Fear and violence spawn dreams as readily as kings or commoners, and the Redcaps are the kithain most closely tied to nightmares. They gain their name from their traditional headwear - a white cap, dyed red in their victims' blood. They are quick to anger and hungry. Always hungry.
A Tale as Old as the Wind
In the Beginning
The first question everyone asks is "where did we come from?" You don't even have to ask it. It's also the first answer they hate and tends to set the tone for the rest of the talk.
Just think for a minute. Think about where the redcaps all came from in the dim, distant past. What do you think it was like? Was it a wonderland where folks cavorted in the woods unafraid that umpteen types of wild creatures wouldn't drag them off as snacks? Some people think "sure." Others think of a primeval forest where the sun's afraid to peek through the trees to see the rotting corpses on the woodland floor and the nasties move from shadow to shadow just 'cause they can. Which one is true? Well, they both are, or both might as well be, because there's enough belief that they are true. You get the same for all sorts of situations and those pasts are very real to the right people.
That's not redcap history, though. If it works for other folks, great. More power to 'em. But it's not where redcaps come from and it's not something they can understand.
Take a guess what kind of past the redcaps look back to. It's wild. It's angry. It's not one most folks like to think about because it's not noble or illuminating or any of that crap. Instead, it's just cold.
Ever been to the mountains? Seen chunks of landscape looking like they were carved with a putty knife? Boulders big as houses half a mile away from any sort of rock face that might have made 'em? It took power to do that. Cold power. We're talking a world of ice rivers and a place so cold the oceans curled up and hid themselves. That's were redcaps come from: the wind that swept over the ice. Wind that flowed over people looking for bare skin to bite. Never resting. Never sleeping. Never going away. Probably seemed alive. Like a hungry animal with teeth and claws. Plus, if you wandered too far into that wind there was always predators to snap folks up and really eat them. That helped the myths along too. Wind was everywhere. Winter was everywhere. People started thinking about that wind but they couldn't put a face to it. Cave bears and sabertooths and dire wolves... there's an enemy you can see. Wind don't let you do that. It comes from nowhere and vanishes in a heartbeat with no tracks. It's invisible and silent and impossible to watch for. All you can do is build walls to try and keep it out and hope it ain't vicious.
Is it any wonder mortals put a face to it? It helped them fight it. Helped their little shamans make charms against it. Say things in the dark to make their holes feel a little warmer. Give 'em something to watch and stand guard for. Something to feel powerful against.
That's where redcaps come from. Their faces were different then. They were white or gray... colored like the things they thought made the wind. They were tiny and vicious or huge, roaring beasts that could crush a tribe in a single blow. But they were hungry then just like they are now. That hasn't changed.
Why all this talk about Winter? The redcaps believe in Winter. Winter is their mother. Winter will return again. They're looking forward to it.
The Early Nights
The redcaps looked different then. The world wasn't ready for what they are now. But the things that would become them were there. As the ice retreated, some went with it and others went south the stories about it. They changed with their surroundings. Most stayed predatory packages but not all the same. The appetite didn't change, though.
They started running into the other kiths. There used to be a lot more types then. The redcaps are part of the reason there are fewer now and they're not ashamed to say it. The world was more savage then. Plus most of those kiths were local who would fight hard to keep their piece of world. Fighting hard isn't the same as fighting well, though. Picking a fight doesn't mean you can win it.
Most kiths knew not to tangle with the redcaps, at least not on that level. Not that they were all friendly, but they knew better than to get in a fight without thinking. The redcaps didn't make any attempts to make themselves more appealing and the others didn't make any pretense about liking their eating habits. Things were fluid in those days and they were all still trying to figure out how they fit together.
In those days all the fae were a lot closer to their primal nature and all the centuries of ritual and politics hadn't got put in place. Everyone knew each other well enough to know what to expect from each other on a basic level. Things were simpler then. Then it all went to pot and all because of the sidhe.
- The End of the Party
Things as they bloody were back then, there was an understanding among the survivors. Everyone was on the same level, as it was. When multiple kiths had to organize for whatever reason, the redcaps say the trolls led the because 1. they were big, and 2. no one else wanted to do it. So the trolls were in charge, if not in charge of much, and they knew better than to press their luck.
Everything changed when the sidhe showed up. They had definite ideas about social structure and society and order and set about putting those ideas in place, with themselves at the top of the heap, of course. Some folks didn't like it. Some folks didn't care. The thing was, the redcaps didn't have a better alternative so. The ones who fought the sidhe did it because they liked the status quo and the sidhe were trying to force an idea down their throats. The thing was, someone fighting for something will, assuming everything else is even, beat people who are fighting against something. A cause puts you over the top. The ones who fought the sidhe didn't know what they wanted, they just knew they didn't want what the sidhe wanted. It wasn't enough. On top of that, some fae just didn't care so it's easy to see why the sidhe won.
When they won, the sidhe started chopping up the land into this and that duchy and barony and such and making sure they had the power. Give credit where it's due, they had a plan and knew how to execute it. Then they pressured everybody else to believe their nobility garbage. Eventually enough idiots believed it to make it real and set the sidhe at the top of the food chain. They've been there a very long time.
A very long time isn't forever.
- Red Caps and Peel Towers
Once upon a time there were a people called the Picts. No one knows much about them, really, but they had these things called Peel Towers: watchtowers or defensive battlements or whatever they were built without doors, just one window way at the top and a ladder let down so friendlies could get access and unfriendliness couldn't. They were kind of a good idea but the stupid things were easy to reduce by siege and not easy to resupply.
That's not the point, though. The Picts were funny about architectural standards: they used exact measurements, quality materials, and a dead guy under each tower. Seems they thought blood from the sacrifice strengthened the tower. Or maybe they didn't. Who knows.
Still, as a result, these peel towers had a bad reputation, especially once they were abandoned after a battle. Who wants to man an indefensible fort? Instead they became lonely, haunted places and bad stories sprang up around them. The bad stories, plus the bad real estate, attracted bad things. It didn't take long for the towers to become homes to a lot of nasty creatures who liked eating whatever came by, including travelers who didn't look closely enough before camping for the night in their ruins.
Locals had no idea what was there but they tied together the notion of the bodies in the cellar with the reports of the few survivors and came up with, surprise, the Redcaps... the classic model.
- The Red Cap
This is also about the time the redcaps started dyeing their caps red, too. It was sort of like a merit badge. Having a red cap, dyed the right way, of course, told others you'd made it. It said, "I'm big enough to handle myself and anyone who comes my way." It also told those outside the kith that the redcap was big and bad enough not to screw with. After that it got to be ritual. They re-dyed their caps to let other 'caps know their hand was still in. A fresh cap let them strut a bit, gave them bragging rights, and told others to clear a space for them to let let the little gourmet tale be told.
Interestingly enough, the part of the process that no one comments on is that the caps come out red. After all, dried blood is brown and crusty and makes bad fabric dye. Redcaps caps always come out just the right shade of red to let others know what they're looking at. Convenient, right?
There are three big events in Kithain history.
- The Sidhe taking over
- The Sidhe coming back
- The Sidhe running like scared children when the Shattering hit.
How they get ranked depends. Some fae don't even remember the sidhe taking over. They've been brainwashed by the party line and too many stories. They all remember the third one, though, and have different understandings about what it means.
- Warning Signs
You won't believe the redcaps if they tell you they saw it coming. They even tried to tell everybody but no one listened. The sidhe were too busy setting up an adversarial relationship with the mortal world to care what that meant. They wanted mortals to know something strange and wonderful was under the hill way out there; something they shouldn't come near. They did that. How did they do it? By making the rest of the fae, or most, buy into it. By portraying themselves as noble and righteous and convincing twits to march under their banners. By giving fae pretty little titles like "Seneschal" and such so they don't notice they don't have the real power. And it was all a snow job. And they've kept doing it.
