Of all the races of D&D, perhaps none have been so controversial as kender. Wizards of the Coast provides a solution to the race’s perceived issues with the release of the kender in their recent Heroes of Krynn playtest document.
We will be examining the playtest kender, as well as taking a look at the origins of kender, the perceived problems of kender, and how the playtest version compares and contrasts to our own book, Tasslehoff’s Pouches of Everything.
Kender were created with the best of intentions. Tracy Hickman had moral objections to the thief class, and so he wanted to create an alternative. Kender were born as that alternative. Rather than robbing everyone out of a sense of malice, kender had a child-like wonder and curiosity, while lacking a sense of private property. Their curiosity drove them to “handle” items, where they would “borrow” something that caught their eye. Oftentimes this would be some trinket that held no value to someone else, such as a pretty purple stone or a shiny set of dice.
These child-like diminutive humanoids resemble halflings. Unlike halflings, they did not hide in their hobbit-holes in the Shire. Far from it. They enter a time in their life called wanderlust, which drives them to go out and see the world. They are also utterly fearless.
Perceived Issues With Kender
It is not the fault of kender that players don’t know how to be one.Margaret Weis
Unfortunately, there were players who either didn’t understand the race or who took advantage of it. These players would throw their character (as well as the party) right into the heart of danger and certain death. They also would rob from their fellow players, taking any number of items and money. There is a term for people like this – “jerks.”
It should also be noted that as time moves on from the early 1980s to the early 2020s, much has changed within our society and the D&D game itself. There are many who would criticize having a D&D race of natural thieves. This is seen as promoting a negative stereotype which is often associated with real-world peoples.
The Playtest Kender
In the Heroes of Krynn playtest, the whimsical nature and curiosity of kender are said to be derived from the Feywild. While this description would work well for a new race, it differs from the decades-old established continuity of kender being a Graygem race. Whether or not this will be addressed remains to be seen.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the other kender abilities.
Throughout the editions, kender have been immune to fear, both magical and mundane. Wizards’ take on this is the Brave ability.
Brave. You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the frightened condition on yourself.Heroes of Krynn playtest
Advantage is pretty good, but this ability could be simplified by saying that kender cannot be frightened. This was the approach used in the D&D Next playtest documents and in Tas’ Pouches.
Several fans (and Margaret Weis!) have commented on how the name of this ability sounds very much like a kender fighter pilot. Wizards may wish to consider a different name, such as Kender Pouches or Kender Pockets.
Kender Ace. Starting at 3rd level, you possess a magical ability to pull an item out of a bag or another container; as a bonus action, you can reach into a container you’re carrying and roll on the Kender Aces table to determine what item you pull out. The object glimmers softly and disappears after 1 hour. You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.Heroes of Krynn playtest
Mechanically, the ability is sound. However, it misses the flavor of kender handling. In fact, the term “handling” is not in the document. A kender should be picking up things all the time, but they should not be robbing their friends blind. So a pretty stone may catch their eye, but they could care less about how much money you have.
What would be nice to see here would be some sort of “pouch grab chart,” like we see in Races of Ansalon and Tas’ Pouches. The trinkets table works fine, but those pouch grab charts are more kender-specific and fun.
Next, let’s look at the kender’s signature taunt ability. Taunt has traditionally been an ability to throw insults at an opponent, thereby enraging them and getting them to focus on you in combat.
Taunt. You have a supernatural ability to home in on a creature’s emotional raw nerves and craft a taunt that flusters that creature. As a bonus action, you can unleash a barrage of insults at a creature within 60 feet of you that can hear and understand you. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw (DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier), or it has disadvantage on attack rolls until the start of your next turn.
You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.Heroes of Krynn playtest
This is pretty similar to our own taunt rules in Tas’ Pouches. The most noticeable difference is that this version does not have the creature focusing on you. It’s just mad.
Mechanically, the 5e playtest kender rules are pretty solid. Taunt is spot-on, and Brave needs some tweaking. However, the Kender Ace ability needs a new name and would benefit from having a kender pouch grab chart.
Wizards is taking strides to make the kender race more palatable to D&D fans who have often voiced their criticisms of the race. While they make some logical choices, it is done so at the expense of the flavor of the race. A kender’s whimsy is explained as being tied to the Feywild, as are the items they handle.
Wizards of the Coast will be doing a survey soon where you can voice your opinion. Oftentimes, playtest material evolves before we see the final result.
We highly encourage you to playtest the race and provide honest feedback in the survey.