If a Cannibal Bird is fated to appear and quick motivation is needed, a d20 may be thrown to determine what exactly the creature thinks it's up to:
- Hunting humans to eat. It will likely attack.
- Feasting on corpses. If the party was looking for someone, here they are.
- Harassing a cannibal. The bird is tormenting a Cannibal Dancer or Untamed Wind for its own amusement.
- Reminiscing. "I remember you, or perhaps an ancestor, hm... Tell me the story of when I last met you, man-thing."
- Bored. Simply bored, the creature will banter until it gets hungry.
- Acting out an ancient drama. The Wind that Bites from the Dark once instrumented a great calamity here, or slew a great hero. The bird wishes to reenact this, and you arrived just in time to facilitate. Roll reaction to determine how dangerous a role it has in mind.
- Making war. There are two cannibal birds here either fighting each other or engaging in a contest (roll again to determine its character).
- Witnessing savagery. The bird has heard of a great cruelty or tragedy, natural or man-made, occurring or about to occur, which it wishes to observe. If none manifests it will create one, figuring that it itself must be the cause, though it did not know this beforehand.
- Destroying man-made objects. The bird is tearing down buildings, defacing sculptures, altering trail signs, or otherwise warping humanity's mark on the environment.
- Dressing itself in grave goods. The beast is pulling clothing from a corpse or pile of refuse, which it will proceed to wear incorrectly. It solicits opinions on its aspect from any onlookers. Anything other than excessive flattery angers it.
- Hiding and observing. You are being watched really obviously, but without interference. It is far too big to hide behind that bush, or far too humanoid to perch on that branch. It leaves after a few turns, but only if unacknowledged.
- Pretending to be a human. The bird wants to play at being a headman; you will be the slaves. It wants you to construct a makeshift village out of found materials (or occupy an abandoned one) and go through the drudgery of daily life. In a day or two it will get bored and just wander off.
- Telling a lie. There is a very specific thing it needs to tell to you and only you. This thing is absolutely untrue; assuming otherwise leads to catastrophe.
- Building something. The bird is constructing a sculpture or effigy (d6: 1. giant spiky nest, 2. wicker man, 3. intricate maze, 4. wooden cages dangling from branches, 5. mosaic of many colors, 6. elaborate gauntlet of traps and snares) from detritus & human remains. It may ask a critique, or force intruders to assist in finding the perfect finishing piece.
- Doesn't remember. "I have forgotten my purpose here. You tell me." It attacks if the answer is completely against its nature but otherwise follows the instruction exactly.
- Asking questions. The bird has questions about the nature of humanity. It has no context whatsoever with which to understand the answer and will become frustrated and angry when it doesn't.
- Learning to be a human. "Teach me to be like you." It copies the player's actions exactly, becoming angry if the player performs an action it cannot.
- Collecting shinies. "You have many shiny objects. Give me all of them." All of these are immediately put to use as self-adornment, or littered on the ground (equal chance).
- Starting fires. The bird starts a fire, fans it with its wings, watches it burn for a moment or a day, and then puts it out again, over and over and over. It only acknowledges intruders if interrupted.
- Singing to the sky. Carrion birds circle overhead as the bird caws a semi-intelligible tune at the sky. Any human copying the song finds that it incites birds to attack them suddenly, which causes the Cannibal Bird to laugh. It attacks if any of these birds are injured, but does not otherwise do harm. The song continues to work long after the meeting but cannot be taught to others.
I didn't write it. Antion did. He is one of the best writers in RPGs. It's from his blog Straits of Anian.
Here's the rest:
Four of these imperious beings, the most coherent pieces of the Cannibal Wind to coalesce from her corpse after its dispersal, are known. Each with obvious vanity claims to be a singular and unique entity, though there are reports of the same bird appearing in multiple places at once or successively at great distance.
