Kender and their maps

Things kender care about

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As is often the case, the 5th Edition books for the Dragonlance setting leaves out a lot of detail. In the page it provides for the Kender race, it doesn't mention the culture's fondness for the topknot hairstyle, the use of the hoopak, pouches and pockets, or maps. One of the defining traits of the kender is their love of travel, and along with that comes a passion for maps. If you're going to play a kender, either as a PC or as an NPC, it's important to understand the relationship between a kender and maps.

What is a map

Before talking about kender maps, I want to define the term "map." This is important because, while it's not exactly discussed in any of the Dragonlance books I've read, I think it supports the way kender view maps. When you hear the word "map," you probably picture something like this:

But you've probably used other forms of maps, as well. For instance, this is a map: "Leave the house and turn right. At the end of the street, take a right. Enter the first green door on the left."

It's not a topographical map. It doesn't identify distance or time. But it describes, probably more efficiently than the product of a cartographer, how to get from a known location to a previously unknown location. It's a map.

There are other kinds of maps, too. In systems administration and programming, the YAML syntax features an entity called a "mapping," which maps a keyword to some significant value. In Java programming, a map or "hash map" helps store and correlate data.

A map isn't just a line drawing produced by a cartographer. A map can take many forms, and sometimes one is better than another, depending on your frame of reference.

What's that got to do with kender?


Maps as historical records

Most kender love maps, probably because it represents travel and exploration. The strange thing about a map obtained from a kender, though, is that it's often as much a record of their travel as it is a representation of the land they've explored. To kender, a map isn't just the topography of land, it's a snapshot of the land's life.

A kender is as likely to cherish a Pre-Cataclysm (PC) map as an After Cataclysm (AC). The fact that the PC map doesn't isn't useful for actual travel is often just a minor inconvenience, and rarely a reason to not use it anyway. The fact that an ocean has appeared over the land in a PC map is a fascination, part of the wonders of discovery. And anyway, that land is still there, even if it is hundreds of meters underwater. Likewise for land masses where the ocean receded after the cataclysm: it's inconvenient that a former port city no longer has an ocean, but probably a lot of fun to explore the new region.

Maps as travel logs

A map, for a kender, is also a record of the life of the kender who explored an area.

On a human's map, you're likely to find mundane landmarks, such as the names of major cities, notations of mountain ranges and forests, and so on. Big picture stuff.

On a kender's map, however, the notation is much more exciting. Instead of city names, a kender marks down something of interest within the city, such as "Delightfully crusty bread here" or "Interesting cracks in the temple wall." Instead of a forest, you might get comments about a pleasant robin's nest that the kender found, or a fun hollow log, or mysterious cavern opening.

Definitive landmarks are likely to exist on a kender map, but you have to know how to interpret them. A river may not be drawn as a miles-long body of water, but that doesn't mean the map is missing a river. Instead, a river on a kender map might look more like a pond where the kender found an interesting species of fish. Obviously the kender who made the map would know that the "pond" extends for miles in either direction, and if you had thought to ask the kender about it when acquiring the map then you'd know, too. And anyway, you'd be able to extrapolate that the "pond" is actually a river based on the species of fish. In other words, the map is doing its job. The question is, are you?

Maps as inheritance

Kender don't exactly view property the way humans do. Something that a kender finds appealing usually finds its way into a kender's pocket or pouch, but it's almost always for safe keeping. The intent is rarely to steal, and so a single item in a group of kender functionally belongs to each kender. It's possessed by only one of them at any given time, but as long as it's in somebody's bag, it doesn't really matter whose it is.

Maps are no exception, and yet a map for a kender is an item of inheritance. Regardless of who happens to possess them at any given moment, the maps of a kender's family is an important record of how far a relative has managed to wander, and what they've seen in their travels. It's not entirely unusual for a kender to know a not-so-distant relative's maps better than they know the relative. A kender might "know" an uncle by a map, without ever having met that uncle in person (probably because that uncle is off traveling.)

Kender and maps

I hope this post has helped you get a better feel for what kender care about. For more information, you can read the Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy and the 2nd book of Dragonlance Preludes.

Dragon art by David Revoy. Creative Commons BY.

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