From Epic Path
Jump to: navigation, search
This graceful and sharp-eyed Tengu has used his Shiny! racial ability to calculate the gold value of everything you own. He doesn't seem too impressed....
Camaraderie and wit, a warm campfire and the open road.


Of all the intelligent races, there are several that are aligned with animal spirits. The story of their origin is vague, but no matter where you go, the same general outline is agreed upon. That outline goes something like this:

In the Dawn Times, there were several civilized intelligent races. Who was the First Race is a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that there were Elves, Dwarves, and Humans very early, followed closely by Gnomes and Halflings. For a very long time, these were the dominant races.

After the Dawn Times but still very long ago, there were many animal Gods who wished to also have a race of intelligent creatures to worship them. As a result, there came to be hundreds of intelligent races, many of them aligned with animal spirits. This was a period of great strife and chaos as all the multitude of races strove among themselves.

Eventually, the Gods decided there would be a great contest, and from the hundreds of intelligent animal races there would be chosen five, to match the number of the First Races. The details of the contest can be found in thousands of myths all over the world, but in the end, there were indeed five animal races chosen to Bear the Spark of Civility.

The story of how the Tengu won the Great Contest is rarely told, and its details change with each telling, but on one thing it is generally agreed: the Tengus cheated.

The Great Contest consisted of three trials, each testing the various aptitudes and worthy qualities of the beast races, and each part was judged by the Gods themselves. Each race nominated a champion to represent their race, and that champion had to perform all of the trials.

The first trial was the Trial of Destruction -- a gladiatorial skirmish in an arena. The Tengus selected their champion, Karasu, who was a young Tengu, known to be the most clever among his kin. Looking upon him, the other beast races laughed at Karasu, for he was scrawny and weak, and could never hope to face the might of the other champions.

When the skirmish began, Karasu was struck down almost immediately by the Nagdyr champion, his feathers spraying about like a skewered pillow. The tengus watching all wept and gnashed their beaks in remorse, for they knew they were not a strong race, and surely they would not be chosen by the Gods to be raised up above the beasts.

But as the skirmish ended, standing in the arena were nine remaining beast champions and Karasu the Tengu.

The Tengus were shocked! How had Karasu come to stand among the remaining champions when so many others had been bent low by the brutal might of the fighters? They had seen him cut down in the first seconds of the fight.

And Karasu laughed, and told his kinsmen he had only played at being hurt earlier, and waited until he remained among the few beast races still standing. And so, he was chosen by the Gods to attend the next trial.

The second trial was the Trial of Chronicles -- a contest of storytelling, in which each champion described the history of his race.

While Karasu was known to be eloquent and well-spoken, this contest posed a problem for the Tengus, as they had no history, and told no stories at their campfires. Indeed, the Tengus were an impulsive race, rarely planning anything beyond meeting their immediate desires.

So Karasu listened carefully to the other champions as they told their tales of bravery and honor, cunning and guile, romance and love, exploration and discovery. He watched the Gods as they followed the stories, and saw how the words moved each of them.

The Tengus watching the contest knew that Karasu must surely fail against these stories, as he had no stories of his own. They despaired and cursed their choice in a champion, knowing they would scrape as beasts in the dirt for all of time.

But when Karasu stepped before the Gods and told his tale of the Tengus, it was a beautiful tale, one of such great heroism and wisdom, such cleverness and graciousness that all of the Gods gasped in anticipation through the dangers he described and sobbed in mournfulness at the tragedies. The Gods unanimously agreed that he should continue to the next trial.

The Tengus were shocked. How had Karasu come by such words, and composed such a story, when no Tengu knew any stories, and no history had ever been recorded for their kind?

And Karasu laughed, and said he used the words of the other beast races, and put them together to make his own story. He took the parts of each story that seemed to most move the Gods, and used them as his own.

The final trial was the Trial of Creation -- a contest of building the most beautiful, useful or clever thing the champion could imagine.

The Tengus knew all was lost, for no Tengu had ever built anything, only spending their days in leisure or playing games with each other. They knew Karasu could not succeed, though he had shown so much promise in the other trials.

And as they expected, Karasu could do nothing. As the other beast races rushed to construct magnificent things, or beautiful things, or useful things, Karasu only sat in the grass and watched the clouds race by.

When the time came and the Gods judged the creations before them, they came to Karasu and asked "What have you built, that we should raise your kin up to live among men?"

And Karasu laughed, as a cloud passed before the sun, bringing a momentary breath of coolness to the heat of the day. "O Divine Hosts, I have created only this: the shade of the day, that we might rest from our labors and be refreshed."

The Gods were puzzled, for surely they had created shade, and not Karasu, but as they talked amongst themselves, none of the Gods could recall having specifically built the shade, only that it existed. The Gods spoke: "Surely you did not make the shade, for this is the work of the Gods?"

