One time I played a Kenku, it was only a drunken one shot, several hours playing D&D in a tavern with friends.
You might be asking why this is a topic to discuss, and I’ll tell you why, the Kenku was a great opportunity to Roleplay.
There is no secret that I love to play Charismatic characters, the opportunity to be the face of a party and monologue? Monologuing is a favourite pastime of mine, hell I would do a heel-turn just to do a few good monologues.
When I play a character with a good Charisma score I get to put a lot of myself into them, which is why my current and longest running character Retsam, is a Paladin, enjoying his high CHA for great effect.
So occasionally I pick characters with decidedly low Charisma scores just to push myself.
And sometimes I have to get imaginative with it, for even a Barbarian can have a rousing speech on the eve of a battle.
So when friends invited me to join them for drunk D&D in a tavern, I decided to push the boat out and go Kenku, can’t go being super fly if you can’t even tweet it, yeah?
You see, Kenku can’t speak, or rather they can’t hold language and communicate through mimicry, so how does one play this?
For me? The party started off being pulled into the Hells, with no idea of where they were or what they were doing, my Kenku was the only guy to pass a perception check and so he heard the sounds of running water, and heavy footsteps.
So what does he do to convey this information to the group? Obviously it is mimicking the sound and through use of hand motions, my little birdboy cannot make others understand him, but he can give them the tools, and so he did.
Then as we progressed through the adventure, and the party started to talk around him, he began to reply in peoples own words, making conversation stilted and yet more available than it had been previously.
It was roughly 3 hours in to our adventure that things really began to change, when the group had been travelling for a reasonably long time, my Kenku had picked up dozens of words, sentences even.
But how do you mimic and yet have a conversation? It starts with words, and replying to a character with things they had said.
From there it grows, becoming sentences, occasionally dropping the less common words and changing the intonations on words to make it seem like they were being copied from different sources.
It got to the point my Kenku could essentially steer a conversation in a way to get the words he needed to complete a conversation, at one point pointing to a window and being told “Kenku’s can’t fly”, then as the Barbarian throws him to the second floor window “Kenku’s FLY!”
Ultimately, I see why a lot of people might not like a Kenku at their table, I don’t know if I would want to play one for more than a few sessions at most, focusing on mimicry as their manner of communication if I had to do one longer than I have, I would have to consider he wouldn’t wake up with his full vocabulary, though I can imagine it would be a very interesting challenge to start each day only able to mimic the last hour or two before bed that night.
I know there are a few races that provide opportunity to troll, both the Kenku and the Kender are races that seem best designed for the love of Roleplay rather than some huge mechanical benefit, but I will cover Kender at another time.
For now, maybe my story of running as a Kenku even for a night will give some inspiration in how others might be able to include the race in their games too.