Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fiend Folio: Aarakocra

I was recently reminded that I had completely forgotten to mention an item of crucial importance: I've got a copy of the AD&D Fiend Folio. (Someone very nice--but still evil!--figured out that I like collecting the old AD&D hardbacks. Thank you. ;) ) Which, incidentally, is currently the sole 20th century monster compendium I own. Which, as we all know, is pretty much a recipe for gaming awesomeness.

Flipping through the book, I noticed that some of them I've never seen before (the al-mi'raj? What the heck?!), others I'm familiar with through the 3e Monster Manual (the grimlock is there as classic cannon-fodder for illithids), or one-off 3e supplements (the aleax happily resides in the Book of Exalted Deeds), a few have come up in Trollsmyths game (the aarakocra), and there are a few I know because, well, how can you not have heard about the flumph?

Actually, I take it back about the aarakocra. The first time I ran into them was in a book I read in-game during my brief experience with Neverwinter Nights, which I assume mean they featured in a similar way in the Forgotten Realms: one of the mysterious lost elder races that have since ceded domination of the world to humans and dwarves and so on. This is basically how they've come up in Trollsmyth's game, too; the sorcerer the PCs in the group game hired gave us a short lecture about how they used to fight the evil elder menace that built the dungeon we were exploring, but they haven't been a major force, or even seen much at all, in ages.

And there's nothing about this in the aarakocra write up in the Fiend Folio. It's pretty easy to read it into the mountain dwelling tribes that get up to some spiffy weaving and will occasionally give you information that are in the write up, but it doesn't specifically mention anything about the grand past that I've always seen them associated with in later presentations.

What is in here is an adventure. Well, okay. Not a full adventure. You'd still have to have a reason to go into the mountains and get where you could mess with them. But there enough neat cultural details that, if I was putting together some crazy game happenings in the mountains somewhere, I'd throw in a few tribes of bird-men just to give the players something to play with.

Things to do with aarakocra:

  1. Put a few territorial banners and pendants up somewhere the PCs are heading for a different reason, and watch them puzzle out what they mean. If and when they mess with them, they get attacked by angry bird-creatures.
  2. Have a villain bribe a tribe with shiny objects to guard a place or raid villages. Make sure to throw in a few giant eagle and wind elemental allies for good measure.
  3. Next time the PCs are looking around town for rumors, throw in one about terrifying bird-creatures stealing livestock from the surrounding farms. If the PCs want to make it a big deal, let them.
  4. The PCs need to find something up in the mountains. The best option might be to hire an aarakocra scout.
  5. Some crazy noble gets really into aarakocra weaving. They might just have it up on their walls when the PCs go to visit them (if your players are the kinds of people who ask questions about the scenery, and enjoy a good story to go with it) or they might be specifically interested in hiring the party to collect some good examples.
  6. Some crazy noble got really into aarakocra weaving a while back, and wiped out an entire tribe to get the territorial pendant markers. Now either the other tribes nearby figure out what happened, or the PCs stumble across it in the course of another adventure. Hilarity ensues.


  1. I think it's a pretty cool monster.

    It's got one of those silly fantasy names that doesn't roll off the tongue very easily, so I'm sure that would be the first thing I'd change.

    What's sort of neat about the Fiend Folio is that there are so many kinda-sorta similar monsters in it. It always had me wondering if there was any connection between all the bird-man monsters. How would they feel about each other?

  2. I can't remember now if I got the ancient aarakocra thing from NWN or if that was in independent evolution for them. But in at least one other campaign the aarakocra and thri-kreen empires ruled the world before the rise of Man (and Elf and Dwarf) and fought epic battles in forgotten epochs.

  3. Ran a campaign in 1982-3 with a player using an Aarakocra PC.

    That would be the first of roughly three or four Aarakocra PCs in my main campaign universe.

    Gotta love well drawn bird people.

  4. We used aarakocra as a prominent race in our world back in high school. We never had anyone play then as a PC though, but I've always thought they provided some variety.