And Karasu laughed, and said "O Divine Hosts, you have created the sun which gives us light, and you have created the trees which give us beauty and wood and sap, and you have given us wind to cool our brows, but I have taken these marvelous creations and used them to create Shade."

The Gods scoffed. "You haven't created anything," they said, "you've only taken what was already there, twisted its shape and called it new."

And Karasu laughed again, and said, "But is that not the essence of creation? To take what gifts the Gods have bestowed upon us, and shape them into something new? If you've never before named the Shade, or appreciated its utility and beauty, then surely it is because I have only now created it?"

The Gods knew that if they accused Karasu of having built nothing, they would have to say the same was true of all the other champions, for did they not also use the gifts of the Gods to create something new, only because of how those gifts had been put together?

So the Gods agreed that, among the beast races, the Tengus also would receive the Spark.


The Tengus have changed quite a lot since they were given the Spark, as have all the beast races. Seeing the qualities that the Gods best revered, it is said the Tengus strove to be better people after the Great Contest. While they have never risen to acclaim for their might or heroism, they have become well-respected for their art, their music and their sculpture. They have embraced storytelling and the creation of things ephemeral, like songs. While not every Tengu is gifted at art, or poetry or signing, such qualities are highly respected in the Tengu community.

Of course, not everything has changed. The Tengus still greatly love leisure, and few Tengus ever get what most races would call "an honest job" in their lives. Most Tengus travel the countryside, picking roadside fruits, nuts and vegetables, or catching small game to fill their pots, and never accumulate more wealth than a mare and a wagon to sleep under at night. Many races see this nomadic lifestyle as frivolous, hedonistic and vulgar. Many view the Tengu with distrust and suspicion, for a people with no roots, no homes, are bound by few laws. Of course, the very reason the Tengus move around so much is to be bound by as few laws as possible.

It is probably unfair to say that all Tengus are thieves, that they can never be trusted to tell the truth, and that they steal children. In fact, very few Tengus actually steal children. But they do enjoy lying perhaps a bit more than most other races do. Tengus see a good lie as just a kind of storytelling, a fleeting bit of art that warms the ear of the listener, and gives them the illusion of truth for a brief while.

A Tengu caravan will always welcome strangers to its fires, and offer food to any who ask for it. As a result, it is quite common to see a Changeling or two in any Tengu caravan, happily living among the families. Tengu feel strongly that sharing food and drink with a stranger means that no violence can be made by the host or the guest until the morning light. Breaking this rule as a guest can result in murderous rebukes by Tengus who learn of it, sometimes years after the event. And a Tengu which treats a guest with violence after feeding him is usually exiled from any Tengu community that knows of his transgression.

Growing Up Tengu

Tengu children are raised by their extended families, and the families that travel with them. They live in rough clothing, often barefoot until adulthood, and rarely knowing the comforts of a hearth or a place they can call home. They live in and around the wagons as they travel between villages, never staying in one place for more than a week or so. They are educated only in the rudest of ways, shown signs and taught counting and numbers only when it comes up in trade or negotiations. Taught reading only when it seems immediately useful, and taught writing only so they can better practice art or calligraphy.

Luckily, Tengus are nearly universally smart, and take very quickly to learning. In fact, they are eager listeners, and curious about new things, and this passion for learning never really wears off with adulthood.

When Tengus reach an age for mating and marriage, they are often given the choice to start their own caravan and take their new family in its own direction, or continue with the family caravan and travel with the larger group. A newly married couple is always given a wagon by the parents of the bride and a horse by the parents of the groom. These gifts can vary in richness and design quite a lot, depending on the talents and skills (and incidental wealth) that the parents in question happen to have.


Generally, Tengu are desperately poor by most races' standards. They rarely care to exert the effort to accumulate wealth, and shun the ownership of property beyond what can be carried in a wagon by a horse. Of course, there are always exceptions, and there are a rare few Tengu merchants or even nobility who have made places of wealth or power for themselves, but in terms of the broader society, Tengu contribute little to a nation's trade.

The primary areas in which Tengu provide commodities is in artwork, songs, carvings and woodwork. Many Tengu master whittling of wood while riding in their wagons and traveling the countryside. Others become charismatic storytellers, or entrancing performers. Tengu are also famous for their dancing, but this is rarely done for money, and is often a private affair.


Tengus treasure the freedoms of travel, and often leave small tokens of their artistry at crossroads and the ends of trails which had led them somewhere interesting. It is unclear if this is meant as a tribute to a particular god or spirit, but the custom persists nonetheless.

