D&D 5E Kender character concepts that aren't awful

Spinning off a bit from a discussion of kender wizards in the Do You Plan To Buy Dragonlance thread. Kender tend to attract a lot of hate for some well-understood reasons. If hypothetically you had to play a kender PC, in a 5e Dragonlance game that you wanted to succeed and be enjoyable for everyone, how would you do it? Character concept, personality and game mechanics? Would you play against type to some degree or would you embrace the full stereotypical pickpocketing kenderness, and if the latter, how would you do it in a way that wasn't irritating?

To start the ball rolling:

Kender ranger, beastmaster subclass, using the Spirit of the Land companion from Tasha's and the Watchers dark gift from VRGtR. Background, maybe Folk Hero or Outlander? A kender who is fascinated by nature, insects in particular. Keeps the stereotypical kender wide-eyed curiosity and joyful enthusiasm, but redirects it away from the personal possessions of their fellow party members and outwards to the wild. Always has an interesting insect fact at hand and will tell you all about it, loves travelling to new places because it's a chance to see new butterflies. Has a slightly disturbing connection of some sort with a massive underground giant ant nest - her beastmaster's companion is actually a giant ant, and the 'watchers' from the dark gift are ants that follow her everywhere. Sure, sometimes the beast companion dies, but another one from the colony will show up and (as she will tell you at great length), it's not really the same as when a person dies, it's the ant nest that is the thinking creature, while individual ants are a bit like hair that will grow back. Will not steal your magic items or play pranks on you, but might sometimes make sure you 'share' your trail rations with the ants, even if you are unaware of doing so.
 

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A kender who is fascinated by nature, insects in particular. Keeps the stereotypical kender wide-eyed curiosity and joyful enthusiasm, but redirects it away from the personal possessions of their fellow party members and outwards to the wild. Always has an interesting insect fact at hand and will tell you all about it, loves travelling to new places because it's a chance to see new butterflies.
And their hoopak doubles as a butterfly net.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Kender Artificer. Ideally there would be something like the Swarmkeeper Ranger but for tinkered little mechanical friends you’ve built, but if I couldn’t find something like that I’d go with Artillerist like I always end up doing.

Possibly with a tie to a gnome, perhaps mixed race Kender Gnome.
 

I would go the other way: the villainous kender.

Yeah, this kender is a straight up thief. They're going to walk out of town with every bit of valuables possible and plead doe-eyed innocence and confusion whenever they're caught. But they're a completely self-aware conman and criminal, and are lying to even their closest "friends" about it.

They don't want the world to end or be overrun by Takhsis -- they live in the world and would like it to be left intact for them to rob blind, thank you -- but they know the world looks down on them and their kin as naive little idiots and they're going to use that to their advantage, from morning until dusk.

But you'll never find a better liar and since the first magic item they stole was a Ring of Mind Shielding, good luck proving to the tender-hearted Knight of Solamnia they're hiding behind that this isn't all some big misunderstanding.

Suckers!
 



Fearne in Critical Role's current campaign is effectively a Kender which isn't annoying. The player manages it by only stealing "tchotchkes"(sp?) from other players, meaning items of low value and significance. She regularly takes stuff from NPCs, but often gets away with it, plays it off well when she does not, and typically also items of low value and stakes to where huge problems won't be caused if she is caught. The other players are more amused at her endless collection of well documented worthless trinkets than they are annoyed, but certainly that's not a guaranteed outcome.

Personally, if I were in that hypothetical, I'd play it as a Monk or Paladin who is absolutely addicted to pickpocketing, and is doing everything in their power to be "good" and to stick to their vows, even if every now and again they slip up. I'd play up the guilt the character feels when they succumb to temptation and the deep damage the addiction does to their sense of self-worth, make it a very relatable character. Most importantly, I'd pick my spots. I wouldn't randomly take things after rolling on it or steal high value items from important people or party members, I'd choose story beats where it makes sense (maybe after a particularly difficult mission, or when they're feeling pretty good about themselves and / or loosen up a bit too much) and ensure I'm not routinely or consistently hogging the spotlight and making every encounter all about me. That would be the goal at least.
 

Helena Real

Dame of Solamnia
Mm... So many!

