The tengu was a winged avian humanoid creature found in Kara-Tur. There were two kinds of tengu: the crow tengu with a crow head and more avian characteristics; and the humanoid tengu, with more humanoid characteristics.[2][1]


The more avian of the two, the crow tengu bore a bird-like head and beak, similar to that of a crow. Its body was covered in feathers; these were brightly hued, often in shades of green, red, or yellow. Feathered wings emerged from between their shoulder blades, enabling flight. The crow tengu was short, standing only 2–3 feet (61–91 centimeters) tall.[2][1]

The humanoid tengu, meanwhile, had a human-like head and face, but its nose was unusually long. They had no feathers, but their skin was blue or red. Approximately 70% of humanoid tengu possessed wings like the crow tengu; these were stunted but still permitted flight.[2][1]


Notably, both breeds of tengu could perfectly mimic any voice that they had heard, whether speech or animal noises.[2][1]

The crow and humanoid tengu could both cast the polymorph and shout spells, thrice a day. In addition, the humanoid tengu could also cast phantasmal force thrice a day and ghost sound and misdirection as they willed, and turn invisible whenever they wished. Finally, they could cast an ancient curse or bestow a reward, one time a week. The humanoid tengu was also a natural shukenja, commanding the same spellcasting ability; and a natural kensai, with the same combat prowess, knowledge of a single martial art and a few special maneuvers within it.[2][1]


Crow tengu typically wielded a katana and wakizashi in battle. Their common tactic was to cast shout to disorientate their foes, then swoop in to attack with their blades.[2][1]

Humanoid tengu most often commanded the crow tengu in battle, while they themselves stood back. They proved to be cunning and fierce warriors if threatened, however.[1]


All tengu were by nature incredibly secretive and obsessed with maintaining their privacy. They were also impulsive and unpredictable, driven by their whims, and intolerant of human kind.[2][1]

The crow tengu were ill-tempered and malevolent. They aimed to hurt any human who trespassed on tengu lands.[2][1]

The humanoid tengu were less aggressive and not as malevolent as the crow tengu, and more intelligent. They still did not like humans, and would inflict cruel pranks on them regardless.[2][1]


Owing to the tengu's propensity for secrecy and privacy, outsiders knew very little of their way of life.[2][1]

Although solitary creatures, they were typically gathered into "flocks", comprising up to eight adults with equal numbers of males and females, with two to eight hatchlings. A female tengu would lay one or two eggs each year. The crow tengu was somewhat more common than the humanoid, so up to three humanoid tengu usually dwelled among crow tengu flocks.[1] The humanoid tengu had a higher status than the crow tengu. Crow tengu deferred to their rank and obeyed their orders.[2][1]

Tengu were diurnal creatures and had omnivorous diets. They ate mostly fruits and grains, with occasional worms, insects, fish, or small mammals.[1] However they were especially fond of strong alcoholic drinks like sake, and could be appeased, bribed, or even befriended with copious volumes of liquor.[2][1]

Tengu spoke their own language, as well as the languages of animals and of the neighboring human culture.[2][1]

Tengu of both breeds particularly enjoyed music, especially that made by drum or flute.[2][1] Many kept pet songbirds, which lived in cages hung from trees near tengu lairs.[1]

Humanoid tengu appreciated shukenja and wu jen, as well as kensai who chose to master the sword. Very rarely, a humanoid tengu could be persuaded to tutor a sword kensai in their own skills. Such mentoring took one to three months, and was a valuable experience.[2][1] This could go further, however. When a tribe of tengu witnessed the 11-year-old Muki Nobi cut the throats of bandits as they slept after slaughtering his family, they were both sympathetic to his suffering and impressed by his savagery, and invited him to train with them. For two years, he learned swordsmanship, military skills, and guerilla warfare, and grew to be a samurai and a brutal, battle-ready daimyo.[3]

Magic and itemsEdit

All humanoid tengu possessed a magical fan made of brightly colored feathers that folded into a katana that could wielded in combat. When opened and fanned, however, it had three distinct powers, each of which could be used three times a day. First, the fan could blow a strong gale (similar to a wind breath spell. Second, it could cast the quick growth spell. Finally, it had the odd ability to cause abnormal growth or shrinkage of a facial feature; the tengu preferred to target the ears or nose.[2][1]

Tengu landsEdit

Tengu could be found in temperate, subtropical, and tropical climates, in mountainous areas that were generally uninhabited yet close to settled lands. They did not build villages or permanent settlements, but constructed crude nests of sticks and weeds in forest glades, in meadows, and on the banks of ponds and streams.[2][1]

In Kozakura, on the island of Shinkoku, tengu were often spotted on the flanks of the mountains of Ichiyama and Meruyama, and in the ruins of korobokuru settlements.[4] A band of five tengu laired in a hut on the lower slopes of a mountain near the village of Tosa in Miyama Province on Shinkoku. In the mid–14th century DR, they plagued the villagers with cruel pranks, designed to public embarrass and expose secrets or personality flaws, such as arrogance, greed, or vanity, though rarely were they lethal.[5]

Tengu were also found in the neighboring realm of Wa.[3] The dangerous wu jen Shiz-ti, ruler of Paikai in Wa, kept candles made of tengu fat in his stone temple lair.[6]


It was theorized that tengu were among the original inhabitants of Kara-Tur. But at the coming of humans and human civilization, the tengu were forced ever deeper into the mountains.[2]

Notable tenguEdit

The tengu Kwi'asp was slain by Xax Chung, hero of Koje in Koryo, in the mid–14th century DR.[7]

A humanoid tengu polymorphed into human form posed as a dai-oni or "great oni" at the Black Temple in Miyama Province in Kozakura. It conducted false rituals and exhorted its sohei followers to raid nearby villages for tribute. The tengu had no desire to rule, but rather committed these crimes as some kind of grand and cruel cosmic prank against the humans.[8]

In T'u Lung, the tengu Ancheen was slain in its lair by the hero Yuga Sin, after the giant Yondak lifted a mountainside to give him access.[9]



The tengu is based on the tengu of Japanese legend.

Oriental Adventures for 3rd edition presented another version of the tengu, sharing many traits and powers but differing in others. As this tengu is presented for the Rokugan setting (though the book suggests it is more generally applicable), this version of the tengu is disregarded for this article.

Oriental Adventures also stated that the tengu is also known as a "kenku". Two versions of the kenku have been presented throughout the history of Dungeons & Dragons, both valid for the Forgotten Realms: a winged kenku and a wingless kenku. These also share some traits and powers, but differ from each other and the tengu in many respects. It is unclear how the three races are related. However, Monster Manual III (3rd edition) page 87 and Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide page 96 state that the wingless kenkus hailed from Kara-Tur, where the tengu was originally presented and culturally fitting, suggesting that the kenku descended from the tengu.

This article presents the tengu of 1st- and 2nd-edition Dungeons & Dragons.


External linksEdit


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 Rick Swan (July 1990). Monstrous Compendium Kara-Tur Appendix. (TSR, Inc.). ISBN 0-88038-851-X.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 2.21 2.22 2.23 Gary Gygax, David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 128. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), pp. 181–182. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  4. Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), pp. 136, 138, 142. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  5. David Cook (1986). Swords of the Daimyo (Province Book of Miyama). (TSR, Inc), p. 16. ISBN 0-88038-273-2.
  6. Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 159. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  7. Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 122. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  8. David "Zeb" Cook (1986). Swords of the Daimyo. (TSR, Inc), pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-88038-273-2.
  9. Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume I). (TSR, Inc), p. 59. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
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