To the Birds: Tengu

Variant Tengu

While the most commonly encountered tengu are those with the heads of crows or ravens, several other varieties exist, including those with the heads of cranes, seagulls, and roosters… Like their more recognized cousins, these variant tengu live in close-knit rookeries, engaging in clandestine and mysterious activities hidden from the prying eyes of other humanoids.

Crane Tengu

This humanoid creature has the long neck and head of a white crane with gleaming inquisitive eyes.

The scholars and mystics of tengu society, crane tengu dwell in areas such as abandoned temples, ruined monasteries and dilapidated libraries. Like other tengu, they are covetous creatures; however, they do not share their cousins’ love of shiny objects. Instead, crane tengu hoard books, tomes, palimpsests, and any other written material they can get their hands on, greedily absorbing the knowledge contained in these texts, both to expand their own knowledge and to pass on the information to other tengu. As a result, many crow and seagull tengu rookeries contain a few crane tengu acting as spiritual guides and teachers.

Crane tengu are the tallest members of the standard tengu race, and they typically possess the heads of white or black cranes. Some rare crane tengu possess the heads of ibises or storks instead, but this has no bearing on their abilities.

Most crane tengu are experts or wizards but some become clerics, druids, or monks. Crane tengu have the following racial traits.

  • +2 Intelligence, +2 Wisdom, −2 Constitution: Crane tengu are frail, thin-limbed creatures, but they are patient and shrewd.
  • Senses: Crane tengu have low-light vision.
  • Learned: Crane tengu gain a +2 racial bonus on a single knowledge skill. They also treat all Knowledge skills as class skills.
  • Gifted Linguist: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Staffmaster: Crane tengu are not especially gifted in swordplay, instead favoring stout quarterstaffs to defend themselves. As a result, crane tengu receive a +1 racial bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls with quarterstaffs.
  • Natural Weapon: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Languages: Crane tengu begin play speaking Common and their own dialect of Tengu. Crane tengu with high Intelligence scores can choose any language as a bonus language.

Rooster Tengu

The head of this strutting humanoid is that of a rooster with golden feathers, piercing black eyes, and a bright crimson cockscomb.

The entertainers and minstrels of tengu society, rooster or cockerel tengu are also the vainest members of their race, and they constantly groom and preen themselves to maintain their glorious feathers and wattles. Unlike other tengu, rooster tengu are exclusively male, and they either live alone or with a group of female crow tengu who serve them as both guards and concubines.

Rooster tengu are possibly the most notorious of the common tengu variants, and their boastful and lascivious nature often results in clashes with enraged husbands, spurned lovers, and the legal system. Some rooster tengu make their name as talented singers and troubadours, and some as many are noted bandits and thieves.

Rooster tengu are amongst the most attractive looking tengu (as far as their race is concerned) with broad chests, magnificent cockscombs, and feathers in a variety of brilliant shades including gold, blue, and red. They tend to accentuate their gloriously colored feathers with fine clothing and jewels.

Most rooster tengu are bards or fighters with the most famous being high-level duelists. Rooster tengu possess the following racial traits.

  • +2 Strength, +2 Charisma, −2 Wisdom: Rooster tengu possess natural flair and terrific upper-body strength, but often lack even a modicum of common sense or self control.
  • Senses: Rooster tengu have low-light vision.
  • Gifted Linguist: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Swordtrained: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Talented Vocalist: Rooster tengu gain a +2 racial bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy and Perform (sing) checks. Perform (sing) is always a class skill for rooster tengu.
  • Natural Weapon: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Languages: Rooster tengu begin play speaking Common and their own dialect of Tengu. Rooster tengu with high Intelligence scores can choose any language as a bonus language.

Seagull Tengu

This raucous humanoid possesses the head of a seagull with a bright orange beak and darting black eyes.

