I am the DM for a player character that is a Kenku Swashbuckler that is currently level 8 and will be level 9 within the next few sessions. The player has been following the advice in the sidebar of Volo's where he simply describes the sound and intention used to communicate, but has picked up enough phrases to communicate in Common when needed (but it sounds more like a speak and spell or Bumblebee from Transformers). My concern is with the Swashbuckler level 9 feature Panache (emphasis mine):

At 9th level, your charm becomes extraordinarily beguiling. As an action, you can make a Charisma (Persuasion) check contested by a creature's Wisdom (Insight) check. The creature must be able to hear you, and the two of you must share a language.

Relevant Kenku information from Volo's:

Mimicry - You can mimic sounds you have heard, including voices. A creature that hears the sounds can tell they are imitations with a successful Wisdom (Insight) check opposed by your Charisma (Deception) check.

Languages - You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can only speak using your Mimicry trait.

So, if the Kenku is using the Mimicry trait to repeat a phrase in Common, a language both the Kenku and the target understand, would this meet the shared language requirement of the Panache feature?

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ You have just provided yet another data point for my lengthening list of Why Kenku are, as presented in Volos, are a badly implemented PC race Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 3, 2019 at 18:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast, you're very welcome. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrferr
    Dec 3, 2019 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Mechanically, the requirement is to share a known language

Look at the kenku player's character sheet and the stat sheet of the enemy. If at least one language appears on both sheets, the mechanical requirement is satisfied and the player can use their feature (provided all the other requirements are met, e.g. the enemy being able to hear).

Notably, the feature doesn't describe what the swashbuckler character actually does when they take the action granted by Panache, although the mechanical requirements (audibility and a shared language) strongly imply that the feature is used by speaking in some way, which a kenku can certainly do. Once you've determined that they are able to use the feature, the rules leave it entirely up to the player and DM to describe what the use of that feature looks like. As one example, if the enemy is a pirate, perhaps the kenku draws their ire by repeating a particularly vile string of curses they overheard in a pirate bar the party visited last week. Or perhaps they simply mirror the enemy's own words and mannerisms back at them, which this pirate regards as unforgivable mockery.


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