There’s something about animal races that bothers me. It just seems lazy to stick feathers or fur on what is otherwise an upright, walking, talking, humanoid person, and act like just because they have some animal parts they’re a whole new race. Don’t get me wrong: I love tengus, and catfolk, and all the others, but, if you’re like me, you like your races to feel a bit more unique and well-rounded than one or two animal stereotypes made to fit on an otherwise human frame. So, when we determined we wanted to do an avian race this year, I knew that I wanted to make it something other than a bird-man. In fact, the caori race wound up not really being a bird-man at all, but rather simply a bird. A very intelligent, very large, very dangerous bird, but, at its heart, a bird. I hope you enjoy it.
Caoris are different from most intelligent races in that they are not humanoid, but are rather a species of large bird that has grown to intelligence. They are a nomadic, plains-dwelling people who do surprisingly well for themselves considering their lack of arms and hands. They are a fierce and territorial race that values strength, bravery, and cunning.
Physical Description: Caoris are a race of intelligent, mostly flightless birds, roughly the size of a man. In most respects, they closely resemble ostriches or emus, but they are easily distinguished from these less intelligent birds by the shape of their heads and beaks, which closely resembles that of an oversized parrot. They also sport notably shorter, thicker necks than most other similarly-sized flightless birds.
Caori feathers come in a wide variety of colors, including bright blues, reds, greens, and yellows, as well as black, white, and occasionally orange and purple. Most caoris have a primary feather color, which covers most of their body and the back of their neck and head, and 1-3 secondary feather colors, which form various patterns along the underside of their neck and their belly. A caori’s legs are covered in scales, rather than feathers, which are typically either a dull yellow, black, or white color. A caori’s talons each possess a single curved, razor-sharp blade which they use to disembowel enemies and meals, though their talons are incredibly flexible and can be used to manipulate objects nearly as well as human hands. A caori’s beak is large, hard, and quite sharp as well, and comes in the same colors as their legs.
Society: Most humanoid races would describe caori society as primitive. They tend to be nomadic, gathering together in loose clans consisting of between three and six large extended families. They make little use of structures, preferring to sleep and live out on the open plains, though they often carry collapsible canvas tents with them for protection against wind and rain, during seasons when those are a threat. Caoris are generally hunter-gatherers, and so spend most of their time searching for food. Young caoris travel in hunting packs of 3–6 and work together to take down larger prey, while older caoris, and those not fit for hunting, seek out various herbs and berries.
Despite their lack of proper hands and their disdain for structures, caoris are quite familiar with tools and adept at their use and creation. At several times throughout the year, where game is plentiful, or when they have stored up enough to last them a short while, caoris will settle down for a few months at a time, and it is during this time that they practice various arts of creation, including leathermaking, blacksmithing, and jewelrymaking. Their jewelry, in particular, is very beautiful and highly prized among other races.
Relations: Most humanoid races have strained relations with caoris, and often make the mistake of assuming that they are savages, or, in the case of the particularly unobservant, that they aren’t even sentient creatures at all, but rather just large birds. They get along best with halflings, in part because they both share a love of open spaces and travel, and in some cases caoris have even been known to allow halflings to ride them, though the caoris do not see this as an act of subservience, and, indeed, consider the position of rider to be more embarrassing than mount, because the rider is not able to control where he goes.
In truth, caoris as a whole often get along better with more “savage” and “uncivilized” races, such as gnolls, orcs, and goblins than they do with humans, elves, and dwarves, although the caoris tend not to be quick to judge any group of humanoids as being terribly different from any other group. Caoris who leave their tribes and immerse themselves in humanoid society generally adapt quickly and well, provided they are able to handle all of the curiosity and attention that comes from sticking out as much as they do.
Alignment and Religion: Caoris have a strong tendency towards chaotic alignments, although lawful caoris do exist. They have a slight tendency towards evil, although most caoris are neutral on the good-evil axis. In their own society, caoris worship the spirits of various locations, geographical features, animals, and their own ancestors. Caoris that join humanoid societies often become quite fascinated with humanoid religion, though they are as likely to find it hilariously incorrect as they are to become devout worshippers.
