Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Debunking Dragonlance Misconceptions: Kender don't have to be stupid

And by stupid, I mean lame. Kender don't have to be lame. Particularly as a PC race.

Every kender doesn't have to be as vapid as Tasslehoff Burrfoot always seemed to be. Hell, every kender doesn't have to be Tasslehoff Burrfoot, period. But I think that's the prevailing perception.
I'm continually dumbfounded whenever I encounter the paradoxical thinking process of some gamers. There are gamers that spout off about how roleplaying is not about slavishly following rules, but rather about treating published rules as guidelines rather than strictures.
AND YET, I've heard the same gamers complain about the "problems" of this or that PC race.
Folks, if you don't like something about the rules pertaining to a race, change it. It's just more rules to be used as needed, bent to your whim, etc.
So, let's apply this to kender. If you don't want them to be giggling, air-headed kleptomaniacs in your game, then they don't have to be.
I can't be the only person who has figured this out. Why do I have to explain house ruling to you guys?
So, what do you want your kender to be like? And by extension, how else does YOUR version of Krynn differ in your games from what's depicted in the published fiction?
Are your kender capable of the entire range of personalities, from happy-go-lucky to dark and brooding?
Do your kender barely have an urge to "acquire" objects, unlike the light-fingered filching freaks they are sometimes made out to be in the novels?
Make them your own, for the love of Paladine! Stop whining about their foibles and, uh, change what you don't like. Work with players who want to be kender, and (wow, concept here) ask THEM how they want their kender to behave. And let them play the little bastard that way.

Picture kender as ruthless villains, aloof assassins, whatever. Make them painfully conscious of their race's genetic urge to pilfer objects, and make them DESPISE the impulse, which they cannot control.

Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are not going to sue you for messing with the kender stereotype, I promise.

Now get out of here, and play kender YOUR way.

The End
Brought to you by a Google search for "kender."


  1. I see Kender as typically portrayed in DL as a brief phase Kender go through before settling down to farm and raise children. Otherwise the entire Kender race would just be wiped out due to failing to plant crops, harvest or otherwise prepare for winter as they were constantly distracted by whatever was laying around.

    1. Amen! Good way to look at things. Indeed, they can't be total idiots. Otherwise, they'd have gone extinct long ago...

  2. The Kender, the Pooka (in Changeling), Malkavians (in Vampire)... any clownish race/class has always lead to frustration for those who have to play with them.

    There are too many gag races in Kyrnn. Gully dwarves, Gnomes, Kender...

    But I always "read around them". The same way when I watch The Phantom Menace, I watch around JJB.

    1. Or, more likely, it lead to the frustration of the GMs who had to suffer with players who insisted on playing those races/classes. Because most of the time said players were the type to push the stereotype of the "clown" to the extreme, and suck the life out of a session with their antics.

      Yes, there are too many wee folks that serve as comic relief in Dragonlance. But I too "read around them." I totally relate.

  3. The other problem is when you have your own distrinct take on a race, but everyone else at the table wants to pigeonhole you into being the stereotype...

    In the late 80s I took up playing gnomes, because I'd never seen them played and felt I could invent them to be whatever I wanted them to be. People kept expecting me to tell riddles and make contraptions. It took a long time to break them...

    1. Personally, I'm not a big fan of gnomes. Indeed, no one ever played them when I was a young gamer, and on the rare occasion someone was considering a gnome, it was always as a damned illusionist! I mean, come on people. Use some imagination!

  4. I kind of think it's a bit sad that this is something that *always* comes up when there is a discussion about Kender.

    Any race or class can be played badly, but Kender get a bad rap. I've not played one, but if I did, I would have my Kender do amazingly cool things like collect pretty rocks, rather than use the class as an excuse to steal useful things from other players.

    I've had a couple of people say that the Kender handling abilities can actually be used to help save other players (via a "I found a healing potion") rather than stealing magic items a PC is trying to use in a fight.

    I think that a GM just needs to have a chat with players and tell them to have fun, but not undermine each other.