Kender Race Guide 5e – Unearthed Arcana Abilities and More

Today, we’re looking at a race that didn’t quite make the cut for 5e… at least, not yet. As a growing edition of Dungeons and Dragons with plenty of worlds to explore, it’s natural that not everything is going to be up to standards, but why exactly that is might not always be obvious.

In this article, we’ll be looking at a playable race known as the Kender, discussing their stats as well as their culture and history and looking into the reasons WotC might’ve had for denying us this class (so far).

The Kender Race – What We Know So Far

The kender are a race of gnome-like humanoids native to the material plane Krynn. They are most known for their tricksy attitudes and pension for ending up with more than a few extra belongings in their pocket. 

As of publishing this article (November 2022), there’s a pretty good chance that kender will be making it to 5e tables soon. With the publishing of Shadow of the Dragon Queen, we’re about to take our first real 5e foray into the Dragonlance setting, home of the kender. Until then, we’ll just have to work with the UA we have kicking around.

UA, or Unearthed Arcana, is where we see all of the playtesting material for fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons, and it’s currently where kender live. Of course, kender aren’t new to D&D by any means, so it’s pretty likely that they’ll be returning in print at some point.

The playtest materials we’ve seen so far have included two potential versions of the kender race, both of which we’ll be sure to cover the stats for since we’re liable to see some mixture of both.

Abilities aside, kender are a rather controversial race. While there are many aspects that define the race, there is one piece of their lore that’s hard to justify when it comes to roleplay: kender have sticky fingers. 

In previous editions, kender have been known for stealing whatever they can. If it’s not nailed down and it can fit in their pockets or bags, it’s coming with them. 

Considering how many characters carry bags of holding in 5e, they’re really not a race you’d want to invite to the table. Had they been reintroduced with the same flavor as previous editions, I imagine DMs would start banning them more than Aarokocras. 

To be fair, it isn’t that all kender are evil thieves concerned only with themselves. Kender are actually incredibly kind hearted as a whole; they just happen not to believe in personal belongings. Their sticky fingers are just them pocketing things because they’d like to use them. They’d just as happily give something to someone else, which is a bit balancing.

Still, most players find themselves asking, how do I roleplay a kender without being incredibly annoying? Well, 5e’s UA has answered this by transforming their main lore into a racial trait. Instead of sticky fingers, kender have magical pockets.

This “solution” is rather interesting, and while we’ll get into the mechanical aspects a bit later, this really changes the general vibe of the race. 

Instead of not believing in personal belongings, or rather, in addition to that characteristic, kender have a deep curiosity and love for trinkets, curios, and keepsakes. To quote the UA:

“Unknown to most mortals, a magical phenomenon surrounds a kender. Spurred by their curiosity and love for trinkets, curios, and keepsakes, a kender’s pouches or pockets will be magically filled with these objects. No one knows where these objects come from, not even the kender. This has led many kender to be mislabeled as thieves when they fish these items out of their pockets.”

On the surface, this is a really creative solution as it keeps with the general aesthetic of the race while preventing them from being a conduit for the age-old “it’s what my character would do” excuse. It does add an extra element of contention, but we’ll get into that in the abilities and traits section.

The second UA published removes this from their lore and replaces it with some flavor text about kender collecting curiosities and trinkets over their lives. I’m not entirely sure if this feels less aligned with the origin of kender or more. Either way, it removes the entire concept of thievery from their personality, making them easier to play for most players.

Beyond the extra items in their pockets, kender are a fun race that feel very similar to gnomes. They are every bit as curious, have a similar love for life, and even have the same stature as a gnome.

In fact, some say that on the plane of Krynn, gnomes were transformed by the Graygem of Gargath, splitting off into two races, dwarves and kender. Kender then maintained much of the curiosity and jovialness, while dwarves kept the engineering capabilities.

Their playful and kind nature protrudes into every aspect of their culture. Their society is built upon the importance of family. Kenders have two drives in life. The first is to wander and see what there is to see, and the second is to settle down and create a family. 

These beliefs are so ingrained that there are basically no laws or even official governments in kender society. 

Of course, if you’re playing a kender, you’ll probably be in that wanderlust age, which lasts from their 20s to their 50s or 60s. In this time, kender are fearless travelers with a rather impressive knack for taunting their foes, making them natural bards.

Kender Abilities and Traits – What Characterizes the Kender Race?

Kender have appeared in two UA playtest materials: Heroes of Krynn, and Heroes of Krynn revisited. While it’s likely that we’ll be seeing a final product closely resembling the revised version, we should at least look at both to get a full picture of the process. We’ll start with the original UA, move on to the revised version, and then assess the race as a whole.

Before we look at any traits though, we have to acknowledge that kender fall into the new rules for character creation in which ability scores, languages, life span, height, and weight are determined by you and not preset according to race. 

The most important part of this is the Ability Score increases. Rather than preset increases, you can choose to either add +2 to one ability score and +1 to another or to add +1 to three different ability scores. This makes most races suitable for just about any class, although we can still optimize by finding synergies in racial traits and class abilities.

Kender: Heroes of Krynn – March 8, 2022

  • Creature Type. You are a Humanoid.
  • Size. You are Small.
  • Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet.

Brave. You have advantage on saving throws you make to avoid or end the frightened condition on yourself.

Kender Ace. Starting at 3rd level, you possess a magical ability to pull an item out of a bag or another container; as a bonus action, you can reach into a container you’re carrying and roll on the Kender Aces table to determine the item you pull out. The object glimmers softly and disappears after 1 hour.

You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, regaining all expended uses on a long rest.

Taunt. As a bonus action, you can unleash a barrage of insults at a creature within 60 feet of you that can hear and understand you. The target must succeed on a Wisdom save (DC = 8 + your PB + your Charisma modifier), or it has disadvantage on attack rolls until the start of your next turn. 