Common along coastlines and waterfront cities, seagull tengu favor locations such as ships that have been tied up and left abandoned or old fish markets. Loud and abrasive, rookeries of seagull tengu often compete with one another for space and territory, leading to secretive wars in the back alleys and dock areas of major cities. These wars often lead to a decrease in the level of crime in major cities as the tengu fight amongst themselves, but as soon as the war is over, the victors make up for lost time. While most seagull tengu are found in cities, some dwell in isolated locations far from human civilization, living off the sea as simple fishermen.

Seagull tengu are amongst the shortest members of their race, and possess the heads of seagulls rather than ravens. Most seagull tengu have white or gray heads with yellow or orange beaks although variations exist, and some even have the heads of other seagoing birds such as terns and cormorants.

Seagull tengu are natural kleptomaniacs, so they favor the rogue class. A rare few seagull tengu who come from isolated rookeries are barbarians instead. All seagull tengu have the following racial traits.

  • +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, −2 Charisma: Seagull tengu are known for their quick reflexes and natural inquisitiveness, but are annoying and bothersome at the best of times.
  • Senses: Seagull tengu have low-light vision.
  • Natural Swimmer: Seagull tengu gain a +2 racial bonus on Swim checks.
  • Sneaky: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Flock Mentality: Seagull tengu gain a +1 racial bonus on attack rolls when flanking an opponent. This racial bonus increases to +2 if at least two other creatures are flanking the same enemy.
  • Natural Weapon: See the normal tengu racial traits in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary.
  • Languages: Seagull tengu begin play speaking Common and their own dialect of Tengu. Seagull tengu with high Intelligence scores can choose any language as a bonus language (though they are not as gifted in languages as other tengu, and many are illiterate).

Other Variants

Aside from the variant tengu already mentioned, other types of tengu are also known to exist, some of them far more powerful and malevolent than those listed above.

Birdmen Tengu: Dwelling in isolated mountaintop retreats, birdmen tengu possess large wings that enable them to fly with a base speed of 60 ft. (good). Birdmen tengu are more fragile than their land-bound kin and receive a −2 racial penalty to Strength in addition to their normal racial traits. Birdmen tengu are flighty and impulsive. Most are chaotic in alignment.

Karasa Tengu: Vicious and evil tengu with a penchant for human flesh, karasa or daitengu are crow-headed tengu with the giant simple template, two claw attacks that deal 1d6 damage each, and the ability to fly with a base speed of 40 ft. (average). Karasa tengu are brutish creatures but far from stupid. They have been known to control gangs of lesser crow tengu through fear and intimidation.

Konoha Tengu: Powerful tengu with blazing eyes and long hair (usually worn loose and long by males and woven into intricate styles by females), konoha tengu are tengu with the advanced simple template and the ability to use disguise self and obscuring mist as spell-like abilities 1/day. While konoha tengu are often the leaders of normal tengu rookeries, just as many work as lone spies or assassins, using their talents to infiltrate all avenues of society.

Oni Tengu: Some oni take the form of tengu instead of giants, corrupting tengu rookeries and transforming them into evil havens. Oni tengu have the heads of crows or other birds like normal tengu, but they also possess a single monstrous feature that marks them as slightly different, such as large donkey-like ears or canine fangs. Oni tengu are treated as ogre mages with the young creature template.

Tengu Adventurers

A disproportionate number of tengu become adventurers when compared to the other races. As they enter adulthood, a drive to “leave the nest” sends many young tengu on an adventure, a quest to come into their own. Others take up traveling adventure to better appreciate their flock’s niche or to seek out a place to where all tengu might flock. Still others become adventurers out of necessity; exiled or ostracized tengu often have little other choice.

Alchemist: The shifting forms and quixotic bombs of the alchemist clash with a tengu’s drive for a perfected form, both physical and martial. Tengu alchemists are often regarded as a lesser tengu, boldly defying traditional methods of training in exchange for quick mutagens and extracts.

