can recaps retire?

I may have overlooked the answers in HoH:TL.
Or more to the point, do they retain their magus status when they can no longer perform their duty?

eg after 80 years of service, Redcap Arthritus has slowed down so much he retires to look after his great, great grandchildren at his home Covenant.
What is his Magus status?

Or is he threatened with Orbus status, and will have to convince another House to let him join.

What happens in the unlikely case if another House tries to recruit a Redcap?
The Redcap surmounted the challenges set by a Beloved Enemy in House Tytalus, or turns out to have a Supernatural flair for art that appeals to House Jerbiton?

Once they've sworn the Oath, it's forever: they can only cease to be members of the Order of Hermes if Marched.

Yes, they can retire, though it's nowhere stated exactly when; HoH:TL references the existence of retired Redcaps on p92:

It is common for retired Redcaps to set up inns on well-traveled roads, giving free shelter to members of their House and others in the Order, and making their living by providing a meal and a bed for travelers of Mythic Europe.

In the unlikely case that a magus of another House tries to recruit a Redcap he will be roundly mocked and harassed by literally the entire rest of the Order, especially the rest of House Mercere. He'd best not expect to get his mail intact or on time ever again.

It would be a very, very odd Tytalus who attempted to take a Beloved Enemy who was not of comparable magical power, since they could not reasonably be expected to challenge and be challenged in turn on a relatively equal basis.

Even if Larta Magi are still canon, why would the Jerbiton even bother trying to recruit such an artist to House Jerbiton? The artist in question already enjoys the protection of the Code.

retirement as we think of it is essentially unheard of in medieval europe- certainly there is no ability to save for retirement or the like. However, the sale of annuities was an early way to hide interest payment and provided income for people who were no longer physically able to work. It is mentioned that a "retired" redcap may buy an inn, which means they may not run messages on the road but are likely providing certain services for the house such as holding onto letters that one redcap brings by for another one to pick up. Or they may have located a book not covered by calf and cow and spend their retirement copying it, or even write their own books on topics like area lore or bargain... presumably if they are retired from mail delivery however they will no longer receive their 2 pawns a year in revenue, and if they want to get their LR renewed they will need to pay for it themselves.
Of course if they can sell their enchanted objects back to the house that might provide for them for a while...

These can likely be bought not only from monasteries, but also from House Mercere in its function as HoH:TL p.84ff Merchants and Bankers.
Settling to receive one pawn of Vis per year from their House in lieu of magic items (HoH:TL p.89) might generate some income and secure a retired Redcap a sedentary existence not only as an inn-keeper, but also as an Hermetic banker or an aid to such.

Alexandria in the Thebes Tribunal "serves as a retirement house for Redcaps too old or too Warped by Twilight to effectively fulfill their duties."


House Mercere is family, so they look after their own. That's what they do. And it is what people do in general, in most societies, and in particular in medieval Europe. That the Oath is for life has already been said. Hence it would be absurd if a retiree would be cast out or left to starve.

Retirement could mean two different things, one can retire to `desk duties', or one can retire to interest payments and benefits. I think it is mentioned several places that redcaps no longer fit to travel, retire to less strenuous work, such as clerks to the house or the tribunal. In my mind, there are a lot of such clerks in the Order, not so much the obvious copyists that make such an impact on covenant stats, but more importantly the secretaries who keep records and accounts of all sorts.

Innkeepers actually feel less likely to me. I have a feeling that it is mentioned because the friendly inn, with an innkeeper with an interesting past, is such a popular trope in fiction. It happens, but it probably does not happen more often than the story requires.

Can people/redcaps retire to live on benefits or interest? @silveroak is of course right that that it is hardly possible in a modern sense. There are several possibilities,

  1. Monasteries - and covenants - and presumably Mercere houses too - are households which take care of their members and staff. Taking care of disabled employees has been common, if not universal.
  2. Vis banking is canon, and some magi pay silver for vis, so living off interest is possible for redcaps.
  3. Business shares pay dividends, so investing money in business could provide a pension, with the caveat that a businessman has to manage the business, and a sleeping partner may be ill thought of and possibly cheated.

A common form of retirement which goes way back to before modern banking and pension arrangments, in cases where farmers own their land, is to get room and board for life as part as the sales term, regardless of whether they sell to their heirs or sell out of the family. I would be surprised if this does not occurred in medieval times, and it seems like a plausible option when a retired redcap innkeeper can no longer keep his inn.

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The retired Redcap who becomes an innkeeper can actually still be very relevant to his House. Not all "Mercere Houses" are part of a covenant or a massive construction. Many of them are far smaller and occupy a backroom or basement of a business. Those that are in hospitality or trade are especially valuable since they provide access to things likes goods and rumors.

So that retired Redcap innkeeper most likely collects rumors and information he passes on to his house, has a secure room where mail and/or house goods are stored, and most likely has a couple of rooms where his "nieces and nephews" can stay when they are passing through.

Maybe it's a little boring, but I would assume that old recaps keep living in their old Covenant but stop travelling at some point. Horst of Fengheld as the senior Redcar for the Rhine probably does not deliver mail but writes tractatii on things to pass the time when not doing bureaucracy.

A Redcap with the right attributes/abilities could retire as a Covenant 's steward, teacher or scribe. The cost of maintenance for one mundane is not so high that the magi would just kick them out running the risk of upsetting House Mercere.


I suspect we talk about two different things here.

You describe a way station of the House under the cover of an inn. I agree that those exist, but I refuse to call it an inn because it is going to require funding which cannot be earned from the business as an inn. Several spare rooms for family is going to make the inn stick out like a sore thumb in most parts of the medieval Europe, and a secure room, hard to keep secret, is likely to draw attention. This makes the cover hard, and you need to be prepared to defend it. This makes it expensive to keep up.

