Friday, November 21, 2014

5th Edition D&D Subraces: Halfling (Kender)

Oh, Tasselhoff. What did you start?

Unlike other halfling races, kender are childlike and naive to the extreme. This childish innocence gets many kender out of trouble, though more often gets them into it.

ADDENDUM: I've recently been informed that though kender are effectively halflings, they have an odd origin in the Dragonlance universe (gnomes affected by the passing of the "grey stone"?).  As such, they are technically not halflings. This doesn't appear in any of the research I read for this post. I will make a few adjustments when I get time. Thanks for letting me know.

ADDENDUM 2: From reader, Ben Eastman: "It would appear that there are three possible explanations for kender, although the third came very late in the Dragonlance cycle (a novel from 2009). I think that designing kender as a halfling subrace makes perfect sense outside of Krynn, since they are halflings-but-not-hobbits. In Krynn, they would just be their own standalone race." I agree. Thanks, Ben, and others for letting me know.

From the Kender Wiki:

"Within the game world, kender names are chosen from a wide range of sources such as recent events, an existing relative, or from items found in kender pouches, such as Bearchase, Lockpick, and Fruitthrow. As children, they constantly ask questions and come to rely on family and friends for needs, and they begin to take part in community activities. As they age, kender children gain education by hearing stories, desiring to acquire new skills, and playing games. They also begin handling and wandering. As kender reach the adolescent and teen-aged years, they become more active participants in Kender Moots, social gatherings where the youth can show off their newly found skills in games and demonstrations. As they near adulthood, kender experience intense wanderlust and leave home.

"Most kender spend their entire adult lives wandering around the world. Most of the population of Krynn has been exposed to the adult variety of kender, and as such have adapted the word kender to mean thief, rogue, or cutpurse. Kender take great offense to these epithets, especially the last. The Annotated Chronicles cites the Dragonlance Adventures, which states, "Most Kender are encountered during wanderlust, a particular phase in a kender's life that occurs for most kender during their early 20s. Wanderlust may happen for many years ... and is responsible for spreading kender communities across the continent of Ansalon."

Kender Traits
As a kender halfling, you gain the following benefits in addition to the benefits of the halfling race.
Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.
Alignment. Unlike other halflings, kender lean toward chaotic alignments rather than lawful, though their kindness and gentility guide them toward good alignments.
Age. A kender's natural lifespan is about 100 years. They age slowly, remaining childlike in comparison to other races even when their bodies slow down. Kender view death as the next great adventure, and do not linger long in sadness after the passing of a loved one.
Speed. Unlike other halflings, your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Bravery. A kender's childlike innocence prevents them from fully grasping the consequences of their actions, providing them with the overconfidence of human youth. Kender are immune to the frightened condition. Though they feel no fear for themselves, they can and do fear for the safety of their friends and family.
Taunt. Kender are naturally skilled at perceiving and taking advantage of the psychological weaknesses of their enemies (and sometimes their friends). As an Action, you can force a target within 30 feet who can hear you and understand your language to make a Charisma saving throw against a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier. On a failed save, the target cannot take reactions until the beginning of their next turn and gains disadvantage on the next attack roll or ability check they make before the end of their next turn. The creature may also target the kender with its next attack, either physical or verbal. A creature who fails their save gains advantage on subsequent saves against this ability until they take a long rest.
Curiosity. The innocence of the kender knows no bounds. As such, kender often "acquire" objects that are not theirs. Though willful thievery is considered morally wrong by most kender, and to be called a thief a great insult, kender have no problem with handling other people's property that interests them. You gain proficiency with Sleight of Hand checks and begin the game with three trinkets. In addition, as an Action, you may search through your belongings to find any single item which you have picked up in your travels. This item will be worth 2gp or less and weigh no more than 2lbs. You may not use this ability again until you take a long rest.
Distractible. Kender have disadvantage on all Constitution checks to maintain concentration. In addition, kender are required to make a Constitution check to maintain concentration whether or not an attack does damage (DC 10), though Constitution checks made when an attack misses are made normally, not at disadvantage. In addition, once per long rest, the DM may impose disadvantage on any attack, saving throw or ability check you make. A kender spellcaster with the War Caster feat makes Constitution checks imposed by damage normally and is not required to make concentration checks when an attack misses.
Reputation. A kender's natural innocence and questionable reputation make them terrible liars and their childlike rage invokes more laughter than fear. You make Deception and Intimidation checks at disadvantage.
Weapon Proficiencies. Kender treat hoopaks as simple weapons.

Behind the Development:

Kender outside of Dragonlance: Kender are the only halfling subrace on the planet of Krynn. If you are not running a Krynn-based game and would like use kender as a subrace alongside lightfoot and stout halfings, I recommend reverting their speed back to 25 feet and their Bravery racial trait to the standard halfing. You may also remove their Reputation trait to compensate for the loss of these abilities depending on the nature of your campaign.

