Kender are one of the races in the Dragonlance books/AD&D world. Kender were
originally thought up by either Margaret Weis or Tracy Hickman as a sort of "ethical" thief character. They don't steal because they're greedy; they steal because they are curious. Accordingly, they don't do assassin-type things like stab people in the back. In fact, they are so innocent and naive that they are often called the "Children of Krynn." When they appear in a book or campaign, their role is almost always comic relief.
The most well-known kender is Tasslehoff Burrfoot, from the Dragonlance
series of books.
Though kender are essentially the equivalent of halflings (read Hobbit if you don't have to tolerate copyright law) on Krynn, their appearance is different. Rather than being short, stocky, and hairy, they more closely resemble small elves. (Yes, with pointy ears and all) Kender like to wear their hair in ponytails and topknots, giving them almost an ElfQuest look.
In the Dragonlance universe, kender were created when the Graystone transformed the Smiths (or possibly, elves) whose dominant characteristic was their curiosity. With this transformation not only was their curious nature increased, but their attention span was reduced and their fearlessness was gained (but see afflicted kender below).
Until the 5th Age, the power of the Graystone prevented kender from becoming mages, though they could be fighters and clerics in addition to "handlers". Kender worship the given set of gods, though they also sometimes worship Fizban, Paladine's bumbling alter-ego.
As any kender will tell you, kender are not thieves, they just handle items. They aren't stealing — they're "borrowing". With their attention span, this might well be true; their innate curiosity makes them wonder what's behind doors, in knapsacks (even the party's!), and other places. This kleptomaniac nature is what makes them so good at taking items, though they often leave items of
"equal interest" in return; unfortunately, a rock that looks like a face might be of equal interest to a powerful magic item. All kender, no matter what class they are, have the ability to pick pockets and do other thief-type things (again, though, they don't get backstab abilities). Kender pass around items of interest so much between each other (through theft and passing around) that an object that has been in one family for a week would be considered an heirloom. "Handlers" are simply better at it than most, and as a consequence have a good deal of the party's inventory in their pouches.
Kender carry most of their stuff (and the party's stuff) in a number of pouches that hang about their person. When out of options, a kinder might start pulling stuff out (which is often randomly rolled). This stuff can range from a striped rock to valuable gems; while kender do like shiny objects, they also like unusual or interesting objects. Still, on occasion a handful of feathers might be more useful than anything else the party can produce.
The most common kender weapon is the hoopak, an odd combination of a
spear and a staff sling. The hoopak is designed to be multipurpose, and in addition to a weapon makes a reasonable hiking staff. Kender often hang feathers, beads, or other decoration from their hoopak. But, in battle, kender don't just rely on weapons and random stuff. They also rely on insults.
The kender have an ability to spot what will bug another intelligent being most...and taunt them about it, driving them into a blind rage that makes it hard for them to attack. Of course, they go after the kender first then, so it's a mixed bag. Online one can find pages that claim to have lots of kender taunts; unfortunately, they are almost universally stale email forwards, particularly yo mama type jokes. A good taunt is often personalized; depending on the GM's NPC skills, a kender player might find taunts more useful against their own party. This is especially true since many parties treat kender rather poorly.
The best taunt I ever did when playing a kender was to another player playing a pirate captain, which went something like the following:
"...and you're big, and ugly, and mean, and you're never gonna score with that priestess of Sirrion..."
Now, what made this so good? First off, the (good) priestess was taking advantage of the pirate captain
(who was evil) for transportation. Second, the captain had been trying to be seductive, to mixed success at best. Third (and perhaps most important), the guy playing the pirate captain was also flirting with the player of the priestess, and while
successful from a non-serious flirting angle, he was trying for a possible relationship.
Fearlessness and the Afflicted Kender
Kender, as originally created, have the fearlessness of children. Even dragons, which produce dragon-fear, only make them feel a bit odd. However, in the events leading up to 5th Age Dragonlance, a dragon larger than was previously known destroyed the kender city of Kendermore, and actually managed to turn most of the kender there into
permanently frightened and paranoid creatures, known as afflicted kender. However, the other major kender city was unaffected, and so now there is a mix of afflicted and non-afflicted kender.
Kender Character Tips
- Roll up extra characters. Kender fearlessness means you might not
run when you should.
- If you are going to play a kender "handler", Skills &
Powers allows you to make an ultimate munchkin character, since kender are essentially treated as halflings. Since you won't be spending points on backstab modifiers, you will find that your thieving skills can be at ludicrous levels.
- Oftentimes your party members will be against you/see you as a troublemaker. Join forces with the GM in making trouble.
- If you are caught with party items (which will find their way in your possession, even if you don't go looking for neat stuff), never admit to taking it maliciously (because you didn't). Good things to say/do when caught include:
- I was just borrowing it. (Borrowing vs. Stealing)
- Oh, you want to hold onto it again./You gave it to me! (Thinking that they gave you the item)
- Isn't it neat? (Change the subject)
- Here you go. (Give it back and walk away)
If they repeatedly call you a thief
you should get upset with them, because you don't mean to steal things.
You are cute and a bit silly — kender are considered the "children" of Krynn, after all. Act like it.
This largely came out of my memory. Obviously the AD&D Dragonlance support book and the Dragonlance novels are the best available guide to kender, particularly from an official view. However, there is a website, http://www.kencyclopedia.com/ that has plenty of information for the kender fanatic.