A kender's combination of mischief and innocence is what endears kender to
us so much. The problem is, many people who try to create a kender character
will stop right there - just take the stereotypical description of a kender,
tack on a silly-sounding name, choose which of the traditional kender weapons
their character prefers, and maybe mention which bright color the kender's leggings
are. The result is a Tasslehoff clone.
You may say: what's wrong with that? Tasslehoff was one of the greatest and
most memorable characters in the entire Dragonlance saga! And this is, of course,
true. But there are several things to bear in mind.
First, Tasslehoff was used to introduce the entire kender race. He had to
be a stereotypical kender, at least to begin with. Only once the stereotypical,
"average" kender is familiar to the readers can unusual, non-stereotypical kender
Second Tas was the only kender among the Heroes of the Lance. So there
were no other kender to base your actions off of. He became the end all be all
of how kender should look act and think. And if that’s what you think, I guess
Tanis defines all half-elves and Flint defines all dwarves. Which is a terrible
conclusion to draw when it comes to making up your own character.
OK, so hopefully you're convinced by now that your kender needs that extra
something. So now you ask: what can I possibly add? After all, all kender seem
very similar - bundles of energy, "borrowing" everybody's stuff, insanely curious,
utterly fearless, mooing at minotaurs, and so on and so forth! What can I possibly
change and still be left with a fun kender character?
The answer is not, I repeat, is not, glow-in-the-dark hair.
The purpose of this article is to help you find what you need to make your
kender unique, usefull and enjoyable to play. Below are many ideas for creating
such a kender. You don't need to include each and every element - if you do,
your kender will probably be too complex to play properly. It's better to pick
just a couple of features, and focus on them.
Despite opinions to the contrary, not all kender are currently on Wanderlust.
A kender past wanderlust will usually settle down enough to find something to
occupy his or her time, and often that means choosing a profession. Actually,
even a kender on wanderlust might find a certain profession interesting enough
to give it a try.
The trick is to find a profession that makes the character more interesting.
A kender farmer, for example, probably wouldn't get much chance to display his
talents during anadventure. Luckily, kender usually avoid boring jobs like farming
anyway. Try to select a profession that will make your characters stand out
from the crowd, or that they will affect their decisions during play.
An interesting profession makes for an interesting character. Perhaps your
kender is a professional locksmith, or a circus performer, or she run errands
for the gnomes of Mount Nevermind, or is a missionary for the Kender Church
of Fizban, or a certified cartographer, or an author who is going along with
the other kender in search of new ideas for his next book, or a wannabe detective
who is always finding mysteries even where there are none, or…
Interests and Hobbies
Just like us humans, a kender can have a hobby. Kender are curious about just
about everything, but having your kender be interested in one or two things
in particular can really set your character apart.
Think what hobbies your kender might have. Maybe he likes animals, and travels
nowhere without his own pet chipmunk. Perhaps she loves singing, and tries often
to compose her own poems and songs. How about a kender artist, who wants to
draw a portrait of every single race of creature and monster on Krynn? Maybe
your kender is fascinated by elves, and tries to imitate them, attempting to
pass him or herself off as a Qualinesti elf that has been magically shrunk?
Some of the most memorable characters are those with some kind of dark secret
that is only gradually uncovered. Kender are never very good at keeping secrets
as a rule, but there may be something in their past that they don’t want revealed,
maybe they caused an accidental death that makes them try to avoid water or
dark places. Exploring the mind and emotions of a kender can lead to more interesting
things than the happy-go-lucky nothings-wrong-with-the-world kender. Giving
your kender a deep, dark secret might be the way to go.
Giving your kender a quest can be a great idea. You can find a quest for your
kender, too. Remember the kender artist? Her quest was to draw a portrait of
a member of every race on Krynn. That could certainly show up while adventuring,
whenever the group meets a new creature ("Could you hold still a minute while
I get out my things, please?"). Other ideas for quests could be: locating some
fascinating, long-lost artifact the kender heard of as a child, figuring out
what that shiny magical ring the kender picked up does, finding the kender's
long-lost parents, doing a deed that kender will talk about for years, getting
rid of a cursed object (that one can be fun if the cursed object is interesting
enough!), or trying to meet a god to complain about how poorly the universe
is run. I'm sure you can come up with more ideas yourselves.