I'm am confident there are players in the world who know how to bring kender into a game and make that game more fun and interesting for everyone. I haven't met them. I love Tasselhoff in novels, but at the table I find the kender's natural strengths are used more to mess with other players than support the group story. With that in mind, I attempted to use interesting mechanics to support the flavor of the kender's fun and entertaining traits without forcing players to outright steal every chance they get.

The Taunt racial trait is a cornerstone ability of the kender. At first I thought of giving them access to the vicious mockery cantrip but didn't for two reasons, 1) though several races gain cantrips as racial traits, none deal damage, and 2) their taunting skills aren't magical.

Between the current halfling's advantage on fear saves and ability to reroll 1's on saves, they are already highly resistant to fear. I decided to upgrade that to immunity simply because it is such an inherent part of the kender psychology. For some reason, kender are faster than standard halflings. I'm not sure why this became a part of the race, but an increase in speed from 25 feet to 30 feet isn't as significant as in previous editions. Still, it is an advantage. As with Bravery, changing this trait was a toss-up and if you are allowing kender alongside other halfling subraces in your non-Krynn game, I recommend removing both these advantages.

Kender spellcasters are fairly rare, so imposing disadvantage only on concentration checks isn't enough to balance out some of the other advantages they have over normal halflings. Allowing the DM to impose disadvantage on one attack roll, saving throw or ability check per long rest puts a little power into the DM's hands when dealing with a kender's penchant for getting themselves and their party members into trouble, while still playing to the kender's roleplaying strengths. A player who wants to break stereotype and play a kender wizard may pick up the War Caster feat.

Kender "curiosity" is described well in the Kender Wiki:

"Kender are described as not believing that there is anything morally wrong with handling others' items, although the habit may land them in considerable trouble with the owner of an object. In addition, they do not tend to pocket things like money, gems, and the like, as they are depicted as having little concept of monetary value. Kender oppose actual thieving vehemently, and consider being called a thief a great insult to their dignity.

"As a side effect of these characteristics, kender can be difficult to play within the role-playing game, as their lack of interest in monetary gain is "a virtual anathema" to the manner in which characters of many other races are typically portrayed. It was recommended in The Mists of Krynnthat kender be employed as non-player characters, with their kleptomania providing a convenient means for those running the game to introduce objects at critical times."

It was this concept that inspired the Curiosity trait's feature of starting with three trinkets and finding small, inexpensive objects among the kender's gear. By allowing this trait (and changing the oft-used name Kleptomania to Curiosity), a kender PC can have the feel of object-acquisition without being encouraged to steal everything in sight--a penchant that has derailed numerous storylines.

One might think the disadvantage imposed by their Reputation would also apply to Sleight of Hand checks as well. Though the kender's reputation for kleptomania is near-universal, they are so good at acquiring items on the sly that they do not make these checks at an inherent disadvantage like Deception and Intimidation checks (though disadvantage may be imposed by the DM for other circumstances, such as through the Distraction racial trait or certain spells and effects).

The hoopak (aka: halfling slingstaff) is a weapon unique to the kender. A versatile weapon, the hoopak may be used as a staff, spear or sling.

Hoopak (Martial Weapon)
Cost: 5gp
Damage: 1d4 bludgeoning or piercing (melee) or 1d4 bludgeoning (range)
Special: versatile (1d6), ammunition, range (30/120)
Note: The versatile trait of the hoopak applies to both melee and ranged attacks.

A kender's inborn wanderlust forces them into the world at a young age. Common backgrounds for kender characters include Entertainer, Folk Hero, Hermit, Outlander, Sailor, and Urchin. Though it is common for a kender to have the Thief archetype, it is very rare for one to possess the Charlatan or Criminal background. Kender curiosity lend them to develop the skills and features of a rogue (thief), but rarely leads them to blatant criminal intent. Kender Acolytes, Sages, and Soldiers are rare, while Guild Artisans and Nobles are rarer than Charlatans and Criminals.

Kender are naturally drawn to agile and charismatic classes, such as rogues and bards, though a few are able to fight their attention deficits enough to study wizardry or to follow the divine paths of the cleric or druid. Kender rangers, though unusual, are not unheard of, though barbarians, monks, paladins, and sorcerers are rare to the point of nonexistance. The kender's innate naiveté could potentially lead them to being manipulated by the unseemly patrons who empower warlocks, though it's just as likely that their childlike innocence would steer them away from temptations of power.

If you're running a Dragonlance game in the world of Krynn, make sure to check out our Minotaur playable race as well.

Coming soon: Draconians.


