Monday, May 13, 2013


Sometimes a brownie goes bad.  Sometimes it begrudges the family it cares for…the inconsiderate mortals that fail to appreciate its hard work…or who take sole credit for their land’s flourishing fields and healthy flocks…and who leave out only spoiled milk and old meat instead of cakes and sweet treats…  Sometimes some dark impulse compels a brownie to put down its pitchfork…and pick up its scythe…and by the end of the night, the brownie is the sole living inhabitant of the farmstead, sporting a bright new crimson cap to boot.

Redcaps are fey gone wrong.  Typically they begin life as brownies, but leprechauns, korreds, other fey, or even particularly unlucky gnomes, dwarves, or wicked old men might become redcaps if the magical conditions are right.  They also arise spontaneously from darker fey realms or in areas of great resentment and bloodshed, especially border towns.  Like wendigos, they are a representation of what happens when something in civilization snaps—when the life-ending power inherent in the thresher’s blade gets turned on flesh instead.  The fact that they loathe religious symbols and are shod in iron (so close to the cold iron they abhor) speaks to a state of punishment as well.

With all that going for them, it’s no surprise redcaps are popping up all over published adventures—plenty of recent Pathfinder Adventure Path issues have featured them (and one shows up for almost no reason at all in the module Fangwood Keep).  Since they speak Aklo, they’re also a great link between the fey and the darker powers below the earth and beyond the stars.  A redcap’s hat alone could be the focus of an encounter—stealing it, returning it, or the recap trying to construct (and dye in blood) a new one, etc.  And if all else fails, who doesn’t love a monster that can strike with an oversized scythe and then finish things off with a boot stomp?  A right proper villain, that is…

A series of grisly murders has all of Cammerton quaking in fear.  Meanwhile, the haberdashery on Nimblewright Lane keeps getting broken into.  The culprit is the same in both cases.  A redcap lost his hat to some atomies, and while searching for them he became obsessed with the caps in the storefront window.  Now he steals a new hat every few days, then kills a victim to dye it red.  But he is never satisfied, coming back for more and more outlandish styles, and so the killings continue…

A redcap helps a band of derros with their mad experiments.  Thanks to his eldritch knowledge, they have moved from the usual drugs and tortures to more esoteric procedures involving the grafting of mushroom skins and the severing of victims’ shadows.  The redcap also serves as the executioner if any prisoners get too rowdy or when test subjects outlive their usefulness.

The miser of Fern Hill forced his wife to walk barefoot to services rather than buy her new shoes.  Hearing of this, the good-hearted but fiery-tempered cleric excommunicated the man, and after one of the cleric’s particularly scorching sermons some local men shod the miser in iron boots as an ironic punishment.  A year to the day of this insult, the men are all found dead.  The miser is now a redcap who desperately seeks to slay those he blames for his state.  But he cannot reach the cleric, who lives on holy ground, or his wife, who now shares the rectory.  Meanwhile, Fern Hill has become as fey as its master, and may soon leave this world entirely.

Pathfinder Bestiary 2 233

So once again I have to give props to John Nephew’s Tall Tales of the Wee Folk for my initial exposure to redcaps (and for my gloss on them as corrupted brownies).  And Wikipedia informed me of their habit of dwelling near contested borders.

As I mentioned in my (now erased) placeholder post on Friday, I was sick all weekend.  So no radio show to post for you.  But at least the ravener entry is up now—go see!  And hopefully I’ll have more music for you come this Saturday.  With everyone around here in a mindless tizzy about cicadas, I already know one song I’m going to play

1 comment:

  1. One of the most interesting uses of Redcaps happened, in all places, the City of Heroes MMORPG. They turned the Fir Bolg and Tuatha de Dannan of Irish lore into monsters and set them against one another while tormenting a cabal of New England witches, all while plotting to drag an entire town into the fey realms. It was a neat addition to a superhero game, but sadly it no longer exists...