does not recognize boundaries with other tribes and treats other tribes as inferior beings to be eliminated. Nonevil tribes live in rocky aeries in the highest peaks they can find. Evil tribes are normally nomadic and use an aerie made by another tribe if they need to remain in an area for a long time, even if they have to evict the tribe that made the nest.
Aarakocra aren’t friendly toward intruders in their territory, especially caravans. They try to extract a toll from the caravan for passage through the desert. Good-aligned tribes allow unhindered passage of caravans that pay a tribute. If someone refuses to pay the tribute, the aarakocra try to capture scouts or outriders from the party and hold them until an even larger tribute is paid. The payment may be either livestock or shiny objects. Aarakocra are smart enough not to be taken in by glass baubles instead of gems, although they cannot tell the difference between the more common gems and the rare ones.
Evil tribes ask for tribute and often attack a caravan whether it pays or not. Aarakocra always demand shiny objects such as stones. These tribes find humans and demihumans to be quite tasty and prefer them to other food.
Good-aligned tribes of aarakocra sometimes return a lost traveler to the edge of the desert after first removing any valuables the traveler may be carrying. On very rare occasions a tribe might return a lost group of travelers to the more frequently traveled parts of the desert, again after first taking any valuables as payment.
The shaman is the leader of the daily sun worship. Aarakocra worship the sun because it provides them with the thermals they need to soar in search of food. The shaman also leads the mystic rituals used to summon an air elemental.
The hunt is the final part of the initiation of adolescent aarakocra to adulthood and often takes the tribe far from their normal teritory. The target is always a silt drake. The hunt is the only time the females leave the relative safety of the nest. Even an evil tribe will not interfere with a tribe on a hunt. An air elemental is often summoned to help find the drake, but never takes part in the actual combat. Although the adult members of the tribe take part in the initial phases of the combat, it is the initiates who deliver the final, killing blows to me drake. Scars from the hunt are considered a mark of pride among all aarakocra.
The females spend about eight months of the year incubating their eggs. Athasian aarakocra mate for life and a pair normally produces as many as 10 offspring. A female lays one egg a year. Constant incubation is not required because of the high daytime temperatures, so the females can maintain the nest and keep the tribe’s treasure in order.
Athasian aarakocra are high on the food chain and have no natural enemies other than drakes. Unless evil, aarakocra leave their own territory only to hunt the silt drake and return as soon as possible when the hunt is over. (Evil aarakocra attack others, as noted above.) Aarakocra eggs and hatchlings are sought after by wealthy land owners who wish to use the creatures as scouts and sentries. An egg can bring as much as 10 cp in Tyr’s marketplace. Tribes that have had eggs or hatchlings stolen have long memories and sometimes take revenge against the thief at a later date. Captive aarakocra join any tribe they come in contact with.
In combat, Athasian aarakocra fight much like their counterparts on other worlds, but they have a greater emphasis on the use of nets to entangle foes, as well as throwing darts for ranged projectiles, and their beaks are much less useful in melee. Unless victims are entangled in nets, aarakocra are cautious in ground combat. If the aarakocra outnumber their opponents they advance in a straight line and thrust with their spears. If outnumbered, or the opponents are particularly tough, the aarakocra withdraw. Victims entangled in nets are killed or incapacitated for use as food or ransom. Athasian aarakocra are mindful of their physical limitations as well as their comparatively low psionic abilities. They do not normally initiate psionic combat. At the first sign of psionic powers from any of their victims, however, all aarakocra that have some ability will use whatever attack and defense modes they can in an attempt to destroy the threat. Large groups of is or more aarakocra may initiate psionic combat if their leaders feel they can win quickly and avoid physical combat.
Athasian aarakocra have a natural life span of 21-30 years.
2e PC Writeup
- Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 3/16, Dexterity 8/18, Constitution 6/16, Intelligence 3/18, Wisdom 3/17, Charisma 3/18
- Ability Score Adjustments: +1 Dexterity, -1 Strength, -1 Constitution
- Race/Class Level Limits: Fighter 11, Thief 11, Shaman 7
- Base Armor Class: 7
- Flight: speed 36, maneuverability C
- Claustrophobia: -3 penalty to attack rolls in enclosed areas.
- Natural Attacks: Can make 2 Claw Attacks (1d3/1d3) and one Peck Attack (1d3) in a single round.
- Dive Attack: When wielding two javelins, an aarakocra can make a dive attack by diving onto a target from a minimum of 200 feet in the air. This attack grants +4 to the attack roll and doubles the inflicted daamge.
- Summon Air Elemental: A 7th level aarakocra shaman can perform a ritual to summon a friendly air elemental. To perform the ritual, they must have at least 4 other aarakocra to perform backup, and the ritual takes 3 rounds to perform.
3e PC Writeup
Generic Aarakocra, from Races of Faerun:
- –2 Strength, +4 Dexterity
- Aarakocra land speed is 20 feet. Their fly speed is 90 feet, with average maneuverability.
- +1 natural armor.
- Natural Attacks: A flying aarakocra can attack with 2 talons, dealing 1d4 points of damage each, or he can use a weapon in his talons. An aarakocra on the ground can wield weapons in his wing-claws at his base attack bonus and attack with his bite as a secondary attack (–5 penalty on the attack roll, and half Strength bonus on the damage roll), dealing 1d3 points of damage.
- Proficient with javelin.
- +2 racial bonus on Craft (any one), Knowledge (nature), Listen, and Spot checks.
- Claustrophobic: Aarakocras suffer a –4 circumstance penalty on all attack rolls and skill checks when in an enclosed area.
- Automatic Languages: Common, Auran, and home region. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Elven, Orc, Sylvan. When aarakocras speak, they punctuate their words with birdlike sounds, much in the way of a parrot imitating human speech.
- Level Adjustment: +2.
5e PC Writeup
- Ability Score Modifiers: +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom
- Size: Medium
- Speed: 25 feet, Fly 50 feet
- Vision: Normal
- Flight: You have a Fly speed of 50 feet, but you cannot fly if you are wearing medium or heavy armor.
- Talons: You are proficient with your Unarmed Strikes, which can do 1d4 slashing damage instead of the normal bludgeoning damage.
|Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Races|
|Core:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Dark Sun:||Aarakocra - Half-Giant - Mul - Pterran - Thri-kreen|
|Dragonlance:||Draconian - Irda - Kender - Minotaur|
|Mystara:||Aranea - Ee'ar - Enduk - Lizardfolk (Cayma - Gurrash - Shazak) |
Lupin - Manscorpion - Phanaton - Rakasta - Tortle - Wallara
|Oriental Adventures:||Korobokuru - Hengeyokai - Spirit Folk|
|Planescape:||Aasimar - Bariaur - Genasi - Githyanki - Githzerai - Modron - Tiefling|
|Spelljammer:||Dracon - Giff - Grommam - Hadozee - Hurwaeti - Rastipede - Scro - Xixchil|
|Ravenloft:||Broken One - Flesh Golem - Half-Vistani - Therianthrope|
Book of X:
|Alaghi - Beastman - Bugbear - Bullywug - Centaur - Duergar |
Fremlin - Firbolg - Flind - Gnoll - Goblin - Half-Ogre - Hobgoblin
Kobold - Mongrelfolk - Ogre - Ogre Mage - Orc - Pixie
Satyr - Saurial - Svirfneblin - Swanmay - Voadkyn - Wemic
|Dragon Magazine:||Half-Dryad - Half-Satyr - Uldra - Xvart|