You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, regaining all expended uses on a long rest.

Kender Aces Table

This first rendition of the kender was very clearly trying to stay as true to lore as possible while aligning it with the current direction of 5e. Rather than using a race or class as justification for poor sportsmanship in roleplay, we see rulings that tell us pretty clearly what we’re supposed to do.

There are a few problems with this. First, it puts a huge kibosh on creative roleplay. Sure, the classic kender is problematic as hell, and a lot of players used it to justify being shitty to their PCs, NPCs, and anything else they managed to interact with. However, it was an opportunity for other players to engage with a character who truly doesn’t understand personal possession.

Such a player would get to roleplay their kender learning the ways of outside (of kender) societies and exhibit genuine curiosity and confusion whenever another character confronted them on their actions. Before long, they’d stop grabbing things at random because people learn, and there’s nothing to say that kender are kleptomaniacs.

After a session or two, you’re left with a curious, mildly eccentric, and blossoming character that retains their incredible generosity, a feature that to them is just the commonplace idea that they don’t have any claim to anything.

Instead, we get this Kender Ace feature that’s honestly a jumbled mess. It might seem cool, but there are some serious problems with it that I’ll quickly break down. So, going by dice roll:

  1. Somewhere between 5 and 30, gold is mostly useless, although it could come in handy in some niche situations. Unfortunately, it’s fake gold that would probably fail inspection as soon as someone realizes it’s glimmering softly and, most importantly, coming from a kender. As soon as the item disappears, you end up with trouble, and instead of being labeled a thief, you’re labeled a liar and a cheat. And maybe a thief as well. Okay, option one is out.
  2. A simple weapon of your choice is mostly useless. Just about every class gets access to the simple weapons they’re proficient with. Anything you could get from this feature is something you should already have or don’t really need.
  3. Adventuring gear is probably the most useful, but you are severely limited in the options you can choose. We run into the same problems as weapons, seeing as you should have any of these things that you’re looking for in this table.
  4. A random trinket is really, really cool. However, it’s just going to disappear in an hour, so you better find a quick use for it quickly, something that’s hard to do with about 80% of this table.
  5. As with adventuring gear, you should already have either of these if you need them.
  6. You need to be proficient in tools in order to really see benefit with them, and most of them take more than an hour to actually give you solid results. Again, just have the tools you need.

Perhaps the most glaring problem is one that’s consistent throughout the table. Since this is a table you roll on, you can’t rely on anything. You could need some extra gold and pull out a crowbar or need a crowbar and pull out a small painting of a goblin. It’s conceptually cool but incredibly flawed when it comes to mechanics. 

Aside from the Kender Aces, we just have a size Small race that probably isn’t being frightened anytime soon and can cause disadvantage with some insults. They’re basically bards, which means they’ll probably make nice bards. Even ignoring the random useless item table, this isn’t a half-bad race. 

I guess that makes this race about a third bad. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Kender: Heroes of Krynn Revisited – April 25, 2022

  • Creature Type. You are a Humanoid.
  • Size. You are Small.
  • Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet.

Fearless. You are immune to the frightened condition.

Kender Curiosity. You gain proficiency in one of the following skills: Insight, Investigation, Sleight of Hand, Stealth, or Survival.

Taunt. As a bonus action, you can unleash a barrage of insults at a creature within 60 feet of you that can hear and understand you. The target must succeed on a Wisdom save (DC = 8 + your PB + your Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma [choose when you choose this race] modifier), or it has disadvantage on attack rolls until the start of your next turn. 

You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, regaining all expended uses on a long rest.

Well, they certainly revisited the race here. Gone are the random items, and they’ve replaced it with… another mostly useless feature. A bonus skill proficiency is honestly more impressive than the Kender Ace trait, but it’s not enough to make this race stand out.

Now, I see what they did here. They realized Kender Ace was incredibly flawed and probably saw some backlash from the community. Fortunately, that’s the point of playtesting, so they removed the feature entirely, understanding that it really didn’t fit the vision players have of Kender and was not functional by any means.

They then needed to buff the race up somehow, so they turned Brave into a complete immunity to the frightened condition. This is a decent power increase, but it’s not substantial enough to bring it to the same perceived power level. 

This is where I think they messed up. In my eyes, a skill proficiency is by no means equivalent to a unique racial trait. Even bumping advantage against frightened to an immunity doesn’t give the real stinger we need. 

I mean, look at dwarves. They get a skill proficiency, poison resistance, advantage on poison saving throws, a set of weapon proficiencies, a tool proficiency, darkvision, and then some unique abilities according to subclass.

This brings me to my final thoughts on the race. They are an exciting race. I’m a bit biased since I love gnomish curiosity in whatever form I can get it, but even still, kender are an interesting, unique race that I’m sure the new generation of D&D players would love to experience. 

I don’t believe that either of these UA versions will be fully representative of what we see when Shadow of the Dragon Queen finally drops. Likely, we’ll see Taunt remain along with some version of their ability to avoid being frightened. 

As for that third slot, who knows? Clearly, this is the slot for a feature related to the kender race’s history of “theft.” Hopefully, this will manifest in some new unique feature that actually can be used and not just a selection of skill proficiencies. 

The final result really depends on how much work the design team is willing to give this classic race, and will show us how much of their focus remains on 5e material. Hopefully, the One D&D project doesn’t hold all of WotC’s creative impetus, and the last few 5e races we see continue to give us exciting new characters to play. 

Until then, we’ll just have to wait. And, no matter what comes, we can always whip up a nice homebrew kender race that feels right for our Dragonlance games. I hope you enjoyed this article, and I hope the final kender stats are up to our standards. As always, happy adventuring.