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  • D&D 5e: Let’s Build An Aarakocra!

    July 28, 2021 10 min read

    Aside from Tieflings and Dragonborn, Aarakocra in Dungeons & Dragons 5e can soar the skies with their wings. Whereas Tieflings and Dragonborn need Feats to grant them flight, Aarakocra get their wings from birth. Aarakocra, also called birdfolk, make great characters for players who want to use unique ancestries not commonly found in the 5e Player’s Handbook. Imagine an Aarakocra venturing into the world with a great mission from their tribe or an Aarakocra deciding to leave the Elemental Plane of Air to explore the worlds beyond.


    In this quick guide, we’ll help you build an Aarakocra that will fit both your playstyle and any campaign setting. Your Aarakocra can add a creative flair in your Dungeon Master’s D&D 5e adventure, while at the same time giving you an adequate roleplaying challenge.

    Basics: The Traits

    Thanks to the Aaracokra’s connection with the Elemental Plane of Air, they share quite a common appearance with birds and other avians. Moreover, they’re capable of flight and are equipped with talons that can become quite deadly in combat. Regardless, Aarakocra tend to be protective of their territories and would do everything in their power to protect their homes. While generally peaceful, they won’t hesitate to fight to protect places they consider home.

    • Ability Score Increase: DEX + 2, WIS + 1
    • Age: Aarakocra have shorter lifespans, living usually until 30 years of age and mature by 3 years.
    • Size and Speed: Medium (5ft tall, lightweight bodies of 80 to 100 pounds), 25ft walking speed.
    • Alignment: Most Aarakocra lean towards Good and don’t want to choose sides between chaos and lawful. However, tribal warriors tend to be Lawful, while adventurers tend to be Chaotic.
    • Racial Features: Aarakocra have these racial features:
      • Flight, which grants the Aarakocra 50ft flying speed. They can only use this when not wearing medium or heavy armor.
      • Talons, which makes them proficient with their unarmed strikes. They deal 1d4 slashing damage when these hit.
      • Languages, of which the Aarakocra know how to write, read, and speak Auran, Aarakocra, and Common.

    Aarakocra: The Best Classes To Build

    Given the Aarakocra’s Dexterous nature, they may fit well with Classes that take full advantage of their potential to become nimble. However, one can’t deny their connection with the Elemental Planes, making them quite compatible for Classes that help them form a connection to the very nature around them or perhaps even with some aspects of the Divine that have something to do with their mission to protect their very home in the Elemental Plane of Air. Here are some Classes the Aarakocra can become that takes full advantage of their characteristics:

    • Bard: The foreign nature of the Aarakocra makes them perfect Bards, especially considering how they might have various stories to share. In turn, Aarakocra may see themselves performing in taverns and bards, showcasing their poetic brilliance with ballads, songs, and works of the spoken word. Likewise, they may be authors and crafters who wish to share Aarakocra culture with their various talents. Either way, their works may have led them to a life of adventure or their desire to share more stories may have them seek more adventure in turn.
      • Despite lacking the CHA bonus for an optimized Bard, the Aarakocra’s DEX and WIS Ability Score Bonuses enable them to become wisened Bards who specialize in long-ranged combat. This in turn ensures Players that their Bards have a fighting chance in terms of physical combat, which will then leave room for them to capitalize on much-needed CHA for their Bard traits.
      • Aarakocra Bards benefit from a varied skillset thanks to various Bard features. For instance, Jack of All Trades enables them to specialize in various skills, while Bardic Inspiration enables them to extend such prowess to others. Meanwhile, Font of Inspiration and Song of Rest enables them to have greater support roles in the battlefield. Most important, their spell roster and Countercharm ensures they can still hold their own in battle.
      • An Aarakocra Bard may fit backstories and roles that focus on sharing various stories within the Elemental Planes, especially for Players looking to make characters that can serve as diplomats of various regions. In this regard, the Colleges of Lore and Spirits may fit this category. Meanwhile, Colleges of Creation and Valor can help accommodate combat roles that necessitate support and fighting, respectively.
    • Cleric: An Aarakocra may be traveling to the surface from the Elemental Plane under the orders of their deity, as an Aarakocra Cleric may be in search of an ancient relic or an artifact that has divine significance. Likewise, an Aarakocra Cleric may be travelling alongside a band of adventurers to save a town, a city, or even the world from a grave threat and their presence allows the party to actively commune with the gods in order to seek their help. Or, in simpler times, an Aarakocra Cleric may simply be seeking adventure in order to strengthen their faith with their god.
      • The innate DEX and WIS Ability Score Bonuses of the Aarakocra make them perfect Clerics, as Clerics need enough Wisdom in order to call forth the power of their deities to bless the party and smite their foes. Moreover, their DEX bonus enables the Aarakocra Cleric to be nimbler and more capable of acrobatic feats or perhaps even make the Cleric capable of wielding ranged weapons to support the team from the rear.
      • An Aarakocra Cleric can tap into the various spells and perks their Spellcasting and Channel Divinity features provide in order to fully embrace their unique role in the battlefield. Moreover, future traits such as other Divine Domain features, Divine Intervention, and Destroy Undead allows them to become efficient fighters and support party members, especially against the undead and other forces of darkness.
      • Aarakocra may likely serve as diplomats or even guardians of the Elemental Plane of Air, which means their Clerics may have the same roles as well. In this regard, their Domains may focus on providing aid and protection to their allies that share the same goal. In turn, Domains such as Protection, Order, Nature, Light, Life, and Knowledge may all fit the needs of the Aarakocra in both combat and non-combat roles.
    • Monk: An Aarakocra may find themselves in a monastery to find their inner peace. While an Aarakocra might be one of the last beings Monks may see in their temples, an Aarakocra Monk may make a fine addition to the devoted studying in these monasteries. An Aarakocra may have stumbled upon the monastery of their own accord - or perhaps a nearby Aarakocra settlement may have made arrangements with a monastery to cooperate and protect each other, with some Aarakocra making their way to the temple as Monk initiates.
      • The natural DEX and WIS Ability Score Bonuses of the Aarakocra make them great for Monks, as Monks heavily rely on DEX to pull off their impressive stunts. Meanwhile, WIS becomes extremely useful when Monks face off against creatures and enemies with abilities that could otherwise hinder their abilities. Moreover, the natural DEX bonus of the Aarakocra leaves Players open to tinker with other Abilities essential to their build, such as CON for increased survivability.
      • An Aarakocra Monk can enjoy the DEX-based benefits of Unarmored Defense and Unarmored Movement, both of which enable Monks to go toe-to-toe with the toughest of foes. Moreover, their Ki and Martial Arts allow them to pull off various maneuvers that can diversify their combat offerings. Additional skills such as Deflect Missiles and Stunning Strike allow Monks to demonstrate extra combat efficiency that their peers can't demonstrate.
      • The Aarakocra Monk itself may be a new sight to any Monastery, which enables them to take on almost any specialization. Moreover, as they seem fit for the Monk role, they can be a part of any Monastery depending on their needs. A speed reliant, but confrontational Aarakocra may benefit from the Astral Self, Kensei, and Open Hand Traditions.
    • Ranger: An Aarakocra protecting the Elemental Plane will likely be made familiar with their various territories and the creatures that reside in them. Moreover, an Aarakocra may be assigned to protect a nearby entrance or gate to the Elemental Plane from various outsiders - which usually took the form of their colony or tribe. In these instances, an Aarakocra Ranger may have all the knowledge they need to traverse the environment surrounding their community, as well as have a keen familiarity with all the wildlife and plant life in the region to be able to detect threats before they even approach.
      • The innate DEX and WIS Ability Score Bonuses of the Aarakocra make them ideal for Rangers, especially long-ranged combatants. After all, DEX enables Rangers to pull off impressive long-ranged attacks, while WIS enables them to fully tap into their various spellcasting abilities. Moreover, these bonuses allow Players to also focus on investing in other Abilities such as CON for increased survivability and toughness or even CHA for the added charm.
      • Aarakocra Rangers will feel right at home, as Fighting Style immediately helps them get attuned with their preferred means of combat. Moreover, Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer allows Rangers to take full advantage of environments they naturally explore and creatures they like to hunt, making them the perfect hunters for unsuspecting prey and intruders. Lastly, their Spellcasting allows Aarakocra Rangers to enjoy a variety of utility spells to cement their combat role.
      • Given the Aarakocra’s nature as protectors of the Elemental Plane of Air, they’ll likely have Ranger roles that focus on hunting down intruders. In turn, specializations such as the Beast Master, Horizon Walker, and Monster Slayer take advantage of the Aarakocra’s lore of being able to protect entrances to the Elemental Plane from various kinds of threats.
    • Wizard: An Aarakocra in the Elemental Plane may have different approaches to magic - they may be trained naturally, trained by village elders, or have magical schools of their own. However, the method of training an Aarakocra Wizard would have the means to tap into the power of the arcane and control the very forces governing nature itself. An Aarakocra Wizard may leave their studies to adventure in search of an artifact or to perhaps find or even create a spell to call their own.
      • Despite the lack of INT bonuses, the Aarakocra’s DEX and WIS Ability Score Bonuses enable Players to create Wizards still capable of dodging long-ranged attacks and be wizened enough to resist damaging spells. Moreover, these natural buffs allow Players to focus on investing enough INT to make their Wizard incredibly potent without having to worry about having enough points in other defensive stats.
      • An Aarakocra Wizard immediately becomes a spellcasting powerhouse thanks to the Wizard's plentiful spell roster. Moreover, Arcane Recovery and various Arcane Tradition features ensure the Aarakocra Wizard always has a means of enhancing their favorite spells. Moreover, Spell Mastery and Signature Spells in higher levels allow the Aarakocra Wizard to make the most out of their preferred spells.
      • The Aarakocra Wizard may focus more on combative roles given their nature as defenders of the Elemental Plane of Air. As such, their Wizard School may focus on such roles as well - which makes War Magic and Bladesinger fit them well in terms of combat benefits and spell offerings.

