Redcaps are another one of those monsters that stem from folklore and have found a home in fantasy roleplaying. They tend to show up in stories about evil fey, from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files to The Hollow on Netflix.
In Dungeons and Dragons 5e, they are murderous fairies who delight in spilling blood and will stop at nothing to soak their caps in it like Napoleon’s cape.
What follows in this post is a rundown of these scary creatures. We will begin with a detailed analysis of their stat block and follow up with their preferred tactics in combat. Following that, we will discuss how you can counter those tactics and turn the tide of the battle in your favor.
Finally, we will end with a tasty little DM snack: a way to vary up the redcaps to make them fit into any themed adventure followed up by the seed of a story that you can put into your campaign and watch it grow.
What Is a Redcap in DnD 5e?
A redcap is a small, CR 3 chaotic evil fey born out of violence that revels in bloody murder.
Let’s start with a breakdown of the stat block before going into detail on how this little bugger will try to kill you and what you can do to stop it.
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)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
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 + 2) 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.
“See, it’s just a little fairy. It shouldn’t be too hard or too mean, right? I mean, c’mon… how bad could it be?”
Dude. It’s small and it’s Chaotic Evil. Have you ever not fed a cat when it was hungry? I bet that thing tried to murder you when walked down the stairs.
Don’t let the small stature fool you. This thing will kill you dead.
The redcap has a low AC but not necessarily because it isn’t a good combatant. Based on the description, this creature is just so wild and bloodthirsty that its only defense is more offense. It certainly has enough Hit Points to worry a tier-I party.
Although 25 feet may seem like a slow movement speed, the redcap has an ability we will see in a little bit that makes this stat deceptive.
And 18 Strength? This little dude is ripped! He looks like a smaller version of your angry serial killer, lumberjack grandpa.
While the rest of its ability scores are fairly average, that high strength will give it a cool +4 bonus to attack and damage on top of whatever it gets as a CR 3 creature.
The main thing to notice here is the redcap’s athletics score. With a +6, the redcap will be able to outrun or outpace you in long distances AND outclimb you, so don’t think you can just stand on the countertop and be safe from this murderous little fey.
The iron boots of the redcap can be used by your DM to play up the horror of being pursued by something you can hear but may not be able to see.
The thing is that the redcap wants you to hear it coming. It wants you to be afraid, and it wants you to fight. It’s an adrenaline junkie that lives and breathes for the chaos of violence.
The high strength comes back into play here with its outsized strength. If it chooses to grapple you or if you think you can just pick this dude up by beard, you will be sorely mistaken. It is treated as a Medium creature when grappling, and it can also use heavy weapons with no penalty.
It could pick up a table and beat you with it.
The redcap’s love of blood sport grants it three attacks in a single action, each one with a +6 to hit and 2d4+2 damage.
The sickle it uses is different than the standard one you will find in the Player’s Handbook. Instead of dealing 1d4 +4 as a creature with 18 Strength ought with a sickle, the redcap deals 2d4 plus 2. This will give it a higher average damage without being too overwhelming for a tier-1 player.
Finally, the ironbound pursuit action is essentially a dash action that ends in an attack worth 3d10 +4 damage that knocks you prone. This stands a fair chance of taking out a tier-1 player and should be considered when you place yourself on the board.
The redcap is not one for subtlety. It will not sneak up on you. It will not deceive you. Instead, it will charge in, drop-kick you, and then cut you up with its wicked sickle.
If you happen to withstand its ironbound pursuit drop kick without falling prone, it will most likely run away from you to charge someone else.
The redcap deals maximum damage when it knocks a creature prone and then attacks with its sickle, so expect it to do that at every opportunity.
This means it will pick the weakest-looking target, like the wizard or the sorcerer. One look at those frail creatures will be enough to tempt a bully like the redcap.
After it knocks a player (the wizard) prone, it may decide to sacrifice one of its wicked sickle attacks to grapple that character, the reason being that if it can restrain that character, it will have advantage on its next series of attacks.
As a chaotic evil creature, it has no sense of honor or fair fighting. It only wants to paint the walls with your blood in a Jackson Pollock fresco.
Repeat after me: “I use the dodge action.” If you can do that and force the redcap to miss, you will be able to attempt an opportunity attack when it charges someone else.
