I never tried playing a Kenku, any experiences?
By - SuperKonsti
I wonder if you could sit down with a kenku and just list all words in the common language, sorted by how much they are used and just brute force them to know the language.
Hmm... As far as I understand, the curse of the Kenku is not specifically that they can only repeat things they heard before, but that they don't have ANY creativity.
So if you did that, the Kenku would be like a computer program that has all the words saved, but has no idea how to use them.
And even if you specifically made sure that it knows the meaning of every single word (which can be hard to do for some that require a creative mind to comprehend, e.g. love), it would also just know that. So it could point at a cow and say "cow".
So let's take it a step further: We take the Kenku with us and talk to it constantly, using as many words in context as possible to teach them what is behind them. Then they could for example point at a cow and say "I like the cow". But it would still only be a phrase they heard before.
They probably really do like the cow, but they didn't string together the words: "I" with all the meaning it provides about themselves, "like" where they could have chosen from a lot of different words with slightly different meanings, and "the cow", referring to this cow as opposed to all cows or a different cow.
What they say is "I like the cow" because they were told that that is what you say when you like a cow.
Of course, that is only my understanding of the description, and I only got into DnD a year ago so it could be totally wrong.
TLDR: Even if a Kenku without creativity has all of the building blocks, it can't arrange them by itself, and if you teach it how, it can only repeat exactly what you did and not apply it to different situations.
Well yes, that's if you take the lore about not having creativity literally. The problem with that is that you can't roleplay that. At this point, they're not an independent person anymore. They are unable to come up with their own dreams, goals and aspirations. They always have to be told what to do, since they frequently encounter new situations. And what counts as a "new situation" is also up for interpretation: If my character knows how to buy an apple from merchant Scott in his hometown, is he able to figure out that he can buy an apple from a different vendor when in a different town?
This is why I think the part about not having creativity in kenku lore is problematic in practice. And I haven't found a way to draw a line such that a kenku character could work, apart from just giving them back their creativity.
I dunno, I've always seen it as "As legends say" since Kenku are form another plane. Gotta walk the line between the spirit of what the lore is, and the letter of the lore.
I mean, letter of the lore, No Dragonborn Paladins since they won't make a promise they don't know 100% they can't keep. But that's no fun is it?
I mean aren't most paladin oaths just general goals and lifestyles? I think a dragonborn could commit to doing their part for the rest of their life.
Or just play a really confident dragonborn that struggles to conceptualize the true cost of life-long commitment.
Not really? By definition an oath is a promise. "I swear to be the light of hope and good in the world." if, for example, you're Oath of Ancients.
Sorry, I didn't mean to say it's not a promise, just that it's not a promise to specific action. A dragonborn couldn't make the oath to wake up at 5 a.m. every day because a million things could go wrong and those things are out of their control. But promise to be a good dude? Why not?
The oath you quoted (probably all the paladin oaths) is really, really vague. What does it mean? If the dragonborn interprets it as a life-long commitment to generally lifting others up in their sphere of influence, then why not?
IIRC, paladins have no structure or oversight to their oaths, so even if one paladin disagreed with another's interpretation it wouldn't mean much. Although they could fight if it was serious enough.
Anyway, isn't the "100% sure" thing itself subjective and based on the dragonborn's perspective? An insane dragonborn could interpret that oath super literally (i.e., dumbly) as "I must become the sun." Even then, an insane dragonborn might really think they're going to do it.
The big thing is, it doesn't really matter. You don't hear about DMs going, "You can't do X because you're a Dragonborn and would never do that."
So why are people going, "You can't talk because you're a Kenku."?
Taking works, rearranging them, using them in sentences is basic. Creativity would come in with writing, singing, etc. Just talking? Parrots can talk. Ravens can learn to talk. Why not just let the player go, "I believe my Kenku can do X." and leave it at that?
Because one is a cultural trait that may or may not be ignored by your individual dragonborn while the other is a curse afflicting all kenku by definition which limits their physical capabilities.
"Whatever the truth, according to legend, the Kenku betrayed their master."
That's the part that always sticks in my craw. "According to legend" that wording just tells me it's more a rumor. Maybe. Maybe they're cursed, or maybe they're just an odd race.
Going meta, nothing in the stat block saying you can't.
As always, the books are a guide, not a rigid set of rules to be followed exactly.
But they are going by the book, that's the "spirit" of this discussion. If you want to as a dm change it, do it, but with the current question the person you are replying too is corrext.
It’s a curse.
The spirit of the lore is that curses are bad and do fucked up, illogical things to people.
The *letter* of the lore is that they *are* cursed.
Players that attempt to subvert and argue against lore based character limits by being deliberately obtuse about it isn’t fun either.
It’s actually incredibly frustrating.
Supposedly a curse. The book even says, "According to legend" when describing it. Whatever happened, if anything, happened on another plane a long time ago. No one knows what, if anything, happened or why.
