Dungeons & Dragons Online

These violent and twisted creatures put murderhobos to shame – Lore & History of the Redcap

See the horrifying Redcap across the editions on Dump Stat

Most players can only dream of being as good of a murder-hobo as the Redcap. You may at first think they are only vertically challenged gnomes with no fashion sense, but you’ll discard that notion quickly when you meet them. Any creature that soaks its hat around in the blood of its victims and then wears it with pride is one that shouldn’t be associated with.

Pulled from Border folklore, these creatures were described as goblins or men, short in stature with sharp teeth, fingers resembling claws, red eyes, and stringy hair. They wore iron boots and a cloth cap soaked red from the blood of their victims. So overall, a charming creature. The most famous story for the Redcaps is about Robin Redcap, who is the familiar of Lord William de Soulis and resides in the Hermitage Castle. Lord Soulis is depicted as a practitioner of the Black Arts and his familiar, Robin Redcap, goes around committing all manner of unspeakable things to the locals. This eventually leads to Lord Soulis being boiled alive by the locals who were tired of the cruelties. While there is no mention of what happened to Robin Redcap, we can only assume he continued his cruelties throughout Scotland.

 

2e – Arak, Powrie (Redcap)

Climate/Terrain: The Shadow Rift

Frequency: Common

Organization: Clan

Activity Cycle: Night

Diet: Omnivore

Intelligence: High (13-14)

Treasure: Q

Alignment: Chaotic evil

No. Appearing: 2d4

Armor Class: 2

Movement: 9, fly 15 (A)

Hit Dice: 5

THAC0: 15

No. of Attacks: 1

Damage/Attack: 1 point (dagger) or 1d4 (bite)

Special Attacks: Spells (4/2/1), fear, backstab, shriek

Special Defenses: +3 or better magical weapon to hit; immune to steel weapons, electricity, and lightning

Magic Resistance: 45%

Size: T (1’ tall)

Morale: Fanatic (17-18)

XP Value: 5,000

While not exactly the Redcap as we know them, we are introduced to the Powrie in The Shadow Rift (1998), an adventure that takes place within the Ravenloft campaign setting. This adventure is about exploring the mysterious land within the Shadow Rift, a deep canyon swallowed up by the mists of Ravenloft. This land is ruled jointly by Queen Maeve of the Seelie Court and Loht, the Prince of Shadow and ruler of the Unseelie Court, switching out who is in charge of the Arak and the Shadow Rift every 6 months. If you had to guess, which court do you think the Redcaps are part of?

The Powrie serve as assassins and spies for the Unseelie Court, who are known for being cruel and twisted. The Powrie are known for their love of murder and torture, attacking any creature, except a fellow Arak, whenever they can. They are skilled backstabbers, quickly flitting through thick forests and plunging their daggers, and teeth, into unsuspecting travelers. Their attacks are often poisoned, causing horrible pain on any they hit with their daggers, while their teeth can cause permanent blindness. If you think these cruel creatures might be looked down upon by their fellow fey, well you’d be wrong. If a Powrie proves themselves to be truly twisted and horrible, they are given additional magical favors and can even be promoted to a changling known as a Poweriekin. It’s nice to see hard work and effort rewarded as they become even deadlier of assassins.

Most who see a Powrie only catch glimpses of them in the trees and it’s easy to think of them as some sort of pixie or sprite. Of course, that idea will immediately vanish out of your mind when you see that they are hardly a bundle of sunshine and light. The Powrie’s demeanor is downright horrifying and is incredibly offensive and rude to everyone, including its allies. They use language that would make a sailor blush and their foul tongue is so well known that those people who use such language are known as red tongues or that they have the voice of a Powrie.

If you can get a Powrie to stay in one place for longer than a second, you can see that these creatures are horrifying. They have sharp and jagged teeth, the wings of a wasp, the eyes of a snake, and sinister beards. Their wardrobe builds upon this image as their tunics and murder shashes are a dark crimson, and their hats are stained in the dark red blood of their victims. Why do they call them murder-shashes? Well, the Powrie use these long shashes as garrotes to strangle their victims, and we can only assume the Powrie slit the victim’s throat afterward and roll their hat around in the victim’s blood.