A simple way to retain all the usual kender characteristics and still have
an interesting character is to choose one kender characteristic, and emphasize
it above all the others. For example, an obsession with magic. In a similar
way, you can take any kender trait, and make that one be the central trait to
your kender, just be careful you don’t overdo it. Your kender could be
one that especially prides himself on her lockpicking skills, or one who sees
it as a personal mission to become friends with every person he meets. There
are kender who are actually thieves, not just borrowers - this can be an emphasis
of the kender handling skills. Or your kender could be curious to see just how
far a kender's immunity to fear really goes, and so the kender always tries
to do the most dangerous things possible… Warning,
this is the most difficult of all ideas to implement properly. It can get annoying
for a kender to say, “That wasn’t scary enough guys I’m gonna find us a more
horrible monster to battle now.” So add emphasis, but sparingly.
Quirks and Eccentricities
Kender are, by nature, eccentric. They're curious about things no one else
cares about, they tend to go off on a tangent, and so forth. But you might want
to consider giving your kender an additional, unique quirk.
One of the big advantages in a quirk is that it can be very prominent - unlike,
for example, the character's profession or quest, the quirk can show up constantly,
so that the character is recognized by this quirk. Take the kender poet I mentioned
in ideas for hobbies and interests. Maybe the kender tries to always speak in
rhymes (maybe she's not very good at rhyming!). Or maybe she always tries to
find rhymes for words people say, like Fezzik in "The Princess Bride" (yes,
people, a non-Dragonlance book). Or maybe she insists on composing a poem about
every event that happens, no matter how trivial.
Quirks, however, are a two-sided coin - if you overuse them, they become annoying.
If your kender's quirk is that he likes chewing on a blade of grass, it can
be annoying for the other players to have to hear you chewing cud like a cow
when you speak. So use your quirk often, but wisely.
There are lots of little quirks you can adopt - just look at quirky people
from life or fiction for ideas. Your kender may have all kinds of strange and
humorous superstitions. Or maybe your kender is just slightly insane, and thinks
he's living in Istar before the Cataclysm. Or maybe he thinks he can fly, and
tries to do so whenever it would seem to come in handy. Or maybe your kender
has a habit of whistling in a loud, annoying fashion, or maybe he counts like
a gully dwarf, or…
These should be handled with your DM - a whole group of cursed kender isn't
much fun. But if one or two of them are cursed, it can make for an interesting
character. Kender are probably the most often-cursed beings on Krynn, seeing
as they keep annoying spellcasters, picking up unidentified magical objects,
investigating mages' dwellings, and so on and so forth. A curse can be a great
way to make your kender unique. The curse could be one that prevents the kender
from borrowing, or that doesn't let them leave a building until they empty their
pouches. Unless you're into melodrama, though, these can be more annoying than
fun, so I suggest something more creative. Your kender could be cursed with
an extra eye, a tail, or something else amusing as long as it doesn’t affect
combat. Maybe a spellcaster thought that making a kender be slow and clumsy
would be funny. A mind-affecting spell could also work, though there you'll
have to turn back to the "Eccentricities and Quirks" section. Perhaps the kender
is cused so that he ages 5 years every time he "borrows" something... or a curse
that turns the kender's skin a different color every day of the week. Whatever
you do, make sure your curse is creative, make sure that playing the character
will still be fun despite the curse (ideally, playing the character will be
more fun because of the curse), and be sure you know where the curse came from.
One Last Note
This is important. Even if you plan out the most wonderful, unique kender
ever invented, all you have is a plan. Be sure to use all of your kender's unique
characteristics, or all your planning will have been futile, and your character
will remain the same dull Tasslehoff-clone it would have been without all your
Good luck, and enjoy!
Standback and Kipper
* This original article was created for the www.kencyclopedia.com
Kender Survivor Contest
by Standback and modified by Kipper Snifferdoo for role-playing specifically.