On top of that Jeremy Crawford has even said that the Kenku entry was poorly worded and people weren't seeing it as they intended.
Edit: Not to mention that the stat block itself has nothing about "You are cursed". Other races have mentioned such things.
It could just be that they pissed off someone who owned a network news channel and so rumours started to get thrown around.
So you're saying that the Kenku are from a future earth where birds evolved into people but then people found an offensive 15 year old tweet they made and they had to open a portal to the D&D plane? Gotcha.
Turns out, that's the real plot of Hatoful Boyfriend
But consider how intimidating that'd make a dragonborn Oath of Vengeance paladin
I'm pretty sure Kenku actually can string together separate words they they've heard before, but all of the words sound different since they can mimic them from different people
so basically kenku are the bumblebee of DnD, got it.
So here’s a thought: if a Kenku has learned the separate words and the words as a phrase, can it be creative in its usage and pick the individual words or does it’s speech pattern pick the least different things to mimic.
For instance the Kenku merchant learns John from an old lady and “the barkeep” from the town drunk and “John the barkeep” as a whole phrase from the BBEG. If the Kenku was directing the party into a trap for the BBEG, could they use old lady/town drunk “John” “the barkeep” to mask the source of the instructions “go see John the barkeep” or would the simpler mimic of the BBEG override things giving a hint to the party if they’ve heard the BBEG’s voice.
I've had a Kenku in my party and we played it so that he could choose whose voice to copy words from in any context so I think the Kenku would be able to put the 2 separate phrases together. It mostly depends on what the table agrees on tho if u ask me
Nope, they lack creativity. But I like to just ignore that because otherwise kenku would die after like 5 seconds
That's a great explanation, **BUT** Kenku are able to communicate ideas using things that aren't language. However, it **is** written that they were cursed to be unable to speak so they couldn't convey their forbidden knowledge, so maybe the curse can discern language from other noises?
That would prompt one to consider the definition of language, and one could argue that any form of communication could be considered "language" so I guess the bottom line is it doesn't really make sense and it's just to give "fun" roleplay opportunities.
> they don't have ANY creativity
Having no creativity is impossible.
If you drive this literally, a kenku would not be able to find their way out of their own house in the morning because the time, weather, humidity, stray cat outside the front door are all different than they were yesterday. They've never gotten out their front door in **this specific way** before; creativity is required to micro-adjust their actions to match the new circumstance.
>What they say is "I like the cow" because they were told that that is what you say when you like a cow.
But why would a human say "I like a cow", if not for that reason? Yeah there wouldn't be any Kenku poets, but as far as pragmatic communication goes Idk what problems a Kenku could have.
Except something without creativity would be literally unable to function
If you go by that, than a Kenku could use ONLY the sentences they learned in the specific context, meaning if he knew the sentence C as the Answer to "What is A+B"
He couldnt use it for answering C to the question "what is D+E" even if C is still the correct answer, but he never learned it in this context.
He maybe does not have any creativity, but can still apply logic concepts.
So he can "understand" what "I" and "like" means, and use it in such a manner is my take.
> Hmm... As far as I understand, the curse of the Kenku is not specifically that they can only repeat things they heard before, but that they don't have ANY creativity.
The major problem with this, is while it does state that in the book, it literally counteracts the idea of a valid species able to survive more then 5 minutes.
Being able to apply previous ideas and situations to new stimulus is basically required in order to not do the dead (Oh look, my food source moved 2 feet to the left, guess I'll starve). This is further highlighted by the fact that Crawford has literally come out and stated that bumblebeeing a voice for a Kenku is perfectly allowed in the lore.
Honestly, the statement "no creativity" just seems like a major oversight when they wrote Volo's and frankly detracts from the frankly amazing things you can do with the race both as a PC and NPC.
I wrote what I consider a neat little idea starter on the race a year back on another account if you want to start having more murders in your games :)
Personally I’ve always just read the ability of no creativity to mean they just can’t create new things.
A Kenku can learn to play an instrument. A Kenku can even learn to talk via the use of tens of hundreds of different voices they’ve heard before. But a Kenku can’t create a new song. And a Kenku can’t create a new sentence or word to describe how they feel or to describe something if they haven’t heard or before.
That means a Kenku bard could become the ultimate cover artist, being able to sing and spread the music of a specific bard perfectly. But if that Kenku ever wanted to practice self expression and express their own creativity, the curse would prevent them from expressing any form of self expression.
What you essentially have is a curse that is an equivalent to Cultural Genocide. Stories, art, music, literature etc. are all factors that form culture. The curse essentially destroys the Kenkus ability to form their own individual culture, so it’s impossible for them to every share with the world their own sense of identity and prevents the Kenku from being able to truly unite again.
Because if a great Kenku hero tries to unite his people to undo the curse, how will he inspire them? And epic work of art he could pull from would only ever be from a different context, there are no symbols or phrases that could unite them.