Tengus also revere the Moon, who they see as the greatest user of the gift of shade, created by their champion Karasu. Not only does the moon's light create the greatest shade, the moon itself can often be seen occluded in shade. Tengus see the night of a new moon as a holy day, and rarely travel on these nights. Tengus are not nocturnal, typically, but it is a rare Tengu who can't tell you the exact phase of the moon on any particular day.

Tengu also have many customs related to their appearance. Tengu are perhaps the most widely varied race, in terms of appearance, even though the huge majority of Tengu are uniformly dark in their coloration. Some tengu are born with wildly variant plumage, however. Such Tengu are called sports, and their appearance is never remarked upon by any Tengu, but they are almost universally respected, admired, and feted by all tengu they meet. Sports can come in a variety of plumages, the most common of which are the brilliant green parrot-style Tengu. Second most-rare are are brilliantly blue tengu, rarer still are the blazing bright red cardinal-pattern tengu, and rarest of all are the snowy Tengu whose plumage is blazing bright white. No tengu will ever admit it aloud, but most tengu are tremendously impressed with sports, and they are considered good luck and good omens. Sports, on the other hand, often are expected to exhibit the very best in good manners and show off their race to the very best.

The other variable among Tengu is whether their hands are coarse and birdlike, or slender and human-like, covered in plumage. About a quarter of Tengu have human-style hands, while most have bare-skinned and powerful birdlike hands. Tengu with human hands are looked down on as effete and delicate, no matter their real strength, unless they are also sports. A sport with delicate hands is considered doubly blessed, while a common dark-plumaged Tengu with human hands is looked down upon. Such things are never spoken of openly, of course.

Lifespan and Burial

Tengus live about as long as humans do, entering a senescence around the age of 75 years, and few living more than 90 years. Most Tengus are considered adults at the age of 16, though many races would disagree, given how typically immature a Tengu is, often into his 30's and 40's.

Tengus prefer to be cremated, their ashes scattered along roadsides by the surviving family members. Indeed, the ashes of lost loved ones are frequently incorporated into the knick-knacks a Tengu will leave at a crossroads to thank the road for its passage. Tengus reject the idea of grave markers, as they feel it would bind their spirits from travel in the afterlife.

Relations with Others

Tengus generally get along with anyone tolerant enough to spend time with them. They are affable people, holding little or no malice in their hearts. However, they are very impulsive, and can sometimes have a cutting wit to their words. This, combined with a reputation for dishonesty and thievery, leaves many races cold to the Tengus.

Changelings and Halflings seem to like Tengus just fine, and Humans can also be found in their company quite often. Tengus rarely travel near any large cities (as they view cities with a surprising degree of scorn), but are viewed with curious interest by village children and those townsfolk who are willing to try to see past their bigotry.

A Tengu's campfire is a marvelous place indeed, with fresh food, pleasant company, riveting stories and haunting songs to pass the evening.

Starting Height and Weight

Gender Base Height Height Modifier Weight Weight Modifier
Male 4 ft. 9 in. +2d6 in. (4 ft. 11 in. - 5 ft. 9 in.) 50 lbs. +(2d8x5 lbs.) (64 - 130 lbs.)
Female 4 ft. 7 in. +2d4 in. (4 ft. 9 in. - 5 ft. 3 in.) 20 lbs. +(2d8x5 lbs.) (34 - 100 lbs.)

Starting Ages

Adulthood Intuitive Self-Taught Trained
15 years +1d6 years (16 - 21 years) +2d6 years (17 - 27 years) +3d6 years (18 - 33 years)


Tengu have no class or alignment restrictions.

Standard Racial Traits

All Tengu have the following Standard Racial Advantages:

  • Attributes: Tengu may choose to gain one of the following ability score bonus sets when creating their character. No ability score may ever be modified above a 20 or below a 7.
    • +2 to two different stats, -2 to one stat
    • +2 to one stat, +1 to three different stats, -2 to one stat
    • +4 to one stat, -2 to two different stats
  • Size: Tengu are Medium creatures and thus receive no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Type: Tengu have the Humanoid type, with the Tengu subtype.
  • Base Speed: Tengu have a base speed of 30 feet, but their speed is greatly affected by weight if they are flying. Halve all of a Tengu's weight allowances to avoid encumbrance if they are using a Fly speed.
  • Languages: Tengu begin play speaking Common and Tengu.
  • Bonus Languages: Characters with a positive Intelligence modifier gain one bonus language per +1 of their modifier, selecting from the following list: Auran, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, and Halfling. Once the character's intelligence is high enough to have acquired all six of these bonus languages, they no longer gain bonus languages for increasing their Intelligence. Characters can also learn new languages by placing ranks in the Linguistics skill.
  • Hawk Sight (Ex): Tengu need bright light to see without penalty, but in bright light, their vision is exceptional. All range modifiers applied to visual perception rolls in bright light are at -1 per fifty feet instead of -1 per ten feet.
  • Winged (Ex): Even though Tengu do not always have a Fly speed, they always have wings. A Tengu's wings extend from their arms, often giving the impression that they are wearing wide, loose sleeves made of dark feathers. The wings can be folded out of the way, and do not hamper the Tengu's ability to use her hands and arms normally.

