rockym93 dot net

archive · tags · feed

Worldbuilding: Bird People?

01 January 201303:57AMworldbuilding

Hm. Right. So. Bird people.


I'll be honest here. I have no idea how to go about this. I don't even have a clear idea of what constitutes a 'bird person'. I mean, they probably have feathers. It'd be a bit of a rip-off if they didn't have wings. Do they have beaks? I don't know.

I think I'll go and make a sandwich.

10 minutes later...

Mmm. Okay. So I do have a couple of ideas. Firstly is that they should be hybrids. Not dudes who happen to have wings, or anthropomorphic birds. Proper half-and-half types.

Secondly, they shouldn't look weird. Well, maybe a little bit weird. But not creepy weird. Cool weird. Man, this would be so much easier if I could draw.

Now, extrapolation from first principles.

  1. How did they originate? Did they evolve from birds? Were they created by a drunk wizard? Are they a cross-breed? I'm not sure at this point. I'll leave this question for later.
  2. Regardless of their origin, basic biology says that if they're not insects or fish, they probably shouldn't have more than four limbs. As intriguing as the idea of bird-fish-bug-men is, I think probably more intriguing is the idea that they don't have separate arms and wings. Instead they'd have... armwings? Hm. Interesting.
  3. It's unlikely that wings short enough to be used as arms are much good for distance flying. This, neatly, goes a fair way towards solving the balance of one of your player being able to fly. They'd be fine for gliding and enhanced jumping though. And maybe there's some way they can 'level up' into being capable of full flight.
  4. Okay, what if that way of levelling up was technological, rather than biological? That's an interesting evolutionary pathway. Like, manual dexterity is more useful than flight - especially in a fairly un-forested world. And then they use said manual dexterity to construct gliders, to regain the power of flight. This idea intrigues me.
  5. This, of course, lends itself to there being a less intelligent, but full-flighted divergent race.
  6. So, they're reasonably intelligent and technologically advanced. Which means they're a 'playable race'. Which means they have relations with other races. That means being able to communicate with them, which rules out beaks?
  7. Yeah, humanoid faces, but with bird-y features. That sounds reasonable.
  8. It also solves the origin problem. If they're going to have faces (with teeth and lips and such), they can't have evolved from birds. They must have been crossed with humans at some point.
  9. What if - through drunk wizardry or breeding(?!) - the aforementioned secondary race of large but unintelligent birds (which existed first, obviously) was crossed with humans to create these guys?
  10. And then their society adapted to... use their less-evolved giant bird forebears as flying mounts? Now that's an interesting idea. Just the right level of weird.

Okay. Here's the tl;dr. There are human-faced, bipedal, feathered/winged but mostly flightless bird-people. They are highly intelligent, and use both delicately constructed gliders and their own un-crossbred ancestors to fly.

I think I can work with that.


Diet:It makes most sense for them to be predatory, hunting mountain goats and such for food. It's difficult to farm things when you're living in stilt houses. I guess some herding also happens, but they probably prefer to hunt. This also keeps their population down, since they're basically the apex predator of the mountains.

Lifespan:Here's a question: Are they born live or hatched from eggs? I think eggs, if only because mucking around with eggs makes more sense for a potential mad wizard creator. It probably only takes them a couple of years to reach adulthood. As for lifespan, pretty much on-par with humans, maybe slightly shorter. Say, 60 years?


In the absence of forests, the logical place for these guys to live is in the mountains. Having them live in actual literal nests seems a little contrived, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect something similar. Maybe wooden stilt- villages on almost-sheer cliff-faces, connected by rope bridges and ladders and, sometimes, by nothing at all, relying on being able to glide or jump from one to the other.

The communities would be quite small (30-50 inhabitants) and extremely isolated. Socially, for the sake of being interesting, I guess they'd resemble a bird flock. At least symbolically. Which is to say, mostly leaderless, but nevertheless governed by an internally consistent set of rules. I would guess they're also quite socially tight as well, though I'm not sure how consistent that is with actual bird behaviour.

As far as larger government and such goes, they don't really have any. Communities tend to keep to themselves. A large decision affecting an entire community will be decided by a whole-group council, but otherwise they live and let live.

They're not religious at all. They're fully aware that they're created, and while attitudes towards said creator range from mild reverence to outright hatred, they definitely stop short of actual organised religion.


It's customary for younger bird-people to leave home, often in flocks of 3-12, depending on the size of the community, and explore the world before returning to settle - often with members of the same group, and occasionally founding new villages with them too. So, while a rare sight to ordinary folk, they do tend to make up a disproportionately large amount of adventurers, sailors, caravan guards and explorers given their race's relatively low population.

This experience makes older bird-people surprisingly wise, and tolerant towards humans (and even goblins), given their otherwise insular nature, though younger ones can be a little less accepting and a little more rash.

They tend to prefer fighting at range, or in close combat with weapons like staves.


At this point, I'm pretty sure I'm going to use Pathfinder, but I need to do a bit of research and have a bit of an experiment with the race builder first. Stay tuned.

read the comments

< Worldbuilding: Magic Worldbuilding: Errata?! >