And then they got greedy. They wanted to separate the worlds to keep distance between mortals and fae. It wasn't good enough for them to mingle like faeries had always done. They had to have their place and the mortals, theirs. In the end, that little dividing line got bigger than anyone could have imagined.
- It Happens
Everyone knows how the sidhe hightailed it back to Arcadia before the gates shut, leaving the rest of the kithain to rot. What do they say? If you and your friend get caught by a bear, you don't have to outrun the bear, just the other guy. The Gates slammed shut and the rest of the fae had to deal with the Shattering. And you know what? They survived. They figured out how to protect themselves and how to prosper. But many of the fae, especially the redcaps, never forgot the sidhe left them in the Autumn World to die.
- The Aftermath
What more can be said about it? One thing for sure is that it isn't like everybody got together to figure out what to do. There was no faerie reune to plan. It was instinctual. They all knew what had to be done (the changeling way) and they knew they had to do it together or not at all. Not everyone made it. That happens.
- A Question of Motives
Why do the Redcaps complain about it? Don't they want the whole thing to go up in flames? (Or frost?) Well, yes and no. They want Winter back. They don't want a cold snap that leaves things normal. All things happen in its own time and naturally. Winter will as well. Maybe they just don't want the sidhe getting credit for accidentally doing their job for them.
The Long Years Between
The dust took a long time to settle but that's to be expected when you turn the world upside down. It took years for anyone to poke their heads out. They were too tired, hurt, and scared. The pressure of Banality was still palpable and no one wanted to feel it for any reason.
Eventually they got used to it. Messengers started going between the few freeholds left. Contacts were re-established. Search parties went looking for survivors and to get the lay of the land. The places the sidhe walled off became places to hide, which was good, but it would never have been necessary if they hadn't done it in the first place.
- The First Years
Everyone was equally scared and angry in the early days of the interregnum. Many of the kith were mad that mommy and daddy sidhe left them on their own. It wasn't a productive time as they ran around in circles chasing their own tails. Most of the survivors had one of two reactions. They either made friends with everyone else or decided to tell everyone off and go every elf for themself.
Needless to say, the redcaps went with the latter. While everyone was making nice and singing Kumbayah, the redcaps were mad. They knew what had happened, more or less, and were mad at the sidhe for leaving them to clean up the mess. And since the fancypants weren't around to take that displeasure, the redcaps laid it on everyone else; the idiots who helped it happen. This didn't help them win friends and influence people, not that they wanted to be friends, not in those days anyway.
Most set off on their own. A good deal of the early post-Shattering exploration and mapping was done by redcaps who weren't about to stay in little refugee communities. Communication wasn't good, though, and tended to be something like: "All clear on the other side of the big mountain at the south end of the valley. I'm claiming it for myself. Don't come visit or I'll kill you." They weren't even rally talking to each other in those days. Suspicion was rampant. Life was solitary. Meetings were infrequent, formal, and cagey.
To make things worse, the landscape was screwed up too. There were... things... out there; chimera that were just as messed up as the fae. Mortals got hit too, though they didn't know it. Nightmares were taking shape all over and those things were both hungry and hurting and that's a bad combo. This is all to say that the Dreaming was a dangerous place for any lone Kithain, including a redcap. Drop your guard and you were toast. The difficulty was that no one trusted anyone else among the 'caps so there was never anyone to watch their back. So the redcaps became lone monster hunters.
It makes sense, really. They could either sit on their butts and wait for trouble to find them or go and be the nasty thing themselves and let the monsters learn to be afraid of them. Of course, once they made a kill, they made sure everyone else knew. Once they got a reputation, they started hiring themselves out to the kithain too afraid to leave their houses and boy would they pay well. And the redcaps wouldn't sell themselves cheap.
But things snowballed and they started getting called in on things no lone redcap could handle... dragons and such, and while some redcaps will get their head bit off to make a point, they don't tend to pass down the trait, if you get me. So the redcaps started banding together again. They actually appreciated the renewed sense of community and if the sidhe weren't coming back, well the redcaps needed to have a say in fae society as well. These monster hunting teams are what eventually became the redcap Corby.
- Slouching Toward Society
The Corbies got stronger and the redcaps settled into a place in Kithain society that was maybe no respectable but at least recognized. All in all the Interregnum wasn't a bad time, more than it was anyway. Things went back to the way they were before the sidhe, with decisions being made based on strength and merit. It wasn't the same from freehold to freehold, but it worked pretty well anyway.
Redcaps still stayed outside, though. Without the imaginary protection of the sidhe, the other kiths liked them even less and so they didn't play together often, but at least there was a sort of respect and easing of hostilities. If a headman came out to talk to a boss and their lieutenants, you can bet they had earned their position.
Then the factories started to spring up and the redcaps decided they were in love.
- Trouble Down at the Old Mill
Whoever came up with the Industrial Revolution deserves a medal. It was the greatest thing to happen to the redcaps since sliced bread, bearing in mind the 'caps prefer taking bread in one gulp.
How could something like the Industrial Revolution be a boon to the fae? Well, its dreams were hungry ones. Rip stuff from the land. Feed the factories day and night. Those kind of dreams were a buzz for the redcaps. They went to the mill towns and mining towns in droves. They became pit bosses, factory foremen, teamsters, and so on. They went to feed the beast. Who else could know how the factories feel?
On the docks and in the pits, the 'caps were happy. On the factory floor they were ecstatic. In the middle of the soot and smoke they found their perfect time. They knew it couldn't last; that it was bound to devour itself sooner or later, but they enjoyed it while they could and it was everything they could have wished for.
- Gone West
Of course, not every redcap stuck around to watch the smoke cover the sky. People like to move, especially if they think there's someplace better to go. For many this meant the New World, but once they got there it was more of the same. A factory is a factory wherever it is. So is a sweatshop. But the masses were hungering for something more so the redcaps went with them.
The New World had its own circumstances. First, the melting pot effect which meant no one was quite sure where they stood on the streets of New York. Folks formed ethnic neighborhoods and with them came gangs and territorial scraps.
On top of that the New World was already inhabited by the Nunnehi, though they had mostly been pushed away by the time the redcaps crossed over. They were out there, though, and not happy with the 'caps. It made sense, therefore, to stay in the cities. Foreigners weren't welcome in most places, no matter what face they wore.
- The Twentieth Century
Some people might think that the big wars of the 20th century were exactly what the redcaps wanted. They weren't. They made as much sense as the slaughter of the buffalo who were then left to rot. There has to be a point to slaughter. Redcaps deal in murder and hunger, not genocide. there is a difference in their minds.
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
In 1969, the mortals went to the moon and the sidhe came back. Most redcaps would give up the one to get rid of the other. With the Resurgence, of course, the sidhe decided they had never stopped being in charge and wasn't it quaint the way the little commoners kept everything going while they were away. No surprise, some people were not interested in bowing and scraping again just because the sidhe thought it their due. And how did the sidhe respond? Assassination and terror. You might think a redcap would come up with something like the Night of Iron Knives but they consider it cowardly.
So it was war. And the commoners were winning until David Ardry came along. Plus, the redcaps didn't play by the ways the sidhe thought were fair. History is written by the winners and survivors. The survivors are generally more accurate. Fun time came to an end with Ardry, at least the killing part. The kid had presence. He played straight. That's why the redcaps gave him a chance. He did his best but those antiquarian sidhe nobles just wouldn't give it a rest. It's too bad he didn't succeed often.
War in Concordia
Then the High King disappeared and everything went to hell. Seems he was keeping the sidhe in check as much as he was keeping the commoners from their throats because the moment he was gone, all the old garbage happened again.
The redcaps aren't gonna take it anymore. They gave it one shot. One. It didn't work. They told Ardry they'd be good and the other sidhe sandbagged him for talking to them. It gets ugly now. The Accordance War was just the warm up. Here comes the main event.
The Wretched and Hungry
With history out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff: "What do those jolly fellows in their bright red hats do during their hours of leisure?" It's a good question but we need to talk about other stuff first.