Major Racial Traits

Choose one of the following Major Racial Traits:

Soaring (Ex)

A Tengu with this racial trait can use her Winged racial trait to fly. The Tengu gains Lesser Flight with a speed of 30, but while in the air, she may not use her hands or arms for anything except sustaining her flight. The Tengu may continue to hold weapons, shields and items in her hands while flying but may not use them until she lands, nor may she cast spells or use abilities requiring a somatic component. At level 10, the Tengu's flight speed improves to 40, and becomes strong enough to allow a single attack action to be performed without landing or losing altitude. At level 20, the Tengu's flight speed improves to 50, and she may use her hands and arms normally while flying with no loss of altitude (she still uses her arms to flap her wings, but she has learned to act quickly between beats). At level 30, the Tengu's flight speed improves to 60 and becomes Greater Flight.

Stones in the Vase (Ex)

Tengu with this racial trait gain a +1 racial bonus to INT. This bonus may be applied to her INT even if she has already added a racial ability score modifier to INT, though her total modified INT cannot exceed 20. In addition, at 10th level, the Tengu gains an additional +1 to her INT, and at 25th level, she gains a further +2 to her INT.

Flashing Beak (Ex)

A Tengu with this racial trait can slash at the eyes of an enemy with his beak in an attempt to blind them. Once per round during a full attack action, the Tengu may select one enemy he successfully hits with a melee attack and force that enemy to make a Reflex save (DC of 10 + 1/2 the Tengu's character level + the highest of the Tengu's physical ability modifiers (STR, DEX or CON), round down) or that creature gains the Blind status condition until the start of the Tengu's next turn. This is a free action which takes place during any point of the Tengu's full attack action. This trait can never affect more than one target per round, even if the attack used deals damage to multiple targets (such as whirlwind attack).

Sum of Our Parts (Su)

Once per day, a Tengu with this racial trait may spend a move action to choose 1 saving throw type (Fort, Refl, Will) and determine the highest value of this save among himself and all allies within 10 feet of him. The Tengu and any ally within 10 feet of him may use this value instead of their own until the end of the encounter. If any ally leaves the radius of the trait's effect, they no longer enjoy its benefits, though the saving throw's value does not change, even if the original bearer of the chosen value leaves the area. At 10th level, this trait applies to all allies within 15 feet of the Tengu. At 20th level, it applies to all allies within 20 feet, and at 30th level, it applies to all allies within 30 feet.

Trickster's Deceit (Su)

Once per encounter, a Tengu with this racial trait may expend a move action to choose an enemy within 30 feet, and become invisible to that enemy until the Tengu attacks that foe, or includes that foe in any attack, spell or effect. There is no saving throw against this trait's effects, and it lasts until broken or the encounter ends. If used outside of combat, the trait cannot be used more often than once per hour and it lasts 1 minute or until the Tengu attacks the subject. The invisibility may only ever be applied to the Tengu with this trait. Invisibility provides total concealment (50% miss chance) and a +20 bonus to stealth checks against creatures whose senses are affected by invisibility.

Minor Racial Traits

Choose one of the following Minor Racial Traits:

Feathery Rush (Ex)

When charging, a Tengu with this racial trait may select one creature on the battlefield. The Tengu does not provoke attacks of opportunity from that creature during his charge. The selected creature does not have to be the target of the charge attack.

Cloak of Feathers (Ex)

Using her Winged racial trait, a Tengu with this racial trait can mask her movements as though skillfully brandishing a cloak. This trait grants the Tengu a +2 racial bonus on Bluff checks made to feint, and, if the feint maneuver is successful, she gains a +1 dodge bonus to her Armor Class until the start of her next turn (in addition to the effects of the feint itself).

Opportunist (Ex)

A Tengu with this racial trait adds a +1 racial bonus to attack rolls when making attacks of opportunity.

Dangerously Clever (Ex)

A Tengu with this racial trait may put ranks into one Bailiwick skill that is not granted by his character class and add a +1 training bonus to his checks. This bonus increases to +2 if they have 12 or more ranks in the skill, or +3 if they have 24 or more ranks in the skill. This racial trait does not make the chosen Bailiwick skill a natural talent, however.

Shiny! (Ex)

A Tengu with this racial trait gains a +1 training bonus to both the Barter skill and the Knowledge (Local) skill. If they have at least 10 ranks in one (or both) of the skills, the training bonus improves to +2 for that skill, to +3 if they have at least 20 ranks in it, and to +4 if they have at least 30 ranks in it.