One of the major concepts I worked on for the Arelat section of Faith and Flame was that of the allied hedge wizard herbalists of the Coenobium, the so-called “Masques of the Coenobium”.
This concept was eventually watered down to an insert of the same name, the Pralician character Lavandarius and some details on Lavender of Virtue.
Lavandula or lavender is such an iconic symbol of modern Provence that I wanted to be able to include it somehow in the Arelat section but without it being too anachronistic. This attempt lead to a whole lot of research into medieval herbalism, the reputedly magical classical properties of lavender in ancient Greek medicine and investigation into the local folk magic of Provence.
As I’m a unabashed “hedge magic tragic” from way back, some sort of allied collective of subsidiary Cunning-Folk / Folk Witch style herbalists seemed a logical concept to develop further, particularly for a covenant like the Coenobium where the Jerbiton magi style themselves as living in good taste (hence the perfumes, fine pastries, sauces and spiced wine) and the Redcap contingent has need for a plethora of useful minor magical items.
I’d always considered Hermetic enchanted devices as quite powerful for Redcaps (although arguably important from a meta-game perspective) and wanted to explore the potential of Redcaps relying on hedge magic devices as it seemed more authentically medieval in flavour. More on this perhaps in a later post…
The following article collects some of this material cut from the Arelat drafts:
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.
The ArM4 supplement Heirs to Merlin, by David Chart,briefly details five male Stonehenge Redcaps (Jocelin, Percival, Great William, Little William and Edgar) based out of the so-called Mercer House near Coventry, a location that is geographically central (pages 114-115).
Although no longer canonical for fifth edition, the supplement contains no game statistics and the material within can be readily adapted to ArM5 (or potentially adapted to a different game system and used as background setting material).
The Mercer House and Redcaps mentioned in Heirs to Merlin differ somewhat from the later ArM5 versions (for details see Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, pages 82-88). These differences may be readily developed however and may create interesting stories.
I’ve been interested in falconry for a while now, although given it’s really more of a lifestyle or art than a mere hobby and it’s virtually impossible practice while technically legal in Australia, my chances of flying any form of raptor unfortunately approaches very close to zero…
This interest helped me write the short Arab Falconry Insert for The Cradle and the Crescent (extrapolating somewhat from the ideas presented in Lords of Men), something I wish I could have expanded on if we’d had words, but regardless of any regrets, the research for that short section was a whole lot of fun and I collected a surplus of ideas and reference material that I knew I’d end up using at some stage.
As further background, the concept of the Milvi Antiquiti, the group of Redcaps that transform into raptors to deliver their messages, has always been a fascinating one to me. The concept however creates an essential problem for the standard Redcap build – what do the Redcaps that can shapeshift into kites using non-Hermetic magic (the Skinchanger Virtue or similar inherent magical powers from Blood of Heroes or hedge magic effects) use for magic items? Just using the available spell levels of enchantment for transformation magic seems inflexible, even at the price of assigning a Minor Virtue to account for the shapeshifting role.
Sure, there are some ideas in the ArM5 corebook that were later expanded on in the Bjornaer section of Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults for dealing with magic items that shift with their wearer or are usable in animal form, but the focus was not really on items useful to Redcaps IMO. I’d therefore started started doodling around with developing the Lady of Doves, a Mythic Companion Redcap concept themed around doves based on some hedge magic ideas of Timothy’s from an upcoming supplement, and the various magical avian accessories grew organically out of that.
The 30 Redcap Magic Items NaGaDeMon attempt gave me a reason to develop these further, although I hadn’t quite worked out what I was trying to achieve with the concepts – I realise now that more than just providing a “shopping list” for Redcap characters I wanted to push the boundaries of the idea of Redcap equipment beyond the standard magic cloak / magic food preparation device / magic travel device combination that seems to have become a default.
I think these avian items go some way towards achieving this, but I haven’t stopped there and have some wilder ideas still to come…
Life does that – sickness in the family, unexpected pressures at work, trying to buy (and sell) a house while planning a trip to Europe etc etc.
Although it doesn’t excuse anything, I notice that the other attempts at NaNoWriMo / NaGaDeMon similarly stalled. (Although Timothy’s “Vanilla Covenant” project seems to be faring well, even though he is the first to admit he’s not really playing by the rules).
Still, it was a real fun start and one post and page per week on this blog wasn’t a bad achievement compared to some of the months I’ve been blogging. I’m really proud of the makila(walking sticks) and lickstone concepts – sure I lifted the latter concept completely from Timothy and just rebadged it for ArM5, but it seems a given to me that magical golden dental plates are a must for any self-respecting fashion conscious 13th century Redcap! 🙂
I found by focusing on a particular topic I actually managed to accumulate a lot of interesting ideas that I’ll hopefully use in the future – tattoos, Faeries as Items, magical feathers and much much more – perhaps even Marco’s amazing Faerie shoes. It also got me thinking about some other concepts: low-level common items with basic magics, the role of hedge magic items for Redcaps, mutable items complements, guidelines for single-use items and their replacements, Redcaps using stories as items, Faerie Item Companions, the interaction between Faerie charms and Redcaps… I think there’s actually a lot to be explored here so I do want to eventually write a full 30 posts / pages on Redcap magic items.
On a technical note, I also learnt quite a bit more about blogging style and formatting, which I think will help as I evolve the rest of the blog and go back and correct some of the issues I had initially with formatting exported text from cut files of supplements or Sub Rosa articles.
I’ve decided to try my hand at NaGaDeMon, but since I’m starting a bit late I’m not going to follow “the rules” as such, I’m just going to try and post as many ideas about Redcap Magic Items as possible within the month and see what I can build up as a resource.
Some of the material will be new, some will be drawn from previously worked up ideas or material cut from various supplements and articles I’ve worked on. The material will be a mixture of design notes, fully worked up items and perhaps some musings on the role, economy and traditions of Redcap equipment.