Imagine a kenku is listening to someone talking. It’s on a loud, crowded street, but the kenku can still (relatively clearly) hear what their friend is saying.

Afterward, someone else asks them what their friend says.

In the above case, could the kenku say what their friend said, in the friend’s voice, but without all the background noise?


From pg. 110 of Volo's Guide to Monsters, under the "Hopeless Plagiarists" heading:

Although unable to speak in their own voices, kenku can perfectly mimic any sound they hear, from a halfling's voice to the noise of rocks clattering down a hillside. However, kenku cannot create new sounds and can communicate only by using sounds they have heard. Most kenku use a combination of overheard phrases and sound effects to convey their ideas and thoughts.

From the description given, kenku should be entirely able to isolate partial sounds if they can string them together in combinations. The largest factor in being able to mimic their friend's conversation would be in hearing clearly enough to recognize the individual noises as words - if it was a language they did not understand, it would carry no more meaning than the clattering of rocks or the drip of water, and this the kenku could not deviate in volume or tone or speed from how it was communicated originally as to do so would be to create new sounds by way of editing old ones.

If it is a language the kenku understands and it's reasonably clear but there are some parts they can't share well - such as whispers - they should be able to substitute any individual words in the statement for the same word it had heard more clearly elsewhere, but this obviously carries with it the drawback of not being in the friend's voice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 29 '19 at 21:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks - I'll look into it for the proper way of editing. I'll link to D&D Beyond from now on if I can, but is there an accepted way of citation if the particular piece of information is behind a pay wall, like certain backgrounds? I own physical copies I refer to when citing, but that doesn't help with links. \$\endgroup\$ – Tyler Mackey Apr 30 '19 at 22:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant meta: Stance on using D&D Beyond for references? Basically, there's no general requirement to link to it (or use page numbers), but for non-SRD content it's basically "paywalled" either way; either you need to own the book or own it on DDB. Including both a page number and a link helps it be accessible however you own it. If you aren't able to add a DDB link, you can just include the page number and usually someone else (...usually me :P) will edit it in for you. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 30 '19 at 23:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perfect, thanks! Just want to make sure I can keep compliance to be as accurate as I can be \$\endgroup\$ – Tyler Mackey May 2 '19 at 0:04

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