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Kender are type of fictional character and a fantasy race first developed for the Dragonlance campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons role playing game published by TSR Inc. in 1984. The first Kender character was created by Harold Johnson as a playable character in a series of role-playing adventures which included Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, whose Dragonlance shared world novels did much to popularize the Kender among readers and players alike, largely through the character Tasslehoff Burrfoot, who became one of main protagonists in the novel series.

Tasselhoff first appeared, in the Dragonlance adventure module DL1: Dragons of Despair, published in March 1984, in which Kender are described in a review of the module as "wizened 14-year-olds and, unlike halflings, they wear shoes."[1] The first novel publication featuring Kender was in the novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight, published in November 1984.

Conception and development[edit]

Preparatory to creating the Dragonlance setting, Tracy Hickman ran a series of Dungeons & Dragons adventures.[2]. Harold Johnson, one of those involved in these games, chose to play a halfing thief character whom he called Almar Tann. When Hickman, Johnson and others moved to the Dragonlance settings for the games, the character of Almar Tann went with them.[3] However, it became clear to those involved that halflings were unsuitable to the Dragonlance world; as Johnson described it, this was especially due to his characters' possession of a ring of invisibility, so that "it all sounded too much like another story"[4] (referring to Bilbo Baggins and the One Ring). Halflings were thus dropped, and Johnson developed both the initial concept of the kender and the first representative of the fantasy race, Tasslehoff Burrfoot.[5] In contrast to halflings, the kender were originally described as "thinner, more wiry, and more cunning and streetwise" than halflings.[6]

Roger E. Moore introduced the kender (and Tasslehoff Burrfoot) to the wider community through his short story A Stone's Throw Away, published in 1984 in Dragon Magazine #85.[7] While Tracy Hickman was involved in some of the development, he has stated that it is Roger Moore who did the most to define kender as they are depicted today.[8]

The original concept of kender was that they were "savage, warrior children, ever curious, ever alert". This concept was altered dramatically when Janet Pack became involved in dramatic readings of the works, as Pack's personal characteristics had a strong impact on how those involved in the process viewed the kender. According to Jeff Grubb, she, "and as a result all kender since her, was cute. Extremely cute. Sweetly, lovably, frustratingly cute ... And it's hard, after seeing Janet play Tas, to imagine them any other way."[9] Two of the other key characteristics of Kender—their curiosity and kleptomania—were introduced by Tracy Hickman. Hickman was uncomfortable with the notion of a "race of thieves" in his games, but still wanted the skills typically associated with thieves, so he added their "innocent tendency to 'borrow' things for indeterminate periods of time."[7]

The term "kender" was originally "kinder", after the German word for "children", but it was quickly pointed out that English readers would read the word as "more kind" rather than the German pronunciation, resulting in the change.[9]

Depictions of kender[edit]

The following are examples of Kender characters appearing in the Dragonlance novels:

Reception/critical analysis[edit]

(How Kender are liked/disliked by gamers/desginers, etc)

bits to use

Description of kender[edit]

Fictional origin[edit]

The Dragonlance books present two different accounts of how the kender were created. In Dragons of Summer Flame, the Irda state that kender descend from the gnomes. When the Greygem of Gargath was released, the gnomes present who desired the gem for greed were turned into dwarves, and those who wanted it for curiosity were turned into kender.[11] However, in the Tales trilogy, the dwarves state that when the Greygem came to Krynn, its chaotic magic transformed a group of gnomes into both the first kender and the first dwarves.[12]

Appearance and traits[edit]

In Dragons of the Autumn Twilight, Kender are described as "small boned" and rarely growing over than 4 feet tall.[7] Jeff Grubb adds to this, stating that the original intention was to depict them as being "wilder than halflings, fearless, sometimes cruel as only children can be ... savage, warrior children, ever curious, ever alert".[9] Things changed after Janet Pack's dramatic readings, at which point they became "brave, fearless, taunting, and cute".[9]

In Dragonlance Adventures, Kender are described as

  • being distinctive for their pointed ears that give them a faintly elven look;
  • having wizened appearance as they grow older, because of the fine network of lines that appears on their faces about age 40;
  • having topknot hairstyle (as pictured) which is a source of pride for them;
  • having a wide vocal range, from deep and husky to high-pitched and squeaky, which enables older kender to often perform remarkable sound imitations.
  • speaking very quickly and ramble at the same time when excited, making what they're trying to say difficult to understand.[13]

When Kender appeared in the computer game Champions of Krynn, which was released in 1990, they were described as "a diminutive and highly playful race that resembles Tolkien's hobbit".[14]


