|objectively, I mean|
There's something about giant birds. They're goofy as hell - I mean, goofy is exactly the right word for them. Birds shouldn't be giant. Birds don't need to be giant. There's nothing a bird does which it would do any better if it were giant. Talons are for gripping branches, carrying off prey, raking human eyes out. There aren't any branches that big. In the story of Sinbad the rocs eat giant snakes which in turn eat elephants. Food chains don't go that high. A roc's claws could carve furrows through a city but only by accident - a single person could probably dodge between them. When Sinbad is carried away by the roc it doesn't even notice he's there. He's clinging to a piece of meat. Where did those merchants get raw and bloody pieces of meat the size of snakes that eat elephants, anyway?
But birds are funny and terrifying in equal measure. They inhabit a weird twilight zone between reptiles and mammals. Warm-blooded and fuzzy, so we kind of feel like they're on our side, but also self-evidently insane. It takes only the most desultory observation of a seagull to see the reptile brain shining through. Birds are never dangerous to humans in the same way snakes and crocodiles are, so we don't have that instinctual aversion to them. But if they were big enough to kill us they would do it in a heartbeat. If we had evolved alongside, let us say, a species of predatory ostrich, we would probably feel very differently about every single avian. The words "predatory ostrich" would not sound even slightly ridiculous, for a start.
|hello clouds you are my friends|
The other thing about giant birds is that they are amazing plot hooks. Say they aren't working for an evil sorcerer. What do they do? Fly around killing stuff of a certain size category, which happens to be exactly the size category that humans are interested in, and also are. Then - crucially - take the stuff somewhere, which is far enough away that you have to go on a bit of a quest to get there and probably climb a mountain or something. Feed their babies with the stuff, meaning there's babies there, which could be a bit of a moral dilemma I guess but honestly your players will never care. But it makes the bird more sympathetic. And there's probably treasure in the nest, or dudes they kidnapped who weren't quite dead. And maybe your players could get the babies young and train them. And what if the baby birds are surprisingly intelligent and they only become dumber as they grow up and killing the bird will also doom them to starvation? And there's also all the mystical, simurgh-esque quality of birds, like maybe the bird is actually thirty birds and also the king of birds and by climbing the mountain the players are really climbing themselves.
Anyway it's no wonder there are so many stories and legends about this exact scenario. Now here are some tables about giant birds for you to use.
|clicken upon me to maken thy burd|
- Magpie. Collects shiny shit. Thrones, brass domes, suits of armour with mans inside.
- Pelican. Has shark in its gullet. If threatened, can barf shark onto you.
- Parrot. Talks. Extremely loudly. Snatches of nonsense hearable from miles away.
- Heron. Piercing beak comes down through roof of castle to pluck king from bedchamber.
- Eagle. Specializes in dropping paladins from great height, cracking armour, picking out juicy bits.
- Osprey. Sea-based. Favours small whales, finds it hard to tell difference between them and ships.
- Woodpecker. Thinks peasants in farmhouses are grubs in bole of tree.
- Pigeon. Trash-devourer on industrial scale. Spreads disease throughout kingdom.
- Nightingale. Hypnotically beautiful song, mesmerizes prey.
- Goose. Mostly eats leaves off trees, but shits everywhere. People drown.
- Hummingbird. Terrifyingly fast. Must eat huge amount to survive. Thrumming subsonic drone causes gradual insanity.
- Albatross. On annual trans-oceanic migration. Lays only one egg at a time.
- In remote mountains, made from half a forest
- In abandoned city, made from bits of abandoned city
- In extinct volcano, made from petrified wood
- On distant island, made from wrecked ships
- In dank fungal forest, made from mushroom stalks
- In branches of giant tree, made from semi-giant twigs
- In vast landmarkless plain, is scraped hole in dirt
- In towering seaside cliff, is sheltered ledge of stone
- In frozen waste, is rough iglooid sphere of ice
- In side of ravine, is burrow in clay
- In cavernous lair of whole other monster, long-dead
- In human-created structure big enough to hold giant bird, e.g. castle, wizard tower
- Prince of whatever gender. Totally useless
- Younger sibling of most sentimental PC
- Older sibling of least sentimental PC
- Famous knight, recently won tournament
- Matriarch of powerful merchant family
- The actual king
- Research cleric who has claimed to be on verge of discovering plague cure, isn't
- Some guy whose only distinguishing feature is that he's terrified of birds
- Beloved local bard who got famous for song mocking PCs
- Tavern owner
- Leader of well-funded heretic cult
- Town crier & secret wizard
- Gilded figurehead of infamous pirate ship, long-disappeared
- Skull, crown of obscure regal ancestor
- Golden idol of bull, apparently mistaken for real thing
- Wooden treasure chest w/ cunning lock, smashed open by bird, acid boobytrap melted 2/3 of contents
- Skinned elephant carcass coated w/ sticky diamonds
- Magic sword used as building material, almost impossible to remove from nest wall
- Skeleton w/ Amulet of Not Being Eaten around neck, no protection against not eating
- Fistful of rings deemed unpalatable by baby birds, vomited back out
- Corpse of snow leopard, fresh-killed, skin 90% intact and worth a small fortune to right buyer
- Giant fish w/ smaller fish in belly, smaller fish in belly of that, etc. Smallest fish has magic ring
- Lamp w/ bored genie
- Corpse of randomly determined PC, extra copies of all that PC's treasure. Taking them will lead to time anomalies