So this is the latest (at least currently published) Tribunal Book and I think looking at the Redcaps in it makes for an interesting contrast to the Stonehenge representation of Redcaps I discussed earlier presented in ArM4 Heirs to Merlin.
For a start, there’s a lot more Redcaps – there’s actually 13 in total to be exact (all unGifted). For what seems such a geographically small Tribunal with only 9 large covenants detailed (although possibly many smaller covenants and a fair share of eremites perhaps) that seems like a generous share compared to the five detailed for Stonehenge.
Second, there’s conflict between the Redcaps located within the same Tribunal (the scholarly southern Leth Moga contingent versus the martial northern Leth Cuinn group) , as opposed to the conflict between the variant Transylvanian Tribunal Redcaps and their conservative superiors based out of Harco in the Roman Tribunal. This is an interesting element of friction to introduce which I can’t recall seeing before – sure there have been rivalries between individuals but a intra-Tribunal tension is something new.
The physical feats defined by the cleasa and the distinctly local Irish manifestation of the Cult of Heroes detailed in the Leth Cuinn description are a welcome development of a concept originally introduced way back in Houses of Hermes: True Lineages. None of the Redcaps are implied to have the Blood of Heroes Virtue admittedly but there’s definite support here for a non-magus style Saga if you so choose (I’d note that Matt Ryan has run a Redcap themed non-magus Saga using only Mythic Companions and hedge-wizards with some success, so perhaps that has influenced some of the elements presented in this supplement).
The fourth difference is very welcome – the use of Mystery Initiations for unGifted characters. This has been something I’ve been interested in since Timothy Ferguson introduced the concept I believe in ArM4 Living Lore. As a mechanism for gaining cleasa “feats” from the faerie Uthacht it makes a great deal of sense, but it’s implied that the Art of Memory Virtue learnt by the southern Redcaps is gained in this manner (although which Organisation Lore is used and what scripts remains undetailed). I believe there’s a strong argument for similar such “Redcap Mysteries” using House Mercere Lore as the major Ability, something I hope to pick up on in due course.
Fifth, one of the unGifted Redcaps votes at Tribunal. This is remarkable in itself given the tradition that unGifted Mercere do not vote out of respect (although entitled to). Little is made of Daire an Chogaidh’s bold gesture (no Story Seed) other than a line about the Primus of Mercere preparing a response but such a precedent has interesting implications. I wonder whether a similar gesture in the Rhine, Normandy or Provencal would probably elicit a much more rapid and vengeful response. On the flip side, I wonder whether a Redcap voting would ever be acceptable or even relatively commonplace in a peripheral tribunal such as the Levant or Novgorod?
Finally, the use of the faerie trods (see paragraphs on “The High Roads”, pages 123-124) as a means of assisting Redcap travel is simply inspired. I’d been trying to work out how to use Faerie trods for Redcaps and now I don’t need to as it’s already been detailed. I hope to adapt it to other Tribunals and regions (like the Mythic Middle East for instance…)
But despite all this differences there are definite similarities…
- The two Hibernian Mercer Houses are physically distinct from the various covenants they carry messages to, like the Coventry House example in Stonehenge.
- Like their eastern cousins, the Hibernian Redcaps detailed are still messengers primarily, although the southern group (with access to Mystery Initiation of the Art of Memory Virtue) admittedly has the additional responsibility of keeping track of the Hermetic history of the tribunal.
- The culture of the Hibernian Redcaps seems otherwise fairly similar to that presented in the ArM5 corebook to an extent that House of Hermes: True Lineages is probably not required to use this material.
Overall I like the presentation of Redcaps in The Contested Isle. There’s enough core concepts but with some interesting variations and ideas that can be adapted for use in other Tribunals and for individual Redcap characters in individual Sagas (eg. imagine a Hibernian trained Redcap with cleasa traveling through the Roman Tribunal or contesting a wrestling match in the Greater Alps).
It’s encouraging to see how the core concept has been developed in the last 15 years!