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I'm roleplaying a 2nd Ed. Dragonlance Kender Handler. I had no experience in roleplaying, and kender sounded like a great opportunity to do fun stuff. In particular, my hiding / sneaking stats are really good. However, I find I'm not doing all the damage I'd like in battle, often missing or not doing much damage on hits.

First fight against a goblin horde I spent dying, due to being in the blast area of a massive explosion and getting several lousy rolls. Second battle was against draconians, and I never got to do much.

It's quite possible that I'm not taking advantage of my abilities, but what I got from our DM was "since you're a hero, no backstabbing'.

I've studied a bit since then, and found a couple of things I didn't do in the session:

  • taunting: I could have taunted enemies to focus on me, and that would have helped the party even if I got hurt.
  • sneaking: as said, I don't really know how to take advantage of this: I don't recall now if my kender has a sneak attack ability, but I didn't use it at all if present.

What can I do to improve my combat?

Edit clarifications:

  • Our group is mostly beginning to play, so we aren't really combing the rulebooks, just winging it. The DM is experienced, though.
  • I'm not trying to powergame, just to feel like I'm doing something. The actual answer could actually be "get better at rolling dice" :)

Son of Edit

I'll talk to the DM and try to understand exactly what does he mean by "no backstabbing". It's possible that I'm the one overly restricting what my character can do, and that flanking and such are allowed. Worst scenario, I know more about the game.

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If your DM is saying no backstabbing… I don't know what to tell you. It's the only way rogues are effective in combat, the rare times they get into a fight. – SevenSidedDie Nov 23 '10 at 8:50
I must be spoiled by reading about 4E, where rogues are actually strikers, and are supposed to be doing tons of damage each hit. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Nov 23 '10 at 12:29
Rather than describing the mechanic as "backstabbing" in the cut-throat sense, can you describe it as "poking the soft spots"? The kender just instinctively know how to poke at you in a way that hurts the most, both verbally and with a stick! – yhw42 Nov 23 '10 at 15:54
@Adriano Yeah, 2e rogues are weak hitters. They're all about stealth and being useful outside combat. Their backstabbing meas that occasionally they make one nice hit in combat, but that's the exception. – SevenSidedDie Nov 23 '10 at 16:08
@Adriano Rogues make great forward scouts. They look for traps, climb difficult walls and let down ropes, sneak into areas to get a look without alerting the denizens… and sometimes pilfer easy loot before going back to the party to report on their scouting results. – SevenSidedDie Nov 24 '10 at 1:21
up vote 10 down vote accepted

It's quite possible that I'm not taking advantage of my abilities, but what I got from our DM was "since you're a hero, no backstabbing'.

I would tactfully try to convince the GM that you agree no backstabbing. However lets look at the backstabbing mechanic more as a sneaky attack. You dive between the enemies legs with your attack and the additional damage is from him falling because his two boots are hooked together. Or in your attack the enemy trips and hits the wall for additional "Sneaky Attack" damage.

For Kender Rogues think of the movie "Home Alone" where the kid terrorized the two thugs with mundane items. Maybe the Kender carries a skillets that has been warming over the camp fire and the additional sneak attack damage is heat.

How about picking up several pair of Bolas and hog tying the enemy from a distance? It is really about the vision you have for your character and getting the buy in from the other players and GM. If the voices of the other players are saying "wow that is cool or fun", then the GM will be more inclined to allow it.

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Now the bolas idea is very nice. Kenders do have the Bollik, which is -among other things- a bola. I'll try that. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Nov 23 '10 at 11:29

Kender handlers are about handling. The most effective use of a kender in a fight is to quite literally skip through the fight, unafraid, and "borrow" the enemies weapons, spell components, and whatever the GM lets you get away with. Including fun things like: playing a game of marbles in the middle of the fight. And swapping the ammo of the archers with the spell components/holy symbols of the casters, because "it's just not fair that you don't get to do X"

By handling the enemies, you can seriously annoy spellcasters, borrow the arrows of archers, and otherwise confuse and thereby control the enemy. In AD&D, the key is to think outside the box. The essence of your kender is not on the character sheet, but in the sheer lack of fear that they exhibit.