As such, I consider the Kenku to be very emotionally stunted. And honestly probably just depressed and anxiety ridden little bird people with no outlet for their feelings. That’s why they gravitate more to unsavory professions because at that point the Kenku has probably given up on ever finding a way to express themselves.
I mean, where there is a fantasy computer, there can be fantasy machine learning
>but that they don't have ANY creativity.
At that point, they shouldn't even be a playable race, then. If they are completely incapable of creativity, then they aren't going to be able to solve any puzzles, they aren't going to be of much help in combat, etc.
Or the individual phonemes so they can simply construct the words themselves, albeit slightly janky.
Or just ignore it and say that the only race curse is being flightless.
If I ever play a kenku, I’m going to talk like one of those TF2 sentence mixing videos in terms of rapidly changing inflections.
It Is **gUD** DAY TO BE not ded
I heard this, except it ended with DED.
PoW,U are DED
Alternatively just basically anything Soldier says in the official TF2 videos.
>I have done nothing but teleport bread for three days.
> Or the individual phonemes so they can simply construct the words themselves, albeit slightly janky.
that's how the best artificial voices are created and the good ones don't sound janky at all. Pretty sure your average Kenku is way effing smarter than the algorithm powering Siri's voice.
also, if i can mimic you saying "birthday" I can mimic you saying all the component parts of the word, so realistically, they'd have everything they need just from listening to normal speech. It's only computers that need it broken down to such a brain damaged degree.
You mean the ten hundred most used words?
I'm keeping that link, thank you very much.
I used it for a tabaxi bard once~ was good fun
Doesn't work. We learn words, but we learn what those words mean so they have context. Otherwise, we sound like complete idiots making up nonsense.
This is exactly how I played my kenku. He was an superior to his brethren in intelligence, and in order to learn the common language, held a librarian hostage and had him read the whole dictionary. Though because of this when he talks it sounds choppy, like you badly edited a YouTube video
Babies don't learn how to speak by imitating what they hear, they gradually learn the rules of the language they grow up with and try to form phrases and flex verbs themselves by trial and error, that's why you hear kids making mistakes that they never heard an adult make. (Source: I'm a linguist)
That being said Kenkus would probably never make a grammar mistake, unless they heard someone make one. Maybe that's something you can use in a campaign to check if a voice is truly from someone or a Kenku imitation.
Ya know that or you can just roll insight lol
For flavor purposes I mean
I played a kenku as my first proper dnd character (big mistake) but I can share a few things that I enjoyed:
- Writing down quotes from players/npcs to repeat later.
- You'll probably end up with a few catchphrases.
- It's fun to speak like you're a ransom note, making every word a different pitch.
This is what kills me about the “Kenku debate” and people saying they just want to be able to speak normally as a Kenku.
You have this grand opportunity to be something *different* and approach interacting with the world in a fundamentally different way.
Writing down phrases and names to repeat later is a fun exercise. The emergent phrases that will come up in the course of your adventure are your vocabulary.
But in reading these threads, it’s apparent to me that a lot of IRL humans are actually a lot like the Kenku because they lack the creativity capacity to work within the limits of the lore.
Being a Kenku presents a challenge to the player. Players that aren’t up for that challenge should consider playing a different bird race entirely.
>But in reading these threads, it’s apparent to me that a lot of IRL humans are actually a lot like the Kenku because they lack the creativity capacity to work within the limits of the lore.
> Writing down phrases and names to repeat later is a fun exercise. The emergent phrases that will come up in the course of your adventure are your vocabulary.
Makes sense for some, not others. Recording unique information about a quest objective makes sense. Noting "I can't say 'let's go to the market' till one of my friends says it!" doesn't make sense unless this kenku was literally born yesterday.
And establishing that your character is someone who has lived at least 18 years or so before starting the adventure is not "uncreative".
The point of kenku is that as a player, you have to remember and develop a strategy to communicate from the very beginning in a fresh manner. The point is not to as OP derived, claim they have already heard that phrase and talk normally under the argument that they'd already developed a vocabulary of phrases before joining the party.
So what's your explanation for why your kenku has never heard anyone say any words in their life before joining the party?
How does your kenku understand spoken language in the first place, in this scenario?
1) Who says they know how to speak common at all. This might be their first contact with the civilized world and they are just copying your noises.
2) I always thought it would be fun to implement random accents/speech patterns to phrases because your are copying someone else's words
> Who says they know how to speak common at all.
If you really want to get technical, the rules do. Any player character created by the rules knows at least one language, usually two.
But if your character was *literally* raised by wolves and is not only nonverbal but ***does not understand a single language***, even a good DM is going to have trouble helping you actually play the game.
I mean, learning something specific it's a bigger toll than learning the rule behind them for every combination.
Remember - kenkus aren't stupid. They just have this quirk, and this quirk needs to happen regardless any logic behind them.
I always play them as "mutes with lots of benefits". They are, despite the description, creative in a certain sense by the own book admission - they are by the book able to create complex contingency plans and that by our common definition requires a degree of creativity. It's just that other than planning and analysing they can't do much, and they are terrible at improvising or practicing art.