These creatures are quite devious and, if the wasp wings didn’t tip you off, like to disguise themselves as stinging flying insects. They can transform into red wasps, hornets, and other annoying insects that cause us to scream and freak out when it shoots too close to our heads. The Powrie can maintain this state for a total of three hours a day and can freely change back and forth between their shapes until they hit their limit.

If you aren’t deterred by their horrible looks, since we all know that beauty is skin deep and maybe they are quite nice once you get to know them, and are looking to visit them at home, don’t be expecting too much. Since they are only about a foot tall, their homes are quite small and are made of a paper-like substance. If you are at all familiar with a wasp nest, it's the same material that they are made from, chewed-up wood that is deposited to form a nest. There are no doors but rather holes to enter and exit from, and swarms of these creatures reside within a single nest, so we suggest not knocking it down when you try to enter it.

Let’s say, that somehow, someway, you have angered the Powrie, maybe you tried to enter their home or you just happen to be within a dozen miles of them and they decided to ruin your life – who knows. Doing battle with a Powrie is like fighting the embodiment of violence and understanding the insanity of evil in its purest form. The Powrie wields small, sharp daggers that only do a single point of damage, though they often load them up with a wide variety of poisons. The Powrie have a mouth full of honed teeth, which they use to bite and expose you to a permanent blinding poison. The Powrie can screech and cause you to become permanently deafened. These are the least of your problems.

To completely freak their victims out in the middle of combat, a Powrie can smile maniacally and horrifyingly, revealing a mouthful of those sharp little teeth. This grotesque smile forces everyone within 30 feet of them to make a saving throw or become so scared that they begin fleeing for their life for several turns. While that might not seem so bad, in this edition you can’t do anything but panic and run for your entire turn, and you are not as nearly fast a Powrie is so they can easily chase after you and continue to attack you while you are panicking and unable to defend yourself.

If you are capable of fighting back, you better have a powerful shiny weapon when you do. Only weapons made of platinum or those of +3 or greater enchantment have any effect on the Powrie. Not only are they immune to attacks from lesser weapons, but they are also immune to all weapons made of steel as well as lightning or electricity-based attacks. Your best bet is to lure the Powrie out of the darkness and into the sunlight since direct exposure to the light will burn their skin and do 1 point of damage per round no matter if they are in Powrie or annoying insect form. Hopefully, it’s not a rainy day when you do this, as the cloud cover will reduce this damage to one point per turn. It’s not much, but a point of damage is better than nothing, especially when you are blinded, deafened, and panic-running through a forest infested with these horrible sprites.

 

3e/3.5e – Redcap, Elder

Small Fey

Hit Dice: 12d6+72 (114 hp)

Initiative: +9

Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)

Armor Class: 21 (+1 size, +5 Dex, +5 natural), touch 16, flat-footed 16

Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+12

Attack: Medium scythe +11 melee (2d4+13/×4)* or Medium sling +13 ranged (1d6+7)

Full Attack: Medium scythe +11/+6 melee (2d4+13/×4)* or Medium sling +13 ranged (1d6+7)

Space/Reach: 5ft./5 ft.

Special Attacks: Eldritch stone, powerful build

Special Qualities: Damage reduction 10/cold iron, low-light vision

Saves: Fort +10, Ref +13, Will +9

Abilities: Str 22, Dex 21, Con 22, Int 11, Wis 12, Cha 13

Skills: Hide +24, Intimidate +16, Listen +18, Move Silently +20, Spot +18, Survival +16

Feats: Alertness, Cleave, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Track

Climate/Terrain: Temperate Hills

Organization: Solitary, gang, (1 plus 2 or 4 young redcaps), or band (2 plus 3, 5, 7, or 9 young recaps)

Challenge Rating: 7

Treasure: 1/2 coins only (plus 1 redcap tooth)

Alignment: Always chaotic evil

Advancement: 13–20 HD (Small)

Level Adjustment: +4

The Redcap finally has its true debut in Monster Manual 3 (2004) where it isn’t quite as horrible before, but we still wouldn’t want to run into one. Its opening description sets the tone for this frightening creature, stating that they appear as old men that stand 3 to 4 feet tall with thick leathery skin and a blood-soaked red hat. They wear heavy iron boots and wield a comically oversized scythe, with the cherry on top being their horrible tooth-filled grin.