If you are a spellcaster (i.e. a tasty snack), then you should prepare whatever defenses you have, such as blur, mirror image, or expeditious retreat. If you can frustrate the redcap’s attempts to knock you down and drag you around, then you can wait for it to attack someone else while you make your move.
If you happen to be outnumbered by redcaps, then you’ll use a similar tactic. In the chaos of a large-scale battle, using the confusion to sneak up behind and drop-kick someone when they aren’t looking will simply be too tempting.
In this scenario, you can still get the opportunity attack.
The main goal here is to make yourself an inopportune target that is not worth the hassle.
Another way to make this true is to provide an easy target. If there is a player who can cast an illusion spell, ask them to produce an image of a bleeding party member on the ground. When the redcaps all converge on that location, have another player hit it with a fireball.
Good offensive spells for redcap encounters include flaming sphere to interrupt their movement path, web to slow them down, and heat metal to make them regret their choice in footwear.
Redcaps are fun little monsters to play as a DM. they are belligerent, single-minded, and not into subtleness or guile.
There is plenty to work with here to make your next adventure one for the ages.
Redcaps are typically created in places where the feywild touches the material plane, but what if you could place them anywhere there is lots of blood, like a butcher’s shop?
What if there was a butcher who found these little guys asking for more blood, so the butcher trained them as butchers? Now the redcaps run the shop and almost keep the butcher prisoner.
As soon as the butcher runs out of meat… he might be next.
Alternatively, you could change the whole bloodlust aspect of the redcaps and make them fascinated with a particular type of magical damage. See, redcaps love spilled blood, so they deal slashing damage with wicked sickles.
What if there were a patch of redcaps that grew out of a black dragon’s acid breath and so have an insatiable craving to deal acid damage to innocent creatures? Would they go beyond attacking with acid weapons and instead create elaborate acidic traps?
In this way, you can modify the redcaps to fit any environment – urban, Underdark, coastal, whichever – to meet your needs, and your players may even be none the wiser!
As chaotic evil monsters, the redcaps tend to eschew any attempt at self-organization beyond following whichever leader will provide the most bloodsport.
That being said, what other types of monsters or creatures out there are fascinated with blood?
Maybe gladiatorial arenas could have squads of redcaps acting as cleaning crews. Perhaps a cult of a blood god could use redcaps as blessed little messengers of murder and mayhem. Giving them a little authority suddenly gives their irrepressible rampage a frightening ethos.
Maybe Strahd could invite a few redcaps over for a drink before sending them out as a rampaging mercenary squad to find and attack the PCs.
Consider giving the redcaps a motivation beyond senseless killing. Maybe they have heard of a ritual to summon a blood demon, or perhaps they are pursuing a means of improving their abilities magically, such as with invisibility or enlarge. Give them some hostages, and make them negotiate with the PCs in a hostage exchange.
Even though redcaps are fairly simple creatures, they aren’t stupid by any means. They can add loads of flavor and depth to your adventure with a little thought and willingness to improvise.
Story Seed – A Plague of Redcaps
If you enjoy playing these evil little things as a DM, what follows is a fun scenario that you could run in between adventures that will not only provide combat opportunities for your PCs but also make for some amazing roleplay.
A Plague of Redcaps
The next time your players have a satisfying battle against a BBEG that meets its plot-determined demise, consider having a bloom of redcaps pop up and follow the PCs.
Since the PCs will have been the killers who gave rise to the redcaps, this will force the PCs to realize that, even if they are warriors of justice and goodness (whatever that means), they will still need to deal with the fact that they are killers.
The redcaps, of course, will not be violent toward the PCs at first, even if they committed several murders while they tried to catch up to the PCs. They will attempt to emulate the PCs and learn all they can from them in order to join the adventuring party, almost acting like little mascots.
Cute, right? Funny little guys hanging on to every word any PC says, mimicking their actions, imitating the PCs like only true stans can. Sure, it’s cute… until the PCs realize they are being praised by chaotic evil redcaps who are now twisting everything the PCs say into an excuse to murder.
How will the PCs deal with the redcaps, especially since killing them might just create more?
*an evil Black Citadel DM laugh*
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.