Unqualified Experts #5: Roleplaying Tabaxi & Kenku

One of the major legitimate complaints that some players have about D&D is how often you really don’t see a difference between a player being one race versus another. In many cases they all kind of play blandly and the same, almost human or humanish. This might be true in some campaigns and there are many potential causes to this.

A DM working to create situations where being a dwarf or a tiefling or a half-elf makes a difference is one start. The player making a conscious effort to create a culture for their character is another. That said, there’s no reason to force roleplaying on a player who just isn’t comfortable with it and prefers the “My character choose to X” method.

Awesome, Very Different, Character Races in 5E

That said, there are some races that clearly can be a blast to play, if done right. However, these are often D&D races that can also potentially annoy the living heck out of any party if not done well or if just done with the wrong party. Volo’s Guide to Monsters was the first official guide to add many extra PC options and is home to the Tabaxi and Kenku for 5th Edition.

Tabaxi is Braden’s favorite playable race and he has it down to playing like a pro. Meanwhile, Shane takes a stab at a race that seems like it could be amazing, but too often becomes an annoying glorified parrot: the Kenku.

Note: This is a huge topic and this blog will almost certainly do separate articles on roleplaying both of these very unique and cool races more in-depth with each of these Meeples.

These are races that seem fun but can be challenging to play well and play in a way that is fun for the whole party (and doesn’t get old or annoying over time). Great ideas abound for both and you should absolutely watch the great YouTube video on Roleplaying Tabaxi and Kenku. Just don’t take Shane’s advice to name your Kenku Poe Raven. Just don’t.

Braden on Tabaxi

Bringing Tabaxi to life using all the characteristics of cats is just great. Push things off the shelf, search for perches to rest on, demand those afternoon naps, chase a random pseudo dragon. There’s a lot of mischief and playfulness with these types of characters and it makes it very potentially easy to create a massive backstory and culture that allows you to really stick out.

In other words, no one should be mistaking you for a human, a dwarf, or forget that you are anything but a cat person. Weaving in the eccentricities of cats with a capable D&D character can be an enormous amount of fun and create some really crazy moments.

I love playing the Tabaxi. They are my favorite race to play by far in 5E D&D and I have to purposely fight the urge to just resort to picking a Tabaxi every single time I play now. I like the city of Katz. I like my Cat People.

Braden describing his love of Tabaxi before briefly trolling Shane.

Shane on Kenku

I think the biggest challenge with a Kenku is avoiding the common pitfall of having them be entertaining for a round or two before the limitations result in an annoying glorified parrot who can only repeat or mimic things that have already been said. It’s easy to become a worn out one trick pony but there’s so much potential here to create truly amazing and unforgettable characters.

A Kenku’s adventure didn’t start with the party and you should use that to your advantage. Switch from an elegant noble woman’s elegant and nuanced voice describing how you should be trained to be of use for fighting/bargaining by a master dwarf, then quickly switch to a burly thick brogue voice cussing out the stone-eating, goblin-smelling jerks you’re negotiating with. You need to prepare like no one’s business, but with decades of life, each session can involve 3-4 voices saying common phrases, sounds, and other really incredibly interesting tidbits that hint at an incredible backstory you’ll never fully be able to explain – EMBRACE that mystery!

Shane describing a whole lot of work to play an admittedly incredibly intriguing character.

The video goes even further in-depth and when the full blog posts for each are finished we will link to those, as well. Meanwhile, enjoy the video, please subscribe to our gaming/nerd culture YouTube channel if you haven’t already and enjoy these great tips for getting the most out of playing these amazing character races.

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