While playing through a Paizo Adventure Path my players came across an encounter that began with a group of tengu firing poisoned darts at the party from blowguns. One of my players had the grace to ask about that fact. Since tengu have crow like beaks in place of mouths, wrapping one's lips around the mouth of a blowgun becomes rather difficult when one does not have lips.

I, of course, told him to be quiet and get me a beer. However, it left me thinking what the designer must have had in mind. Giving them the benefit of the doubt and assuming they did not forget about what a tengu looks like.

I really want to know if there are any additional resources that address the seeming contradiction of this weapon use, or you've managed to make up a story good enough to convince your players.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "be quiet and get me a beer" players should be kept in line ;) More seriously Just stick a cone on the end of the blowgun and instant crow-compatibility \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Jul 11 '12 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rob: Truthfully, that was my notion. It just felt cheesy. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Pack Jul 11 '12 at 14:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ We had that same realization as players in our Jade Regent campaign. After the initial hilarity, our supposition was that they belonged to an extremely Lawful ninja organization that issued out blowguns whether or not the recipient was physically able to use them. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 11 '12 at 23:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: The encounter was, in fact, the tengu ambush on the stairs to Ravenscraeg. Interestingly, it wasn't until after the combat was over (all 1 + surprise round) that the "issue" was realized. Since I ran the encounter as written, canon had established they were used, so we rolled with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Pack Jul 12 '12 at 12:10

Do these blowguns have to be unmodified blowguns usable by humans? I think not. One could image a modification to one end that would be usable by a beaked warrior.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A blowgun with a fitting for one or both nares would make perfect sense in tengu culture. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 11 '12 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: Either lips, or nare-fitted. I cannot picture any other way to make a blowgun work (and I've used them myself, though not with poisoned darts on live targets of course). \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Jul 12 '12 at 8:09

This answer is rampant speculation on my part, but given that the question's about the logistics of using a blowgun with a beak, I feel a little rampant speculation may be warranted.

A Tengu can learn to speak most human languages, including common, which is sometimes described as containing loanwords from all manner of languages. Tengu therefore presumably have tongues, lungs and throats similar enough to human ones that they can perform most of the vocal contortions that the equivilent human anatomy can. Perhaps Tengu can learn to 'roll' their tongues as some humans can do - and thereby hold the blowgun steady in their beak while forming a seal around the end with their tongue?

I'm capable of rolling my tongue myself, and tested this with a drinking straw; I was able to blow air through the straw without difficulty. (I found that this sent my spittle through the straw as well, so I'd advise against doing this in polite company.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Congrats, you have sealed the blowgun. Now how do you make the air from your lungs go through the blowgun? ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Jul 12 '12 at 8:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DevSolar: sealed the gap between your blowgun and your beak, at which point you just have to blow as humans do. \$\endgroup\$ – TimLymington Jul 12 '12 at 11:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington: I still can't picture it. Then again, I don't have a beak, so who am I to talk? ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – DevSolar Jul 12 '12 at 11:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DevSolar You also don't have a tengu-tongue (who knows what that might be like?) and you're not a mythic creature either. (Or, if you are, you're hiding it well. :)) \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jul 18 '12 at 13:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe: +1, excellent answer, just what I wanted to write. It must be their tongues. \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Jul 18 '12 at 13:25


This painting of a tengu show it to have lips. The wikipedia page has several example of Tengu having mouths. A quick Google search will provide you with more. See, for example, the masks depicting Tengu.

So, blow guns... Why not?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Tengu in D&D are pretty consistently portrayed with rigid beaks. Still: The author was basing it on real-world mythology instead of the game world is valid. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 11 '12 at 14:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure, some tengu do have mouths, I'm specifically thinking of the long nose kind. Unfortunately, these were the crow faced kind. \$\endgroup\$ – Scott Pack Jul 11 '12 at 14:21

The Tengu could be bypassing the need for a mouth-to-blowgun seal entirely, by use of an air bladder. The Tengu blowguns might not resemble traditional blowguns as we know them, so much as they do a killer bagpipe.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm totally picturing a tengu with an air compressor strapped to it's back \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Jul 19 '12 at 14:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or maybe using one of their "nose" holes in the beak \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Jul 19 '12 at 15:08

Very interesting question. First, I wouldn't rely on Japanese mythological depiction because there are many interpretations - including the game designers who are only superficially interested in the source material.

I believe you could have some sort of attachment to a blowpipe to fit in a beak - it would just necessarily have to be able to create a reliable seal. If they are related to ninjas, they may have all sorts of gum-like materials they could use for that purpose.

Regarding the language issues - there is a range of sound they would not be able to achieve (anything "labial", ie lip oriented), but maybe that long bird tongue has some other qualities to approximate it?


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