Falconer
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Basic Information

A falconer is a person who trains and raises birds of prey (including, but not limited to, falcons). The art of caring for, training, and hunting with such a bird is known as Falconry.

Raising a hunting bird isn't easy. Each bird is really a full-time job. As hunting was the sport of kings, it was quite common for impatient royalty to hire a professional to attend to the day-to-day details of training and maintaining their prized falcon. If the noble has an entire aviary, it will include at least one Falconer on staff per bird.

Just as many cultures have had strict laws governing which social classes can wear certain clothes or attend court, Medieval Europe had strict rules about which social classes could own or raise which breeds of hunting bird. A professional falconer working for nobility would of course be allowed to train and tend to whatever bird is appropriate to the noble they serve.

See Also

For more information on the difficulties, challenges, and requirements of falconry, plus the social status implied by the breed of bird (at least in Medieval Europe), see the Falconry page.

The room or building a bird of prey is kept in, and allowed to fly about freely within, is called a mews.

Sources

Bibliography
1. RPG: The Complete Ranger's Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
2. Non-Fiction: Uncle John's Bathroom Reader Plunges Into History Again

Game and Story Use

  • PCs who engage in Falconry are likely to get to skip over the hard stuff. It's generally easiest if we assume the training and raising of the bird happens off-camera before the campaign begins. Most RPG players just want the "cool factor" of having a trained attack bird, which is not such a huge advantage that we need to really spend a lot of time and trouble playing out the day-to-day details.
    • Noting that the "attack bird" is probably also not much good in a fight unless your main opponents are small birds or mammals.
  • You can define a lot about noble NPCs in your campaign by their approach to falconry. The real bad-asses of your setting probably don't hire falconers, they raise huge eagles themselves by hand.
    • A king who's lacking in conviction and strength of character is more likely (at least according to the rules of drama) to have hired a falconer to do the hard part. The playboy prince is a falconry poser. They can only hunt with the bird if the royal falconer is just a few feet away. More than that, and the animal becomes unruly. Feel free to extend the metaphor to other aspects of their rule.
  • The modern day Oil Baron, Sultan or Billionaire might have the time and wealth to indulge in Falconry. Other modern day falconers often work for zoos or theme parks.
    • Hunting by falconry is still a really big deal in quite a bit of the Arab world.

Building This Character

Character Level

  • Varies. Could be low-level specialist with just one or two critical skills, or could be a retired adventurer with tons of experience.

Attributes

  • Physical Attributes are important. You have to support a heavy bird on your outstretched arm, and not flinch when it lands or squeezes with it's talons. Constitution and Health, as well as Strength, are critical.
  • Whatever attribute your game uses for Falconry or Animal Handling. This might be a mental or a social ability.
  • You need patience, endurance, and inner strength to train a bird of prey. If there's an attribute that represents such qualities (Wisdom, perhaps?), the professional falconer probably has a solid rating in it.

Skills

  • Falconry, if your game has it, obviously.
  • If the game system lacks a specific Falconry skill, consider related skills like Animal Handling, Hunting, Survival, etc. Even if your game does have Falconry, these might still be worth considering.
  • Social Skills. Sounds a little weird at first, but since many falconers have a position at court, they'll need to be able to survive there. Plus, once you've learned to stand firm against the Intimidation attempts of a bird-of-prey, you can probably put that Iron Will to good use against opinionated humans as well.
  • Climbing or Athletics, especially for Falconers working in earlier time periods when captive-bred birds weren't often available.

Special Abilities

Flaws and Hindrances

  • Having a bird to care for and protect could be a lot like a ward or dependent, especially if the bird is old, fragile, or rare. If the GM plans to take a realistic approach to the hassles of raising a falcon, they might just throw a few spare character points your way to compensate.
  • "One eye" or similar disadvantages could represent the consequences of an early career training error.

Combat Role

Equipment

  • The bird itself is very important, and it's breed says a lot about the character.
  • Falconry equipment includes heavy gloves, a bird-sized hood and tethers (the rings tied to it's legs are called jesses, the leash or tether is called a creance), possibly a staff-perch, and bag of some sort to carry the chopped-up mice.

Modern Variants

  • The modern falconer might work for a zoo, wildlife sanctuary, or falconry center. If so, they probably have a broader skill list, including some Biology or Veterinary training, and the social skills needed to entertain crowds.
  • Some who maintain the falconry lifestyle are just independently wealthy. It may be little more than a hobby to an oil baron, sultan or billionaire. Personal staff, ridiculous sums of money, power and influence, etc. The Harris' Hawk can be raised with a less-than-full-time commitment, but other (rarer) birds still demand a lot of your time.
  • In the modern era, birds are often fitted with radio telemetry or GPS-type gear, so a bird that goes missing can be found again.
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