Monster Manual A-Z is a series of quick looks at each and every monster presented in the Monster Manual for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. New monsters go up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in alphabetical order, touching on lore, mechanics, and ways to use them in your campaign. To search for all Monster Manual A-Z articles, search MMAZ in the search bar as we’ve excluded them from our Roleplaying Games tag to keep things tidy.
Ah, the Aarakocra. The aardvark of the Monster Manual, not in due part to any shared characteristics but rather the double ‘a’ that begins its name so you know it’s the first thing you’re going to see every time you open the book up. More relevant, the aarkocra is an avian humanoid, and depending on which setting you’re using, defenders of the material plane against those who seek to intrude from the elemental plane of earth. These winged people generally have little regard for material wealth, perhaps making negotiations hard.
Mechanically, the aarakocra is an interesting monster to look at. Not much better off than a run of the mill bandit at first glance, their ability to fly and Dive Attack ability makes them an interesting challenge for lower level players who may be limited on spells or ranged attacks. The Dive Attack is a good feature to have as a DM; making your players afraid to have the aarakocra dive them for fear of extra damage is a good trade-off for putting them in range or a possible opportunity attack for your player as the monster swoops by. Also, don’t forget that a group of 5 of them can concentrate for 3 turns to summon an Air Elemental, making an encounter that much more complicated for the party.
Of course, presented as they are the aarakocra are a mostly good creature; you could just as easily do an adventure about dealing with them as NPCs and hard won allies as you could as adversaries. Presenting players with information about the aarakocra performing the air elemental ritual could be a great plot hook, especially if they are meant to stop it and come upon a group a turn or 2 into the 3 turn cast. For a more lore-centric idea, you could have the party walk in on a stand-off between the aarakocra and some good-aligned creatures attuned to the earth, perhaps due to a misunderstanding. A possible quest awaits to uncover the truth of the matter and try to diffuse rather than exacerbate the violence!
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