Tengu are a crow-like humanoid race who are described as keeping to themselves, not normally becoming part of other humanoid societies. They’re wise but physically weak, so they make good Monks, Rogues and Gunslingers.
Ability Scores: +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Constitution. These bonuses are practically begging for a Gunslinger build, and as you’ll see later, tengu Gunslingers don’t disappoint. For classes that really need Constitution, such as frontline tank Barbarians, these guys aren’t hte best.
Type: Tengu are humanoids with the tengu subtype, so nothing special here.
Size: Tengu are the same size as humans.
Speed: Tengu move the same speed as humans.
Sneaky: A +2 bonus to two great skills, Perception and Stealth, is always welcome. You don’t even have to worry about trading this away, since none of the alternate racial traits replace it!
Gifted Linguist: This ability can come in handy for a party face-type character who needs to learn a ton of languages, but for most characters Linguistics never comes up. I’d trade this one away for Glide (see below) for most character builds.
Swordtrained: Like many other races that gain racial weapon proficiencies, characters that will be often using swords will have the proficiencies already from their classes, so I’d trade this one away for Claw Attack or Exotic Weapon Training for most builds. This includes a lot of weapons in the proficiency list, but most of the ones you’d want you can get with the Exotic Weapon Training ability instead.
Natural Weapon: Tengus have a natural bite attack that can come in handy in a pinch. It only deals 1d3 damage, but it can be increased with feats if you’d like to use it a lot.
Low-Light Vision: We’ve talked about this a lot before, it’s just not going to come up as often as Darkvision will.
Alternate Racial Traits:
Carrion Sense (Gifted Linguist): I can’t see this being a very useful ability except in very specific situations, and since it says that the tengu can smell corpses and badly injured creatures, that means this doesn’t work on undead as written, so it’s not even that helpful for a Paladin or Cleric.
Claw Attack (Swordtrained): For a character who doesn’t want to have weapons out all the time such as a spellcaster, this is a much better option than the Swordtrained ability. Tengu are already always considered armed thanks to their beak attack, but having a claw to throw around when needed is even better.
Exotic Weapon Training (Swordtrained): This is a great option for any martial class, since they get to pick 3 + Int bonus new weapons to be proficient in, which is worth that many feats! Seriously great option, so take it if you’re not a caster, and even some casters might want it!
Glide (Gifted Linguist): This is an excellent option for any character who isn’t worried about knowing more languages, so I forsee this one being taken a LOT.
Alchemist: There aren’t any specific pluses or minuses to a tengu becoming an Alchemist, so this is a decent choice.
Barbarian: The penalty to Constitution really hurts your rage rounds per day and hit points, so personally I wouldn’t choose this. The favored class bonus is also fairly lackluster unless you’re specifically going for a caster-buster Barbarian.
Bard: A bonus to Dex is usually pretty helpful for a Bard, but otherwise this isn’t really a good or bad choice, it’s just an option.
Cavalier [Samurai]: I have a lot of trouble imagining a tengu Cavalier, charging in on a horse and attacking with a lance or sword. The Constitution penalty doesn’t help with that, either, but otherwise there’s nothing inherently WRONG about being a tengu Cavalier. A Samurai is a more reasonable choice, since the Dexterity bonus will help with ranged attacks from atop your steed.
Cleric: A bonus to Wisdom makes for a good Cleric, and there is the Feather domain for thematic awesomeness. This is a good option, overall.
Druid: As with the Cleric, the Wisdom bonus makes for a decent spell-focused Druid, and thematically there are several different bird companions to choose from. The Eagle Shaman archetype might be a good thematic choice, too.
Fighter: Despite the penalty to Constitution, the ability to pick a bunch of exotic weapons for proficiencies is REALLY good for a Fighter, and gives you a good reason to make a very intelligent Fighter, possibly picking up the Lore Warden archetype to synergize with that. I also like the Aldori Swordlord archetype to go along with the whole “tengu are good with swords” thing. The favored class option is lackluster, only giving a bonus to two specific types of combat maneuver.
Gunslinger: This is an excellent option for a tengu, thanks to bonuses to both Dex and Wisdom. The Con penalty won’t hurt you much as long as you keep out of melee. You’ll want to take either the Musket Master or Pistolero archetypes, as they’re both better than the vanilla Gunslinger.
Inquisitor: A tengu can make a great Inquisitor for the same reasons that they can be a good Cleric or Druid. With the tengu racial Stealth bonus, and possibly also grabbing the Long-Nose Form feat, I can imagine a tengu making a great Infiltrator.
Magus: Nothing really keeps a tengu from making a good Magus except for the Constitution penalty, since almost all Magi have to enter melee. Obviously the Myrmidarch archetype fixes that problem, so that’s always an option.
