RPG Adventures and design guides for tabletop gamers

To the Birds: Tengu Adventurers (Part 2 of 4)

Posted In Articles, Front Page | 6 comments

tengu nestTo support the “Ecology of the Tengu” article in the just released Kobold Quarterly #14, we bring you more feathery goodness.


A disproportionate number of tengu become adventurers when compared to the other races. As they enter adulthood, a drive to “leave the nest” sends many young tengu on an adventure, a quest to come into their own. Others take up traveling adventure to better appreciate their flock’s niche or to seek out a place to where all tengu might flock. Still others become adventurers out of necessity; exiled or ostracized tengu often have little other choice.

Alchemist: The shifting forms and quixotic bombs of the alchemist clash with a tengu’s drive for a perfected form, both physical and martial. Tengu alchemists are often regarded as a lesser tengu, boldly defying traditional methods of training in exchange for quick mutagens and extracts.

Barbarian: Often regarded as demon-possessed, tengu barbarians struggle to earn a place in tengu society, their bestial fighting prowess sometimes a hindrance on the graceful training and introspection of more traditional tengu warriors. Still, some tengu barbarians claim to be able to speak with their spirit self while enraged, forgoing martial perfection in exchange for spiritual reverence…

Bard: Tengu appreciate vocal diversity in a way only an avian race can. From common morning songs to epic poems littered with mimicry, the tengu bard is considered a herald of the perfected voice.

Cavalier: The high-minded orders and chivalric notions of the cavalier are often pleasing to tengu with a strong devotion to the flock, but as a race accustomed to living on the edges of larger civilizations, the penchant for drawing that much attention to one’s self is sometimes problematic.

Cleric: Their connection to the Spirit World often leads tengu along a spiritual path, forming a close bond with a like-minded deity. Other philosophical tengu worship an ideal, rather than a personified deity, but they are no less respected for their pursuit of perfection in spiritual form.

Druid: Like clerics, druids are respected in tengu society for their devotion to an idealized cause. However, druids who come to see civilization as a blight to nature’s advance quickly find themselves ostracized in tengu culture. Still, tengu histories say the Spirit World and the natural world remain close sisters in the cosmos.

Fighter: One of the most common choices for adventurous tengu, the fighter epitomizes their drive for perfected martial form. Tengu fighters invariably train in swords of all types.

Inquisitor: In a flock where tradition is threatened by encroaching outsiders or influential, change-minded insiders, tengu inquisitors emerge as Guardians of the Flock. Guided by tradition, tengu inquisitors seek out threats to their culture’s way of life, both at home and abroad.

Monk: The tengu life-quest for the perfected physical and martial form is epitomized by the monk. Combining their sword training with the whirling strikes of martial art, the tengu monk is both respected and revered by his cultural peers.

Oracle: Oracles represent an aspect of some greater power. As impressive as it is to become a conduit for this power, it is still but a fraction of the power’s whole. For this reason, few tengu become oracles. Those that do take great pains to reduce or minimize their power’s curse, as this represents the fettering chains that keep the tengu oracle from striving toward perfection.

Paladin: Just as with the cleric, tengu who devote themselves to an ideal find respect amongst their kind. Tengu paladins seek adventure to test the conviction of their devotion against temptation and corruption.

Ranger: When the flock survives near a hostile enemy, the rangers of the flock become the first line of defense against encroachment. Respected tacticians, tengu rangers often set out on their own to deal with issues the community cannot.

Rogue: A natural fit for tengu, rogues allow the tengu race to live amongst the other races, moving information and even goods while remaining unnoticed in the shadowy nooks and alleyways. There is perhaps no more respected citizen that the law- and tradition-abiding tengu rogue.

Sorcerer: Every few generations, the tengu ancestral link with the Spirit World manifests in the form of a sorcerer. Treated no different than his rookery mates, the tengu sorcerer is watched closely by the elders of his flock.

