The Aarakocra are a nomadic bird-people found across the Dungeons and Dragons multiverse. They originate on the Elemental Plane of Air, living most of their lives aloft and returning to land only to nest or to hunt. The Aarakocran denizens of material planes such as Faerûn often make their eyries atop remote mountain-peaks or wind-swept cliffs.
Rules for Aarakocra are found in Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse. As with all the updated ‘monstrous’ races, they pick their ability score increases, increasing one score by two and another by one – or three different scores by one. An Aarakocra who isn’t wearing medium or heavy armour can fly as fast as they can walk.
Other characters will need to use a magic item slot on a Broom of Flying, or wait for the party Wizard to learn the Fly spell at level five, simply to match what an Aarakocra can do straight out of the egg. Aarakocra make unarmed strikes with their fearsome talons, which strike like scimitars. From third level, once per long rest they can cast the Gust of Wind spell, summoning a spectral hurricane with their mighty pinions.
If you revel in freedom of movement or simply admire the beauty, grace and lethality of eagles and hawks, this guide will inspire you to create your next Aarakocra adventurer.
Here’s what to know about the Aarakocra race in DnD 5e:
The now-retired Elemental Evil Player’s Companion suggests Aarakocra names are nigh-unpronounceable to other races, made of clicks, trills and whistles, but that they often take nicknames.
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The scientific names of bird species actually make great adventurer names: Tyto Alba, Haliaeetus, Buteo Buteo, Phoenicopterus Ruber and Pavo Cristatus have a great blend of majesty and weirdness. There are many mythological bird-people from different cultures which make a great source of Aarakocra names.
The main rule to remember when choosing Aarakocra classes is that these folks can’t fly if they wear medium or heavy armour. Thus, the power of flight is a pretty good reason to choose a class that foregoes armour – like the Monk, Barbarian or Wizard – or classes that favour light DnD armor and a high Dexterity score – such as the Ranger and Rogue.
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As a mentally disciplined martial arts master, an Aarakocra Monk can flex away from enemy blows and respond with open-palm attacks (or rather, open-claw in Aarakocra’s case – as they can make unarmed strikes with their lethal clawed feet). This drop-kicking bird ninja will have full use of their wings, as the Monk class can add their Wisdom bonus to their armour class when they’re unarmoured.
At second level, Monks get a bonus to their movement speed, which also increases an Aarakocra’s flying speed. There’s ways to push this even further.
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The Way of the Drunken Master Monastic Tradition grants 10ft of movement and the benefits of the Disengage action whenever a monk spends Ki on Flurry of Blows. Picture a birdman in a kimono corkscrewing through a melee, shattering jaws and breaking bones in a flurry of roundhouse kicks. Beautiful.
If you want to learn more about the Monk class, our monk guide explores the ins, outs and subclasses in great detail, as well as suggesting some sporty character builds.
A wilderness warrior with a splash of magical ability, Rangers dwell beyond the bounds of civilization. They are peerless trackers and skilled hunters – perfect for a swooping, predatory Aarakocra Ranger. You can find out more about the class as a whole in our complete Ranger 5e guide.
To make sure your GM starts lowering the ceiling in all the rooms of the dungeon, follow this little build for a winged ranger I call the Aarakocra Orbital Laser:
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Start with a Dexterity of 16 and a longbow.
At level one, replace the Favoured Enemy class feature with the optional Favoured Foe feature from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. A number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus you can pick one enemy that will suffer an extra d4 damage the first time you hit it each round.
At level two, select the Archery Fighting Style for +2 on your attack rolls with ranged weapons, and choose the Hunter’s Mark first level spell, which lets you spend a bonus action to mark an enemy for death. You’ll deal d6 damage against it whenever you hit it, and can transfer the mark onto a new enemy when it falls.
At level three, specialise as a Monster Slayer. Their Slayer’s Prey ability allows you to spend a bonus action to mark an enemy to receive d6 damage the first time you hit it each turn.
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With +7 to hit and d8+2d6+d4+3 damage once all your buffs are stacked, delivered from a comfortable height above the battlefield, enjoy turning boss enemies into pincushions.
That is, at least until the GM remembers that swarms have damage resistance against mundane attacks like your bow, and ravens can fly much faster than Aarakocra…