You can easily stumble across these creatures in abandoned castles and towers where a tragic event has occurred; most likely them slaughtering the previous occupants. The Redcap decorates their new home for the long haul when it moves in since it is quite hard to kill, what with its natural strength, immunities, and desire to kill everything it comes across. A Redcap can live for up to 150 years, but given their lifestyle of violence, few survive to die of old age. It’s difficult trying to keep your hat coated in fresh blood and eventually a Redcap is going to face something scarier than them… like a murderhobo.

If you do happen to run into a Redcap, it won’t be alone since they like to live in small groups. You might be tipped off as you can hear lots of yelling and arguing in either common or sylvan as they speak both languages. There is always infighting amongst themselves, usually ending in the spilling of blood and death of one of its members, but they can be bullied by Elder Redcaps who can bring their strength down on the others, forcing them into some semblance of order. Elder Redcaps are powerful individuals who help guide their clan of horrible murderers and plan out raids and attacks.

If they don’t have an Elder Redcap, then they’ll end up killing their own as some disagreements can only be solved with kicks from iron boots and swinging scythes. When a Redcap kills a fellow Redcap versus killing you, the only difference is that it will never dip its hat around in the dead Redcap’s blood. They may have no problem killing one of their own, but there is a superstition amongst their race that a horrible curse will befall them if they freshen up their hat in a fellow Redcap’s blood. This is only one of the many superstitions that permeate Redcap society. Flowing water is thought to contain water spirits that can snatch their souls. Even numbers are horrible, and they only travel in odd-numbered groups and carry odd number coins. When they do worship a divine entity, it’s Erythnul, the god of slaughter.

If you are wondering just how exactly these creatures have been able to continue their species, when all they do is murder and kill, well, they have a unique relationship with their children. Redcaps are asexual creatures and only reproduce through budding, each doing so one to two times in their lifetime. When a Redcap is budding, it means that they grow a lump on their back that makes them appear like a hunchback, after a few months that lump falls off them. The lump then sprouts a head and appendages, before we guess they are given a scythe and iron boots. The ‘baby’ Redcap is basically just a miniature Redcap though they’ll reach full size within a year if they survive that long, and we assume they’ll find a cap to stick on their head soon.

If you are attacked by these creatures, who like to ambush creatures during dinner or when the sun is just beginning to set so they can take advantage of their low-light vision, get ready for a lot of pain. They start by using their slings which magically transforms any stones they shoot out of them into Eldritch Stones that gain a bonus to their attack rolls and allows them to deal 1d6 bludgeoning damage instead of only 1d4 bludgeoning that is typical for a sling. Once they decide you are properly battered, they’ll charge in with their sickles and begin swinging around recklessly. They have a feat known as Power Attack that allows them to take a penalty to their attack roll but deal extra damage, which is a favored tactic that a Redcap defaults to.

If you somehow defeat a Redcap, and are still alive yourself, then when they die their body disappears with only a single tooth left in their place. There isn’t any explanation why they turn into a tooth, but if you decide to wear it, you get a bonus to Charisma checks when interacting with the fey, probably because they hate these Redcaps just as much as anyone else – and anyone capable of bringing down a Redcap and proudly displays their tooth is probably just as much a murderhobo as a Redcap.

 

4e – Spriggan Powrie

Level 7 Skirmisher

Small fey humanoid / XP 300

Initiative +9 / Senses Perception +9; low-light vision

HP 79; Bloodied 639

AC 21 (23 against opportunity attacks); Fortitude 19, Reflex 20, Will 18

Speed 6

Sickle (standard; at-will) Weapon +12 vs. AC; 1d6+3 damage, plus ongoing 5 damage (save ends).

Hamstring (standard; recharges when first bloodied) Weapon +12 vs AC; 1d6+3 damage and the target is knocked prone, is slowed until the end of the Spriggan Powrie’s next turn, and takes an ongoing 5 damage (save ends).

Punt the Fallen (minor 1/round; at-will) Targets a prone creature; +12 vs. Fortitude; 1d6+3 damage and the spriggan powrie pushes the target 3 squares.

Blood Slide. A spriggan powrie does not provoke opportunity attack for moving out of a space adjacent to a bloodied creature or a creature that is taking ongoing damage.

