One of the many challenges a DM's faces in allowing a kender into their games
deals with how to work with handling. It is one of the most debated and misunderstood
of all kender traits. This article will explain what handling is and different
ways a DM can deal with it in their games.
Handling is the action of taking the property of another without the right
or permission of the owner and without the intent of depriving that individual
of their property. Kender handling has been equated to kleptomania, an obsessive
impulse to take things regardless of need. But this is not exactly true because
the obsession is not with taking things, but with exploring things. Kender don't
feel a need to take things from others, they feel a need to examine things.
Therefore they do have a need, curiosity.
But you may ask "why does he need to examine my money pouch or my dagger?".
That is a misnomer that leads people to believe that kender steal for greed.
But all you have to do is check a kender's pouches to see they don't steal for
greed. Tiny wooden penguins, feathers, ribbons, candy, quills, empty inkwells...
are only a few of the hundreds of items that kender keep that have no real worth
to anyone. So when you're dagger or money pouch joins the list of tree bark,
marbles, and bees wax it's just another item on the list.
So let me state one more time. Kender do not steal out of greed, or out of
profit, or for revenge. They borrow items for inspection and usually immediately
stuff them in a pouch for further inspection at a later date or examine it while
they wander off thus forgetting to return it. This is how they were raised and
it is not an evil intent that drives them.
The Pouch List
So now that we know what Handling is lets talk about just what a kender has
in those pouches. When running a kender there must be a list of pouch items
involved. The exact composition of the items on this list can vary depending
on the level of the kender and the generosity of the DM.
Here is a table written by Ron Cole:
Kender Pouch Grab Chart
01-02 - A medium-sized magical item owned by one of the kender's companions
such as a spell-book, belt, or helm, so long as the kender has a backpack or
sack of sufficient size to pull it from (DM may choose or decide randomly on
the owner and item).
03-05 - A class kit owned by one of the kender's companions that weighs
no more than 10 pounds, or sufficient materials from a heavier kit to invalidate
the bonuses (DM may choose or decide randomly on the owner and item).
06-10 - A small magical item owned by one of the kender's companions
such as a ring or bracelet (DM may choose or decide randomly on the owner and
11-15 - A small-sized simple weapon owned by one of the kender's companions
(DM may choose or decide randomly on the owner and item).
16-20 - An article of clothing owned by one of the kender's companions
(DM may choose or decide randomly on the owner and item).
21-25 - 1d4 colorful sea shells.
26-30 - An assortment of feathers.
31-35 - 1d4 shiny stones.
36-40 - A knot of string in various colors.
41-45 - A worn table item.
46-50 - A 3-foot long thin leather cord.
51-55 - A candle.
56-60 - A small silver mirror.
61-65 - 5 feet of silk rope.
66-70 - Manacles.
71-75 - A lockpick.
76-80 - A spyglass.
81-83 - 1-2 (1d4 / 2) arrows.
84-86 - 1d4 sling bullets.
87-89 - A tiny simple weapon.
90-92 - A small simple weapon.
93-94 - A tiny exotic weapon.
95-96 - A small martial weapon.
97-98 - A healing potion.
99 - DM's choice of any useful item on the list.
00 - Kender's choice of any small-sized item they own or DM's choice
(player may chose).
I like Ron’s list because it has a wide range of objects and only gives magical
items in extreme cases, and my favorite part is that actually states that the
item found belongs to another party member. That’s always fun.
You can start out with a table like the one above for convenience. But then
you’re going to have to modify it every time something new gets added to it.
The best thing to do is to make sure you have a list of paper numbered from
1 to 100 and as items are added to the list you can place them on the list and
if that list if full you randomly remove one item each time you add a new one.
The rule of thumb for how many items a kender can carry on them is 5 items
to a small pouch, 10 to a large pouch, 15 to a small sack, 25 in a backpack,
and 30 in a large sack. Assuming that the kender only uses pouches I just try
to make sure that I have 10 large pouches per kender. If some pouches go missing
then you randomly roll and delete the number of items from the pouch list that
Now that we have a list of items for our kender player lets talk about how
to use this list in play. There are three basic methods in the way DM's deal
with how a player character handles. The first, Pre-meditated Handling, places
all the work on the player. The second, Restricted Handling, lets the player
do all the work when the DM allows her to. The third Absentminded Handling,
places all of the work on the DM.
DM: "When you want to handle something tell me and you'll roll a pick-pocket
Player: "I want to pick-pocket that broken dagger hilt out of the back
of that wagon."
When the kender wants to handle she'll state that she wants to try to handle
something. Otherwise she's keeping her hands to herself. In the short term this
method frees the DM from the responsibility of keeping track of what items are
in the pouch list and also keeps the kender player to only handling items the
DM has presented to her. In the long run there can be some drawbacks to this
method. The obvious drawback is that the kender player will be interrupting
every other encounter trying to pilfer this item or look into this pouch, thus
irritating her companions and holding up the general flow of the adventure at
hand. Having to act like a kender by mentioning every single thing she wants
to pick up. This can get very annoying before long. Which is usually what leads
to the second method Restricted Handling.
DM: "OK you're in the city walking through the streets so you can handle
Player: "What are people wearing. Do I see anything interesting? Who's
in the street now? Are there any places to hide?"
The DM gives the go ahead to the kender character when they can and cannot
handle things. This way the kender doesn't interfere with the flow game or get
into too much trouble. The DM makes sure that the kender only handles when the
DM is ready for the kender to handle something. But this method also has its
drawbacks. First the DM has to make special "kender breaks" where the other
players roll their eyes and say "Why do he have to have a kender with us? I'm
going to a tavern to have a drink while the kender explores the city." And the
DM and kender go off together while the other players mutter that they aren't
doing anything. The DM is exerting more control over when the kender gets into
trouble and that's about it.
Absentminded Handling (True Handling)
DM: "You pull a frozen fish out of your pouch."
Player: "Where did this come from?"
Kipper: That's true handling right there!
The DM holds and maintains what's in the list. The kender only gets to see
the list when he specifically says he has emptied his pouches. He reviews it
and hands it back when he is done. If he can remember something from the list
then he'll remember it's in the pouch. If he forgets, the kender forgets. After
an encounter the DM takes a minute. Makes a random roll and updates the pouch
list by removing a random item and adding the new item. When the kender makes
a pouch grab the item they are looking for may not be there anymore. The DM
can also slip in items that may lead the adventuring group in the direction
he needs them to go. "What do you mean the kender took the Kings crown!?!" "I
just found it in my pouch, he must have put it there for safe keeping."
The DM and player MUST decide what is fair game to displace. Some players
may be upset if the DM trades away the +3 fire dagger for a peanut shell. So
you'll have to have firm house rules that state that anything in a pouch is
fair game for misplacing. So if you value that magical dagger state you're sheathing
it or they could state a rule that equipment can not be displaced and declare
the player must declare the dagger has part of his equipment.
The Pouch Grab
Kender looking for a particular item that is located within their pouches
must take a full action of searching in order find what they are looking for.
The Pouch Grab table above is for determining a pouch grab as a free action.
So when a kender declares she’s making a pouch grab she must state whether it’s
a full action pouch grab or a free action pouch grab. If it’s a full action
she can retrieve a specific item, if it’s a free action you just roll and see
what comes out.
Well that’s it. I hope you DM’s have a learned a little something about dealing
with kender player characters. Happy Gaming!