What You Know
So what do people think they know about redcaps?
- Eat everything in sight
- Can be wacky funsters who'll munch on anything for a laugh
- Are all evil monsters
- Hate everyone else
- Are born spitting tacks and eating 2x4s for breakfast
- Dye their caps red in the blood of things they kill
Absolutely none of those hold true in all cases, though the last one comes close.
Lets look at the mess. All together it makes no sense, though since when have the Kithain ever made sense. Most will believe anything that comes from Duke Fancypants or Baron Stickupbutt, especially if it keeps them from having to think on their own. It also saves them from asking why they need said duke in the first place... but that's a different matter.
What's a Redcap, Mommy?
What's a redcap? The simple answer is "A Kithain who belongs to a particular kith." Not much of an answer is it? What you really want to know is what it means. Why are redcaps out there and not bluecaps or greencaps? It's a big question. It's this sort of existential crap that keeps redcaps going between meals (yeah right) but some do think about it. Just because the sidhe won't invite them into the salon to discuss philosophy, doesn't mean they aren't thinking.
But let's get this straight first: The redcaps don't hold any illusions about themselves. They are who they are. They know where they came from. They don't make up baloney stories to make themselves feel better about their place in the universe, and they don't try to blow blue smoke up anyone else's ass. Recognize that and you'll do fine. It's the first rule of dealing with their kind, anyway.
- The Driving Hunger
What the redcaps are really about is hunger. They exist to devour anything they can get their hands on and don't care much if its still moving when they take the first bite. The big question is why.
The big answer is "because that's what they are." They're hunger personified. Primarily it's "eat, drink, and fart loudly" kinds of hunger but it can also be more abstract stuff... hungers that don't come from the gut. You can figure out what that means if you've got the stones.
Why do they push people around? Because they can. What other reason is there? They're a primal drive. They move in straight lines and don't like anything standing in their way. If you're there, they're gonna push you out. Push back and they'll respect you... and then try to flatten you anyway. Do they respect authority? Sure... if it's earned. It just takes a lot of work to earn it as far as they're concerned. Don't try to bluff, though, because they will sniff out a fraud sooner or later and when that happens, you'll wish you had never been born. Beat them fair and square and you're OK, but don't bluff and then come clean expecting them to smile and nod. Not gonna happen.
- The Bad Attitude
Sure they have a bad attitude. Why not? Everyone hates them, they're no fun at parties, and most of what they like to do sends people running away. Think they wanna play nicey-nice after all that. Most times other don't even give them a chance to cause a ruckus. They aren't allowed in polite society anymore. If others don't want the around, why should they behave? Life's too short to suck up. And, anyway, two thirds of what most Kithain call bad attitude is honesty. If you don't play with flowery words, you're a big meany and they can't handle that. Sucks to be them. The redcaps aren't gonna top calling things like they see 'em just because it hurts some faerie's feelings.
- The Darn Hats
Do they all wear the red cap? No. It isn't like it's nailed to their heads. They like to wear them, though. Seeing the cap is like hearing a rattlesnake: it means something dangerous is right in front of you and you've walked into its territory. So not every 'cap wears a cap, but you can be assured that somewhere they have one. It might be a baseball cap. It might be homemade. It doesn't matter. It's there waiting for the right occasion. Even redcaps dress formal sometimes.
Redcaps tend toward stocky builds with grayish, mottled skin and thick, bandy legs. Even Seelie redcaps have horrid, bloodshot eyes, skeletal noses, and rubbery, wrinkled faces. Worst of all are their ghoulish mouths filled with yellowed, crooked, flat teeth used for grinding and ripping.
- Childling - Unseelie Childling redcaps are bullies and the tyranny of the playground is their law. Their hobbies are more sadistic than deadly and the pain of others fills them with glee. Seelie Childlings are usually desperate for acceptance and will eat anything on a dare if it makes them friends. Their jokes still tend to the grotesque and they often don't understand why people don't get it.
- Wilder - Unseelie Wilders are worse. They are gangsters, vandals, and malcontents living only to ruin the lives of others, even in the simplest ways. Body-piercing and tattooing are competitive art forms among them and they prefer to adorn themselves with needles, chains, bolts, and screws. A Redcaps's first piercing is a rite of passage, wether or not it is by consent. The rare Seelie Wilders are often involved in sports or other ventures that let them express their hungers and urges in controlled and acceptable ways.
- Grump - Unseelie Grumps earn the respect of the Unseelie court and they demand respect with violence, arrogance, and threats. Some gangbangers make the mistake of challenging these old bastards but few survive. Their prowess in battle is truly astounding and utterly ruthless. Most Seelie recaps revert to their unseelie side long before grumpdom. The few seelie grumps who exist should not be messed with. Their self-control is legendary and their wills steely in a way even few trolls can match.
Birthrights & Frailties
- Realm Affinity: Nature
- Dark Appetite: Redcaps can eat anything. They chew through cars and eat their way through walls. Their teeth are either brutally flat or sharp and hard as steel. Their digestive systems (thankfully) remain a mystery. Most prefer human or animal meat but when hunger strikes, anything will do. Anything. As long as they can put it in their mouth, they can eat it. Large objects can be chewed into smaller pieces. Digesting something particularly vile or tough (like wood, steel, romance novels, or toxic waste) requires the expenditure of a point of Glamour. If they attempt to use this Birthright in combat, they must also spend a point of Glamour, as if trying to eat something not normally edible. The base damage is Strength + 2 (difficulty 5). Additionally they may try to sever an opponent's limb. This requires 5 successes on a Dexterity + Brawl roll (difficulty 8) or three successes if the victim is grappled. The attack inflicts a minimum of three health levels of damage if successful, in addition to any damage rolled.
- Bully Browbeat: Redcaps can intimidate anything, even chimera. The difficulties of all Intimidation rolls are reduced by one. A successful roll causes chimera to obey without question; sentient creatures can resist with Willpower rolled at a difficulty of the redcaps's Willpower. This Birthright functions normally at all times, even in the presence of mortals or unenchanted supernaturals.
- Bad Attitude: No one likes a redcap, not even other redcaps. Some noble freeholds try to ostracize or kill them on general principle. As part of this stigma, they suffer a +2 difficulty (or greater) on any social situation other than browbeating.
The Seelie Side
There's an ugly rumor going around that there are no Seelie redcaps anymore... that all the Unseelie ones got together and knocked them all off, solving that problem forever. Like most rumors, this is dumber than a bag of hammers. How on earth could they even manage it? Send them invites to a pizza party and get them in one place at one time? That's stupid. The logistics alone make it impossible. Plus, the Seelie/ Unseelie line isn't hard and fast. Even Redcaps can change from one to the other so even if they did knock 'em all off, there'd be new ones by next week.
In the end, this means there are indeed Seelie redcaps. They ain't common and most have been drifting back to the Unseelie side lately. They're tired of being treated poorly, angry about the political situation, and generally mad at life. So they are coming home. Maybe that's how the rumor got started. It's hard to find a genuine Seelie redcap these days... really hard... but they are out there.
Seelie redcaps tend to fall into two categories: jokes and badasses. The jokes are the ones you think of immediately. They're fat, jolly types like bakers and food tasters and such. They'll eat anything if it gets a laugh. They're very careful not to offend anyone. They work hard to make sure everyone likes them. They eat anything on a dare, a bet, or a cue because it gets them attention. Lots of childlings go this route at first. It gets them friends. What they all have in common, the jokes, is the try to seem harmless. That's what they're all about. Most redcaps have no respect for this type.
Badasses, alternately, know what they're about. They act as knights, monster-slayers, court champions, and bodyguards... jobs that require an edge. They do discipline... taking their primal urges and beating the crap out of them because they can, and then taking it out on acceptable targets. These Seelie the rest of the kith can have some respect for, even if they are working for the wrong side. The don't take any crap. They shoot from the hip and march to their on beat, even if it is within the bounds most 'caps consider pointless.