Combat Advantage. When a spriggan powrie hits a creature that is taking ongoing damage and is granted combat advanatge to the powrie, the powrie’s attack increases the ongoing damage by 5.

Redcap Zeal (When the Spriggan powrie bloodies an enemy or reduces an enemy to 0 hit points or fewer; encounter). The powrie gain 1d8+2 temporary hit points

Alignment Evil / Languages Elven

Skills Athletics +11, Stealth +14, Thievery +12.

Str 16 (+6) Dex 18 (+7) Wis 12 (+4) Con 15 (+5) Int 10 (+4) Cha 12 (+5)

The Redcaps get a new name, the Spriggan, and appear in the Monster Manual 2 (2009). There are four different types of Spriggans, and as a race, they are described as gnomes transformed by fomorian magic that corrupted them into malevolent monsters. In fact, gnomes were once the slaves of fomorians, grotesque giants, and those that were unable to flee the Feywild and escape became the Spriggan. The Spriggan wander the Feywild soaking their hats in the blood of their victims, rejoicing in violence and acting as spies and scouts for fomorians and evil eladrin. We have to wonder if the gnomes left behind have a special hatred for their kin that made it out, and we recommend caution if you happen to play a gnome and encounter the Spriggan.

The Spriggan Powrie is the creature we are most interested in, though Spriggan lore says that they are all known by the Redcap moniker, and in fact, they even soak their shirts and pants in blood as well. As with the previous incarnation of the Redcap, these creatures wield a sickle to deadly effect. When they strike you with their sickle, you begin bleeding profusely until you can succeed at a saving throw to end the effects. Constantly bleeding isn’t good, especially since a bleeding creature gives the Powrie additional damage that they deal against them. Their favorite ability though is their Hamstring ability which knocks the target prone, slows them down like a slow spell, and causes them to bleed profusely until they can get their wound mended. We can only imagine that they are slicing through the back of your leg with wicked scythes, and then they get to laugh as you howl in pain, rocking back and forth on the ground. This is where their next ability, Punt the Fallen, comes into play where they just kick you as hard as they can, knocking you back 15 feet. So while you are on the ground, screaming in pain and holding your leg, the Spriggan kicks you so hard in the ribs you go flying backward. Of course, if you happen to put the Powrie in a tricky situation, and you happen to be bleeding, they can just slide away from you without provoking any attacks of opportunity. Why are they able to do this? Well, they use all the blood pouring out of your body to slide away like they are on a slip and slide.

The other three Spriggans are the Giantsoul, Thorn, and Witherer. Giantsouls retained the strength of their oppressors, being able to extend their arms to the length of a giant and them slamming you in the face with them. Thorn Spriggans can mark and inflict creatures with a curse of brambles. That seems pretty vague, but what you need to know is that you can end up in a thick patch of twisted vines with thorns if you aren’t careful. The Witherer controls the weather and can scorch you with the power of the sun or blow you away with gusts of wind. What unites all of these Spriggans is their Redcap Zeal trait, which grants them additional damage when they first reduce someone to half their hit points or when they manage to reduce you or your friend to 0 hit points.

Sadly, little else is revealed about these horrible gnome-sized murderers. They have very few allies, probably because they get a bit violent and get blood everywhere, but evil eladrin, fomorians, and others are willing to put up with them. They have their uses and are excellent raiders who pillage across the Feywild and the material world searching for food, riches, and creatures to slaughter and rub their clothes in the victim’s blood.

 

5e – Redcap

Small fey, chaotic evil

Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 45 (6d6 + 24)

Speed 25 ft.

STR 18 (+4) DEX 13 (+1) CON 18 (+4) INT 10 (+0) WIS 12 (+1) CHA 9 (-1)

Skills Athletics +6, Perception +3

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Languages Common, Sylvan

Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Iron Boots. While moving, the redcap has disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Outsize Strength. While grappling, the redcap is considered to be Medium. Also, wielding a heavy weapon doesn’t impose disadvantage on its attack rolls.

Multiattack. The redcap makes three attacks with its wicked sickle.

Wicked Sickle. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 9 (2d4+4) slashing damage.

Ironbound Pursuit. The redcap moves up to its speed to a creature it can see and kicks with its iron boots. The target must succeed on a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw or take 20 (3d10 + 4) bludgeoning damage and be knocked prone.