Barbarian: Often regarded as demon-possessed, tengu barbarians struggle to earn a place in tengu society, their bestial fighting prowess sometimes a hindrance on the graceful training and introspection of more traditional tengu warriors. Still, some tengu barbarians claim to be able to speak with their spirit self while enraged, forgoing martial perfection in exchange for spiritual reverence…

Bard: Tengu appreciate vocal diversity in a way only an avian race can. From common morning songs to epic poems littered with mimicry, the tengu bard is considered a herald of the perfected voice.

Cavalier: The high-minded orders and chivalric notions of the cavalier are often pleasing to tengu with a strong devotion to the flock, but as a race accustomed to living on the edges of larger civilizations, the penchant for drawing that much attention to one’s self is sometimes problematic.

Cleric: Their connection to the Spirit World often leads tengu along a spiritual path, forming a close bond with a like-minded deity. Other philosophical tengu worship an ideal, rather than a personified deity, but they are no less respected for their pursuit of perfection in spiritual form.

Druid: Like clerics, druids are respected in tengu society for their devotion to an idealized cause. However, druids who come to see civilization as a blight to nature’s advance quickly find themselves ostracized in tengu culture. Still, tengu histories say the Spirit World and the natural world remain close sisters in the cosmos.

Fighter: One of the most common choices for adventurous tengu, the fighter epitomizes their drive for perfected martial form. Tengu fighters invariably train in swords of all types.

Inquisitor: In a flock where tradition is threatened by encroaching outsiders or influential, change-minded insiders, tengu inquisitors emerge as Guardians of the Flock. Guided by tradition, tengu inquisitors seek out threats to their culture’s way of life, both at home and abroad.

Monk: The tengu life-quest for the perfected physical and martial form is epitomized by the monk. Combining their sword training with the whirling strikes of martial art, the tengu monk is both respected and revered by his cultural peers.

Oracle: Oracles represent an aspect of some greater power. As impressive as it is to become a conduit for this power, it is still but a fraction of the power’s whole. For this reason, few tengu become oracles. Those that do take great pains to reduce or minimize their power’s curse, as this represents the fettering chains that keep the tengu oracle from striving toward perfection.

Paladin: Just as with the cleric, tengu who devote themselves to an ideal find respect amongst their kind. Tengu paladins seek adventure to test the conviction of their devotion against temptation and corruption.

Ranger: When the flock survives near a hostile enemy, the rangers of the flock become the first line of defense against encroachment. Respected tacticians, tengu rangers often set out on their own to deal with issues the community cannot.

Rogue: A natural fit for tengu, rogues allow the tengu race to live amongst the other races, moving information and even goods while remaining unnoticed in the shadowy nooks and alleyways. There is perhaps no more respected citizen that the law- and tradition-abiding tengu rogue.

Sorcerer: Every few generations, the tengu ancestral link with the Spirit World manifests in the form of a sorcerer. Treated no different than his rookery mates, the tengu sorcerer is watched closely by the elders of his flock.

Summoner: Tengu summoners extend their race’s drive for perfection to their eidolons, constantly making minute changes to the spirit form that serves them. Eidolons that take on devilish or demonic appearances are considered abominations amongst the tengu.

Witch: The mystic connection with the Spirit World sometimes leads a tengu down the path of the witch, questing after the natural world’s arcane secrets, but most tengu regard witches in the same light as over-zealous druids, whose devotion to the flock has wavered to the point of exile.

Wizard: Many tengu wizards claim to tap into the Spirit World itself to harness its energies to power their spells. Whether or not this is frowned upon by the tengu elders changes from flock to flock, measured more by the wizard’s actions than by any reverence for arcane mysteries.

Alternate Racial Traits

Tengu are a secretive race. Living, successfully, in the shadows and slums amongst other races, they develop a reputation for being sneaky or cunning. Tengu instead devote themselves to their flock traditions, their sense of duty, family, and constant drive to perfect their training leaving little room to befriend outsiders. Still, some tengu flocks that live among other races for generations slowly adopt similar traits as those races. Other tengu revere mysticism more than martial pursuits and harbor a deep connection with their race’s spirit-world past. Such tengu often possess different racial traits than more traditional tengu.