Our Eating Disorder
What do redcaps do, you ask? Duh. They eat. They eat a lot. They eat everything they can get their hands on and a few things they catch in nets and snares as well. They eat stuff that's alive, that used to be alive, that never was alive, and might conceivably be alive in the future but don't feel like sticking around to check the results. All of which is not to say that they eat everything in front of us. They're redcaps, not vacuum cleaners. You can't just turn them on and expect them to clean up everything in sight. Yes, they eat. Yes they are always hungry and I don't mean "I could go for some frites right now but it'd spoil my dinner," hungry but, "I haven't eaten in three days and I'd cut off my own legs, fry, and eat them if I didn't know I'd be hungry again in an hour," sort of hunger. It's nothing they like and nothing they can control. It's who and what they are and it's always with them. They are always empty, always needing something to fill them up. Stuffing something in their craw dulls the pain, for a while, maybe, but it's gonna come back the same as the sun rises in the morning. In the meantime, though, they get a little peace and can think straight for a little while
- What's On The Menu
The next big question is, "what do redcaps eat?" The short answer is "everything." That usually gets more nosey questions so it needs explanation. Technically, 'caps are omnivores. They eat animal matter, vegetable matter, mineral matter, and now and then gray matter, too. They ain't picky. All things considered, they'd rather eat something that tastes good but in need, anything will do. You know the story about the kids in the plane crash who end up eating each other? If they had been redcaps they would have eaten the plane as well.
- Cannibalism For Fun & Profit
The question everyone wants to ask but are too afraid to ask is this: "Do redcaps eat people (and more importantly, do they eat other Kithain)?" Forget the sots... the fae are worried about their own skins first. The answer is simple. Think about it. Think about the legends and stories and how they got their name. Think about your worst nightmares and the answer you hope isn't true. That's always the right answer in the end, isn't it? The one you don't want to hear?
Let's move on.
Eating People: The Rules
So yes... redcaps eat people. Not often or indiscriminately, but they do it.
Redcaps have big mouths but they're not that big, not usually. It's extremely difficult for a 'cap to swallow anything larger than, say, a raccoon at one gulp. There are exceptions, of course. There are always exceptions.
- Swallowed Alive
Getting swallowed alive by a redcap is a special case and comes with a special price. A kithain who is eaten this way is hurled violently out into the mundane world. (Don't ask. The physics make your head hurt.) They are unable to resume fae mien for a year and a day. However, such a happening is nearly impossible. (Though childlings are more prone to it than others.) It takes three successes on a Dexterity + Brawl roll (difficulty 9 for wilders or grumps, difficulty 8 for childlings) on the part of the redcap, and the intent to devour stated before the attack. If the attack succeeds, the target is swallowed at a gulp, though suitable bits can dangle at Storyteller discretion, and has precisely one turn to find a way out of the redcap's gullet. (This usually involves cutting oneself out with a knife or more clever ideas like causing the devourer to sneeze violently or, for sluagh, diving out the other end. Such creativity should be encouraged by the storyteller.) If they do not manage in the one turn, the kithain finds themself back in mortal seeming without any idea what happened to them or why. Within killed this way suffer the usual penalties for chimerical death, plus the above-stated delay in resuming fae mien. A redcap who ends an enemy this way don't gain immediate benefits but often get the approval of their peers.
- Swallowed Dead
This is the more usual fate for a redcap snack and it's usually about getting rid of the body. The redcap can choose to bite in battle and, if they kill their opponent, tear off a nice chunk (on a successful Strength roll, difficulty 9) or just go to work on the corpse, which is incredibly demoralizing to other opponents. It takes three turns to devour a full-sized corpse, though complications like armor can slow down the process. In that time the corpse is pretty well chewed up and dismembered... redcap eating habits are rather similar to a shark's. Again, a kithain killed in the way finds themself in the mundane world in mortal seeming with no memory of what happened and unable to resume fae mien for a month. There are allegedly certain charms that can speed up the process but their knowledge is kept hidden. The victim endures all the usual effects of chimerical death.
- The Enchanted
A mortal devoured by a redcap, regardless of being enchanted or not, ends up dead. Because of this, most redcaps are more careful about chowing down on sots than on Kithain. They can afford to make a mistake with their own kind, more or less. With a human, one screw up and it's all over.
Anything on a redcap's victim is swallowed with the meal. Unless it is in some sense magical, it is destroyed almost instantly. For each magical item, such as a treasure, devoured, though. The Storyteller should roll the redcap's Stamina (difficulty 6). A success indicates the treasure survives and will somehow be there, intact, if the redcap is ever killed and cut open.
A redcap who chooses to eat mortals or other kithain is not going to be popular... if they're caught. Those 'caps who do develop a taste try to keep it low key... they don't advertise. If anyone is found out to be clearly into that kind of cuisine, they will be in a great deal of trouble. Once word gets out a redcap has gone cannibal, the local court is very likely to set a very high price on their head and Each will carry the tale far and wide so no place will be safe for them. Sooner or later they will be united down and, if lucky, killed. If unlucky, the punishments start at flaying and escalate rapidly. In other words, it's a good idea to not be caught or even suspected. On the other hand, redcaps seem to know when one of their own has crossed a line, but even a Seelie redcap thinks twice about ratting out one of their own. The bonds of kith are strong.
- What's on the Menu?
As noted above, a redcap can eat almost anything. That's not an empty boast. If it fits on the gullet, they'll take a bite. They can gnaw through just about anything so if they can wrap their jaws around it, it's got "lunch" written all over it. Are there things they won't eat? Sure. Who wants to eat spiked things? They puncture the palate. A soft sheep is preferable. Fire? Who wants to eat fire? That'll put the kibosh on a redcap right quick. Treasures are hard to chew and harder to digest. Plus most of them are too pointy and long. Yes, a redcap can eat anything. That doesn't mean they have to do so.
- Dining Habits
I know this revelation will shock you, but redcaps are messy eaters. Yeah. Stunned. I knew it. When they eat, they like to eat. They get into it. I mean, bits flying everywhere and sauce on your fingers, into it.
This has its benefits. First, it freaks everyone else out. No one... i mean no one, likes to watch recaps eat. It's disgusting. It's revolting. It's icky. If no one wants to stick around, that suits them fine. And really, anything that makes the wittle itty-bitty sidhe feel icky-wicky is good with them. In fact, nine times out of ten, if a sidhe is watching, redcaps will make an even bigger show of it.
Every so often, though, someone from outside the family gets an invite to sit down and eat with the lads. This is pretty rare. They don't ask just anybody... they have to be able to take it. If he or she can make it through one whole meal with all the mess, they are accepted and might as well be one of the redcaps. This isn't necessarily something to brag about in most circles.
The upside is that once you're a buddy of the redcaps, you're a buddy for life. What good is that? First, anyone who hangs out with recaps automatically gets the words "serious badass" painted on their forehead. There are worse things than having that reputation.
Second, it means the buddy can call on the 'caps for help if they need it. One shouldn't call that marker in too often, however, and anyone who can even earn that level of trust rarely needs the help. They're usually tough enough on their own. If they do ask for help, the redcaps look after their own and will come to their aid... and rag on them afterwards for needing it. But they'll be there.
You get an invite by wrecking some pretty high profile carnage, one way or the other, and walking away with a smile on your face. You don't get called over unless the redcaps are pretty sure you're their kind of people already. And those who are invited and can't make it through the salad course? One word. Dessert. (Not really. They'll just beat the crap out of them and turn them loose. They won't come back. Plus, the benefit of having others see the 'caps beat the snot out of a presumed bruiser is incalculable.)
On top of that, not everyone who gets invited comes. The redcaps can respect that. They can even respect the ones who say "no." But if it ever comes to a fight, they gun for those fae first because they know just how tough they are.
