There are a ton of options for races in Dungeons & Dragons 5E. From the fierce orcs to the tiny halflings, and so much more. You’ll always get an option for you… Even if it’s winged! The Aarakocra are the original bird race in 5E, the first one that allowed players to fly through the skies during even the lowest level combat. However, they have a ton of interesting pieces of lore that make for a fun race to play as. Learn what you can get out of the Aarakocra 5E.
Aarakocra were introduced as part of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion, a free race add-on to Dungeons & Dragons 5E. They tend to be relatively short, usually reaching similar heights as Dwarves, and feathers cover their entire body. Their plumage tends to divide them into tribes, with a certain color meaning you are affiliated with a certain tribe. The men have more vibrant colors than the women, a reference to the fact that the males normally must impress the females to form a couple. All Aaracokra tend to their plumage closely, proud of their feathers.
When not looking at their plumage, Aarakocra find themselves being the defenders of the sky. They spend hours up there, and find landing to be only done during times of necessity. When an Aarakocra joins a party of land-bound adventurers, they do so partially out of pity.
Aarakocra do have enough resemblance to birds to mimic some of their quirks, such as chirping during speech. They adore freedom, and thus have little time for slave owners or those who annoy them. They also have natural claustrophobia, which might be a bit tragic for a standard adventuring Aarakocra.
Your normal Aarakocra lives on the elemental plane of air. If they are accidentally sent to the Material Plane, they’ll nest as high-up as they can find. There are not typically tribes of Aarakocra (though, in the Forgotten Realms, there are four major settlements of Aarakocra to choose from; the Star Mounts, the Storm Horns, the Cloven Mountains, and the Mistcliffs).
While Aarakocra tend to be isolationists by heart, some Aarakocra seek out the Rod of Seven Parts. This is due to their connection to the Wind Dukes, and thus give some Aarakocra deep senses of duty. They also despise Earth Elementals, whose cults Aarakocra are sworn to destroy when they can.
Aarakocra names are fairly clicky and short, natural for bird hunters. Names like Aial, Deekek, Ikki, Quierk, or Urreek are example names.
Now, let’s talk about why we’re here; the attributes. These guys are fairly unique, in that their list of racial traits are incredibly short… But holy moly, is it strong!
Aarakocra have no subraces, so there are no alternate options for Aarakocra that change anything about the race.
- +2 Dexterity, +1 Wisdom: A fantastic spread of stats. Dexterity is one of the most important stats in the game. You can wield any type of weapon (ranged or melee) with Dexterity, you can boost AC, and Dexterity saves are extremely common to make. You also use Dexterity for some of the most important skills that you can roll. Having the +2 be in Dexterity is one of the best stats you can get (though, far from unique amongst the races). +1 Wisdom is great as well, since Wisdom saves are critical to make later on. You don’t want to be paralyzed or dominated, after all! Even as a throwaway stat, you can’t really go wrong with Wisdom.
- Medium Size. Super basic, you’re 5 feet tall almost exactly. You also don’t weigh too much, which might come in handy occasionally.
- 25 Ft Ground Speed. This is slow, meaning that you’ll be one square slower than everyone in your party on foot. However, this should never come into play, unless you’ve gotten your wings tied up or something. Even still, this is still not too bad if your wings got crippled. Just make sure you’re far enough back to put space between your enemies if needed.
- 50 Ft Fly Speed. This is the primary reason to pick the Aarakocra race. At level 1, you are able to fly 50 feet per round, with no magic or any items, as long as you’re wearing no heavier than Light Armor. You essentially have a permanent level 3 spell on you (though this is 10 feet slower than Fly) that doesn’t take concentration. That’s… Crazy! Flight allows you to ignore melee combat and position yourself perfectly to rain arrows or spells on your enemies. You’re also really fast in the air, allowing yourself to reposition faster than your allies will be able to. You’re far from invincible up there, which you’ll find out in the first fight that every enemy has bows or slingshots. But flight is so incredibly useful. You’ll be the first one that can solve so many puzzles, due to your awesome flight.
- Talons. You deal 1d4 damage with your natural attacks. This is not going to be important very often, but you’re always armed. That’s nice, but not terribly important, especially if your plan is to fly above the fight. Still, remember you have these!
