Races of the Summerlands: The Aarakocra!

Aarakocra of the Summerlands

The last of my Summerlands races, for the (now long over) June RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Tales of a DM, the aarakocra

Brynn MetheneyStrig & Tyton – Aarakocra subrace 

In the Summerlands, strig and tyton aarakocra are considered separate races, although they are identical. In practice, tytons look shorter and rounder, while strigs tend towards lean, muscular frames. Tyton aarakocra maintain that this physical distinction is determined from birth, but it is just as likely to be a result of the vastly different social circumstances of the two.

A Race Divided 

Tyton aarakocra rule over the strig with steel talons, and most strig are born and die in servitude. As the emisarries of the dragons, tyton are given the freedom to own lands in the mountains and to fly. Meanwhile, strig spend their lives toiling in underground mines, their wings clipped (often literally). Some strig, those who have their wings clipped and show particular willingness to collaborate, are allowed to work in fields or as herders. Whatever they do, strig aarakocra spend their days in manual labor, working for the benefit of the tyton and the dragons.

Freedom or Death

In the lowlands, free strig are rare, and tyton are always on some particular business for a dragon. Tyton never settle in the lowlands, wanting to be as close to the sky as possible, so strig who escape (or the few who are born free) tend to gravitate towards coastal cities or forests. Small strig communities exist in vast treetops of the northern forests. These free strig go to great lengths to hide themselves from both tyton and dragons, though most believe that it is only a matter of time before their former oppressors turn their eyes to the west and hunt them down. As a result, free strig tend to be both martial and paranoid, ready for a war that may not come in their lifetimes. Younger strig often push for rebellion, straining against their chains, literal and metaphorical. These strig either escape on their own, or are killed by their overseers in regular “cullings of the parliament.”

The Will of the Dragons

The dragons need mortal races to keep their lairs, to patrol their domains during their long slumbers, and to make sure that their laws are kept. Of all the races in the Summerlands, only tyton may risk waking a dragon without paying a terrible price. Likewise, just as harming a dragon incurs the wrath of the rest of their kind, tyton are to be considered the dragons’ claw in all things: to harm a tyton is to harm a dragon. (Whether this law comes from the dragons, or was added in translation by their tyton emissaries is impossible to say, and few are willing to test its validity.) Free strig are offered no such protection, however, and members of other races, the reven in particular, often take out their hostility towards the dragons on the only available targets. This fact only serves to make the free strig more insular and paranoid.

Strig and Tyton Names

Strig and tyton names are as different as the two bloodlines, themselves. Enslaved strig are given a name at birth, usually a single word in dragonic, signifying their connection to their tyton overlord, such as Cholk, Sesak, or Zerkax. These names are assigned irrespective of gender or parents’ wishes. Free strig choose names that sound pleasing in their mouths: Chara-kara-ka, Skree-ree-ax, and Whro-llo-llo. Tyton take names that they believe would please their dragon masters: Cicero the Beneficient, Penelope the Just, or Timon the Mad.

Aarakocra Traits

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity increases by 2 and your Wisdom increases by 1
Age. Aarakocra learn to walk and glide within weeks of being hatched, and reach maturity by age 5. Their lifespans are shorter than humans, however, and few live longer
than 40 years. Strig lifespands tend to be shorter, as a result of their backbreaking work, while tyton lifespans tend to be longer.
Alignment. Aarakocra raised in the Summerlands have traditionally been pushed towards lawful alignments by their place in the social hierarchy, but younger generations tend towards chaos as they chafe against their overlords. Strig rarely choose between good and evil, focusing instead on survival. Tyton are always evil, having cast their lot in the dragons long ago.
Size. Aarakocra are small and thin, typically no taller than five feet. Because of their lightweight bone structure and bodies built for flying, most weigh between 70 and 90 pounds. An aarakocra’s wings are, at a minimum, three times their height, and most have a wingspan of 15 feet. Your size is medium.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
Limited Flight. You have a fly speed of 20 feet. To use this speed, you can’t be wearing medium or heavy armor. If you have not landed at the end of any turn in which you use your fly speed, you must have descended at least one-quarter of the distance you traveled or you fall 40 feet, taking damage normally if you hit the ground. You must have enough space in which to fly. If you do not have space to stretch your wings and an additional 5 feet on either side, you may not use your flight ability.
Talons. You are proficient with your unarmed strikes, which deal 1d4 damage on a hit. Your unarmed strike damage is always considered both slashing and bludgeoning.
Keen Senses During the nighttime (or planar conditions equivalent to dim light or darkness), you double your proficiency bonus on any skill check that involves sight.
Languages: You can speak, read and write Common, Aarakocra, and Draconic. Tyton art and music always serves to remind others of their connection to the dragons, and the two are always pictured or mentioned close to one another. Strig art and music is forbidden, and therefore hidden. In the mountains, strig art can be found on cave walls where tyton do not venture, and their songs can be heard whistling through the mines, all but indistinguishable from the wind, but neverending and sorrowful. Free strig make art and music with abandon, trying on a variety of styles and forms, adopting from other races, and experimenting with avant garde and dangerous forms.

