Kender in 5e


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Kender are my favourite variety of halfling, and as a longtime fan of Dragonlance, I have some pretty high expectations for what a Kender plays like in D&D. So how has D&D 5th Edition translated the Kender into a playable ancestry?

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Gnomes and kender were, more or less, mistakes by Reorx, the god of creation. They were early iterations of humanoids during Reorx's experimental phase. They're so unpredictable that the Wizards of High Sorcery forbids casting certain kinds of magic on them, for fear of disrupting...well, reality. 5th Edition acknowledges this in Shadow of the Dragon Queen, so that's a good start.

Creature type and size

Kenders are small humanoid.


A kender's walking speed is 30 feet. That seems to be the new standard for 5th Edition. Kender have smaller legs, so it's not completely unreasonable that they'd walk less far as someone with longer legs. However, the Dragonlance books never mention Tasslehoff, or Flint or Bupu for that matter, having a hard time keeping up with the tallfolk, so it makes some sense that their speed is 30 feet.

From a game design perspective, I usually like variation in player character abilities. I think it's potentially an interesting debate for a party to have, whether somebody moving faster should scout ahead, or whether the party speed should reduce to 25 feet to account for the slowest members.

Then again, does it really matter? If it means that the whole party has to slow down to 25 feet everytime one peerson decides to play an ancestry with the small size trait, then why not just round everybody up to 30 instead? I see the design choice.


One of the most defining traits of kender is that they literally don't know fear. Technically, they're not incapable of the emotion, because in the original Dragonlance novels, Tasslehoff does learn to experience fear sometimes. But generally, it's just not something they experience. Even death, they think of as just another adventure.

In 5th Edition, you get advantage on saving throws to avoid or end the frightened condition on yourself. That strikes me as underpowered for a kender. I want them to be immune to fear. However, as I've said, the novels make it clear that kender can be frightened with enough training, so I see why advantage (which is most often going to succeed) makes sense.

To boost this feature, once a day when you fail a saving throw to avoid or end the frightened condition on yourself, you can choose to succeed instead. This helps, and is probably, to be fair, kinder to the Dungeon Master. In 5e, player characters get really powerful at higher levels, so giving the DM a sliver of a chance to land an effect is probably a good thing.

Kender aptitude

You gain proficiency with one of the following skills of your choice: Insight, Investigation, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, or Survival.

This one feels a little weird to me. Sleight of Hand, I think, shouldn't be optional, it should be a built-in racial trait. Kenders collect things. They find stuff. They just end up with things. Half the time, they don't even realise they've taken something themselves.

The official artwork in Shadow of the Dragon Queen shows two kender with pouches. Those pouches are where they keep the things they collect in their travels.

Now, I don't allow PvP in my games, but I definitely approve of player Sleight of Hand against an NPC. If a kender is near an enemy guard, then I would absolutely allow the kender to roll a d100 to see whether they absent-mindedly pick-pocketed anything of value from the guard.

Arguably even more importantly, kenders are famously "immune" to locks. They don't give locks a second thought. A lock, to a kender, is just part of the door knob, a natural step to opening a door. It's so severe that kenders in prison are known to let themselves out for a daily constitutional stroll, and then put themselves back in.

Sleight of Hand should be a foregone conclusion for a kender character. It's a birthright.

Stealth I also think of as a kender trait, but then again probably not every kender is great at it, so it makes sense for it to be optional. The options for Investigation and Survival are puzzling. I guess you have to have something to choose from, and those do seem to relate to the Gnomish connection. Kender, having been fashioned along with Gnomes, are probably good at figuring things out, and they obviously love to wander and explore, so they must have survival skills.

So this one is OK, but for Sleight of Hand being optional. I feel like it should be built in, leaving the other three as options.


You have an extraordinary ability to fluster creatures. As a bonus action, you can unleash a string of provoking words at a creature within 60 feet of yourself that can hear and understand you. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw, or it has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you until the start of your next turn. The DC equals 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier (choose when you select this race).

Kender seem to be unexpected everywhere they go. People in the original novels always seem to be taken by surprise when they notice a kender nearby. I guess that's what this is meant to convey. It feels a little strange, because this is a combat ability, and I never exactly thought of kender having an advantage in combat for any reason aside from their size and agility.

I'm just not sure what this is trying to capture. This reads a little like Vicious mockery, and I just don't think of that as a quintessential kender trait.

Kender pouches

To my great surprise, there's no mention of kender pouches, at least in the mechanical sense. Next to them being fearless, the other defining characteristic of kender is that they collect things, seemingly by accident. I'd happily trade the (very puzzling) Taunt ability for a mechanical benefit based around a kender's collection.

It's not hard, because 2nd Edition AD&D has already done it. When you were playing a kender in AD&D and you needed some small item, you could roll on a d100 to see whether you had it.

  • 1-20: You find a harmless item (string, nails, feathers, stones) in your pouch.
  • 21-60: You have mundane equipment (essentially any small item from the adventuring gear table in the PHB.)
  • 61-100: Common magical item.

The catch is, though, that a kender's pouch has an ever-rotating stock. One day you have an Ersatz eye and the next day you don't. So it's not an endless font of items, it's an unexpected item that is sometimes useless and other times exactly what you need.

It was a fun mechanic then, I think it's a real shame that it's not a mechanic now.

Anyway, it's definitely a mechanic I'll be using in my games.


The classic kender weapon is the hoopak, a staff with a slingshot on one end. Happily, it's in the Shadow of the Dragon Queen, so your kender looks like a kender.


The artwork in the Shadow of the Dragon Queen shows two kender with their hair in a topknot, but the text doesn't mention it at all. I think that's a tiny bit of a pity. It's not a big deal, but if we're going to talk about kender culture, then it's a shame to leave out the prevailing hairstyle.

Finding adventure

Kender are stricken with wanderlust as a rule. They love exploring, they love adventure, they love all new experiences. They are, in many ways, the single race most fitting to D&D. If you want to foolishly rush into dangerous situations, grab all the loot, and then slip away blissfully leaving chaos in your wake, then play a kender. Talk to your Dungeon Master for the modest adjustments of getting Sleight of Hand for free (arguably with double proficiency, honestly) and a mechanic for kender pouches.

Dragon art by David Revoy. Creative Commons BY.

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