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D&D Race Guide: How to Play a Kenku

3 Minute Read
May 16 2023
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Kenku are D&D’s flightless playable bird-people. But they make up for being stuck on the ground by being fun, weird, and very versatile.

If you’re looking to play a bird person in D&D, the Aarakocra are definitely not your only choice. With a tragic species-wide backstory and a pre-written reputation, the Kenku can be an incredibly interesting option for your next player character.

“Haunted by an ancient crime that robbed them of their wings, the flightless 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.”

Kenku Traits

Appearing first in 5E in Volo’s Guide To Monsters, Kenku are raven-like in their physical features, and about as crafty as one as well.

Choosing a Kenku character will give you a +2 Dexterity increase as well as +1 to Wisdom, but a similar walking speed to humans at 30ft. And of course, the biggest thing separating the Kenku from other bird folk is their lack of wings. Kenku are flightless bird people.

That said, they have other naturally occurring skills to make up for it. Kenku are very good mimics and can copy almost every sound and voice that they can hear. But they can also duplicate writing or craftwork.

Best Classes

There are honestly so many fun directions to go in with a Kenku character. The +2 Dex and ability to mimic voices and copy paperwork would make them an infuriatingly effective Rogue. Once they call the target out of the room with a familiar voice, they can look over whatever contracts, maps, or even crafted treasures they want and recreate it.


But the mimicked voices would also make for a good Bard. Granted, you’d need to make sure you roll a high enough Charisma for that, but if you know you’re looking to build a bard, you’ll top load charisma anyhow.

That said though, I’ve seen arguments for Cleric, Monk, Artificer, Druid, Fighter, and even Barbarian. This is a character race with nearly endless options.


Kenku first appear in Volo’s, but they also have a listing in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse with a few key changes.

First up, as you’ve probably come to expect by now, Mordenkainen gives you a little more freedom with ability score improvements. Here you have +2 to any ability and +1 to another, or +1 each to any three abilities.


Second, Kenku’s have a “supernaturally” good memory. Honestly, this would only be good for either Rogue or Bard and may even have the opportunity to make encounters in either class more fun.

Tips & Tricks

It’s hard to go wrong with a Kenku. Sure, being a flightless bird can be a bummer, but I think they more than make up for it. But their communal backstory can be easy to overlook. Did a curse take their wings or was it something less sinister? How does your character feel about the somewhat negative reputation Kenku have? And of course, look into ravens a little for inspiration on mannerisms and quirks. Maybe give a few cool rocks to everyone who’s helped you along the way.

Have you ever played a Kenku? Have you had one in any parties you were part of? Would you prefer to play a flying or flightless bird person? Let us know in the comments!

Happy adventuring!

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