It is possible to poison a redcap but it takes a lot of effort. What's impossible is to do it with anything found in nature. A redcap can swallow anything this side of toxic waste (which has no place in the Dreaming) and be fine... just a toxic belch as evidence of the arsenic milkshake. There are, however, certain chimerical poisons that can easily do the job, if they aren't watching for it. Sluagh are particularly good at brewing up this sort of concoction and the most accomplished alchemists have a whole range of brews that can do everything from making a 'cap woozy to knocking them stone dead in seconds. That doesn't mean these brews are accessible or cheap.
This immunity is limited to ingested poisons only. Any other sort does its work in the usual fashion.
The Merry Band of Desperadoes
Redcaps prefer the company of other redcaps. This is true for a number of reasons. 1. they don't have to worry about offending anyone with their table manners or accidentally eating their pet chimera or crap like that. 2. They are with people who understand... those who have the hunger too. They know the feeling and they've all done the same things because of it.
Organization (If you want to call it that)
An average corby is about as organized as a riot but without pitchforks and torches. (Who needs 'em?) Basic structure is simple: One redcap is in charge and everybody else listens. If the corby is big enough, there are lieutenants who give orders for the boss and they don't take crap from anyone else. Orders come from the top, get passed through lieutenants, and that's how it goes. Anyone getting uppity gets kicked into place real fast and real hard and had better thank the boss for the privilege. If someone gets out of line and isn't hammered back in place, it means the boss is in trouble. If they don't keep discipline they won't be boss much longer. Turnover at the top can be fast and fierce or nonexistent: a good boss can keep a gang running smoothly for years or longer.
- The Boss
The boss' job is to keep the corby running well, make sure everyone is happy and getting their fair share, and keep things from going to hell in a handbasket more than once a week. They divide booty fairly, make sure food's on the table, and divvy up the chores. Their word is law as long as they can enforce it.
The boss makes up the battle plans in a scrap and gives the word to charge or retreat. If anyone gives them lip on the battlefield, they're asking for it. It's punishable by being kicked out of the band at best and death at worst. It might seem a bit harsh but debate isn't an option when blades are swinging. Obedience must be absolute or everything will collapse. Even redcaps know that.
A boss becomes boss by general acclamation of the corby, usually after the new boss beats the stuffing out of the old one, but not always. Sometimes the old boss steps down because they're tired of the hassle. Sometime the old boss moves on or gets taken out. There are lots of reasons. However it happens, the new boss must be there unanimously. How they get the consent is up to them.
A quick note: there are female bosses. It's toughness that counts, not plumbing. Plus, lady redcaps fight dirty.
A boss who falls down on the job ain't a boss for long. If they're caught handing out loot unfairly, they're gone. (What's fair can vary, of course.) If they can't lead well in a scrap... gone. Can't keep food on the table? Gone. There are a million ways to fall but everybody wants to rule the world.
The boss appoints their lieutenants; usually their best buddies, the ones they can count on to watch their back and not put a knife in it. The lieutenant speaks for the boss wen they're to around and when the boss is around, the lieutenant hops when the boss says 'frog'. They report directly to the boss and keep them apprised of morale, troublemakers, and anything else they think the boss should know. In return, they get a share and a half of everything that comes to the corby and the right to order people around when the boss is indisposed.
There are never more than two lieutenants in a corby. If the band gets big enough to need three, they usually split and a lieutenant becomes boss of the new band. These new corbies set up shop s far from the gang they left as possible to avoid confrontation and tend to make a big mess on their way out of town. These redcap "migrations" are legendary. Luckily, they don't happen often.
A lieutenant can be stripped of their post for insubordination, failing to communicate to the boss what should be communicated, or for whatever else the boss feels like. The boss gets their boss by acclaim but the lieutenants are appointed by the boss. The corby gets no say. Some bosses rotate their top dogs to keep them fresh. Some think this is foolish because if everybody in the band thinks they have stripes, people are gonna trip over their feet when orders start coming.
- The Lads and Lassies
Most of a corby is made up of just ordinary sorts; well, ordinary redcaps. They have two jobs: Do whatever the boss tells them, and don't do anything stupid while waiting for orders. Other than that, they'e pretty much on their own, at least in the confines of the corby. Most of the time they spend together is sparring, scrapping, scrounging, or eating. It's rough and tumble but they generally seem to enjoy it. With a good boss they get all the toys they want, plenty to eat, and a place to kick off their shoes. Everyone is equal and has equal voice (with obvious exceptions). It's rowdy but works pretty well. If there's a dispute, the boss tells them how to settle it and they do. Usually its bare-knuckles but sometimes the boss gets creative.
A redcap who doesn't like the way the corby is going can walk out the door any time. There's little chance of being asked back but nothing is keeping anyone from going where they want. Who wants an unhappy redcap around? Letting someone walk is the best thing they can do.
On the other hand, any redcap who wants to join an existing band has to run whatever tests the lads or lassies devise for them. The boss decides if they get a chance at all an the lieutenants keep things on the up and up. The initiation can range from having to beat up every member of the corby one by one to an eating contest to bringing back the head of whatever chimerical critter is being a pest that day. The boss stays out of it, though and it's a smart move. The way the band sets the test is a good indicator of wether they want the newbie on board or not.
- The Cook
On rare occasions a corby may have a designated cook. Their job is to put the food on the table and make sure it tastes good. Their word is law in the kitchen, even outranking the boss. Other than that, they're just one of the band. Still, no one makes an enemy of the cook or they'll get something nasty on their plate at the next mess call. Redcaps fight to get into bands with good cooks and upsetting the cook has been grounds for the removal of more than one boss.
A corby operates on a bunch of simple rules. Anyone can leave but it's hard to join. The boss' word is law. Everyone else, lieutenants excluded, is equal. Shirk in a fight and you're in for a world of hurt. Stand by your brothers and sisters and they'll stand by you. Everyone does equal work and gets an equal share (lieutenants and boss excluded). That's it. And if there's an issue the boss can't settle by decree, it goes to popular vote. If it's still an issue after that, the band is doomed anyway.
Most corbies don't spend all their time together. It's not like the local countryside could support their appetites if they did. The tend to gather when they can but go their separate ways in the interim. Most corbies have a place, be it a freehold or a hutch in the center of the city, they can call their own and meet as regularly as they can. The place usually has a lad or lass there all the time to keep it safe and a few unpleasant surprises or traps for unwelcome visitors as well. It's hard to mistake a redcap hidey-hole for anything else, actually. If nothing else, the bones give it away.
The hideout and what you'll find there is pretty predictable: loot the corby has gathered, weapons, food, trinkets, trophies of battle, and whatever else may have caught their eyes. You'd be amazed at the number of pool tables that can wind up in such places. There's also usually a larder stocked with whatever the lads and lassies have managed to lay in recently. Details can be sketchy on what's in it; not that anyone actually cares.
There are a few redcaps who specialize in Arts and Realms. Few redcaps have the aptitude, brains, or desire to become fimmrach, but those who do often become fiendishly powerful and are able to exert terror in way unimaginable to their warrior kin. Even the most battle-hardened redcap quails at the thought of a centuries-long fimmrach curse. The most powerful fimmrach, the witch-kings or hag-queens, often rival the sidhe's mightiest sorcerers and rule over vast demesnes of blasted, miasmal land.
How Redcaps Fight
There's something you need to understand about redcaps: they fight to win. Not for medals or titles or songs sung by waif-thin sidhe pretties. Not to be noble or memorable or anything like that. They fight to win, and if they can't win, they make sure the one they're fighting is gonna hurt so bad he won't be in any shape to do it twice or be in the victory parade.
It's common sense, after all. If you get a rep for fighting to the bitter end, you're gonna scare the other combatant just a bit. They know they're gonna take losses. They'll be hesitant and every bit of hesitation is an opening and in war, every hesitation is as good as a knife in the gut. It even saves the 'caps a fight from time to time if that hesitance means not fighting at all.