Monk: With a Wisdom bonus and natural attack options as well as proficiencies with exotic weapons available, tengu Monks can turn out very well. If you’d like to make use of your beak attack, you’ll want the Blood Beak feat as well as Feral Combat Training so that you can use your natural weapons as part of Flurry of Blows. The favored class option is nice, giving you an extra ki point every four levels.
Oracle: The Oracle isn’t as good of a choice for a tengu because of the lack of a Charisma bonus, but the racial archetype, the Shigenjo, makes up for that by being flavorful and crazy-awesome. You replace the Oracle’s 7th-level revelation with a ki pool. The number of points in your pool is determined by your Charisma modifier (unless you multiclass with Monk, in which case you get to choose either Cha or Wis). This is a great option, and I really love this archetype. The favored class option is also excellent, treating your Oracle as +1 level higher for every two class levels when determining her Oracle’s Curse abilities.
Paladin [Antipaladin]: This is just overall an oddball choice for a tengu. No Strength, Con, or Charisma bonuses, and in fact a Con penalty, just makes the Paladin a bad idea for a tengu.
Ranger: A tengu Ranger makes a lot of sense, and the Wisdom bonus helps make it powerful. The racial bonus to Survival helps, too, and the favored enemy ability just makes perfect sense thematically for a race that is known for “keeping to themselves”. The Falconer archetype makes perfect sense.
Rogue [Ninja]: Between the tengu’s natural Stealth bonus, a beak natural attack that can come out of nowhere when the time is right, and their racial archetype, the Swordmaster, the Rogue is just an awesome choice for a tengu. The favored class bonus is also excellent, giving you +1 per two levels bonus on critical hits with a specific type of sword.
Sorcerer: There’s nothing going either for or against a tengu Sorcerer, so if you’re interested, have at it!
Summoner: Like the Sorcerer, there’s nothing that really says a tengu can’t make a great Summoner, but there’s also nothing specifically positive about it either.
Witch: Keeping with the trend, tengus are always just going to be mediocre Witches. They are just so much better at divine casting!
Wizard: Same thing here, stick with a divine caster if you want to be optimal!
Racial Favored Class Options:
Barbarian: I am not a huge fan of the Superstition rage power. I recognize that it boosts your saves significantly, but I don’t think that it’s worth the tradeoff of having to make a save against even beneficial spells cast by your party members. That being said, if you like Superstition, this favored class option boosts it, so it’s a no brainer.
Fighter: If this bonus was just a straight +1 to CMD every level, I’d go for it with no questions asked, but I just can’t sacrifice a hit point for a +1 only against grapples and trips.
Monk: If you’re making a tengu Monk, definitly take this option at every level, netting you a total of 5 extra ki points!
Oracle: The Oracle’s Curse class feature ramps up slowly, so being able to get to the really good abilities earlier is a great option. Take this at every level until you max out your effective level at 15 (that’d be 10th level, for those of you who don’t want to do the math) and then take a hit point after that.
Rogue: Bonuses on critical hit confirmations can come in very handy, especially if you pick a weapon that has a wide crit range. This is a good option.
Sorcerer: If you like your 1st-level bloodline power, you can use it more often! However, most 1st-level bloodline powers aren’t super exciting, and you might be better off with a skill or hit point each level.
Witch: This one’s a trap, you can always buy more spells for your Witch. Ignore!
Shigenjo (Oracle): This is a fun, flavorful archetype that gives you a ki pool that you can use to augment your magic, including increasing your effective level for your Oracle’s Curse by 5! The spells you learn are very nice, and the capstone ability is just full of awesome. Overall this is a great archetype!
Swordmaster (Rogue): Trap Sense is one of the most-often traded out Rogue abilities, for good reason... it just doesn’t come up that often, and your Perception should be high enough to see most traps anyway. The Swordmaster does away with Trap Sense, replacing it with a really nice array of abilities that are reminiscent of a Monk’s ki abilities, but are tracked more like a Barbarian’s rage. I especially like Tiger Trance, which is the earliest way of getting a pounce-like ability that I’ve found in the game so far.
Blood Beak: This feat is great for any tengu who wants to make use of his beak as a truly deadly weapon. It increases the damage dealth by the tengu’s bite attack by two damage dice (1d3->1d6) and causes bleed damage on a critical hit. This is a situational feat, but a nice option for some builds.
Carrion Feeder: If you’re expecting to run into either disease or poison in your food a lot, this might be a decent choice, but the bonuses are just too situational for me to recommend it.
Long-Nose Form: This is a very weird ability, but when it comes right down to it it’s a 1/day second-level spell that can be used for infiltration, and it gives you a +2 to Strength, so it’s probably worth a feat slot for some characters, but definitely not all.
Scavenger’s Eye: How often are you going to need to figure out what the most valuable item in a hoard is? Not often. Ignore this one.
Tengu Raven Form: While this does require two feats to get to, it’s a pretty excellent ability for anyone other than a Druid. There aren’t many other ways for a non-spellcaster to turn into a Large bird and fly around for several minutes. I like this one.