[Dragonlance] Considering Kender

I have been running a Dragonlance campaign for a while now. This came after a wave of nostalgia (which I posted about here) and then polling my potential D&D group as to which setting they would enjoy playing in. Dragonlance won out and here we are.

We all dove into the Chronicles series. Some of us it was a return to an old friend, for others it was their first trip into Krynn. It has been entertaining engaging in conversations regarding the characters. My revisiting the series has given me an opportunity to reflect on my past determinations and take a look at how twenty-eight years of experience has altered my opinions.

The opinion I want to address today is regarding Kender. That mischievous and childlike race embodied for many in the character of Tasselhoff Burrfoot. I’m not sure now what it was that made me have such a dislike of the character. Guessing, it could have been the impetuousness, the irresponsibility or the insatiable and often misunderstood kleptomania. Or it could have been how my fellow gamers approached Kender and abused the idea of them in gaming. And abuse them they did.

Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.

In the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons book, Dragonlance Adventures, there is a great deal of information on the setting. Its depth and richness reflected the reading I had done of the novels. It also shed light on various elements of the world and also detailed out the races which were unique to Krynn. There, on page 50, began the description of Kender. It covered their history, their worldview (especially regarding theft vs. borrowing) and gave us statistics to be used in generating player characters. Finally we could understand their pockets and all the various (and interesting) things they could pull from them. It touched on their fearlessness and also that most interesting (at least to me) ability to taunt.

Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, the folks I would play with saw an opportunity to play an obnoxious thief who had no problem constantly stealing from its party, utilizing the time honored Kender battle cry of “I found it!” and going so far as to occasionally taunt their fellow adventurers (especially the minotaur). This abuse, could have been easily been contained. But back then the DM’s ability to say ‘No’ was not as well understood or empowered as it is today. And so, begrudgingly we had to accept this frustrating player and their troubling Kender character.

Things haven’t changed much these days. On Facebook I often see conversations in groups about Dragonlance and about every six months a question comes up about Kender.
“What do you think of Kender?”
“Would you accept a Kender PC in your game?”
“Have you seen a Kender played right?”

Often these questions are answered with the entertaining diversity of the ability to say “Hell No”. I felt justified in my dislike of the Kender race. There was a host of other players and Dungeon Masters who shared in my sentiment of leaving them as NPCs but always decline to have a player character one in a game. But here I am, years later, with a differing opinion all because of re-reading Chronicles. I am no longer against them.

Should a player desire to play one in a game I am running, I would consider it. I have even put serious thought into how I would portray one, should I ever find myself in a game that allowed them.

Fizban and Tasselhoff from Dragonlance Tales 2.  Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast and thanks to Larry Elmore for his artistic eye.

Fizban and Tasselhoff from Dragonlance Tales 2.
Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast and thanks to Larry Elmore for his artistic eye.

There is something so important in what Kender bring to gaming. The childlike curiosity I once found frustrating, I fully support and find endearing. The fearlessness, which only amplifies their curiosity, lends well to giving a level of depth and understanding to the immersive quality of roleplaying. Their playful spirit, even in their “finding” of lost things, when properly channeled, is an asset to a game. This isn’t to say that Kender could be problematic. But an empowered DM could set the foundation for responsible play and exploration of the qualities of the race without it getting out of hand or cumbersome to the rest of the group.  

I may do a further exploration on this topic. But for now I will just say, I appreciate the Kender of Dragonlance.
They may now be my favorite race of the setting.