There's a deeper reason for fighting like that too. The truth is they like to break stuff. It's what redcaps are here for, after all... to tear it all down. All of it. Every freehold wall torn down is one less obstacle for the Winter wind. Every body at their feet is one less arm to bar the door. It ain't pretty but it's who the redcaps are. It's in their bones.
Which isn't to say they don't fight to defend something. Only an idiot lives in a world of absolutes. Even great heroes have antisocial habits. Nobody is all one thing or another. Everything's got its time. It's just that everybody else's time comes sooner rather than later when they mess with the redcaps.
- No Prisoners
Also, redcaps take no prisoners, at least not usually. Occasionally it can be a good idea to take a duchess back to the hideout for nefarious purposes. They don't even have to actually do anything because the whole pointy-ear crowd is gonna assume the worst anyway and will do anything to get her back. Eat a couple of ladyfinger sandwiches and it happens faster. That's for useless ones. The useful sorts, they kill. No sense letting the enemy have them back no matter the toys they give.
The flip side is that since they show no mercy, they expect none. They fight to the last. As long as a 'cap can twitch, they're dangerous. The other kith has learned that by now and know better than to take prisoners. Redcaps don't break under torture. They don't talk. Most will bite out their own tongue and swallow it first then smile and spit blood in their captor's eye.
They don't do trades either. If the enemy does capture one and offers to give them back for a retreat, say, the 'caps will laugh and eat the courier. Doesn't matter who was caught. If they were dumb enough to get captured, they deserve what they get. The 'caps will just take the price of their hide out on someone the next time blades are drawn.
There is one time the 'caps will trade for someone, though. That's when the idiot on the other side of the fence demands a sworn oath that the redcaps will go away and play somewhere else if they get their mate back. Any oath can be broken. Any. You just have to be ready to pay the price and the redcaps always are. Another body in the trenches is worth a lot.
Weaponry for redcaps is more ornamental than utilitarian. I mean, when you can devour anything living, dead, or in between, one has little need of killing tools. Which isn't to say redcap weaponry isn't destructive. Redcaps are infamous for the carnage they spread. The thing is, for redcaps, the fear a weapon induces and the gore it produces are more important than its actual lethality. Redcaps like their prey to linger a bit. A stiletto to the kidneys, while effective, doesn't provide the same visceral pleasure as a carpet cutter to the face, or a chainsaw through each of the prey's limbs one by one. A clean shot through the heart with a .22 isn't as terrifying, or satisfying, as blowing off a foe's arm with a hollowpoint .45 shell. After all, if you can tell your enemies apart when you're done, you ain't done yet.
For this reason, redcaps tend to modify the tools of industry and domesticity. It's a delicious irony to take a boggan chef' favorite cheese grater and scrape their face off with it. Chains, nails, buzzsaws, rivet guns, razors, icepicks, power sanders, shock prods, and the like replace swords, knives, and other conventional arms. Plus, in the modern, technological age, such weapons gain symbolic power more conducive to spreading nightmares.
Such tools even play a part in redcap fashion. Younger 'caps, dissatisfied with wimpy practices like tattooing and piercing, bore screws, nails, drill bits, and other such things straight into their bones. Epidermal razors, knuckle implanted fishhooks, and body suits of barbed wire, while only marginally practical, scare the crap out of foes.
An average troll will tell you a redcap fights like a chainsaw. Rev it up, wave it around, and sooner or later the big pieces become little pieces. While it's not a bad way to fight (its unpredictable, and scares anyone looking for a mannered fencing match), fighting like this gets a person killed sooner or later. Sooner or later someone is gonna turn out smarter and find archers and ambushes. Then you get a redcap-shaped pincushion and everything is over but the shouting. That's why most redcaps don't fight like that. They want to stick around a while. That should scare you.
- Going Solo
A lone redcap has to fight smart if they want to properly dye their cap. Most of the map is hostile territory, after all. If they ain't smart, they end up with their head on a pike outside of some baronet's court. That being the case, a lone redcap doesn't stand on a bridge and announce "none shall pass." That lad or lassie ends up smush between the treads on some troll's boots. If they're smart, they'll do one of two things:
- Pick a good ambush spot, wait, and pick off the occasional lone traveler. This works in the city and in the country. It's just a different mindset to play with. They usually need a good spot for this tactic; not too close to the local court, though, or they get a half-dozen knights breathing down their jock strap. They also don't want to be too far away or no one comes around. The big trick is making sure no one spots them. Let groups go by, jump stragglers and solos. If it gets boring, they can stroll into court and converse with no one the wiser.
- The other option is join a motley of other fae to go wandering with. They can't loose that way. Sooner or later the band will stumble into something that needs killing. The question is how long they can stand being around others before going after them instead.
- All Together
Working with other redcaps is totally different.
The boss gives the orders, of course. A big advantage the redcaps have is that most opponents expect them to run in and get slaughtered. The enemy also can't resist the opportunity to pick off a lone redcap. That means the "run a lone decoy out to lead them back to an ambush" plan works great. The other side is so eager to get rid of one, they charge without thinking, "hey, maybe this could be a trap." Plus, there's rarely any survivors so the word doesn't get around about the technique.
Redcaps are also good at ambushes. They're experts at picking good spots to jump travelers, using cover, and cutting off escape routes. That isn't to say they steal around like the sluagh, but tt's always good to let dinner come to you. Plus, redcaps can be very patient when they need to be, and very still. They train their childlings to pretend to be statues... holding still long enough to convince the birds and squirrels to come and climb on them until they're easy to reach. Advanced techniques involve lying on your back with your mouth open and waiting for dinner to hop inside.
Imagine... a corby of redcaps... perfectly still... in the gully or bracken... just waiting for you to come by. You won't see them. You won't hear them. They won't move to give themselves away.
Have a nice hike.
The worst case scenario (for everyone else, that is) when a bunch of redcap corbies get together and kick it into gear. One of the bosses gets elected war chief by the other bosses and the rest of them act as lieutenants for the duration.
What happens next is both impressive and darn scary. For all the noise they make, they can be pretty efficient in a fight, especially on the offensive. Usually a war band will just head off for some objective, clobbering everything in their way. If the other side is lucky, once the objective is reached the war band dissolves, each corby going its own way, each boss picking up their reins, and everyone promises to get together next year to swap lies about what they did on campaign. That's the fast version.
Things are different with the War in Concordia. War bands are starting to become permanent, or as near is they can get to it. They've dug in and they have boggan engineers making fortifications for 'em (unlikely voluntarily.) Other war bands are out there making raiding and roving a way of life like they own the countryside. Maybe they do. In any case, those war bands are the hard core of what's happening. They aren't going away and they're not gonna fall apart under their own weight. They've set out to do something and they're gonna do it.
One of the redcaps' biggest weapons is terror and they use it whenever they can. No matter how the other kith may feel about them... hate, sorry for their sad and lonely ways, whatever, deep down they are all terrified. Everyone facing a redcap in a fight is already thinking about what they will do to them if they loose. If the 'caps can stoke that fire before a fight by doing something gross or barbaric, they will. It scares the enemy and a scared enemy is more likely to make mistakes.
Redcaps at Play
People may not believe it but redcaps do other stuff than just eat. They're a fun-loving bunch when they want to be, though many might not like their ideas of fun.
Fact. Redcaps drink. They can swallow anything so a swig from a bottle doesn't hit them unless they want it to. So if you see a bunch of redcaps enjoying quality time, odds are you're gonna see a pile of bottles near them tall enough to ski down. Plus they drink stuff the snooty types consider swill and hate watching them enjoy the stuff. They can get drunk, by the way, but they have to want to get drunk. A 'cap who can't hold their liquor hears it from their peers, presuming they wake up near their peers. Tossing the drunk in a barrel and seeing how far downstream they go is a favorite pastime. So is punching a hole in the bottom of the barrel.