All Cannibal Birds inflict Soul Loss on a damage roll of 6 and may summon freezing winds as a Superhero of the Dance of the Cannibal Wind. Each may also vary its size, often appearing quite small, or take on human form. Occasionally they appear in disturbing intermediate states, as if they cannot quite recall what separates man from bird. Human forms always receive the bonuses of cannibal frenzy without any associated restriction on behavior or appearance. Each cannibal bird has been slain several times, though they always reappear. Nothing known can slay them permanently.
Their names and shapes are:
Łətiʔən (Poison Hummingbird) the Skin-Stripper, who appears as:
• a thick-beaked hummingbird the size of a large dog, its face smeared with gore, or
• a small child crying and covered with what appears to be blood but is in fact a corrosive resin.
[HD 6, AC 4(15), Bite d6 plus save or d6 poison, 1-3 acid damage on touch.]
Kəykəẃəqəs (Corpses Crow) the Eye-Plucker, who appears as:
• two wicked-looking crows nearly man-sized moving in oddly mirrored motions, or
• a pair of twin youths, one boy and one girl, who finish each other's sentences and are both compulsive liars.
[HD 8, AC 5(14), Bite d6, two bodies acting independently with a single Hit Point pool.]
Huqʷhuqʷ (Crane Cackle) the Skull-Cracker, who appears as:
• a monstrous crane, fully 12ft tall on its stilt legs, that thrusts its beak at foes from above seeking to split open skulls, or
• an uncannily tall, long-fingered man of meticulous aspect & grim humor who may be plied with brains, which he finds delectable.
[HD 8, AC 5(14), Bite d6+4 reach 10ft.]
Qəčanuł (Crooked Beak) the Flesh-Tearer, who appears as:
• an ogre-sized bird of glittering iridescence with fancifully twisted beak, rigid forms writhing under its flesh as if it had all the wrong bones & each jockeying for a position of prominence, its uncanny bite twisting and snapping in all directions at once, or
• a hunchbacked crone with snaggletoothed smile, feigning weakness despite terrible strength.
[HD 10, AC 3(16), Bite d6+2, attacks all targets in range each turn.]
Cannibal Birds are most commonly seen at sites of great carnage feasting on corpses, though they may also appear anywhere in the deep wilds pursuing enigmatic ends. Though not always hostile, they are extremely capricious, and unless other interests prevail reactions should be checked anew each turn of interaction. Encounters almost inevitably end with their hunger awakened, but clever mortals occasionally escape unharmed if they figure out what game the bird is at fast enough to play along.
Treasure: Those that play along and do not irritate the Cannibal Bird receive a gift when it departs. Roll d6:
1-3. Twigs, leaves, and assorted detritus. Seemingly useless. A thorough search may reveal 4d6gp in coins and salvageable goods hidden in the trash. Or not.
4-5. Pile of suspicious meats. Strangely delectable and sweet-smelling. Equivalent to 2d6 days rations. Infects any human eating it with an Untamed Wind, other creatures are sickened (-2 to all actions). Remains perfectly preserved for a month, then rots away in moments.
6. A random magic item. Appears old and ill-used, but functional. If a magic weapon is rolled, it is automatically intelligent and possessed of a murderous avian spirit, which seeks to desecrate flesh and tear down civilization.
If you're interested in some eminent D&Dable realworld history check this out. Did you know the Russians fought the Tlingit?
He later laments that when they do, his cannonballs keep bouncing off the Tlingit fort. It was a mystery to the Russians, but not to the Kiks.ádi. They had watched the way a cannonball’s direct hit shattered seasoned wood. For this reason, Shís’ghi Noow’s walls had been built of saplings whose green and pliant wood offered a certain amount of give. The timbers were also angled and braced to disperse shock down and away, redirecting balls into pits dug to catch them. Coming ashore after the battle, Lisiansky writes that he gathered at least 150 cannonballs from around the fort walls.
Vanessa Veselka (novelist and D&D player--she played a thief with us) tells the story here and if you want to read the rest it's 3.99$.
(Crow picture from here)