Pregnancy and Childbirth
Being blessed with large numbers of offspring, particularly male offspring, is considered a virtue in medieval societies. House Mercere considers fecundity a desirable quality in Redcaps and encourages its Gifted and unGifted members to procreate extensively prior to consuming a Longevity Ritual.
For male messengers this may represent few problems other than the undesirable attention of irate fathers, cuckolded husbands and the disapproval of clerical authorities. For female Redcaps however that have not been rendered infertile due to a Longevity Ritual, the potential physical implications of pregnancy on their messenger role and the high rate of maternal mortality present difficulties or possible stories in their younger years.
The simplest approach is to simply ignore the physical effects of pregnancy and childbirth for female Redcaps, assume it has no in-game effects due to the ministrations of the skilled midwives and medical magic of House Mercere. With this approach there is therefore no loss in XP gained over any given period and the female Redcap has as many children as the player decides, perhaps reflected by the Dependents Flaw if suitable fostering arrangements cannot be made.
Another approach is to declare that the Redcap is infertile, whether by nature, accident or through Warping and is thus unable to fall pregnant despite attempts to the contrary. This is looked upon unfavorably by the House, which values high numbers of children and may result in a negative Reputation, equivalent to the Infamous Flaw, but may provide the opportunity for additional stories.
For Troupe’s desiring a more realistic approach, a more detailed option is given in the insert.
Optional Rules: Effects of Pregnancy & Birth
Conception should be treated as a story event that lasts several seasons rather than an exercise in mechanics dictated by a dice roll. Each trimester corresponds to a season, with the fourth season taken up by the child’s birth and infancy. Although animals traditionally give birth in Spring, Redcaps are not limited to this timing!
The first trimester has no significant physical effects on the female Redcap apart from perhaps a general sense of well-being. The second and third trimesters however each result in the gain of a Long-Term Fatigue level that cannot be recovered from by mundane means, resulting in appropriate penalties. This makes the Redcap more susceptible to the effects of both Short-Term Fatigue from bursts of strenuous activity but also Long-Term Fatigue resulting from all day activities such as hiking and travel. Some pregnant Redcaps may be reassigned to alternate duties such as teaching or training during these seasons, but many choose to continue their duties and some are forced by circumstance to travel regardless.
Any botch on a roll involving a physical activity during pregnancy such as combat (Brawl, any Martial Ability) or the use the Athletics, Ride, Survival or Swim Abilities results in a miscarriage and loss of the unborn child. At the Storyguide’s discretion, a severe botch may The ordeal of miscarriage inflicts a Medium Wound and 2 Short-Term Fatigue Levels unless the Redcap is treated by a skilled midwife. The attending midwife must make a Chirurgery (midwifery) roll against an Ease Factor of 9. If unsuccessful, the Wound and Fatigue Levels are recovered from normally. A botch on this roll results in permanent infertility.
As noted in Art & Academe page 62-63, childbirth inflicts the equivalent of a Medium Wound but requires Wound Recovery rolls every 2 hours with the baby being born only when the mother reaches an “unwounded” state. Without assistance, childbirth results in the death of two out of every ten mothers and even then one or two out of every ten children born die during childbirth or immediately thereafter.
Due to their focus on family and children, members of House Mercere have ready access to skilled midwives (often retired female Redcaps), enchanted items and obstetric magic to aid childbirth. Some examples of obstetric magic are given in the description of Aurulentus of Jerbiton in Magi of Hermes, pages 20-24 and in Chapter 4: Fertility Magic in Ancient Magic.