A kender hermit bard who wants to finally see the world and discover all there is to know about songs & magic. They carry a great discovery regarding the relationship between music and magic that no one believes.

A kender sailor barbarian who, inspired by the tales of Balif, first king of the kender and friend of the OG elf king, escapes the kender lands and is curious to see what it would be like to be a monarch.

A kender noble fighter who wants to become the first kender to ever be a Knight of Solamnia. They're commited, have the resources, and are good enough with sword, shield, and horse (pony, really) to make their dream a reality.

Great thread, btw! 😁🖤
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Sailor / Pirate alt-background. I don't pound people into the pavement unless they give me free stuff - but getting back the stuff I picked up is so much of a hassle that it isn't worth their time and trouble. (Only inexpensive easily-replaceable stuff attracts my sticky fingers. Maybe munchies?)

A "boxer" Fighter (using Tasha material) might be the reason the people I take advantage of don't want to start fights with me.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Spinning off a bit from a discussion of kender wizards in the Do You Plan To Buy Dragonlance thread. Kender tend to attract a lot of hate for some well-understood reasons. If hypothetically you had to play a kender PC, in a 5e Dragonlance game that you wanted to succeed and be enjoyable for everyone, how would you do it? Character concept, personality and game mechanics? Would you play against type to some degree or would you embrace the full stereotypical pickpocketing kenderness, and if the latter, how would you do it in a way that wasn't irritating?

To start the ball rolling:

Kender ranger, beastmaster subclass, using the Spirit of the Land companion from Tasha's and the Watchers dark gift from VRGtR. Background, maybe Folk Hero or Outlander? A kender who is fascinated by nature, insects in particular. Keeps the stereotypical kender wide-eyed curiosity and joyful enthusiasm, but redirects it away from the personal possessions of their fellow party members and outwards to the wild. Always has an interesting insect fact at hand and will tell you all about it, loves travelling to new places because it's a chance to see new butterflies. Has a slightly disturbing connection of some sort with a massive underground giant ant nest - her beastmaster's companion is actually a giant ant, and the 'watchers' from the dark gift are ants that follow her everywhere. Sure, sometimes the beast companion dies, but another one from the colony will show up and (as she will tell you at great length), it's not really the same as when a person dies, it's the ant nest that is the thinking creature, while individual ants are a bit like hair that will grow back. Will not steal your magic items or play pranks on you, but might sometimes make sure you 'share' your trail rations with the ants, even if you are unaware of doing so.
First lets talk about Race.

My big thing for Kender is they should be totally immune to fear, not advantage on a save, immune to the frightened condition completely.

The other notable thing about them is the kleptomancy. That has to be elminated for a few reasons. First we played that in 1e and it was really bad and difficult for party mechanics when trying to implement this with Kender PCs. Second it goes against the modern philosophy of you decide your characters disposition. If we can have the Lawful Good Orc Wizard we can have the non-thieving Kender. Add a skill, probably slight of hand, but get rid of the "I steal useless baubles from everyone" mechanic.

Do that with a standard halfling on top of it and I think we are good.

As far as class, if you are using a halfling chassis, the obvious choice is Monk. Make use of "move through a creature larger then yourself" by having a high movement pick up second chance feat. A Bladesinger Wizard or Arcane Trickster would be good too mechanically.

Personality and play - Noble or knight background - leader among the kender - striving to save the Wolrd and defeat Takisis or Raistlan or whatever evil is about to destroy everything.
 

I've found the real issue with kender is players desire to roleplay stealing everything. The fact that kender pocket items is just something that should happen in the background, not front and center. Most people don't RP going to the privy, washing their clothes, or any other mundane activity characters would have to do all the time, and for kender, this is a similar mundane activity. Occasionally the DM can use it as a plot device, but it's not something that needs to take up that much time during the game.
 

The other notable thing about them is the kleptomancy.
I have no intention of defending the kleptomania since it's basically ADHD played for laughs, but the biggest problem I had with Kender is their inability to acknowledge the issue. When that many people tell you to stop stealing things, and you keep finding their stuff in your pockets, it doesn't take a genius to start believing what people are telling you, take appropriate steps to mitigate the issue, and generally be self-aware about it.

