Swordwing (5e Race)

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Hurry, run! I hear those damned tinny wings!

Physical Description[edit]

From the Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition Monster Manual, by Steve Argyle

Swordwings are insectoid beings that have a body structure like a human. They have a head with an insect-like face, two arms at the thorax and two legs at the abdomen. Swordwing heads often appear slenderly designed with an elegant oblong shape that ends with spikes, horns or small blade shapes. Their arms and legs do not have toes but do sport thorny ends. Their most notable feature is their wings, which are not used necessarily for flying so much as combat. They are sharp-edged and able to swing like scythes to cleave enemies. Their skin is an exoskeleton over all their body except their wings, and can be many variants of colors from blue to deep purple.


Swordwings originate from an old civilization which lies among the more cavernous depths of the Underdark, nestled amid upside down structures that blend in with the stalactites. They were once much more human-like, having more flesh, even hair possibly, though also probably not exactly human. A great cataclysm in their history simply known as the Great Quake is thought to have driven them from their original place in the World Above, where they were a nomadic people. It is unlikely it was a simple earthquake, as the effects followed the nomads and afflicted them for a long time, even as they sought to continue their lives. Subsequent to the Quake, the humanoids began to wake up with odd crusts growing on their skin and eventual loss of their teeth and tongues. Within the next few years, many became overgrown with this odd affliction, which terrified themselves as well as the other races who saw them. They could find no place to rest as everyone was sure they were contagious with some odd curse or disease.

The transformation was yet to be finished. As the world spurned them, the humanoids continued to change, sprouting small wings which then grew to the size of blades. They lost all vestige of their skin, becoming encapsulated in exoskeleton like that of insects. Their faces changed to have mandibles. With their appearance came a mental shift as well. They began to hear voices calling them from the Underdark, Middledark specifically. Their minds seem to have lost something vital that anchored them as beings which lived peacefully, wary of the fiends and drows which populate that sort of area. They obeyed this voice, as though drawn in a trance, possibly another effect of their transformation. They were called en masse down to the site where they live today. Once there, the voice commanded they build a city that would house and foster their forces as a barracks until the coming of time when they should rise as a powerful force in an army. They reside there to this day, expanding on their city, which is named Alber-ze-Bul.

It is speculated the Great Quake was an event orchestrated by none other than Baalzebul, Lord of the Seventh Hell. Perhaps the great archdemon bewitched the humanoids and fashioned them over time to become soldiers of an army he may maintain outside his domain of Malodomini. His Palace of Filth actually does seem to be the source material for how the swordwing structures look in Alber-ze-Bul, albeit upside down. The name Alber-ze-Bul is seemingly nonsense but does seem to have some homage to the Lord of the Seventh. There is also evidence of worship for the demon in scant swordwing religious material. If so, the archdemon retains his telepathic control over the swordwings to this day. There is no telling when he may choose to utilize them to terrorize the World Above, or call on them to compete in his own affairs against the other Lords of the Nine Hells.

Society & Culture[edit]

Swordwings no longer uphold their nomadic lifestyle, instead having become complete militaristic in societal fashion. They form ranks among males and females, who are distinguished by females more slender, sharper wings, which then train in strict daily regimens. There is no individual family unit and every swordwing is very soldier-like, emotionless and uninterested in other facets of life. When it is their mating season, they are to participate in a series of physical exams which will match their ideal strength and body types to mate. They do this platonically and only to achieve results in the makeup of the next generation of fighters. Even their housing is just small rooms like a military barrack with just one window, which is also a door, carved into the side of one of their massive upside down towers, which are known to resemble sloppy stalactites made of dung.

Strength and speed are the greatest qualities swordwings value. Strength to cut down enemies, and speed to evade counterattacks are all that matter. It is not uncommon for weaker ones to fall behind and be killed in grueling exercises. This is seen as somewhat a blessing to cull the weak so the strong may flourish. Those not necessarily equipped for all-combat positions sometimes lead the raids about the Underdark as well as the World Above for resources to sustain their race. While not a respected position, the swordwings general populace have the sense to at least recognize its necessity. Knowledge other than of military nature, on the other hand, is frowned upon as nonproductive. As such, since the first generation of swordwings emerged, none ever question or even seem to remember their origins.

Larvae are born in masses that are very much just smaller versions of a grown swordwing, with wet wings. These wings will eventually dry and become their deadliest weapon. As soon as their wings dry, they typically know how to walk by then and are instantly inducted into a military upbringing. When young, they are considered the grubs. They answer to drones, who are their drill sergeants, who then answer to colonels. At the very top are the battlemasters and slaywings, which are considered the two highest tiers of swordwing fighters. One attains rank through recognition in their physical shows of prowess, which are more mandatory than an actual show of narcissism. They also gain favor by proving themselves loyal and protecting the city from other forces that may encroach in the Underdark.


