Settings: Ionian Feywild, Faerun, D&D in general
As you bed down in the lush planes of the Feywild, a rustling nearby gives you pause. A hand goes to your sword hilt as your eyes trace the horizon. The red, long grasses point and shift in gentle breeze, and you scan the stalks for movement. You see none, and that's the problem.
There, flanked by the grass, you see a pointed leather hat, the silhouette of a hunched, twisted creature. You hesitate, thinking it a nymph or fairy, but then you hear it. The harsh, raspy sound of a rusted blade being dragged through the grass. It sends a shiver up your spine and a tight, cold knot settles in your stomach as a pair of red eyes stare back at you from the darkness. A chuckle drips from between yellowed teeth stained with blood as its name reaches your mind and you draw your sword.
A face wild with bloodlust rushes at you from the brush as dozens of other hats rise from the grass around you...
Blood Lust Muffins
Don't let this giggling little murder Santa fool you, a Redcap is a nasty little bugger.
Literally born of bloodlust, these homicidal Fey form and gather wherever a sentient creature has spilled fresh blood. If they chance to appear, they often grow out of the ground as tiny bloodstained mushrooms trying to push their way out of the soil. If a ray of moonlight, magical or otherwise, shines upon the bloody mushroom cap, a creature claws its way out of the loose soil.
A twisted, sinewy, wizened gnome creature with wild eyes and a shock-white beard, the vision of a Redcap is unnerving to say the least. Wearing a blood-soaked red leader cap (originally the mushroom's top), patchwork leather shirt and pants, heavy steel boots (used for kicking, see below), and a vicious, heavy blade. Some sprout with sickles or scimitars, others with knives and pitchforks; the nastiest carry fine chef cutlery with a dreadful grin across yellowed teeth.
It is a sight to behold, and if you linger long enough that they notice you, best prepare to fight for your life.
Slaughter By Necessity
A Redcap's time on this plane is not long. In order to persist in its personal mission of murder, it must soak its hat in the blood of its victims. The hat will slowly soak up the blood, drying out over the course of three days. If the Redcap cannot wet the hat with more fresh blood by then, it ceases to be, and this fact drives its bloodlust forward with an intense need. Some explorers have ventured that the removal of the cap may also end a Redcap's lifespan, but tearing it from its head has proven very difficult and dangerous; none have succeeded thus far.
Some Redcaps enter existence with some knowledge of the murderous act that brought them to bear, and may seek the creature responsible as their first victim. It is unclear if they feel empathy for the murderer, or some measure of tracking link to them, but they tend to track them down either to satiate their cap or be led to more slaughter. Either way, perpetuating their own existence is rooted in killing, so they are their own vicious cycle.
Notes and Features
These danger boys are Small creatures, so around 25 feet of movement per round. Darkvision's a given, but their iron boots won't help their stealth. Not sure they care though.
Unnaturally strong, a Redcap boasts an impressive attack and Strength score (+6 / 18). And they're vicious little buggers, attacking at least 3 times each turn. I say it like that because a Redcap has a nasty attack tied to its movement. These little jerks can charge you and punt you over with a heavy iron kick from one of their boots.
Yeah, yeah, it's funny now. See how much you laugh when a swarm of them start curb stomping your Paladin into goo (3d10+4 bludgeoning damage ain't a joke).
Lucky for you, they're AC / HP outputs are pretty small (13-14 / 40 or so), and a decent Barbarian build should smash a few before things get too dicey. But don't underestimate them. When these bad boys grapple, they do it as Medium creatures, and being Small to begin with, they can pile on you. Remember, killing you cements their lifespan for another three days. I'd say they're pretty MOTIVATED.
Redcaps in Ionian Lore
On the neutral grounds of the Fey Court, many lords and ladies hold special stations. Some employ or barter their own personal bards, cooks, and butlers from the denizens of the Wylds, or from the ranks of foolish travelers that wander into their theaters. For if a creature does their job well, a Fey will often covet such skill, adopting it into their folds for future use and entertainment.
Most of the time, the subjects are unwilling participants in this display of power, and depending on the season, their servitude is short-lived, for The Accords must be maintained while the trade routes are open. But some...subjects...feel a calling to remain, and for these willing mortals, great positions of power await. This is a path to Knighthood under the Queens of the Air and Fire, or to swell the ranks of The Wild Hunt. And to others, another position awaits. Someone to tend the gardens and landscapes of the grand, opulent noble manors, and, when needed, cull the flock.
If the subtext is not yet clear, these "Gardeners" serve a dual purpose. As with so many facets of the Fey, there is always a darker side to the coin, and these otherwise calculating taskmasters are universally feared among the Courts. If ever you are invited to a Lady or Lord's home and find yourself alone with their Gardener, one is advised to exit the premises as soon as possible, leaving the way you came in. A noble should always greet you themselves to allow passage into their home; if they do not, another might deem you a threat. Remember, a Gardener's job is to keep the grounds safe and tidy. Little pests cannot be allowed to roam.
So when you invariably find yourself lost and alone in a vibrant, intoxicating floral maze of high thorns and broad bush, remember...we warned you. Your blood is their water, your flesh their fertilizer, so don't be surprised by the knife as it plunges deep with a twist, nor of the sprouting red mushrooms that bubble up around your corpse. For every garden needs tending, and new children need to eat...
And with that terrible thought...sleep well and I'll see you at the table.
Professional Game Master musician, music teacher, game designer, amateur bartender, and aspiring fiction author.
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