One poster above mentioned a paladin trying to refrain from their kleptomania, and I think that's a great concept. Another one I've seen done well is a Kender who checks their pockets every so often, and outright asks who owns the things they pull out. Apologizes, and hands it back. A slightly odder one is a Kender who refused to have pockets or backpacks, because they didn't want to accidentally put things in them. It was a little impractical on the mechanical side, but they did a great job roleplaying it.
 

I have no intention of defending the kleptomania since it's basically ADHD played for laughs, but the biggest problem I had with Kender is their inability to acknowledge the issue. When that many people tell you to stop stealing things, and you keep finding their stuff in your pockets, it doesn't take a genius to start believing what people are telling you, take appropriate steps to mitigate the issue, and generally be self-aware about it.

One poster above mentioned a paladin trying to refrain from their kleptomania, and I think that's a great concept. Another one I've seen done well is a Kender who checks their pockets every so often, and outright asks who owns the things they pull out. Apologizes, and hands it back. A slightly odder one is a Kender who refused to have pockets or backpacks, because they didn't want to accidentally put things in them. It was a little impractical on the mechanical side, but they did a great job roleplaying it.
It really just needs to be done like the Doctor's pockets in Doctor Who. You just never know what might be in there, how exactly all this junk fits in there, and they aren't sure where exactly they picked half of this stuff up, but there's always something at least tangentially useful, or maybe several things when put together that are useful. Where it all came from just happens in the background, and still can be played for RP and laughs if you want to when silly or embarrassing things are taken out.
 
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Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Chaos Sorcerer.
He casts spells on purpose and has components in a pouch, like normal. Sometimes (when that random effects table comes up) he starts calling on the magic, reaches into his component pouch ... and what is this he pulls out ?! The magic misfires because of the wrong material component.
 

Personally, if I were in that hypothetical, I'd play it as a Monk or Paladin who is absolutely addicted to pickpocketing, and is doing everything in their power to be "good" and to stick to their vows, even if every now and again they slip up. I'd play up the guilt the character feels when they succumb to temptation and the deep damage the addiction does to their sense of self-worth, make it a very relatable character.
Or even a kender whose pickpocketing genuinely hurt someone they cared about and who is working through the trauma. In the novels this never happens to Tasslehoff because novels are rigged, but it's pretty easy to imagine a kender's friend plummeting to their death while screaming 'where's my ring of feather falling i swear i had it just a moment agooooooooo' while the kender looks on horrified and with increasing guilt as they realise what the shiny thing in their pouch probably is.
 


Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
It really just needs to be done like the Doctor's pockets in Doctor Who. You just never know what might be in there, how exactly all this junk fits in there, and they aren't sure where exactly they picked half of this stuff up, but there's always something at least tangentially useful, or maybe several things when put together that are useful. Where it all came from just happens in the background, and still can be played for RP and laughs if you want to when silly or embarrassing things are taken out.
This could be great subversion of the ”if it ain’t in the sheet, you don’t have it.” A kender could roll on d100 to see if they happen to have something mundane that they didn’t even remember they had. The smaller the item, the greater the chances that they find it in their pockets…
 

Blackrat

He Who Lurks Beyond The Veil
I think any and all kender concepts can work if you don’t overplay the kleptomanic aspect to the extend of annoying the other players. Absentmindedly pick up curious things, sure, but also acknowledge the boundaries of other characters. It’s the ”it’s what my character would do” issue from a specific angle, and nothing more.
 

Mad_Jack

Hero
It really just needs to be done like the Doctor's pockets in Doctor Who. You just never know what might be in there, how exactly all this junk fits in there, and they aren't sure where exactly they picked half of this stuff up, but there's always something at least tangentially useful, or maybe several things when put together that are useful. Where it all came from just happens in the background, and still can be played for RP and laughs if you want to when silly or embarrassing things are taken out.

I've played that version of the kender before. He was the literal incarnation of "Preparation is the basic of all good Improvisation" - he liked to be "helpful" so, being borderline paranoid about not having the right tool for the right job, he carried ridiculous amounts of stuff in his pockets, pouches and pack in order to have exactly what he needed in any situation. He was constantly scrounging for stuff that other folks might consider worthless, but always finding a clever use for them. Rather than stealing things, he was always asking people if he could have stuff, and had a habit of leaving things in other peoples' pockets because he thought they might need them.
 

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