On a more pragmatic note this page lists quite a few "kits" for kender. In AD&D (from what I've heard/experienced) kits are one of the primary sources of min/maxing and cheese. In this case, I recommend substituting audacity for mechanics, as it will be far more fun and ultimately more effective.

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Thanks! My kender already has tons of stealth, so this should be very effective. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Nov 23 '10 at 23:32
+1 for "substituting audacity for mechanics". – Joe Jul 17 '12 at 2:11

1) Don't think about combat. You should not run into a fight. Period. Avoid conflict. You are not armored like a tank and have the HP of a fighter.

2) If you must get into the fight, let the tanks start making huge amounts of noise before you do anything. Then roll to move silently, sneak around to a flank/rear and do a backstab. Then get yourself out of combat! Try to hide in shadows/move silently again. Then move to the other side of combat and get the backstabby on another villian (if your DM allows). Once you have done the backstab as much as you can, pull back to cover the Wizard a bit and use a (cross)bow.

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But what about taunting? It's the most prominent mechanic I've seen for kenders in combat. – Adriano Varoli Piazza Nov 23 '10 at 11:30
I've never played 2e in Dragonlance. Our 2e DM preferred Forgotten Realms, so I'm not familiar with that. Maybe taunt after you pull back, thereby causing the bad guy to charge and open his rear to attack from the fighter in the front rank? – Pulsehead Nov 23 '10 at 13:27

Make use of your (presumably) high dex and ranged weapons. See if you can dig up the more favorable combat rules for kender from the monster entry (rather than PC kender rules). You should be getting a +3 bonus to bows and hoopaks, for example. If the DM is denying you your class's primary method of being effective in a fight, then allowing you to use the more favorable combat rules seems like a minor thing. If your character can "borrow"--and decide to continue possessing--a magical shortbow, you can still be pretty effective in a fight. With a high dex and the kender +3 with bows, you should do pretty well even with rogue thac0s. Especially since you should still be able to catch enemies by surprise, even if you aren't backstabbing them.

Alternately, you could start trying to spoil the fights. Metagame a bit and use your rogue skills and proficiencies to start directing the party around and away from fights. That will annoy the fighting-types in the party and the DM both :) . Kender are supposed to be fearless and curious, but they also don't like killing things if they can avoid it. They are absolutely not opposed to leading monsters on a merry chase rather than killing them. Some fights you can't avoid that way, but there are plenty that you can avoid if you're running modules. If nothing else, keep pushing the party to move faster and do things quicker and you'll cut down on the amount of combat dramatically.

In other words, if the DM won't let you meaningfully participate in combat, make it a point to try to keep the party from facing as much combat.

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I was the DM of that story (so, naturally I have some bias) The issue is that Handlers as a Class (AD&D 2nd) do not have the benefit of backstabbing as a thief. My mistake was not explain that when he picks the character.

So, high DEX and Taunting is the common technique for combat.

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The inside perspective is interesting, but this doesn't answer the question. It looks more like a post in a "forum thread"; but we're not a forum, and this isn't a thread. Have a look at our tour pages to see how the site works and why posting something that's just kinda conversational isn't what the Answer box is for. To that end: is there anything you can add about how high Dex and Taunting improves damage output, or conversely, makes improved damage output unnecessary? As an answer to the question, it's a bit thin in those regards. – SevenSidedDie Jun 18 '14 at 20:28
I invite you to read again the question, since it says 'since you're a hero, no backstabbing'. Also read your own comment 'If your DM is saying no backstabbing… I don't know what to tell you' – Cactuar Jun 18 '14 at 23:15
And that's fine. But if your answer is "do something else involving Dex and Taunting", then you're leaving far too much implied for the reader to figure out on their own; you should explain with words what that something is instead of leaving it implied. We're a Questions & Answers site: answers are expected to be complete. Remember that there will be other people looking for help with Kender and finding this question who aren't in your home game who might want to understand your answer. – SevenSidedDie Jun 19 '14 at 15:41

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