> It's just that other than planning and analysing they can't do much, and they are terrible at improvising or practicing art.
TIL I'm part kenku
Sometimes it occurs to me that I’m personally and specifically terrible at all the things that make humans unique as a species
Well, being aware of that failing certainly makes you unique within the species.
Shit aren't we all?
So, a Mastermind Rogue suits them, eh?
Yeah, absolutely. It has also some really nice tie ins, like being an emulator of a previous boss gone too far
The book literally says they had their creativity ripped from their minds. I think if you read the book in good faith and don't try to find loopholes of omission, they're pretty neutered.
If you were to look at the book in good faith, using your own words, it would make sense that's an hyperbole. Literally, it states:
"Whatever the truth, according to legend, the kenku betrayed their master. Unable to resist the lure of a beautiful sparkling treasure, the kenku plotted to steal the item and escape to the Material Plane." \[...\]
This first already establishes we don't exactly know what happened to kenkus at all. There are several legends, legends aren't verbatim, even less in material that is supposed to be used into multiplanar nature.
"Unfortunately for the kenku, their master discovered their plan before they could enact it. Enraged, the entity imposed three dreadful curses upon them. First, the kenku's beloved wings withered and fell away from their bodies, leaving them bound to the earth. Second, because their ingenuity and skill had turned toward scheming against their patron, the spark of creativity was torn from their souls. Finally, to ensure that the kenku could never divulge any secrets, their master took away their voices. "
Here is the part you mention - but as you can see it's terribly vague. What is creativity, at all, in this sense? It's undoubtedly performing different creative arts for sure, but creativity comes in everyday life as well.
Since these characters have to be played by people, hence human people, that have to use a degree of creativity to play and understand them, it stands to reason that they have some inner form of "creativity" as well, as dictated by the book as well. It's just that's very dull.
"However, kenku cannot create new sounds and can communicate only by using sounds they have heard. Most kenku use a combination of overheard phrases and sound effects to convey their ideas and thoughts."
This requires creativity to some degree, as to how combine things like a mosaic.
"Although kenku can't create new things, they have a talent for learning and memorizing details. Thus, ambitious kenku can excel as superb spies and scouts. A kenku who learns of clever schemes and plans devised by other creatures can put them to use"
This as well.
So, don't be a pain. Probably there are settings where kenkus are midless automatons, but not when they are playable characters.
That and it’s all up to the DM in the end anyway.
The lack of basic spell-checking in memes these days is distressing.
I know it sounds like a boomer thing to say but it absolutely has gotten more common. It's always been bad but never this bad.
I've never understood how basic grammar and accuracy are "boomer" things. The failure of our current education system is on full display. You would think we would want to fix it.
I've seen plenty of Boomers do as bad. I think Carlin said it best.
"Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that."
He's not wrong.
i once played a kenku cleric whos entire religion was based around impersonating their god, who is impersonating his followers. Part of initiation was your mentor reading a whole dictionary in the gods voice, so they all sound the same.
It was very fun.
I once played a kenku cleric who followed an elven god of trickery. His mentor was an elf, a cleric for the same god, and so all his prayers were done in elvish, in his mentor's voice. He didn't actually speak elvish all that well so whenever his god would reply it would be incomprehensible to him.
It was fun, but when he died I was really happy to play a character who could speak normally.
A Kenku is like a Redditor, they have no original thought and just redo and resay what they see other people say by the letter in the way they see them used.
That's fucking brilliant
The problem is that they also lack creativity, so stringing new and original sentences together is a big hurdle for them.
Which doesn't make sense, because they're capable of thought and crafting their own responses with what they can mimic, which requires creativity
It’s a curse placed on them from generations ago.
They could probably think about that new sentence, but they couldn’t say that sentence in a nice smooth linear fashion, it would be broken up into several sections.
“Let’s go to… braverly inn… together!”
Where each part mimics a different voice. Think Bumblebee from the Transformers movies.
I think the curse even prevents stringing together sentences.
If you are serious about the curse of no creativity, I think they barely count as sentient beings, but obviously this doesn’t really make sense with them being a playable race.
Except in their own description that is contradicted as it says they do in fact string together words and phrases to get their point across.
If your DM takes "no kenku creativity" literally, just put a bucket on any kenku's head.
They don't know how to take it off, because they've never taken a bucket off their head before. The kenku is now blind and will shortly starve to death.
Yeah, it’s a very stupid piece of lore.
This is why I ignore the creativity thing. It seems a holdover from when they were pure monster because they wouldn’t be sentient without any creativity.
They don’t think of new sentences. They just parrot ones they’ve heard.
Unless your Kenku was seriously sheltered, they probably have overheard someone talking about staying at an inn.
The parroted sentence might not be perfectly accurate but it gets the point across.
