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Type Humanoid
Image Wizards.com image

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game, swanmays are a sisterhood of humanoids who can assume a swan form. In normal form, they resemble slender, tawny, attractive human females, generally clad in light robes and some form of white, feathered garment. In swan form, they resemble swans.

Creative origins[edit]

Swanmays were inspired by the swanmay in Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961), who in turn was based on swan maidens in folklore.[citation needed]

Publication history[edit]

The swanmay first appeared in first edition in the original Monster Manual II (1983).[1]

The swanmay appeared in second edition in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989),[2] and reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993) with the bird maiden.[3] The swanmay is presented as a playable character race in The Complete Book of Humanoids (1993),[4] and is later presented as a playable character race again in Player's Option: Skills & Powers (1995). The bird maiden was further developed in Dragon #218 (June 1995).[5] The black swanmay appeared as a player character race in Dragon #266 (December 1999).[6]

The swanmay appeared in third edition as a prestige class in the Book of Exalted Deeds (2003).[7]

Characteristics and habits[edit]

Swanmays are all originally human females who were given their form of lycanthropy by voluntarily accepting a token, such as a feathered garment or signet ring, from a current swanmay. The true purposes of the swanmay sisterhood are not known, but they seem to be peaceful protectors of nature and, in particular, water birds. They live in small lodges on the banks of lakes in deep forests, and these can generally be recognized by the large number of swans and other water birds around them. Swanmay lodges are only lightly fortified against attacks, but contain two escape routes: a tunnel leading to the lake and a hatch onto the roof, which can be used by swanmays when in swan form. Swanmays seem to protect swans out of pity due to their similarity more than for any other reason.

Swanmays are indistinguishable from normal humans when in normal form, but can assume the swan form at will (they have full control over their shapeshifting). Any garments they are wearing, particularly the feathered garments, become part of the plumage when they do so. Swanmays attack with whatever weapons they have when in normal form, but prefer to attack with their beaks and claws in swan form. Abhorring violence, swanmays will as soon fly away as attack. Swanmays rarely associate with other creatures, only communing regularly with feys, sylvan elves, and certain priests.

The race could, in particular exclusivity, become Rangers and Druids in 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, though in 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons swanmays were a prestige class. Either way, they had a predilection and affinity for nature. As they could already change their shape, Druids was still a common class for the race in 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Noted in the Monster Manual as well as in The Complete Book of Humanoids: Player's Handbook Rules Supplement, the latter being a supplement for non-traditional player races, listing preconceptions for many of the races listed to fit within the campaign setting of Greyhawk. Whereas in 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons, swanmays could be of any class, but had to have certain prerequisites to become them as a Prestige Class. And, if they already had an existing spellcasting class as part of their Character Level makeup, they could gain Caster Level (CL) increases starting at 2nd level. Which would give them the benefit of casting more spells without having to sacrifice levels in swanmay to focus on their magic casting class, in this particular scenario usually Druid or a nature-based Cleric, Shugenja, Divine Soul and/or Spirit Shaman.

Many swanmays serve the goddess Fionnghuala.

Swanmays speak Common and Sylvan.

They are neutral good in alignment.

Notable swanmays[edit]

In the ready-to-play online adventure "The Blasted Heath," there is a swanmay named Icara. Icara is a half pixie, half copper dragon swanmay who is three feet tall and sports a red mohawk.[8]


  1. ^ Gygax, Gary. Monster Manual II (TSR, 1983)
  2. ^ Cook, David, et al. Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (TSR, 1989)
  3. ^ Stewart, Doug, ed. Monstrous Manual (TSR, 1993)
  4. ^ Slavicsek, Bill. The Complete Book of Humanoids (TSR, 1993)
  5. ^ Culotta, Paul F. "The Ecology of the Bird Maiden." Dragon #218 (TSR, 1995)
  6. ^ Wyatt, James. "Feathered Friends and Foes." Dragon #266 (TSR, 1999)
  7. ^ James Wyatt, Christopher Perkins, Darren Drader. "Prestige Classes: Swanmay".Book of Exalted Deeds, pp. 76-77. (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)
  8. ^ Skip and Penny Williams. "Vicious Venues The Blasted Heath". Wizards.com. Retrieved 2007-02-12.