- Languages. You have three, which is more than average! Aarakocra is a pretty specific language to have, but Auran might come up fairly often in a standard campaign. Worst comes to worst, you can at least have some party members learn Auran so you can have a secret language to talk in.
A major problem is that you don’t have any vision racial traits, like Darkvision. You’ll be relying on your Paladin holding a torch, or magical sight enhancement. It shouldn’t be much of a problem, but keep it in mind.
The Aarakocra are limited by their flight’s main limitation; no medium or heavy armor. This rarely influences builds too much, but they tend to be Flight-focused. Otherwise, there isn’t really a reason to play Aarakocra specifically.
Good Classes for Aarakocra
Aarakocra are the world’s perfect Ranger. There are so few classes that make use of the Aarakocra’s stats and flight. If you can fly with a bow, you can avoid melee encounters, target specific enemies, and chase down problematic encounters. The lack of Low-Light or Darkvision will hinder you slightly, but… The combat and problem-solving potential you get instead is more than enough.
Flight also makes casting classes a fair bit safer, which can limit what enemies can do to you. Obviously, with a boost to Wisdom, that makes Clerics and Druids quite enticing. From the sky, Clerics can still heal with Healing Word while raining down cantrips and okay blasting spells like Guiding Bolt. Druids are better for damage dealing, though Druids tend to like melee a bit more. Still, especially with the new Circle of Stars archetype, you can really deal some legitimately high damage from the air.
Aarakocra monks seem pretty decent as well; your Unarmored Movement bonus applies to your “speed”, which might include Flight if your DM agrees. This allows you to quickly chase down targets, and your flight lets you perfectly position yourself for melee fights. For the Drunken Master archetype, this is pretty great! You can weave between targets via flight, opening your options quite a bit. However, this would not be amazing for your ability to abuse flight with ranged attacks… And I’m not a huge fan of the Kensei monk, even with the new Dedicated Weapon variant feature. Monk is good, but you could do better.
Any class that benefits from Dexterity would probably make a fine Aarakocra build. Artificer can get cool angles to use their Cannons, for instance, thanks to the Flight ability. Fighters can get good angles for their extremely accurate arrows, while Rogues can find interesting places to hide to get good sneak attacks off.
Bad Classes for Aarakocra
Because of Flight, an Aarakocra can be whatever it wants and still be at least useful. However, there are some classes that either don’t benefit much from flight or need other ability scores to be useful.
Barbarian and Bard come to mind as weak, but not impossible choices. Barbarians rely so heavily on Strength; that’s not to say that a Dexterity Barbarian couldn’t be made, but the build loses a bit of versatility and damage due to your reliance on the “wrong” stat. A Bard Aarakocra would work… Fine, but you’d need to remember to stay in range of your party for Bardic Inspiration, and you don’t make great use of your Dexterity. Again, this is not a bad option, just not amazing.
Warlock is a little closer to bad. Warlocks already have insane range on their Eldritch Blast build, making Flight less necessary. Warlocks can also learn the Fly spell, which means your racial ability becomes little more than a saved spell slot. Far from useless, but no longer a requirement. You’re also losing any Charisma bonus, which many races have. That lowers your DC potential and makes you take longer to be a really powerful force of warfare.
Thus, you also have my opinion on Sorcerer and Wizard. The access to Flight on their spell list makes Aarakocra less special after level 5. That means you negated your chance to increase your Spell DC through ability scores… To save one spell slot. That’s not exactly spectacular. Don’t get me wrong; Aarakocra would still make fine Sorcerers and Wizards, just not optimal ones. You can make a better Aarakocra than this.
And, this goes without saying, any build that relies on Strength tends to be useless for this race. Strength builds tend to want Medium or Heavy armor so their AC isn’t garbage. That means you’d lose your flight. You’d lose the main reason to play Paladin or Heavy Weapon Fighter while playing this race.
Just remember; Flight isn’t the only reason to play this class. The versatility that Flight brings to the table is great, but your stats are just as important if you want to be effective.
Conclusion – Aarakocra 5E Guide
The Aarakocra is an extremely powerful race with the ability to fly, but that doesn’t make it perfect. There’s still cracks in the Aarakocra’s armor, and knowing when to fly and when to lay low is crucial for you. Still, the Aarakocra 5E race is fantastic for flanking and dishing out damage from afar, and we highly recommend you try one someday!
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