I'm just starting my first D&D 5e campaign, playing as a Kenku rogue. The DM is giving me a lot of leeway, but I'm rather enjoying using only mimicked phrases and actions to communicate. As the campaign progresses I'm sure I'll have need of more intricate phrases to communicate thoughts and dangers to the party. I also expect I'll need to keep a running catalogue of words, sounds, and phrases (with associated character/NPC/monster) to draw on when needed.

Communicating as a Kenku is very different than other races, and I'm enjoying the race even with these limitations, but it looks like communication will get harder as dungeons get more complex. I've currently been doing things like answering questions with portions of the questions asked and used the sound of a church bell to ring out a warning.

How can I best portray a Kenku at the table in terms of both communicating and in keeping track of known words, phrases, and sounds?

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    – NotArch
    Commented Oct 9, 2018 at 17:47

1 Answer 1


Having played with Kenku and seen others play with Kenku Characters, here is what I've learned.

Kenku mimicry should be inconvenient right until it stops being fun

The limitation on Kenku speech is a fun quirk that makes for hilarious moments at the table. However, spending many minutes browsing sound clips or a phrase list options to say is going to reduce both your and your party member's fun.

Try your best to repeat phrases spoken recently around you, but don't feel the need to justify every single common word or phrase. Talk to your DM about his leeway on you improvising things but I imagine he's fine with you saying anything as long as it makes sense you would have heard someone at some point say it. I imagine you aren't playing an infant Kenku, you've probably picked up some language.


I think using a soundboard app or site as a way to communicate your kenku impersonating something other than speech is potentially worthwhile, but I would say likely only when you can queue it up quickly or know in advance what sound you want to do, so you don't interrupt a conversation flow to browse on your phone.


Things that would be important to make notes of (handwritten or otherwise) would be:

  • Names (You cant say someone's unique name if you haven't heard it)
  • Anyone saying something incriminating/secret (Valuable to be able to repeat this to others)
  • The sounds of various monsters you fight

So in conclusion: For speech, don't hamstring yourself too much with restrictions so that it stops being fun or you stop trying to talk at all. Soundboards are useful/fun in specific cases and notes are useful for recording very specific words and sounds which are unique.


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