The only thing worse than a bunch of drunk redcaps is a bunch of drunk redcaps trying to sing. Yes, they do try to sing when plastered or when marching or whenever, really. Just keep in mind the types of songs they sing won't necessarily be ones you want to hear. They like to dance too. Betcha can't even picture that.
Sports are war. They're about beating the other person, usually by taking territory and ramming something down their throat... ball, puck, whatever. The more violent the sport, the more redcaps like it. They find that a head makes a great ball, but on short notice, anything will do. What that means is that if you see a whole scrum's worth of redcaps going at each other, you're not watching a fight, at least not for anything other than bragging rights. Also, it means get away fast. The games don't have bounds markers and they don't stop for bystanders.
No one should be surprised redcaps like to hunt. They might just be surprised how they do it, though. Sometimes they go chasing through the woods, grabbing as much as they can. It works for sharks, why not them? Other times they do different approaches. They can stalk one thing for hours, just 'cause they can. Sometimes they sprint, seeing who tires first, them or the prey. Sometimes they hunt in packs, whooping and hollering just 'cause they can. That's what scares people the most, and with good reason. Imagine a whole corby chasing one target, howling to wake the dead and never letting the poor target rest for a moment. It can go for miles or hours. The trick is to let the prey think they might just get away without ever letting them think they lost the hunter. It's a tough balance but it's possible with practice.
As unlikely as it may sound, redcaps do teach their childlings. Redcap life is tough so they try to give their kids an edge. Any redcap kid out there is liable to get taken under one grump's wing, like it or not, and taught the basics of fighting, survival, and dealing with the rest of the critters. If they don't, disaster is in the offing. A kid who doesn't study is a kid who's just what everyone else thinks a redcap is and they aren't gonna last. They aren't so common that they can just throw childlings away. So redcaps teach. They teach hunting and fighting. They teach where they came from and where they're likely to go. Most of all they teach their kids to be redcaps and not sidhe wannabes. Redcaps take care of their own. No one else will.
Why The Kids Go Unseelie
Why do redcap kids go unseelie? Here's what it's like. Remember being young, fresh-faced, pink-cheeked, cute as anything, but really rotten little monsters? Remember having friends? Running around with the other childlings, playing games, hunting chimera, and having a blast. It was just kids versus grownups. Remember it? Baloney. Didn't happen. Lies the redcaps tell themselves to hide that they were terrible kids. They may have started out innocent. After the Chrysalis everything is new and the kid may have hung out with other fae 'cause everybody was new to it.
Then all the good little sidhe get taken to court and told not to associate with the redcap kid. Maybe not explicitly but it's there. The stereotypes show up. You know how THOSE fae are.
The jokes that were funny before, like getting the redcap to eat a soap box derby car or the whole pizza in one gulp, they stop being funny. They get scary. What else could go in that mouth? The older fae don't do it to be mean, maybe. It just isn't done. It's for the kids' protection and their own good. That makes it alright.
It wasn't just the sidhe either. Trolls are told not to talk because the ruffians don't fight fair. Eshu hear stories and start looking over their shoulders, and so on and so on.
Maybe you're thinking it all makes sense. Maybe you're thinking redcaps can be dangerous and it's good the kids know the risk. Maybe the redcap kid wasn't like that but the rest of em... but it's not about the him or her, right? It's about you. But it isn't. It's about that little redcap kid. It's about them looking around one day and all their friends are gone and no one wants to play with them anymore. It's the kid whose buddies see them as a monster. The kid who gets left out of everything and doesn't know why. The kid left behind to stew.
Think about that kid. He finally pokes at one of the old friends trying to understand and they get ignored or one ex-friend finally tells them they can't talk to them because they're gonna be a monster. How does that kid take it? Not well. They've been a good friend to that point. He's done everything to make sure they didn't eat anything important. Done what the ex-friends thought funny. Now they're gone because the kid might be dangerous someday.
The kid's a redcap but not stupid. They know they're screwed. They dwell on it a bit. Then reach an inescapable conclusion. If they're gonna treat me like that, they might as well act like that.
Shut Your Big Mouth
Why We Don't Like You
As long as we're cleaning up misconceptions, lets do a little more. Some believe that when the chips are down, despite all the difference in history and goals, all the kiths will get along and work together. Nice picture? Load a crap. When push comes to shove, they'll shoving each other to avoid getting pushed off the back of the sled to feed the wolves. The redcaps have a bad reputation because they shove harder and won't just stand there to be shoved. The sidhe want everyone to stand there and let them walk all over them. The redcaps say 'not a chance.'
- Boggans - Boggans are just plain sad. When did an obsessive need for tidiness become an archetypal drive? The big problem is they're so drab. House spirits? Fix my shoes and I'll give you a cheeseburger? Some legend. You gotta admire their stones, though. Tell a boggan to do something and they'll do it if it knocks them dead. They're stubborn as anything so if you line 'em up with swords things can get ugly. Tell 'em to march and the just keep coming. Other than that, there ain't much to 'em.
- Eshu - There's something weird about these folks. Ask another kithain about the eshu and you'll hear they got a lotta respect for 'em, wish they could go with 'em, too bad they're not around much. Does that seem odd? Are they afraid to say anything bad about them? The deal with the eshu is simple: they got big mouths, though not like redcaps do. That can be a good or bad thing. If a redcap wants their reputation to spread, they tell an eshu. You can't buy that kind of exposure. On the other hand, there's time the redcaps don't want what they're up to getting out. Makes sense to make sure no one's carrying the word. Eshu tend to travel alone; redcaps in packs. Who do you think wins?
- Nockers - Nockers like to build things. Redcaps like tearing things down. That's as basic as it gets. They make something, the redcaps want to knock it down. It's like sticking your chin out and daring the redcap to take a swing. It's gonna happen. Don't complain when it does. Good news is all their stuff is flawed and that makes a good place to start tearing down, if you can find it. Plus, redcaps are simple types. They like simple things like straight razors, sausage grinders, etc... complicated things make us nervous. They don't like things like that and it's a short jump to not liking the folks who make 'em.
- Pooka - What makes pooka pains in the posterior is this: they're all about sidetracks and one-offs and getting distracted by sparkly things. You can't get a handle on 'em. One moment they're showing teeth and ready to scuffle, the next they're playing some darn word game that's just a cover for the fact they stole your lunch. No rhyme or reason at all. That makes the hunter-prey situation with them the only one not annoying. But figure out what they want and give it to them and they'll jump through flaming hoops for you, and they're so desperate for attention they'll talk to you even if you just ate their best friend. Dumb bunnies.
- Satyrs - Satyrs are way too impressed with themselves. They're all convinced their badasses and the've got to show it. Most aren't even original about it. I mean, how original do you expect a bunch of guys with hairy legs and foot-long packages to be about their conversational openers? It's a tired act. Deep down, though, satyrs and redcaps are close. They're about appetite too, if a different sort. They've gotten away from their roots. They've come to frolicking and cavorting from gut-twisting, knee-buckling, sweaty-thighed need; the kind of need that meant a watermelon with a hole in it would look good and you'll die or kill to get what you want. They use to be that. It's kind of pathetic.
- Sidhe - It's not gonna be easy to sum up what bastards the sidhe are in a few sentences. Here goes. The sidhe are a bunch of bastards and each one gets a stick inserted someplace delicate when they chrysalis to make sure they have the right snotty attitude. That was easy. I'll go on cause it's fun to trash-talk 'em. No one elected them kings. They came out of nowhere and decided they were in charge. Plus they're younger than they pretend to be. Night fears, hunger, loyalty... those are old ideas. Nobility and that crap... it's new. Didn't stop them from taking over, though. On some level the redcaps can respect the new kid on the block riding in and making good... that crap. A real feel-good story. Difficulty is when they got on top they pretended they'd always been there. They've got no class, no style, and no sense of history. They sold out the rest of the fae in the Shattering. Think they thought about the ones they left behind all those centuries? Don't make me laugh, Pollyanna. In 1969 they did it all over again. Didn't even notice the rest of the fae were doing just fine without them. Maybe its a self-image problem. They're all terrified the rest of the fae don't need them anymore. They're trying to convince the other fae they need them. And if the other fae can't be convinced, then they gotta die. That's what they're thinking. That's why the redcaps hate 'em.