Bonds

When creating an aarakocra character from the Summerlands, you can use the following table of bonds to help flesh out your character. Use this table in addition to or in place of your background’s bond or a bond of your creation.

d6 Bond
1 I serve the dragons. However I feel about them, the tyton speak for the dragons, and we owe the dragons our existence. I serve them with distinction and await my reward.
2 I shall die free. I will never be in bondage again, and I will sacrifice anything to remain free. I would rather die on the wing that be chained, again.
3 I am the breaker of chains. Freeing myself was not enough. All of my people must be free, whatever that takes.
4 I shield my family. My clutch, whether or not they are related to me by birth, are of the utmost importance, to me. I will protect them from harm at all costs.
5 I bathe in blood. Freedom, joy, peace. There words are meaningless. There is only the blood of my oppressors, and my hands are only clean when they are covered in it.
6 I want none of this. All I desire is a small hole or patch of sky to call my own, away from chains and away from conflict. I have no interest in causes or revenge, only isolation and peace.

Feat

True Flight
            Preprequisite: Aarakocra, must undergo the Ritual of Evolution

You have undergone the Ritual of Evolution. Using powerful magic, either on your own or under the aegis of a sponsor, you have become a master of the air. Your wingspan increases by 5 feet.

  • Your fly speed is 35 feet
  • You no longer need to land at the end of your turn.
  • You can fly while wearing medium, but not heavy, armor.
  • If you take the dash action towards the ground and end in a space adjacent to an opponent, you may make a single attack.

Hacking the Aarakocra

The final race in the Summerlands series, the aarakocra are something of an odd duck. An official version has been released, but it’s not widely popular. Author Rich Howard posted a different version on Tribality, with a dive attack and some restrictions of flight. I think that one is much, much better than the official version, but I still think it’s a little over-powered. This version is my blending of the two: it doesn’t get to “fly” until level 4 at the earliest, which puts off the most broken thing. I borrowed some mechanics from the work the Kobold Press and Legendary Games are doing on their races, which is fun. I’ve honestly been looking forward to writing up this race for a long while, because there are a number of good versions, and I wanted to try to create an elegant compromise that threaded the space in between them in a fun way.

The traditional aarakocra might swap out these abilities, representing more of a hawk than the owl-like aarakocra of the Summerlands:

Children of Aaqa
Keen Senses.  During the daytime (or planar conditions equivalent to bright natural light), you double your proficiency bonus on any skill check that involves sight.
Languages. You can speak, read and write Common, Aarakocra, and Auran.

It might be fun to build other aarakocra: vulture-like creatures whose Keen Senses give a bonus on foraging checks, or a swan-like version with a swim speed, or a raven-like with a bonus to Stealth checks. Those are minor changes, but they can significantly impact the flavor of the race, I think.

Next time: After the triple-sized fey and a busy summer, I’m taking a week off before writing a couple of adventures in the Summerlands.

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3 responses to “Races of the Summerlands: The Aarakocra!

  1. Pingback: Summerlands Recap and New Directions | Dungeon Hacking

  2. Pingback: Building The (Less Well-Known) Avengers for 5e! | Dungeon Hacking

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