Wherever they are found, and wherever they have traveled, Kender evoke a common adage amongst those who have encountered them.
"The most dangerous thing in the world is a bored Kender."
I must beg to differ in this tale.
My gaming world was an original hodgepodge creation born of video games, movies, television, comic books, D&D materials, and pure silly imagination. It was a high magic world, where magic items were common enough to be found in even the most mundane locations. The campaign could be classified as a "Monty Haul," balanced by the fact the NPCs and critters in the world had access to the same hauls of magic.
For those who don't know Kender, they are a race of Halflings (or Hobbits should that reference be better suited to your knowledge) that inhabit the world of Krynn, the setting of the Dragonlance Saga. I imported them into my world after reading my first Dragonlance novel, and they quickly became some of my favorite characters. Kender are utterly fearless, even to the point that dragon fear will only make them feel "a little funny," because they have no sense of personal danger whatsoever. They also have no concept of personal property, acquiring and losing things with such regularity that they are often surprised at what they find within their own pouches. A Kender family heirloom may have been in the family for all of two weeks. They do not view this as theft, but rather as "borrowing" and become quite indignant when called thieves. Their most salient trait is their insatiable curiosity. It is the trait from which everything else is born. Fascination with seeing a dragon for the first time overcomes the natural fear reaction. Seeing an interesting item "close to falling out" of someone's pocket will prompt a Kender to rescue it from the brink and examine it, confident that they will return it later and the person will be glad for the help in saving it from being lost.
The Kender in this tale is one Darmok Tinkettle, ran by a player in my group with a flair for creativity... and driving a gamemaster nuts.
Darmok happened upon a fascinating little staff on one of his adventures one day, which was quite obviously magical. The item was an artifact which could duplicate nearly any spell effect in existence, but had a chance that it would fail to function. It was also restricted to the Chaotic Neutral alignment, which Darmok was. It required a command word to activate its power, and unfortunately Darmok did not know that command word. Once the command word was discovered, a practiced mage could learn to discern the enchantments within it and activate the powers he wished to use. To those without magical skill, it randomly cast spells as if it were a high level wizard.
Whenever an item like this showed up in the campaign, I gave a 1 in 1000 chance that the character might stumble across its command word, even without study. The player would just ramble off a command and roll to see if the number came up. A Kender is the perfect sort of character to come across one of these, ready and able to rattle off fascinating "magical phrases" while pointing the magical item at all sorts of people, places, and things.
Darmok would regularly pull out the staff as he adventured, trying new command words. "Abracadabra," "Hocus Pocus," "Ala Peanut Butter Sandwiches," and numerous other phrases failed to activate the magic of the item. Being a Kender, Darmok was untroubled, knowing he would figure it out eventually. Also being far removed from his kin as he adventured, he actually managed to hang on to the fascinating little object.
During one adventure, Darmok actually found himself in a spot of trouble. Caught perched on a narrow ledge with a group of very angry ogres snarling both above and below him, he was certainly in dire straits.
Pulling forth the staff, he pointed it at the group of ogres below. He shouted "Work!" in a loud voice, and my player rolled the dice.
I sat open mouthed and stunned when he rolled the one in a thousand number that meant he had found the item's command word.
Laughing, I rolled the dice and discovered the spell which had randomly activated was Meteor Swarm. Shaking my head in disbelief once again, I rolled up the damage and found that he had nearly decimated the group of ogres below the cliff. Those who survived, and could do so, ran for their lives. Those atop the cliff likewise did the same.
Now a very proud Kender possessed a magical staff of great power. Intoning its mystical phrase "Work!" he played with the item for a few minutes upon reaching the top of the cliff. Fireballs, lightning bolts, stinking clouds, and all manner of fascinating, deadly magic spewed from the staff at random vegetation.
Now fancying himself a great and powerful wizard, Darmok set out for a nearby town to borrow a wizard's robe. Finding a woman's summer dress hanging out to dry, he made a few modifications and was soon dressed in the powder blue robes of a great wizard, with a very low neckline.
Strutting up to a magic school, he presented himself as Darmok the Magnificent and started to walk past the wizard who minded the gate.
"Oh no, you little thief, the last thing we need in here is one of your kind picking up something and running off with it to cause mayhem."
Darmok sputtered and fumed. "My kind? Thief? I am insulted, and everyone knows not to insult great and powerful wizards! We are stubbly and quick to anger!"
Pulling forth his staff, he aimed it at the offending wizard and spoke the command word. The wizard he was aiming the staff at laughed when one of the random failures of the item rolled up and nothing happened.
"Hmmph, must have been holding it wrong. Let's try that again. Work!"
The item did not fail this time, rolling up an itching spell which had the wizard guarding the gates scratching furiously and screaming for help.
When others arrived, one made the mistake of saying, "Oh no, a thieving Kender! Get it away quickly!"
"Well, I never! If you are all so rude, I'll just find another place to show my magic to then."
"Get out of here before I set your topknot on fire!" one of them hollered at Darmok.
