Learn about the avian playable race known as the Aarakocra
Who are the Aarakocra?
The Aarakocra are bipedal bird-people that originate from the Elemental Plane of Air. More recently, many Aarakocra have made their way to the Material Plane and have made it their home.
Normally, Aarakocra will settle in lofty places like mountains and trees. In these places, it’s usually easy for them to avoid the troubles of the world, though the evils of the land do sometimes spread to their homes. Aarakocra tend to live in isolation from other races. For this reason, they are often ignorant of other cultures and the ways of large civilisations.
Aarakocra Features in DnD 5e
|Ability Scores||+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores|
|Lifespan||About 30 years|
|Speed||30ft (walking and flying)|
|Languages||Common and 1 other|
|Traits||Flight, Talons, Wind Caller|
|Book found in||Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, Elemental Evil Player’s Companion|
If you want to play as a Aarakocra, your character will have the following traits and abilities:
Flight – Because of your wings, you have a flying speed equal to your walking speed. You can’t use this flying speed if you’re wearing medium or heavy armor.
Talons – You have talons that you can use to make unarmed strikes. When you hit with them, the strike deals 1d6 + your Strength modifier slashing damage, instead of the bludgeoning damage normal for an unarmed strike.
Wind Caller – Starting at 3rd level, you can cast the Gust of Wind spell with this trait, without requiring a material component. Once you cast the spell with this trait, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest. You can also cast the spell using any spell slots you have of 2nd level or higher.
Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma is your spellcasting ability for it when you cast Gust of Wind with this trait (choose when you select this race).
How to play as an Aarakocra
The Aarakocra are all about evading danger. Below are the main benefits of playing an Aarakocra:
- Flying out of danger – Flight is the main draw of an Aarakocra. It’s great for scouting and investigating locations at height but it’s most useful in combat. Grab a ranged weapon or your spells and blast the enemy at distance. Just be aware you can’t fly while wearing medium or heavy armor so you’ll want to go with a high dexterity build. Typically, ranged characters rely on high dexterity for their AC anyway so this isn’t much of a problem.
- Blow away anyone that gets close – If you do happen to have enemies get close to you, gust of wind is a decent contingency.
It’s worth bearing in mind though that your talons are likely to be a poor option in combat. They rely on strength while you’re likely focusing on dexterity meaning your talons are less effective than many weapons. Plus, you likely don’t want to be in melee range anyway.
Best classes for Aarakocra
Most things that want to stay out of danger and with a high dexterity work nicely for an Aarakocra.
I’d suggest the following as the best options:
Tactics are simple for most of these classes. Fly and blast things from the skies. There are a few exceptions though.
For a fighter, you’ll want to go with a ranged build with light armor. This can conflict with a fighter’s natural stance as a tank, but they do make great archers if your party is heavy on martials anyway.
Rogues are perhaps they only class where you might want to get into melee combat. You can slip in, make your sneak attack then use cunning action to disengage and fly into melee range. This is especially useful when using a swashbuckler’s panache feature to force enemies to have attack you or have disadvantage (tricky for the enemy when you’ve flown away).
For artificers, there are a few caveats. Aarakocra armorers will only really benefit from the infiltrator armor, but it is a great combo. It’s also worth bearing in mind that an artillerist’s eldritch cannon can’t fly and neither can a battle smith’s steel defender. A kind DM might let you have an eldritch cannon attach to your arm or shoulder which could be a workable solution.
Worst classes for Aarakocra
Classes that rely on melee combat and/or heavy armor are not a great option. Primarily, this involves tanky paladins where it’s difficult to invest in dexterity leading to a reliance on heavy armor. Barbarians will struggle with making great use of flight (at least in combat) as they’re most effective in hand-to-hand combat.
About the Aarakocra
Looking up into the sky, it would be difficult to distinguish an Aarakocra from a bird, but close up, it’s easy to see that they are humanoids with 2 arms and 2 legs. There’s no particular bird from which they take their appearance, instead there are many types of Aarakocra with features from various different breeds of bird. What all Aarakocra do have in common though are feathers, talons and wings.
Most Aarakocra are about 5ft tall so stand a bit shorter than most Humans. Males tend to be more brightly coloured with feathers of red, orange and yellow while females tend to have more subdued colours like brown and grey feathers.
While intelligent beings, Aarakocra do take on some of the mannerisms of birds. They have a tendency to take great pride in the appearance of their plumage and will groom their feathers often (this also serves to remove any unwanted insects). They much prefer to be airborne than on the ground and hate feeling trapped or enclosed so avoid caves and small buildings. While they do love the freedom of the air, Aarakocra will descend to the surface for food and water.
Because of their isolation from civilisation, Aarakocra tend to be ignorant of the cultures of most other races. For example, they have little concept of ownership (because, after all, who owns the sky?). This means that they’ll quite happily take a sheep from a field or a shiny object they like the look of without considering whose it might be.
Aarakocra will tend to use clicks and whistles to intone meaning in their speech (much like a Human might use an expression). For other races, this can make an Aarakocra’s meaning difficult to decipher and can often lead to misunderstandings.
Because of the clicks, trills and whistles Aarakocra use in their speech, most other races struggle to reproduce their language. Their names tend to include such sounds so most Aarakocra will take on a nickname from other races when they meet them.
Examples of some of the simple names they may adopt include: Aera, Aial, Aur, Deekek, Errk, Heehk, Ikki, Kleeck, Oorr, Ouss, Quaf, Quierk, Salleek, Urreek, or Zeed.
How to roleplay as an Aarakocra
While Aarakocra have varied personalities, there are some common traits among them you’ll want to incorporate when roleplaying an Aarakocra:
- Wary of surface dwellers – Aarakocra like to avoid the troubles of surface dwellers and avoid them completely if they can.
- Prefer the skies – Aarakocra much prefer the freedom of being in the skies and have a distinctive dislike of enclosed spaces like caves and even building.
- One with the flock – Aarakocra work towards the betterment of the flock, even at personal sacrifice.
- Rarely meddle with surface problems – Because of the reclusive nature of the Aarakocra, it takes a considerable reason for them to meddle in the matters of the surface. You’ll want to ensure you have a good reason to be travelling amongst surface dwellers and dealing with their problems.
- Ignorance of civilisation – Aarakocra have little knowledge of how big cities work and will likely show their ignorance in such places.
- Communal ownership – Aarakocra do not understand the concept of possessions. This means they’ll generally take what they need because that’s seen as a sufficient enough reason to take it. They are capable of understanding that other cultures view ownership differently so there’s no need to play a kleptomaniac.