  1. The only thing I would suggest is limiting melee damage to one type (piercing or bludgeoning). 5e seems to have done away with choosing your type of damage, which is one small way that it's different from 3.5.

    1. I decided to allow the B/P choice to differentiate between a standard halfling slingstaff and a hoopak. Easy change to make for a home game.

  2. The _existence_ of kender as a concept is almost enough to sour me on other kinds of halflings, just because I wind up with players creating halflings and playing them as kender. After all, it's the attitudes, not the abilities, of kender that make them so disruptive to gameplay. So, you know, I like the rules you've written here, but I would never allow one of these in my game. =)

    1. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of kender. Having said that, the number of people requesting a build was almost absurd after the Minotaur, so I decided to swallow my pride and stretch my skills to build one I might allow at the table. Not surprising that the frustrated/negative response, even from one kender fan who uses the oddly-mechaniced playtest version, far outweighs the people who had been requesting them. Oh, well.

    2. Also, I must admit, after researching the kender I realize my issue isn't with the race at all, but the players who think they understand the race. They play kender based on their reputation as troublemakers and use that to draw attention to themselves and away from the group story. After reading quite a bit about them, I can think of a number of ways to play them at the table that would encourage the story and make it fun for everyone. But that may be because I'm as much as a roleplayer as a rollplayer.

    3. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this point in more detail.

    4. Very well done, especially for someone who isn't too much of a Kender fan. Thank you, saves me a bit of work:)

    5. Thank you, AJ. It was a stretch, as I said, more for my prejudices than design.

    6. i play a kender rogue/warlock of the old ones its amazing lol

  3. Brandes, in response to your request I'll see if I can put my thoughts into words.

    1) Kender are kind and gentle, without malice. Their innocence has twice been used as a face for my players to be chaotic neutral (at best), self-focused jerks hiding behind the "I give them my innocent smile"--usually after they've stolen something expensive and magical from a party member. Apparently kender rarely if ever steal gold, gems, jewelry or expensive items. They simply don't understand or care about monetary value of objects, so they pick up things that are curiosities or are of interest to them; bars of gold or healing potions aren't inherently interesting. Rarely so is the same thing said about players. Kender can be played as innocent and selfless, with the simple penchant for picking up small, inexpensive objects on a regular basis, while discussing with the DM ideas about when and where taking something far more expensive fits into the story.

    2) Their taunt ability is an unfortunate class feature that, mechanically, leads players to believe that kender are insult machines. Again, leading players to chaotic neutral/evil behavior hiding behind their supposed innocent PCs in order to act in a way I don't see kenders acting. Instead, I see them as talking to players and NPCs with the "out of the mouths of babes" type comments. They aren't meaning to be insulting most of the time, they simply make observations and comments other people would avoid, and they would do so without malice. In combat, I see it being used as much inadvertently as consciously, forcing a violent creature's attention away from their friends and toward themselves.

    Keep in mind that I've only read the original trilogy and played the original modules, and that happened back around the mid-late 80's. I don't remember exactly how Tasselhoff acted back then and most of my despising of kender comes from players around the table. My current thoughts are born from reading through the intentions of the authors back in the day, and I can see many ways I could use those ideas in a novel, which means I can see many ways I could play them at the table.

    Would I trust a player to play one in my own game? I have a few players who I would trust to pull it off, but I would probably get the shakes and sweats beforehand.

  4. Have you looked at the Kender in the A DnD Dragonlance Adventures book? It's quite good and most of it would transfer easily to 5th edition.

    1. I don't have a copy of that. My research was both internet and DL 3.* based.

    2. I shared photos of the Kender Pages on the 5th Edition Facebook page. Have a look.

  5. I myself have played a Kender outside of Dragonlance. My DM at the time stated that the only reason he allowed it was because if a Kender was real then I was the only person he knew that would be one naturally.

  6. I personally played a Kender outside of Dragonlance. The only reason my DM at the time would allow it was because he said if Kender was a real race, I was the only person he knew that would be one.

  7. I've allowed Kender in my games before. My most successful experiment involved me (DM) randomly placing items in the Kender's care that belonged to another PC. Helps the Kender be just as surprised as the Fighter when his prized dagger, or quest key to the locked room is missing from his beltpouch and mysteriously ends up in the Kender's bag.

  8. I love the Kender. I fell for them from the beginning. very easy to play hard to survive. yes every9one else hates them if you RP and RP good then hardly any player will like you because you are seen as attention grabbing annoying when they go to look for a dagger or something and you (the kender have it) why that would upset them is beyond me. *snickers d&d is a game meant to test your imagination and versatility in a situation which tends to take a lot of RP out of the games at times so for me playing a kender is my way of saying its a game have fun dont be all serious all the time. look at tasselhoff anoying? yes but lovable and capable to get the job done.