Like the Kenku overheard a man talking to his wife one time: “Oh, let’s stay at the inn, honey. You look tired.”
Curses. Don’t. Make. Sense.
Stop trying to make sense of a curse that was inflicted by a vengeful God and accept that a God can defy logic.
Here? Baby's? :/
If a kenku hears someone misspeak that’s the way they will say it so OP has an excuse assuming they’re a kenku
Favorite character I ever played was a kenku open hand monk. I didn't talk a whole lot, made a lot of crow calls, and when I needed to get a point across I strung together words and phrases I'd heard in the past. It was a blast just sort of silently walking around until I needed something. Also I was very distracted by shiny objects.
It's a parrot. It's just a fantasy humanoid parrot. Use parrot logic. That's as far as you gotta take it.
So according to YouTube,
"What doing? What doing? Hello! What doing? Pretty bird! What doing? Kisses! Mwah!"
Yep. Best kenku ever
So kenku don’t mimic words. They mimic sound. Kind of like a bad tape recorder. They can’t create anything on their own, even sentences. But, they assign meaning to the sounds they make. Only times I’ve run them I actually thought of using a soundboard to make those sounds, but ended up just describing it like “the kenku cocks it’s head and opens it’s mouth, and the sound of pages turning and being torn comes out as if to ask ‘are these books damaged?’”
Kenkus can't speak a language because they are cursed to only be able to mimic other sounds. They _literally_ cannot speak any languages.
Honestly, the kenku curse thing I Find is...kind of dumb and as a DM just ignore it.
I always view it as a "As legends say..." type thing. Kenku are from another plane and it's way for someone to go, "Wow, those creatures are odd. I wonder why?"
And someone else go, "I hear they was cursed by a God!"
"What malignant deity or demon-spawn hast cursed your bloodline, foul creature?"
"Fucking hell, it's a speach impediment. Way to be a douche about it."
It's a style choice! They're just jealous.
They are cursed with the inability to create, aren’t they? They can only repeat exactly what they have heard, like a recording. They can’t create their own voice because they’re physically unable to, but because they are magically unable to.
Yes so they’re perfect if you like doing voices but have a hard time staying consistent.
Since they’re always speaking in someone else’s voice, you can sound however you like, whenever you like.
The difference is that kenku can't come up with words and so they can't say something like "djjs to a UGG isfs vi dgs vi d ugh dgdhsvshd be udvdsj see" if they didn't hear it first. And they will say anything with the same voice of who said that, at least I think kenku works like that.
Bumblebee from the transformers movies is how I think of them.
Tons of fun. Use sound effects, and also write down everything you've heard so you can reference it later.
Best moment so far for me: DM privately messaged me a dream from a Goddess. A few sessions later we're exploring one of her abandoned temples, I find an appropriate quote from the Goddess, walk up to the altar, and say it there. DM pauses the game and says she needs a few minutes to think about what happens. Other characters are all like...what just happened? How did you...?
As someone with some knowledge of different ways of learning in animals, I can say that this is incorrect. Baby's do mimic, but humans also have the capacity to recombine different pieces of information that they've learned and create something of their own. There's plenty of examples of animal species that do have the capacity to mimic, but not to recombine. The way kenku learn is pretty realistic for a bird species (though there are some bird species that can be pretty inventive with their learning).
If you play them legit with the "can't think of anything on their own" they're basically unplayable if you're playing dnd to yknow, play dnd and role play and shit. Combat monkeys may enjoy playing them however.
If you bend their rules and just want to play as a character who has to imitate voices and speak in really funny ways and come up with ways to "have no creativity" (in reality, I mean you take whatever people tell you to do more like an improv suggestion - do what they say, but have fun with it) then they can be really funny. I enjoyed my time playing as one.
If you think about it, they should all be polyglots. If I ever DM one day that dumb curse is going away and they will be epic translators, diplomats and such.
Well, I guess the difference would be that babies would eventually figure out the underlying rules and be able to extrapolate things they didn't hear beforehand, while a Kenku would forever only be able to repeat phrases they were already taught.
I'm DMing a pirate themed campaing and one of my players is a Kenku. This character has been a pirate his whole life, so we agreed that he'd know some simple words from his background, like the name of his captain, "yes" and "no", ship parts and stuff like that to make it a little easier in the beginning of the adventure. During the campaign, he's been learning more words in the voices of other PCs and NPCs, and sometimes he asks me if he knows a specific word or sentence that hasn't been said in the game until that moment. In this case, I ask him to roll a history check (DC depends on the complexity of what he's trying to say), in a success, he remembers how to say it, in a fail, he has to think of other ways to communicate. It's been a lot of fun!
Once played as a Kenku Barbarian pirate. I basically went full on parrot. Was especially fun when my party attacked a goblin stronghold, I not only tore though the little bastards but confused them as well with my mimicry.
>what they here
Have your kenku speak in jumbled up words from different people like a YTP video
This pisses me off. They can't speak because they're cursed
They can speak, but they can only imitate others speech and even sounds from objects.