    More Than Wings: Interesting Character Backgrounds

    Unlike the Kenku, the Aarakocra are fully committed to their mission of being guardians of the Elemental Plane of Air, which may play into their Background as chosen by the player. An Aarakockra may decide to explore the world around them as a mission their tribes have assigned to them. Or perhaps the Aarakocra has grown too curious of the surface world that they need to take part in an adventure themselves. Regardless of their reason for adventure, here are some Backgrounds that Players can take advantage of in order to create a more unique experience for their Aarakocra adventurer:

    • Clan Crafter (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): An Aarakocra Clan Crafter might specialize in a particular trade that earned them fame in their tribe and community. However, instead of settling in their shop or space, the Aarakocra may have decided to venture out into the world in search of fame, new things to craft, or to perhaps find a rare artifact that could further their skills in their trade.
      • Skill Proficiencies: WIS (Insight), INT (History)
      • Tools: Artisan’s Tools x1
      • Languages: Any one of their choice
    • Far Traveler (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Thanks to their guardianship of the Elemental Plane, an Aarakocra might have no need to travel to the surface world. As such, an Aarakocra who made all this way to the adventure’s setting may have traveled distant lands, discovered foreign cultures, and have carried their wisdom through their travels. Likewise, their lack of knowledge about the game’s setting may make them a perfect fit as a welcome stranger to the story. Moreover, their knowledge in the world beyond may be an asset for the entire party.
      • Skill Proficiencies: WIS (Insight), WIS (Perception)
      • Tools: Choose 1 from: Musical Instrument x1, Gaming Set x1
      • Languages: Any one of their choice
    • Hermit (Player’s Handbook): An Aarakocra Hermit may have lived a life of solitude in their guardianship of one of the Elemental Plane’s many entrances in the surface. They may do it alone, with their family, or with a small community relatively hidden from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the adventure’s premise may have forced them out of hiding and to venture the world - perhaps in search of a stolen artifact, in search of a way back home, or because of a craving for adventure.
      • Skill Proficiencies: WIS (Medicine), INT (Religion)
      • Tools: Herbalism Kit
      • Languages: Any one of their choice
    • Outlander (Player’s Handbook): An Aarakocra Outlander may have stumbled upon the adventure setting by accident, as they may have mostly traveled the world alone and didn’t really “settle” anywhere. Whatever the cause of their lone expedition is up to the Player and the DM - but what drove them to a life of adventure with the party may have been too dreadful a threat that the Outlander has been forced to be with company.
      • Skill Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), WIS (Survival)
      • Tools: Musical Instrument x1
      • Languages: Any one of their choice
    • Soldier (Player’s Handbook): An Aarakocra Soldier may have been a part of an army sent out by the Elemental Plane to take care of threats in the surface world. However, circumstances forced the Aarakocra away from their group and alone into the surface. Their entire mission may be to reunite with their squadron or to perhaps go back to the Elemental Plane to report on what has happened to their troop in the surface world.
      • Skill Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), CHA (Intimidation)
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Land)
      • Languages: None