Adventurers: Simple day-to-day life in caori society is much more of an adventure than the lives of most humanoid creatures, but for some caoris that is simply not enough. Most caoris that become adventurers do so to sate a powerful curiosity about the places and peoples with whom their clan does not interact. Others set off on self-imposed “wandering quests” when they reach adulthood, during which they leave the tribe and set out on their own for several years, to prove their worth and value to the clan by demonstrating their ability to survive on their own. Caoris who come back after having accomplished many great feats of adventuring prowess can expect positions of honor and privilege in the clan, while those who return early or with little to show for their efforts are barely tolerated, and sometimes even chased away.
Male Names: Aki-taka, Atoka, Askata, C’toka, Cacoa, Cassik, Sikita, Sok-sok, T’chaka, Tossak.
Female Names: Ika’ki, Iskat, Isiit, Itaki, Itsiki, Siit-siit, Soki, Sossat, Sotaki, Sotik.
Standard Racial Traits
Ability Score Racial Traits: Caoris are fast and hardy, and have a natural cunning, but they lack the patience for classical, academic learning. They gain +2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, +2 Wisdom, and –2 Intelligence.
Type: Caoris are magical beasts. However, their Hit Dice, base attack bonus, saving throws, and skills are determined by their class, instead of their creature type.
Size: Caoris are Medium creatures, and they have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
Base Speed: Caoris have a base speed of 40 feet.
Languages: Caoris begin play speaking Common and Caori. Caoris with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Abyssal, Aklo, Auran, Elven, Gnoll, Goblin, Halfling, Orc, Sylvan, or Tengu.
Offensive Racial Traits
Natural Attacks: A caori has two primary talon attacks that deal 1d4 points of slashing damage on a successful hit, and a secondary bite attack that deals 1d3 points of piercing damage on a successful hit. The talon attacks have a critical threat range of 18–20.
Magical Racial Traits
Caori Song: All caori are gifted with musical talent, and can replicate the effects of a bard’s countersong and fascinate bardic performances. The caori can use these performances for a number of rounds per day equal to 2 + his Hit Dice, and treats his bard level as being equal to his Hit Dice for this purpose. If the caori gains the countersong and bardic performances abilities from another source (such as by becoming a bard), it can use these additional rounds only to perform these two performances.
Senses Racial Traits
Darkvision: Caoris can see perfectly in the dark up to 60 feet.
Low-Light Vision: Caoris can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.
Skill Racial Traits
Powerful Voice: Caoris have powerful vocal chords and are capable of making incredible noise when they want to. They gain a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks, Perform (oratory) checks, and Perform (sing) checks.
Other Racial Traits
Avian Body: Caoris are not humanoid in appearance, and lack humanoid arms and hands. Though a caori’s talons are very dexterous, and it can use them (one at a time) to manipulate objects, such as opening a door, unfurling a scroll, or attempting to pick a lock, they cannot effectively wield weapons or shields with their talons, as to do so would require balancing on one leg. Additionally, caoris do not possess magic item slots for belt, feet or hands. They can wear magic items that occupy the belt slot on their neck, occupying the neck slot. They can wear items that occupy the wrist slot; these go on their ankles. Finally, because they are nonhumanoid, armor made for caoris costs twice as much as similar armor made for humanoid creatures.
Flight: Caoris are capable of limited flight. A caori can flap its wings as a move action to lift its body up to three inches off the ground and move up to 5 feet horizontally in any direction. The caori can remain aloft in this fashion by continuing to spend a move action each round to remain aloft, though each round after the first it must succeed on a Strength check (DC 10 + 1 per previous check) or fall to the ground at the end of its turn. This can also protect the caori from falling great heights, and a caori that succeeds on a DC 15 Acrobatics check to soften its fall never takes more than 1d6 points of fall damage, no matter how far it fell.
At 5th level, caoris gain a fly speed of 40 feet with poor maneuverability. Each round that they make use of this fly speed, they must succeed on a Constitution check (DC 10 +1 per previous consecutive round of flight) or become fatigued. If the caori is already fatigued, it becomes exhausted, instead. A caori cannot fly in this way if it is wearing medium or heavy armor, if it is carrying a medium or heavy load, or if it is exhausted.