Sorry, that's what I meant.
As someone who has played a Kenku... the whole point of playing one is that you enjoy roleplaying like being a bird that can only repeat phrases. If you are going to try and cheat the system to talk "normally" then you should just play a different race, honestly.
You can technically string together a sentence from seperate words that you have heard before, but I try to avoid doing that. It's more fun to copy chunks of words that you've heard and then create a sentence like that.
Also, don't forget that if all else fails you can always "emote" to communicate- like "The Kenku motions that we should go this way".
that's not how the kenku curse works
I played a kenku warlock and just role played him as being possessed by a magical sword so he could say whatever he wanted, he even flirted with an elven princess
Its becouse of a course, you should read more lore
Naw funny parrot better
Had one guy who was fantastic, phrasing and pitching it like different voices and with different emphasis for other people, he even threw in the great bird sounds to tie it all together. He didn't have to wait for us to say things to communicate, just made it sound like bits of conversation he'd heard up until then.
What they where?
I'd imagine it would be like how Bumblebee in the live-action films communicates in that he strings together seemingly random words/phrases to form a coherent sentence.
I just ignore that bit at my table.
Ooh that's uhh... that could get controversial if the linguists find this
I played a Kenku and literally made a program to help me keep track of the words I had and what voice it was in.
I'm **here** but I don't *hear* what you're saying
What they HERE?
Kenku should have parrot heads; change my mind.
Except you'd really be able to tell if they'd read a word somewhere and hadn't heard it before.
thank you! I have been saying this for ages. Every creature that speaks a language only uses words that they have heard before.
Kenku have language proficiency. They know what the words mean, they just can't string them together. They can repeat what others have said in recent memory, knowing what those words mean, but it's significant that they mimic that person saying those words, with that inflection.
Standard Kenku have no creativity, so they wouldn't be able to use those words unless someone literally told them "mimic this word."
Of course that's really dumb, not to mention impossible to play with, so in my games it doesn't exist. I run Wildemount, where that aspect of their race actually doesn't exist. I also play in a friend's setting where the restriction is similarly absent. A complete lack of creativity is suicide for an NPC and incredibly boring as a player.
Of course, in one game, I play a Kenku who has lost the ability to mimic his father due to trauma, so until he trusts the party more or gets over that trauma he's stuck with the 3,000 or so words I've written down from what the party and NPCs have said. Very fun, it incentivizes the party to roleplay (because when they do, my vocabulary expands) and if it ever gets really boring or unfun I can just let him mimic his dad again. I also get to mimic the entirety of Fortunate Son to improve the morale of soldiers, so that's nice.
Now mimicry is a nice tool and occasional inconvenience (hey, why the hell does that bird sound like the store clerk down the road?) instead of a feature so crippling the race can't be played. I just wish the concept of mimicry of close family and friends from your past allowing you to talk mostly fine was covered in the books, because right now it sounds like a weird workaround.
Perhaps your unflinching stance that playing a Kenku as the lore dictates is impossible is just a sign that you are not that different from a Kenku yourself.
Working within limits requires a lot of creativity and you lack the creativity to pull it off.
Very true, haha. I find my way of thinking very limited a lot of the time. I seriously can't think of any way to play a Kenku while abiding by their curse, without finding some kind of weird loophole. Like sure, maybe you could go Great Old One Warlock to get Telepathy, but is Telepathy talking?
And as for the lack of creativity...the way I interpret that is that they can't do anything outside of specific orders or a given routine. An adventurer with such restrictions could only do what the party or NPCs tell them to do. An NPC would literally just be a talking head, except they only talk when prompted to. But more importantly, they can't DJ words together to make unique sentences, because that would be creative. The curse just seems pretty boring and uninteresting. Do you have any ideas on how to get past the creativity bit? It can't be something the Kenku does, because that would require it to be creative.
I'll never understand why they thought this was an okay PC racial choice.
Because roleplaying challenges are fun... and this is a roleplaying game.
For most players, if you closed your eyes and imagined what they were playing as, you’d think they were always playing a human even though a lot of the monster races are rather alien and not human-like at all.
The Kenku gives you lore based limits to help the player understand how they can play as a truly alien creature.
It's due to a curse. From how I understand it, it's not that they can't *understand* words. It's that they can only use a specific number of sounds. Specifically, anything they've heard in the last, say, month, at best. Anything further out than that, and the curse comes into effect, and they're unable to speak it unless they hear it again.
I’m playing a Kenku Warlock right now. According to my DM I’ve learned most all common words but anything less common I need to have heard it.
It’s so much fun mocking NPCs in their own voice.
Or using awakened mind and blasting unsuspecting NPCs with demonic screaming I learned from Cthulhu. Super fun character. Only one night in the stockades and damn near killed by Strahd himself once. Sooooo not bad.