- Sluagh - You would think redcaps and sluagh would be on the same side. They got a bad rep; redcaps got a bad rep. They got antisocial habits; redcaps got antisocial habits. They eat weird stuff; redcaps eat weird stuff. Redcaps like good music; sluagh like... OK; it only goes so far. You think they'd both have stuff to talk about but, sadly, that's not the case. Sluagh want to be on the inside. Nobles want info, Sluagh have it. They get to have fun forcing the high and mighty to rely on them, to get on their knees and beg. Problem is, the sidhe always get back up, change their tights, and act like jerks all over again. Nothing changes except the new chalk mark on the sluagh's sewer wall. They probably can't even stand each other long, but that's OK... neither can the redcaps. They're one of the few things that can give a redcap the willies. The way they stare? <shivers> In the end it's pointless. They don't like the redcaps for some reason. Redcaps don't like them 'cause they're ineffective worms and just too darn creepy. It would be great if the two could work together to stick it to the bosses, but it ain't gonna happen any time soon.
- Trolls - Trolls are tough. They know how to fight and they know how to fight well. That's why they're there, after all. No one ever dreamed up a troll good at macramé. They big blue morons are supposed to stand there in their ethnic gear and beat the crap out of things honestly. Well and good. It explains why they don't like redcaps. Trolls like things proper. They're anal-retentive in a jarheaded kind of way. You're not supposed to fight unless you're doing it the right way. Well piss on that. Redcaps fight to win, not to limp home and thump their chest with how well they did it. They fight for brownie points and merit badges. Recaps see something that pisses them off and do something about it. Trolls make with the stoic forbearance baloney. Do what you gotta do, big boy. When everything is done, the redcaps will tell you how they kicked your teeth in.
- Nunnehi - There are about 4000 types of Nunnehi out there, near as the redcaps can tell. Everything from giants made of rock to things you can't put a name on. They're everywhere and do stuff the redcaps can't get a handle on. Most redcaps avoid 'em. Don't bother us and we won't bother you keeps everyone happy.
- Adhene - The redcaps keep hearing a lot about the Dark-kin but they're slow to show their faces around the redcaps. There are only two that interest them really. The Keremet are driven by hunger apparently. Most redcaps would like to find out who eats who first. Can you say challenge? The Naraka are taken a little more seriously. The whole extra arm, whirlwind of death thing is impressive. They might make good allies to share goals with.
Much as the redcaps would like, the Kithain ain't the only things out there. The world's a nasty place full of nasty people and nasty things and the redcaps have to be nastier to survive. The one advantage they have is that they know the prodigals are out there. They don't know so much about the fae. That tilts odds in the 'caps favor.
- Vampires - I hear tell that if you tie a vampire down and chop off a bit for a snack, as long as you keep feeding it, it grows back. Course they also say it tastes like crap and for a redcap to say something tastes bad, it's got to be really bad. On a more serious note, there are some redcaps who say vampires are just redcaps gone way out of whack and they'll come back to their roots sooner or later. If a vamp notices a redcap, they will try to use them. Don't let them notice you unless its on your terms.
- Werewolves - Let's see. They're big, they've got sharp teeth, the like to wreck stuff, and they don't ask questions before they tear into stuff. Works for the redcaps.
- Mages - As long as there have been mortals, there have been people who have poked their noses where they had no business being. That hasn't changed. These folks want to figure out what's going on and figure they're smarter than everyone else. Get 'em out of their element, though, and they're like scared kids. Redcaps like scared kids.
- Wraiths - Dead people can be a pain in the butt. They can do weird stuff and redcaps can't hit them back. Plus, if you're in the habit of making people get suddenly dead, those people tend to be annoyed afterward.
- Hunters - Sots, as a rule, are nuts. That's a given. Some are even nuttier. If you see someone squinting at like you've got three heads, get away fast. Never know if they're looking at you or really looking at you. Don't take the chance. You can come back for them later.
There are stories about things like redcaps but worse. Worse? How can there be something worse than a pissed-off redcap who's feeling hungry and looking at you? Please. Besides, if there were something like that out there, do you think a redcap would tell you there's something nastier than them out there?
The Great Unknown
The world is a big scary place. It's got dark corners and links to places that you ain't never dreamed of. Some of those links are open. Some ain't. Some that were closed ain't closed no more and bad things are coming through. Redcaps saw things like that long ago and far away. They're legends, even to the 'caps... from back home in Arcadia. They aren't supposed to be here anymore. They aren't supposed to want to be here. They're not even supposed to be able to last long in the cold hard world. But the redcaps have seen 'em. They're back. That means the redcaps might have to become monster hunters again.
You're probably thinking, "Really? The redcaps have nothing good to say about any of the other kithain? Not even the Seelie redcaps have different opinions?" The answer is, yes there are a few redcaps who, for misguided reasons, have different opinions. You could ask one. Good luck of you ask the wrong one.
- Boggans - Hard-working bastards. Not a pretentious bone in their bodies. You always know where they stand, even if it's on the other side of the line. You may not like 'em, but you can at least respect 'em.
- Eshu - They may just be desperate for an audience, but these fae will actually talk to the redcaps. It's nice to talk to someone without having to promise six times you won't bite their arms off.
- Nockers - They're decent to hang out with, if you can get them to shut up about every detail of what it is they're making. Usually the redcaps just want to know how it makes a big problem a little one. It's easy to shut them up, though. Just find the right spot and squeeze.
- Pooka - They're harmless and the only kith who doesn't give the 'caps as much crap. Probably 'cause they're in no position to give anyone crap.
- Satyrs - These folk are the only other fae out there who really know what it's like to need to cut loose. Everyone else is a little too restrained. They understand what being hungry for something is. It's not often a redcap meets someone who gets where they're coming from. Satyrs come as close as it gets.
- Sidhe - There's something to be said about discipline and order and the best of the sidhe have that. They aren't all stuck-up pricks. Some really care and do a lot to make their fiefdoms better. you just have to make sure you hook up with the good ones.
- Sluagh - None of the stories told about them have ever been proven. That should count for something. One of these days.
- Trolls - They give a good fight. You can respect 'em for being tougher than just about anyone else out there and for knowing how to control it. It'd be easy for them to loose control and go nuts, just like it would be easy for the seelie redcaps. They don't. More power to 'em.
And Now For Something Different
There is in fact a sub-kith of the Redcaps. The River Hags are a kith of female river fae whose job it is to keep up the stories about how dangerous rivers are. They're as mean and nasty as the redcaps are. For more, see the article River Hag.
- Aelfric, Theodric, and Offa
- Alastair McGowan
- Anguish MacSporran
- Annie MacMaeven
- Bloody Nick
- Bonaparte Gonzales
- Captain Lou
- Captain Wrack
- Etienne duBois
- The Fachan
- Gaddy McDonough
- Gentle Annie
- Grand Master of Disaster
- Granny Olympia
- Gut Splicer
- Hans Heydrich & Lieutenant Bock
- The Hellion
- Jeanine Cooke
- Jenni Quick
- Jenny Greenteeth
- Lily Wildflower
- Mark Shaker
- Mary and Mick Crimson
- The Moregei
- Mumpoker Uruisig Gruaghan
- Pamela and Robert Wilson
- Peigi Eightfingers
- Rat Breath
- Richard Lyons
- Roland Robards
- Rosie McIntyre
- Sam the Clam
- Simon Cold
- Tathy Gams
- Vlad Rogvodov
- Weedy Peg
What They Found Pickin' the Bones
- CTD. Kithbook: Redcaps.
- CTD. Changeling: The Dreaming Second Edition, pp. 96-97.
- CTD. Changeling Players Guide, pp. 76-80.