One early inspiration for the campaign was some pictures of Air Cultists from the 5e Princes of the Apocalypse adventure. Later on the ACKS Discord, conversation turned to the “riding ostriches” from the old Joust arcade game, and I got to thinking that maybe I should replace horses in my game with giant flightless birds. There’s precedents in comics and games – such as horseclaws (from Nausicaa) and chocobos (from Final Fantasy) – but I’m not sure of anything published for D&D.
I also needed to come up with names for these creatures. I’m going to use Dromornis as generic name for “giant flightless domesticated birds”. There are “light” Dromornis which are used as Riding Birds and “heavy” Dromornis used as Draft Birds. Meat-eating Dromornis breeds can be trained for war. Light War Birds are the most common, but elite cavalry (aviary? avemry?) would ride heavy Knight Birds.
I figure these there are no horses at all in my Minaria, which is why these giant birds were domesticated. And since there are no horses, there are also no centaurs, pegasi, hippogriffs, or unicorns. Instead, I am going through various monster manuals and crature collections looking for weird bird-like creatures to add.
Here are the game stats for Dromornis:
Riding Bird: These light Dromornis are built for speed and long-distance travel. They can carry up to 20 stone and move at full movement, or they can carry a maximum of 40 stone and have movement halved. Riding Birds are too timid to be trained for war. Most wild Dromornis are equivalent to light Dromornis. Cost: 75gp.
Draft Bird: These heavy Dromornis are the most common domesticated variety; bred to be big, strong laborers. Draft Birds can carry up to 40 stone and move at full movement, or they can carry a maximum of 80 stone and have movement halved. Most Draft Birds will not tolerate a rider. Cost: 40gp.
War Bird: War Birds are a breed of omnivorous light Dromornis that have been trained for battle. They can carry up to 20 stone and move at full movement, or carry a maximum of 40 stone at half movement. A War Bird can make a claw attack in addition to its beak attack. The rider of a War Bird may attack with a charge, dealing double damage with a lance. The War Bird may attack with its beak during the charge as well. Cost: 150gp.
Knight Bird: Knight Birds are heavy Dromornis with a taste for meat. Bred for combat, they are meant for shorter distance travel than War Birds. Knight Birds can carry up to 30 stone and move at full movement, or they can carry a maximum of 60 stone at half movement. Knight Birds are typically used as mounts for elite warriors, and can make attacks in the same manner as War Birds. Cost: 250gp.