Volo’s Guide to Monsters (2016) brings us the Redcap in its latest form. They are back to being fey creatures, retaining their incredible strength from the previous edition, and their insatiable lust for blood remains the same. They will do just about anything to shed yours, especially if it involves killing you. This edition also provides some new lore that is actually an improvement on what has come before.

Redcaps aren’t natural creatures that frolic through fields and forests, instead, they are only born when there is a horrific murder. In the Feywild, or on the borders of the Feywild where its influence touches into the material world, redcaps can appear in the blood marks of a victim who is brutally murdered by someone overcome with an intense desire for violence and death. Tiny bloodstained mushroom caps will appear, the number of mushrooms is based on how violent and intense the death was, as well as how much blood was spilled. Once moonlight shines down on these mushroom caps, a fully grown baby Redcap bursts forth from the ground and is ready to just murder. They are already fully equipped with a leather pointed cap soaked in blood, heavy iron boots, their heavy scythe, and an innate hunger for carnage. We can imagine the shock a person must feel when they are strolling along in the midsummer night’s moonlight only to see an old, miniature gnome with a blood-soaked hat, sickle, and iron boots emerge from the soil. And then their shock when those blood-soaked gnomes begin chasing after them while screaming about swimming in their blood.

Let’s say you are those poor people who decided to take a walk at a crime scene under the moonlight for a romantic date, what exactly do you have to expect? Well, luckily you’ll at least hear these creatures before you see them as their heavy iron boots make it so they are pretty ineffectual at sneaking up on creatures, which actually reflects their personality. They are loud, confrontational, and overcome with a blood lust that turns them into a chaotic murder machine. So they’ll be quite loud as they yell and scream as they run up to you, and then kick you as hard as they can with their iron boots. If this doesn’t just outright kill you, like it would a normal commoner, then you are knocked prone and, as you are scrambling to run away from them, they’ll continue to kick you if you start getting too far away. If you can’t quite outrun these little murder-gnomes, then they’ll take out their intense hatred of your life with their sickle, stabbing and tearing into you three times every round until you die or you kill them. If you do die, you’ll get to feel them rubbing their hats in your blood as your soul leaves for the Shadowfell where the Raven Queen will send you on your way to your afterlife.

Redcaps are typically solo creatures, probably because they can’t stand the idea of a kill stealer, and if they want a job, will gravitate towards patrons who don’t mind their weird habits… like washing their clothes in blood. This brings us to our favorite appearance of the Redcap in Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus (2019). In this adventure, a night hag known as Maggie has made a deal with an eladrin supplier to always have at least 60 Redcaps and 30 Madcaps at her base. Madcaps are like Redcaps, but dialed up to 12 since they decided it would be a good idea, as a Redcap, to dip their hat in demon ichor, transforming them into even more of a chaotic fey than before. This doesn’t give them any new abilities or features but does give them a new hat that is almost fused into their skin and transforms them into an even madder creation. If you thought Redcaps were bad, Madcaps make them appear restrained and calm.

Redcaps are the penultimate murder-hobo, with only the edgy rogue with a tragic backstory beating them out. If you, and your group, are looking to become bad guys that spread devastation and destruction, the Redcap is a creature you have to learn from. We recommend only learning from books and folklore, though, as they probably don’t take interns, and if they do, it’s only a play to soak their hat in your freshly-spilled blood.


Past Deep Dives

Creatures: Aboleth / Ankheg / Beholder / Bulette / Chimera / Couatl / Displacer Beast / Djinni / Dragon Turtle / Dryad / Flumph / Frost Giant / Gelatinous Cube / Ghoul / Giff / Gith / Gnoll / Grell / Harpy / Hobgoblin / Hook Horror / Invisible Stalker / Kobold / Kraken / Kuo-Toa / Lich / Lizardfolk / Medusa / Mimic / Mind Flayer / Neogi / Nothic / Owlbear / Rakshasa / Rust Monster / Sahuagin / Scarecrow / Shadar-Kai / Slaadi / Umber Hulk / Vampire / Werewolf / Xorn
Class: Barbarian Class / Cleric Class / Wizard Class
Spells: Fireball Spell / Lost Spells / Named Spells / Quest Spells / Wish Spell
Other: The History of Bigby / The History of the Blood War / The History of the Raven Queen / The History of Vecna

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