As Hickman has stated, his sole contribution to the development of the Kender was their curiosity and their tendency to "borrow" objects.[7] His desire for the skills of a thief, without the associated moral concerns raised by a "race of thieves", led to depicting Kender as possessing a habit of finding things that have dropped into their pouches by accident, picking things up in the streets, finding "junk", and generally getting things that belong to other people[7].[citation needed] This habit was justified in Dragonlance Adventures through Hickman's decision to provide the Kender with enormous natural curiosity, a character trait which is also employed to provision the characters with both lock picking skills and a tendency to "listen in on other's conversations".[15] In terms of moral considerations, Kender are described as not believing that there is anything wrong with handling, (Monstrous Compendium: DragonLance Appendix, 1987), although this habit may be employed to get Kender in to deep trouble with the owner of an item. In addition, they do not tend to "find" things like money, gems, and the like, as they are depicted as having little concept of monetary value.[15] Kender oppose actual thieving vehemently, and thus consider being called a thief a great insult to their dignity.[15][16] As a side effect of these characteristics, Kender can be difficult to play within the roleplaying games, as their lack of interest in monetary gain is "a virtual anathema" to the manner in which other classes are typically portrayed. Therefore it was recommended in The Mists of Krynn that Kender be employed as non-player characters, with their "handling" providing a convenient means for those running the game to introduce objects at "critical times".[17]


In Dragonlance Adventures, kender are described as masters at the art of insulting people, using a wide repertoire of taunts, sarcasm, outright rudeness, and insults thanks to the shocking insights into a person's character flaws gained from the kender's intense curiosity. Kender are also described in Dragonlance Adventures as using this ability to taunt creatures, causing them to become irrational and attack wildly or fall into some kind of trap.[15]

In the computer game Champions of Krynn, Kender are portrayed as "the only race that can taunt enemies, driving them into a rage...and forcing them to focus their attacks on kender".[14] Tracy Hickman explained that this characteristic in kenders was created by the game group which was creating the original saga. Although they thought it was a simple feature, including it in the kenders in subsequent books proved to be a long-term challenge.[18]


Margaret Weiss states in The Annotated Legends that "a problem with writing kender is that they are supposedly fearless. However, if a situation arises where an author wants to create fear in a reader, the author needs to do that through making a character feel fear...thus we came up with the idea that Tas could feel fear for people he cared for, even if he did not feel fear himself. This also adds more depth to Tas's character and makes him more human".[19]

Culture and society[edit]

Kender names are chosen from a wide range of sources, such as recent events or items found in kender pouches, like Bearchase, Lockpick, Fruitthrow, etc., or they are named after an existing relative. As children, they come to rely on family and friends for needs, and begin to take part in their communities and to constantly ask questions. 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. Kender age slowly, remaining childlike in comparison to other races even when their bodies slow down. Kender view death as the next great adventure, and don't linger too long on sadness.[20]

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.[21] The Annotated Chronicles cites the Dragonlance Adventures, which states that "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".[22]


All kender weapons can double as instruments. There are two kinds of kender weapons: ones that end in "-pak" or "-ak" are heavier weapons and are usually described as being used by the males, while the ones that end in "-pik" or "-ik" are lighter and depicted as being typically employed by female kenders[citation needed].

A kender weapon, the hoopak resembles a cross between a slingshot and a spear. The hoopak is a long wooden staff with two prongs and elastic at one end and a sharp metal point at the other. The hoopak can be used as a spear, quarterstaff, or sling. It produces a distinctive whirring, buzzing noise when whirled[citation needed].
Another kender weapon, the chapak is akin to an axe. The head may be taken off and swung, making it a long-ranged weapon. When the head is removed the chapak may be used as a flute[citation needed].
Another kender weapon, primarily described as being used by the females. Like a hoopak, it can be used as a staff, sling, or noisemaker. In Tales of Uncle Trapspringer it is shown that this weapon is capable of firing small arrows. It may be strung for use as an instrument[citation needed].
The battak is a hollowed out club made of a hard wood that is wider at one end than the other. The larger end provides access to the inside of the club, which may be used to store rocks, pellets, or any form of bullet. The projectile is removed and the club is then used a a bat to swat the bullets at targets. The battak may also be used as a kind of rattle[citation needed].
This weapon is depicted as originating from a yoke to carry water buckets. The sithak is fitted with a blade on both ends to be used as a double scythe. There is a curved hook on the ends where a string may be fastened to fire arrows or to act as a string instrument[citation needed].
This is described as the largest of all kender weapons, and is primarily used by wood cutters. It is a pole arm six feet in length and can be separated into three two foot sections. One end has a hammer spike and piercing beak. The other end is an axe backed by a hammer head and saw blade. The middle is hollow and wrapped in sheep skin that can hold up to six darts. Metal rings circle the pole at one foot intervals. The rings may be played as chimes by hammering on them[citation needed].
This is an eight foot pole normally used for spear fishing or pruning trees. One end of the pool has a short blade attached to it. The blade may be removed and used as a normal short sword. The pole also holds up to a dozen caltrops[citation needed].
This weapon is a bola / belt. The metal balls hang from a series of quick release hoops. It can be used as a bola or flail. It can be spun to create a high pitched tone[citation needed].