The way I’m playing mine right now I describe sort of like a computer:
He can perfectly memorize all the sounds, but because speech does not come quite as naturally it takes a lot of “processing power” to say what he’d like. To be more efficient, when he can he picks a phrase out of his memory that comes as close as possible (but usually not that close) to what he wants to say. If he can’t do that and reeeeeally needs to say something, he picks each specific word that he’s heard from different people at different times and stitches them together into a sentence.
Basically, it lets me blend the fun and creativity of playing a kenku without any real constraint!
Slightly different for Kenku, they don't have their own voice. They can only mimic other people's voices.
Had mine picked up by a Common language professor to help teach his class. He speaks in eloquently normally but has a hard time speaking any other language.
My first read of kenku that was exactly it, although the words were more of a patchwork. Like Bumblebee.
Nice **to** ^(meet) ***you,*** *^(my)* ***NAME*** *is* *^(Tim)**\*\*.* EDIT: I didn't put those \* there
For simplicity sake I made my Kenku from a settlement with a symbiosis with the local Dwarves. He basically speaks in a Dwarvish accent unless its something recent.
I actually made a kenku once that was able to speak because his home hill age just repeated random words and definitions for hours
It's dumb as hell. It makes literally no sense. You can read common, so you have a vocabulary. You know what the words mean. You can sit down and read a 500 page novel and understand it perfectly. Yet when you want to communicate you're somehow only able to remember a few random sounds and catchphrases?
The only explanation is that you're literally incapable of understanding spoken language, which doesn't make logical sense would make it impossible for others to talk to you.
In the world I DM Kenkus usually just get a language tutor at a young age so I just play them with extremely unfitting voices
The issue is that Kenku can only mimic *sentences* they've heard. They cannot arrange the words they've heard into new sentences because they were cursed to be unable to create anything new. They can't even *think* things they haven't been told because that would mean creating a new thought.
My go to example is this: a Kenku can know what the word "blue" means, know what the Sky is, and be looking at a clear blue sky, but unless someone tells them that the sky is blue, they will never think "the sky is blue".
Kenku lore is stupid and annoying and I have never once played with a DM who forced a player to essentially be unable to speak. The fact that sentence mixing programs like 15.ai can create [realistic conversations](https://youtu.be/TAmhr6Was3E) using nothing but sound clips from various fictional characters proves that it would be very easy for a Kenku with good understanding of their chosen language to speak coherently.
Is it going to sound like [Jacket from Payday 2?](https://youtu.be/ogAzEW7hrYQ) Yeah probably, but you also don't need to roleplay that because spEeKInG liAEK thISS wOOd get anNOYing veree fASt.
I always interpreted that as in they don't have a unique voices and every sentence sounds like random voice clips cut together
One of my players is playing a kenku and she is incredible. Her Kenku has lived most of his life in an orphanage so the kenku speaks primarily in their voices. She does this really well by speaking a sentence with whacky/suboptimal formulations and switches 2-3 times per sentence her voice slightly. She also has a soundboard and writes down some funny&dominant sentences from the other players and uses them from time to time (she tries to immitate the voices of the other players, its obviously not even close but we get who shes immitating).
What she is doing is absolutely incredible and I'm buffled every time. But when she told me about her idea when the game was planning, i sat down with her and warned her that playing a kenku is no easy thing and that its nothing she can just do halfheartedly. I only alowed it because I had the impression that she is able to do that.
Its not easy but as a GM with such "im going to shoot myself in the leg"-Races you have to really think wether the player is able to handle it. I have seen so many campaigns having issues because one player wanted to play a kenku or a vampire or a mute character and they were absolutely unable to handle these characters and just made themselves a rough time. Its no fun but you should really consider this.
You can do this as a twist but. It's like a parrot or the chinese box thought experiment. If there is a box any English sentence you punt in there comes out a chinese translation. Doest the box knows chinese and English. But what if you consider there is a man in the box with a manual for all that just says if you get this then output this.
My DM let us bypass things like these through the use of magic. One of my mates made a Kenku uhhh... It was either a Warlock or a Wizard that used magic to speak.
The idea is that their speech is a mix-match of various people’s voices and tones. Theoretically, if a Kenny spends enough time with someone, they could adopt that person’s voice as their own 😅
There’s a Kenku character in my campaign who spent several years following an old woman around so she can speak pretty easily by using the vast vocabulary she collected by following one person.
To RP it I just give them weird cuts and intonations throughout their speech to simulate the sense that these aren’t sentences but words strung together
How exactly are you supposed to speak using only mimicry anyway
My first and only Kenku was an absolute blast! I took a divine sorcerer Kenku through The Curse of Strahd and she was amazingly useful utility wise, but was also incredibly satisfying to play role play wise. Her name was Glass Clack (GC). She loved the sound of marbles clacking together. Sometimes she would ‘clack’ once for “yes” and twice for “no”)
For the first half of the campaign I consistently updated a journal with quotes from both the NPCs and PCs for communication. One of her favorite phrases was “I’m looking to leave this place” which was straight from the lips of a very annoyed totem barbarian. I would do my best to personally mimic the tone of the person along with any accents. It was incredibly fun for me (almost like working with a puzzle) and the other players thoroughly enjoyed it too. It was cute.