Summoner: Tengu summoners extend their race’s drive for perfection to their eidolons, constantly making minute changes to the spirit form that serves them. Eidolons that take on devilish or demonic appearances are considered abominations amongst the tengu.

Witch: The mystic connection with the Spirit World sometimes leads a tengu down the path of the witch, questing after the natural world’s arcane secrets, but most tengu regard witches in the same light as over-zealous druids, whose devotion to the flock has wavered to the point of exile.

Wizard: Many tengu wizards claim to tap into the Spirit World itself to harness its energies to power their spells. Whether or not this is frowned upon by the tengu elders changes from flock to flock, measured more by the wizard’s actions than by any reverence for arcane mysteries.

Alternate Racial Traits

Tengu are a secretive race. Living, successfully, in the shadows and slums amongst other races, they develop a reputation for being sneaky or cunning. Tengu instead devote themselves to their flock traditions, their sense of duty, family, and constant drive to perfect their training leaving little room to befriend outsiders. Still, some tengu flocks that live among other races for generations slowly adopt similar traits as those races. Other tengu revere mysticism more than martial pursuits and harbor a deep connection with their race’s spirit-world past. Such tengu often possess different racial traits than more traditional tengu.

Ironclaw: While most tengu train from an early age with blades of varying lengths, some tengu do not have access to such weaponry. Nevertheless, the instinct to perfect a martial form is deep within the tengu spirit. Tengu with this racial trait possess two claw attacks that inflict 1d8 points of damage on a hit. This ability replaces the swordtrained racial trait.

Mystic: Some tengu possess a link with the Spirit World from which their race was spawned. Tengu with this racial trait gain a +2 racial bonus on Knowledge (planes). Tengu with a Charisma score of 10 or higher can cast guidance once per day as a spell-like ability. Tengu with a Charisma score of 13 or higher can cast speak with dead once per week as a spell-like ability. The caster level for these effects is equal to the tengu’s level (DC 10 + spell’s level + Charisma modifier). This ability replaces the gifted linguist racial trait.

Skybound: Some tengu view their avian appearance as a sign that their race was meant to soar the skies. Known for spending hours or days atop trees, buildings, mountains, or any other structure of any height, eyes to the sun, feeling the wind play across their feathers, these tengu long to float among the clouds. Tengu with this racial trait gain Fly as a class skill and can take ranks in Fly without having a natural fly speed and can use Fly to negate falling damage (see Fly skill) without a having a fly speed. This ability replaces low-light vision and sneaky.

Subtle: As tengu “nests” grow in humanoid communities, often the humanoid neighbors develop a mistrust or fear of the silent, mysterious tengu. Rather than remain invisible to the community at large, and in order to better appease their curiously distrustful neighbors, tengu go to great efforts to mask their numbers within the community, purposely passing as humans, dwarves, elves, or whatever race they live near. Tengu with this trait gain a +2 racial bonus on Bluff and Disguise. This ability replaces the sneaky racial trait.

Trustworthy: Other humanoid races are often intolerant and territorial. Tengu who manage to live alongside such races become natural diplomats and negotiators. Tengu with this racial trait gain a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive. This ability replaces the sneaky racial trait.

(Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible)


  1. An excellent article by Tom! This fits in perfectly with the APG! :-)

    Phillip Larwood

    August 12, 2010

  2. I hope we see the last bit, that was my favorite part!

    Tom Baumbach

    August 12, 2010

  3. I love the depth of understanding of the Tengu race in this series. It reminds me of my love for the Roachlings.


    August 12, 2010

  4. Cool. :)


    August 12, 2010

  5. This is excellent! I now officially wish that tengu were included in PFS legality – with this part they definitely live up that expectation! Awesome!

    Is this Open Game Content by any possible chance?

    Will Thompson

    August 16, 2010

    • It is. Check the PRPG Compatible link for the OGL. :)

      Scott Gable

      August 17, 2010

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