MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Kender pocket rules, AD&D 1st edition

Posted on: 2022-05-17

With the return of the kender to the 5th Edition of D&D and the proposed (and later abandoned?) pocket rules in the Unearthed Arcana playtest I thought I might as well go back and read the first version of the rules back in AD&D 1st. The rules are a fun read but rather opaque. I like that, it leaves room for some interpretation.

Kender pocket rules, AD&D 1st

Kender have a lot of items unconsciously(?) acquired during their travels, stored on their person. The player can attempt pull something out, chosen randomly, during play.

Please observe, the rules for these found items exclude the kender’s normal adventuring gear and loot.
The miscellaneous items are mostly random items (i.e., harmless junk that any kid would think was interesting/cool).

Aside from the tens of random things the kender might have, there is room for a number of “special items” in their pockets. These items are collected during the kender’s adventures and they can be replaced and lost during play.

Stated rules in the book Dragonlance Adventures:

  • The contents of the pockets are generated and handled by the DM.
  • A Level 1 kender begins play with ten special items, all regarded as harmless.
  • Acquired (or “handled”) items during play will take a spot in the kender’s pockets, displacing an existing special item.
  • An additional item slot will be gained every level, increasing the number of special items they can hold. The kender will also receive a randomly selected item (which could be a magic item[!], see the table Kender Pockets Filling Table on page 53 in Dragonlance Adventures).
  • A player can decide to rummage through their pocketed inventory and draw out a random item (6 segments in combat). An example random table is provided on page 54. There is a chance (7% in the example) that the object pulled will be a special item. I get the sense that these random items should be primarily revealed to the player when they actually dive into their pockets and pull something out.

House rules:

The stated facts above leave a lot of room for rulings!

Handled items (house rule): Kender do not mean to steal others’ property but like magpies they find enticing objects and might very well walk away with them. There are no stated rules for how handled objects are acquired, but I would personally rule that there is a random chance that the kender can handle any object they could physically hold. So, any item that a kender could sensibly pick up in a room or area might be handled and take a spot in their pockets. To keep this at a reasonable level for the referee, I would rule it as 1-in-10. If you want, you could use the kender’s Delicate Tasks/Pick Pocket skill to see if the handling of an object would be detected.

Players could actively affect this by specifically picking up and pawing at interesting items they find and hope their PC pockets them when leaving the area.

My justification for this ruling is that the book deems the contents of the kender’s pockets to be the DM’s responsibility. The fluff of the setting also states clearly that the handling of items is done in a haphazard way. The kender’s normal gear are also clearly stated to be unaffected by these rules. I feel that means that any items the player has found or purchased themself, while adventuring or in town, are the player’s doing, while the handled objects could be said to be the referee’s domain.

Placing new seemingly random things in the kender’s pockets could of course be done through active role playing on the player’s part, but I think it is more fun if it is up to pure chance, and that the player does not really know what they might have obtained recently.

I would also randomize which existing special item is to be displaced by a new item, simulating the fact that kender do not always value what are clearly very useful items.

Having a kender in the party could mean for example that some treasure items could be obtained during talks or combat with NPCs. This is a double-edged sword of course; a kender’s presence would likely lead to potentially serious problems and not only be a boon to the party (especially in settings that are familiar with the reputation of the kender, such as Krynn).

Update! Dragon Magazine no. 101:

Roger E. Moore’s article on the kender in Dragon Magazine does give a suggestion on how players can “handle” items:

Players with kender PCs should also make a habit of passing notes to the DM whenever an item is seen that the kender wishes to “handle.” The DM may roll for successful use of the kender’s pickpocketing skill only if an item is being taken from a living person or within plain view of another character. Otherwise, the item is automatically and secretly transferred to the kender’s list of possessions.

Page 14, Dragon Magazine no. 101

This is quite powerful, so I do prefer my suggested randomization of obtained objects.

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