Later on some wereravens mistook her as one of their own, believe for her to be broken as she could not speak of her own power, and proceeded to offer a crack into the Kenku curse that gave her access to a limited version of the Spark of Creativity. The DM allowed me to have her write freely, but not speak freely. From there she would write on anything with charcoal. Chalkboards, the ground, paper, etc. she could write freely and communicate a lot better for a party but because it was some thing that she was just thrown into I made it seem like she still struggled with it. A lot of what she wrote repeated itself. It made me think of a bird but another player said it almost sounded like murderer, hahha. An example would be… “no. No. Danger. No. Danger. I hear. I hear something. Something. Something bad. Scout?” It was hella fun.
Finally, at some point she came in contact with a great item that linked to a deity. It boils down to the deity To fully unlock her curse so that she could speak freely. I took this opportunity to have her communicate similar to how she wrote, but as the campaign continued on she did get a little bit better each session. She also had a habit of dipping her head down when she spoke as if to show that it was a difficult task for her but she was trying.
Honestly, I had an amazing experience and I have never had a character like her before. The curse that Kenku are afflicted by can be a bit difficult to work with, but just do your best. For my experience it was, and still is, top-tier. Oh, I miss that campaign. Oh, Glass Clack my dear. You got your happy ending.
My mental idea of a kenku speaking is like bumblebee where he just plays sound clips from various things to construct a response
“What they here”
God this sub really has ridiculous spelling aptitude.
I dmd with a kenku in the party...they swindled a fake blacksmith out of all their faulty products.
Well it's not that simple they fully replicate the word not just saying it if the word is said with an accent they say it with an accent the don't really have there own voice
Hm, this is giving me ideas, the Kenku are cursed, but wouldn't it be a cool quest to try and lift the curse from them?
Kenku's learn words and sounds and somehow, pulled mimicry into a language they can understand. And, honestly, I really like that about them, because think how many spells and abilities include the words "The target must share a language." Anyone can learn to speak Draconic, Elvish, Orc, Goblin, but the most learned and wisest minds in D&D can NOT learn to speak Mimicry.
A baby crying, the meow of a cat, a hammer hitting a nail, the sound of a door chime, the noise a fireball makes when it impacts, a vendor hawking his wares. To anyone, these are regular every day sounds. To the kenku, each of these sounds have somehow been made into a language only they speak.
I think of kenku as predictive text generators. They can take in a bunch of text, draw some very rudimentary correlations between words, then spits them back out and hopefully it makes something vaguely coherent. [This](https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/02/19/gpt-2-as-step-toward-general-intelligence/) is a pretty cool article about such an AI that was published a few years ago. At the end of the day what the algorithm does is basically a very underpowered version of what the human brain does, so the results are similar to learning but not quite the same thing.
Person I find the Kenku curse to be similar to BumbleBee from transformers.
He can only talk through the radio and so it sounds jumbled and often times uses out of context quotes to get a point across.
The Kenku mimics not just what they heard, but how they heard it. So they copy any accent, speech pattern, or emphasis on certain words that people change at times. The end result is a jumbled mess of phrases that roughly translate what the Kenku means.
But that’s just my two cents on the subject.
I see a lot people mentioning the fun it is to play a kenku but if your a player with a kenku in your part how do you feel about it? I have one and I really fucking hate it, they barley talk in a way that contributes to any given situation. in a party of three it feels like there is only two of us.
ooh, sorry! cant do that because the uh uh uh kenku curse affects *[checks notes]* uhhhhh *creativity* not language!!
seriously though just ditch the fucking existing lore and make your own. it's so dumb. as it stands it makes no fucking sense logically (*all* animals have creativity to some degree; it's how you learn) and reads like schoolyard justifications when playing soldiers as to why your extra super cool laser beam sniper rifle should have totally killed your friend kyle.
Curses aren’t logical or rational.
This one came from a vengeful God so it is as irrational as an angry God can get.
I hate kenku so much for this fact. It's so annoying having a player race that can't properly communicate with everyone else. Playing charades every time you want to communicate the smallest thing to your party is so fucking annoying
You do realize you can RP in third person?
“Using the voice of an old woman and her son I once overheard, I communicate the concept of XYZ to the party.”
Except kenku aren't creative and can't form their own sentences or ideas. So yeah, you can use voices you've overheard before but you can't just make up sentences as a kenku unless you've heard that exact sentence before
I always kinda of figured that by 10 years or something a kenku would have heard quite a lot of words, so it would be able to speak normally.
Ignored the "no creativity" part because its dumb. Played a Kenku Bard. He was on a side quest because he wrote an epic story and needed to find people who would read certain lines to him, so he could be a walking audiobook. :D