Never threaten a Kender's topknot. It really is a bad idea, trust me. Once again the staff came forth and Darmok shouted, "Work!"
I groaned when the spell effect was a mass dispell. Every magic item and ward in the general vicinity ceased to function immediately. The wizards knew it, and began to panic. Darmok, of course, did not and thought the staff had failed again.
A powerful stream of water shot forth from the staff, blasting the wizards back into the building. Derisive shouts about Darmok prompted him to continue his assault, thinking that people who were so rude must be evil wizards, and as a good wizard it was his duty to bring them to justice.
I breathed a sigh of relief when the spell was Teleport Self. Picking up my stack of folders containing the maps of various locations in the world, I selected one randomly. I closed my eyes and pulled out a random map, opening it under the table.
I groaned again, knowing this was not going to be good. The location was a temple, far from any civilized land, where a lone guardian held the key to preventing a flight of deadly black dragons from ravaging the world. The most prized possession of their horde was the key which imprisoned them in a pocket dimension. The guardian ensured that no one raided their treasure filled lair and disturbed the six foot long pure onyx statue of a crouching black dragon. Removing it from the lair would not only break down the barriers preventing the dragons from returning to the world, it would serve as a beacon to draw the dragons to it.
The guardian, a golem created by the most powerful of magic, had a very limited vocabulary and scope of thought. Thus, it intoned exactly the wrong phrase upon Darmok's sudden appearance in the lair's entrance hall.
"Stop, thief, or be destroyed!"
"Oh yeah? Take this pasty face! Work!"
I slapped my forehead when the staff caused a dimensional shift, then banged my head on the table when the golem failed its saving throw.
Darmok spent several happy hours exploring and examining all the fascinating items in the horde, naturally pocketing many of them into his numerous pouches of holding. Then he happened upon the statue.
Examining it, he thought it would look good in front of his friend Thakkor's castle. So, he decided to take it to him as a present. Scratching his chin, trying to figure out how to move the massive thing, he remembered an orb of levitation he was carrying. Upon picking it up with the magical orb, the player looked over at me and said, "Is the opening on my purloin sack wide enough to slip over the statue?"
I nodded my head and said, "Yes," with a definite note of foreboding.
Darmok then proceeded to slip the purloin sack, a large bag with a holding enchantment upon it, over the statue. It vanished, completely weightless and easy to carry, into the extra-dimensional space contained within the magical bag. He also raked copious amounts of coins and gems into the sack while he was at it for good measure.
Whistling a merry tune, Darmok set out for new adventures. Around the world, wizards of power panicked. They knew a great evil was awakening, and someone had removed the only means of containing it. Mindless of this, Darmok skipped across the unfamiliar landscape while a flight of ancient black dragons slowly battered the barriers preventing them from returning to take revenge on those who had imprisoned them.
I quickly pulled out my ace in the hole, Rogan Illiciat. A deceptively ancient and powerful sorcerer, he knew things and could do things others could only imagine. When the world threatened to come apart at its seams, I reached for Illiciat's power and knowledge.
Teleporting Illiciat to Darmok's location, I had him begin questioning the Kender about the guardian and statue's whereabouts. Kender are notorious for launching into stories only barely related to the subject at hand, and Darmok was no exception. He related a tale about how his uncle had once found a dragon statue while evil drew ever closer to release into the world.
(My player actually made up the story about Darmok's uncle on the fly. It was actually very good and entertaining.)
I knew the time when the dragons would break free was near, so I had Illiciat take action. He cast spells and detected that the statue was on the Kender's person, all the while Darmok continued his tale. Knowing it had to be in some sort of bag of holding, Illiciat began disenchanting all of such bags on Darmok's person.
"Hey, what do you think you're doing you old goofball!" Darmok screamed as his pouches spilled their contents. He was soon sitting atop a large pile of purloined goods, including eventually the dragon statue, as he was fumbling to grasp and aim his magical staff.
"Take this! Work!"
The staff failed to function, thankfully, and I had Illiciat teleport the Kender several feet away, immediately followed by teleporting the statue back to its place in the lair. Returning the statue to its original position, Illiciat cast the spells to seal the dragons once more tightly in their prison, as he had cast once before .
While Darmok gathered up his possessions and prepared to storm the lair again to retrieve his present for Thakkor, Illiciat managed to shift the guardian back into this dimension and further ward the lair against intrusion. He then teleported back to the Kender's location, finding Darmok had just finished picking up the last of his things.
"You ridiculous little creature, you nearly brought the entire world to disaster!"
"And you stole my statue, you thieving son of an ogre's butt pimples! I'll show you, dirty thief!"
Fortunately, a random teleport once again rolled up, averting yet another potential disaster.
Darmok managed to hang onto that staff for the longest time, far too long for my nerves, only eventually losing it upon venturing into a Kender village for a visit. I had to pick up the pieces of my world quite often until it thankfully fell into the hands of NPCs I could control.
The most dangerous thing in the world is a bored Kender with a magical artifact.