Ironclaw: While most tengu train from an early age with blades of varying lengths, some tengu do not have access to such weaponry. Nevertheless, the instinct to perfect a martial form is deep within the tengu spirit. Tengu with this racial trait possess two claw attacks that inflict 1d8 points of damage on a hit. This ability replaces the swordtrained racial trait.

Mystic: Some tengu possess a link with the Spirit World from which their race was spawned. Tengu with this racial trait gain a +2 racial bonus on Knowledge (planes). Tengu with a Charisma score of 10 or higher can cast guidance once per day as a spell-like ability. Tengu with a Charisma score of 13 or higher can cast speak with dead once per week as a spell-like ability. The caster level for these effects is equal to the tengu’s level (DC 10 + spell’s level + Charisma modifier). This ability replaces the gifted linguist racial trait.

Skybound: Some tengu view their avian appearance as a sign that their race was meant to soar the skies. Known for spending hours or days atop trees, buildings, mountains, or any other structure of any height, eyes to the sun, feeling the wind play across their feathers, these tengu long to float among the clouds. Tengu with this racial trait gain Fly as a class skill and can take ranks in Fly without having a natural fly speed and can use Fly to negate falling damage (see Fly skill) without a having a fly speed. This ability replaces low-light vision and sneaky.

Subtle: As tengu “nests” grow in humanoid communities, often the humanoid neighbors develop a mistrust or fear of the silent, mysterious tengu. Rather than remain invisible to the community at large, and in order to better appease their curiously distrustful neighbors, tengu go to great efforts to mask their numbers within the community, purposely passing as humans, dwarves, elves, or whatever race they live near. Tengu with this trait gain a +2 racial bonus on Bluff and Disguise. This ability replaces the sneaky racial trait.

Trustworthy: Other humanoid races are often intolerant and territorial. Tengu who manage to live alongside such races become natural diplomats and negotiators. Tengu with this racial trait gain a +2 racial bonus to Diplomacy and Sense Motive. This ability replaces the sneaky racial trait.

Legends of the Tengu

Sojobo, Tengu King, and Myths of the Far East

The tengu pervade early Japanese legends as tricksters and deviant beings whose intentions were not always pure of heart. Though once known as baby stealers and kidnappers, they were eventually described as helpful, protective, and caring. Always carrying with them the penchant for mischief and expressions of an animal nature but with a spiritual view mirroring our own, the tengu has a lengthy presence in mythology and religion, playing important roles in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Shinto…

The first tengu are found in ancient Japanese documents from about 720 CE, and are closely associated with the spirit world divinity and Mount Kurama, near Kibune in Japan. In Hinduism, they began as the Karura—the race of which the divine being, Garuda, was a part—and were mortal enemies of the naga. When they entered Buddhist traditions, they became guardian beings who were devoted to protecting the law of dharma and teaching lessons to Buddhist monks through harsh and sometimes foul methods. As recently as 1860, they have been mentioned in political notices: the Edo Government posted public notices to the tengu asking them not to cause mischief just prior to the arrival and visitation of a military general (or Shogun).

The king of the tengu was a yamabushi mountain tengu warrior known as Sojobo, who is perhaps best known for mentoring a warrior named Minamoto no Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune learned martial arts, tactical strategy, and magic at Sojobo’s home on Mount Kurama. Sojobo is an ancient yamabushi tengu with long nimble limbs, sprouting white hair, and an unnaturally long nose. He is incredibly powerful as a samurai combatant and mage; one legend notes his strength being that of 1,000 of his lesser tengu warriors. Sojobo instructs tengu in all aspects of their culture and history and is seen as a protective guardian and ancestral patron of the tengu races and others.

Temple Guardian Stone (Magic Item)

Aura moderate evocation; CL 11th
Slot —; Price 30,000 gp (set of five stones); Weight 250 lb. each.

Produced in sets of 2–5 stones, these monoliths are placed around temples, shrines, holy sites, and other locations of faith to allow immediate teleportation of those charged with its protection. This granite, marble, or other solid upright stone fixture is roughly 10–20 inches wide and around 30–45 inches tall, varying in ornamentation.