Over the years, a few kender subraces and character classes have been introduced.

  • Half-Kender a human/kender crossbreed. Found in found in "Age of Mortals" (2003) and "Races of Ansalon" (2007).
  • Afflicted Kender are those who witnessed the destruction of Kendermore perpetrated by the dragon Malystryx, and lost much of their spiritedness, partially due to dragonfear, as happened to Tasslehoff under the influence of Beryllinthranox. Found in "Dragonlance Campaign Setting" (2003) and "Races of Ansalon".
  • Marak Kender are from Krynn's more northerly continent, Taladas, and as a result of a great god-sent Cataclysm their natural curiosity has turned to constant suspicion and paranoia. Found in "Time of the Dragon [Rulebook of Taladas]" (1989).
  • Kendar dwell in a great system of caverns near Krynn's south pole, along with several human tribes and the Theiwar dwarves. They are as friendly as normal Kender, but are more martially-inclined, and sell their services as mercenaries. Kendar are not as curious, however, and believe that anything they haven't seen with their own eyes simply does not exist.
  • Vampire Kender can be found in Ravenloft, the results of Lord Soth's twisted experimentation. Since Ravenloft and Dragonlance are now each produced by companies other than TSR/Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro, the kender of Ravenloft have been retconned into a race of halflings. Found in "Monstrous Compendium Ravenloft Appendix" (1991), reprinted in "Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium Appendices I & II" (1996), and have a card in the 1992 Trading Cards Factory Set.
  • Forlorn Kender are a new kind of undead creature introduced in Key of Destiny and detailed in Key of Destiny Errata.
  • Nightstalkers are a class of kender introduced in the Dark Disciple Trilogy. Nightstalkers have the ability to speak with the dead, something that happened during the War of Souls when the dead were held in thrall. Some kender began to find they could talk to the dead. One such kender is Nightshade Pricklypear, who aids Rhys, the monk of Majere turned monk of Zeboim, in his travels in Amber and Ashes, Amber and Iron, and Amber and Blood.


  1. ^ a b c Staplehurst (1984)
  2. ^ Johnson, Harold (February 1995). "First Quest Column". Dragon Magazine. XIX (214): 70.  More than one of |number= and |issue= specified (help)
  3. ^ Johnson (1995), p. 70. Johnson describes Almar Tann as "a wandering halfling thief [who] was created to playtest the Desert of Desolation module series in a campaign run by Tracy Hickman". The Desert of Desolation module was not connected to Dragonlance and the Kender, but it was from there that Hickman "whisked" Almar Tann into "the developing world of Dragonlance Saga and the first adventure, Dragons of Darkness".
  4. ^ Johnson (1995), p. 70. "[W]e decided that halflings had no place in this new world, especially since Almar also had a ring of invisibility; it all sounded too much like another story."
  5. ^ Johnson (1995), p. 70.
  6. ^ Grubb (2001). "Tracy thought Halflings were too cute and chubby and cuddly, so the kender were born as being thinner, more wiry, and more cunning and streetwise (Attributes that have since moved back over to halflings as well)."
  7. ^ a b c d e Weiss & Hickman (1999), p. 25.
  8. ^ Hickman, Dragonlance FAQs. "However, the fullest measure of credit must belong to Roger Moore who did more to define the Kender by far than anyone else".
  9. ^ a b c d Weiss & Hickman (1999), p. 26.
  10. ^ Fleishhacker (2007), p. 140.
  11. ^ Weis & Hickman (1996)
  12. ^ Weis & Hickman (1987)
  13. ^ Hickman (1987), p. 51.
  14. ^ a b Barton (2008), p. 154.
  15. ^ a b c d Hickman (1987), p. 52.
  16. ^ Swan (1990)
  17. ^ Batista et al, (1988) p. 117. "Kender are by far the most difficult characters to play in Krynn, simply because adventuring for gain is not a part of their mindset, a virtual anathema to the traditional thinking of other classes. And so in a number of campaigns, the DM may find kender fit best as NPCs to find secret doors or just to possess objects the party requires at critical times."
  18. ^ Weis & Hickman (1999), p. 525.
  19. ^ Weis & Hickman (1999), p. 110.
  20. ^ Banks, Macdonald, Valentine & Whiteman (2007), pp. 138-139.
  21. ^ Weis & Hickman (1986)
  22. ^ Weis & Hickman (1999), p. 88.


External links[edit]

  • The Kencyclopedia - Unofficial information and embellishments about kender prior to 3.5 rules.