While fiercely aggressive and militaristic, swordwings do have slight giveaways of belief in their culture. The design of their main city, Alber-ze-Bul, is said to have come to their original architect in a dream. The architect's image has thus been engraved on the largest tower at the heart of the city. There is also an odd salute which swordwings are known to conduct prior to their daily exercises, where they chant an odd quote that has been roughly translated as:

Glory 'unto us, bear'rs of Seven's favor!

One can easily assume then they mean Baalzebul, Lord of the Seventh. While they are not intensely religious, they are also known to say this salute facing the tallest tower, which, as mentioned, resembles the Palace of Filth. It is a small gesture of worship, in other words. While they are not heavily invested in deciphering the secrets of the voice in their subconscious or the cause of their transformations, they do nonetheless show reverence to the demon.


Like a stalwart warrior, swordwings typically are very goal-oriented. That is, oriented solely towards the goal of being a good soldier, in any case. While they are mentally kept in check by Baalzebul's influence, they are not void of individuality or hive-minded like mind flayers. Rather, they are so stoic and drilled as like-minded soldiers that they simply do not act any other way. They communicate with terse sentences and value communication in brevity. They are likely to frown with disappointment at the weak and be very self-punishing when they themselves are on the receiving end of those looks. Since their culture is so rigidly built and busy, they rarely have the time or want to try things like hobbies or grow romance. Most of their time is spent being productive, in the sense of just training and studying the arts of war nonstop. Since swordwings are born with little difference and no subraces, their ability and rank is entirely drawn off their own merit and work as they grow, making self-sufficiency a valued trait.


Swordwings typically keep to themselves in their city of Alber-ze-Bul in Middledark. However, they are known to somewhat scorn drows for their worship of Lolth. As such, occasional skirmishes break out at their city limits with the dark elves. Despite these differences, the two races maintain strained trade relations. Swordwings do covet the drow's affinity for magic and may often trade many of their fruits of raids for enchanted goods or the like.

Swordwings, when raiding for resources in the World Above, usually bring back not only food but also goods to trade, typically pilfered crafts and such. These raids are often only once a month or so and thereby their presence remains minimal to the kingdoms above. Sometimes a town may recognize the sound of their wings approaching, which resemble the tinny sound of a metal can whirling at high speed, and flee, taking it as a sign of omen. In this way, some of the above may consider them monthly locusts. Rare instances arise when the raids are much more subtle and the swordwings scout about instead of outright raiding. They may disguise themselves and steal in secret instead, or trade. This is usually the case when years of larval turnout may be lower.

Swordwing Names[edit]

While able to read Common, swordwings lost much of their vocal ability to coherently parse a lot of the syllables. Their names, therefore, sound very rough and buzzy.

Male: Frgsshk, Hagrssk, Lfrtssh

Female: Glorssskh, Shersaathss, Nagrzz

Race Name Traits[edit]

Humanoid insects of the Underdark
Ability Score Increase. Your Strength and Dexterity scores each increase by 1.
Age. Swordwings have been recorded to live to a maximum of 150. Most average out at about only 80 years however after maturing at 5 or 6.
Alignment. Swordwings are mainly either neutral or evil. As they commonly keep to themselves, they are not so evil as to go out of their way to make strife. However, this may change depending on the orders from the Lord of the Seventh in the future.
Size. Swordwings are lighter than humans with a taller height spectrum. Your size is Medium.
Speed. You have a base walking speed of 30 feet and a flying speed of 30 feet. You cannot fly higher than 30 feet with this speed.
Darkvision. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Sunlight Sensitivity. Having drawn like recluses into the bowels of the earth has made swordwings weak in the sunlight like drows a bit. You have disadvantage on attack rolls and on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight when you, the target of your attack, or whatever you are trying to perceive is in direct sunlight.
Sword Wings. Your wings are your trustiest weapons. Your wings are natural weapons. If you hit with them, you deal slashing damage equal to 1d6 + your Strength modifier.
Natural Armor. Your body is covered in a crusty exoskeleton. When wearing no armor, your AC is equal to 11 + your Dexterity modifier.
Warped. You were touched by the morphing curse of the Lord of the Seventh. You are considered both humanoid and aberration for your creature type.
Languages. You can read and write in perfect Common, but you have a harsh lisp when speaking (e.g., "I isssthh mmboyzzz"), you can also speak Deep Speech.

Random Height and Weight[edit]

Table: Swordwing Random Height and Weight
Base Height Height Modifier Base Weight Weight Modifier
5′ 2″ +1d12 90 lb. × (4) lb.

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