A temple guardian stone weighs 200–300 lb. It is always made to be self-supporting and stable in its resting place. Touching the stone, you are transported to the location of another stone made in the same set. With the secret, whispered command word (swift action), the temple guardian stone delivers you to within 10 ft. of the next stone in the series, or the nearest safe location if the intended space is occupied (similar to word of recall except that it delivers you to another stone in the set).

Subsequent uses of the stone set continue the teleportation in a predetermined series before restarting the cycle. The stones must be on the same plane and within 1 mile of the next stone with no two stones being more than 3 miles apart. Only one creature may activate the stone at a time. A single stone can be used every round up to 5 activations /minute before it must “recharge” for 1d4+3 rounds (maximum of 60 activations/day).

If an activation attempt happens during any recharge period or beyond the maximum uses per day, you are not teleported. Users with the Tengu Temple Watcher feat (see Kobold Quarterly #14) receive the benefits of a divine favor spell and may use the stones any number of times per day within the above time limitations, and the recharge period after their uses is only 1d4 rounds. A divine favor granted in this manner only lasts 4 rounds and grants a static +2 bonus.

Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, divine favor, word of recall; Cost 12,000 gp, plus 1,000 gp/additional stone beyond two

Winged Karasu

Winged Karasu Greater Tengu (CR 4)

Black feathers cover the creature’s entire body and a raven-like beaked face like that of a bird, and it flexes sharp talons on its hands and feet. It wields the twin blades of the samurai—a masterwork set katana and wakizashi…

XP 1,200
LN Medium outsider (air, extraplanar, lawful, tengu)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, Perception +10

17, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+2 armor, +3 Dex, +2 natural)
22 (4d10)
+1, Ref +7, Will +7
4/bludgeoning, silver, and chaotic; SR 14

30 ft., fly 75 ft. (good)
katana +9 (1d10+3/19–20/x3; +1 attack and damage to sunder), wakizashi +9 (1d6+3/18–20; +1 attack and damage to sunder), bite +4 (1d3+1)
shuriken +8 (1d2+2; 10-ft. range increment)
Special Attacks
wing baffle
Spell-Like Abilities
(CL 4th; concentration +5)
At will—alter self, ghost sound, major image
3/day—gaseous form, hold person
1/day—hold monster, plane shift, shout

14, Dex 16, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 14
Base Atk
+4; CMB +6; CMD 19
DodgeB, MobilityB, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (katana)
Acrobatics +10, Bluff +7, Diplomacy +8, Fly +12, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (planes) +6, Knowledge (religion) +6, Linguistics +11, Perception +10, Perform (singing) +10, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +10; Racial Modifiers Acrobatics +2, Fly +4, Linguistics +4, Perception +2, Perform (singing) +2, Stealth +2
Auran, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Elven, Goblin, Infernal, Sylvan, Tengu
skilled linguist, tengu mimicry

any; forests, mountains, and sky
solitary, pair, murder (3–6), or troop (2–5 winged karasu greater tengu, plus one yamabushi greater tengu)
NPC gear (leather armor, masterwork katana and wakizashi samurai blade set, 25 masterwork shurikens, other treasure)

Skilled Linguist (Ex)
: As the tengu racial trait (see Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary).

Tengu Mimicry (Ex): As the feat, Tengu Mimicry (see Kobold Quarterly +14). This ability is usable at will and subject to the same rules as the feat, and the winged karasu need not fill the skill rank requirements to use it.

Wing Baffle (Ex): A winged karasu uses its wings even in combat, though not to make slam attacks; it supplements its melee combat with the slaps and whips of its wings to buffet and disorient its opponents. Each round, in addition to its normal attacks, a tengu may make a Bluff check against an opponent’s Sense Motive roll while in combat. If the check is successful, the tengu gains a +2 circumstance bonus to attack rolls for 1 round.

Phillip Larwood, Tom Baumbach , Will Thompson

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