An old traveller keeping a modest inn can blend in and provide for himself from the inn, a cow or two, and some chicken on the side. I am sure he will still contribute gossip to the house, provide shelter for his family and sodales, and if needed, hang on to letters for the next redcap to pass by. He may well still wear his red cap, or use it as the door sign.

In either case, I find it more likely that magi (including redcaps) bring rich gifts than their staying for free. Inns are scarce in medieval Europe and are unlikely to provide the standard of living that the redcap could get by staying at a Mercere house or covenant.

I don't think they would be legally allowed to kick someone out. Covenant charters are usually contracts for life. No redcap in their right mind would join a covenant with a charter that would let them be cast out when they become old and frail.

In our saga we decided that redcaps did retire, but it was a very informal thing and the nature of the retirement relies very much on the "clout" of the redcap in question.

The baseline (an unexceptional redcap - hasn't been disgraced, isn't owed any favours) would be to be looked after for life at the least. Probably just living in a Mercer house for the rest of their days, possibly looked after by their own descendants if they have them. They're still expected to do what they can, but this might not be much or even anything. They will never go hungry or lack for somewhere to live, but for anything else are dependent on the kindness of other (younger) Mercere. In our saga there's a Mercer house in Bath that's mostly inhabited by redcaps too old to work.

Exceptional redcaps who've built up some favours or a sizeable quantity of vis on the other hand can negotiate a retirement of their choosing on a case-by-case basis. In our saga there is a redcap who served an exceptionally long time (strong faerie blood, long life) and accumulated a lot of favours, which he used to retire to a covenant in his native region and write books for the rest of his days. His books are mostly on Area Lores, so this is respectable because they still serve the house in a way by being instructional to younger redcaps.

I imagine the inn thing would be closer to the latter, where it's a reasonably influential redcap cashing in favours to "serve the house" in a way that actually gives them a nice retirement of their choosing. It's still respectable because they'll be providing a service of sorts to the order. Other options might be working a desk job (vis banking?), acting as a tutor to Mercere children, using their saved vis and buying a magic item (or the casting of a ritual spell) to set them up with mundane wealth for life and actually leaving the order.

Another option is that the really adventurous redcaps who are reaching the age of being incapable of travel will set of on one last grand adventure without intending to ever return. Trying to find a way into the magic realm, for example. I could see the house sort of tacitly permitting this.

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I know half the covenants I've been a member of of in the 5th edition would have loved to have a few retired redcaps around. Simply for the political good will. If house Mercere wants a retirement home in the Rhine tribunal, I'm sure we can set something up!

Keep in mind as well that the traditional medieval form of retirement was to be looked after by your children when they inherited whatever you left them. For house mercere there has always been a push to expand their numbers which can only be done through children, so using the same model would give redcaps an incentive to build the family line. I really do wish the culture of the redcaps had been gone into in more detail instead of putting so much space into mercere mages of which, by RAW, there are less than 12.

Canon is not that clear about this. While they only train their own Gifted children, they seem to need more redcap apprentices than they can breed. Conversely, do they train all their children as redcaps? Or are there other criteria for selected apprentices?

Indeed, more pages should have been devoted to answering these questions.

Logically, that should mean that young redcaps get bursts of magic items as inheritance when their parents or parens retire, instead of the evenly spaced levels per year ...

But yes. That is the medieval retirement. There are two interpretations thereof though. Do you get care in exchange for your estate? Or do you get care as a moral family obligation?

The mechanisms are similar for people who live on communal estates (monasteries and covenants) and people who trade their estates for care (often because they do not have no heirs).

There are references to retired Redcaps running inns, yes, but also going into other House oriented services such trading, and scribing (possibly meaning running a scriptoum?). I suspect retired Redcaps also pursue mundane banking, reporting services (both journalism and spying), and shipping.

Retirement for Redcaps seems to mean they do not personally tread the land, not that they sink into a comfortable pension. This makes sense, as a Redcap of 50 probably has the vigor of a 35 year old.

The archtypical career of a Redcap may be: apprenticeship to early 20s; thirty to fifty years of carriage, during which there is a 15 year period of time they are also expected to produce children; another similar period when they have taken longevity magic; then retirement while they are hale, into a career useful to the House and Family; in their dotage, a comfortable pension.

My thoughts.

1.) Life as a redcap is dangerous. Even with magical items, dying of violence is probably fairly high among Redcaps, even though the Order highly discourages attacks on Redcaps. Magical/Faerie/Infernal critters don't care. So not too many will reach retirement.
2.) Redcaps live long, useful lives thanks to Longevity Rituals. Redcaps that are strictly mundane (no Supernatural Ability) are probably active into their 80's, Redcaps getting full benefit from LRs (generally by having a Supernatural Ability) can be easily active into their 120's and beyond. But see #1, above, living longer means more dangerous encounters and chance to die.
3.) Redcaps that survive those dangerous encounters will live long enough to see warping become a serious issue. Two minor flaws probably aren't too bad, but once the major flaws start kicking in - especially Magical Air, which is probably the most likely one to happen for a Redcap, their usefulness as a Redcap plummets and their ability to interact with normal society also goes away.
4.) Redcaps have large families and live long enough to accumulate substantial wealth, so end-of-life support really isn't an issue. At a bare minimum, those few Redcaps that survive to retirement probably have a half decent Teaching score and a ton of useful abilities they can pass on, so House Mercere would keep them on to fill that need. For the very warped ones, they could always work for a Gifted Mercere in some capacity if they feel they need to be useful.
5.) Old Redcaps have a treasure trove of magical items they can sell to generate substantial wealth to fund their retirement age and/or additional Longevity Rituals, though the smart Redcap would have accumulated enough vis to cover this regardless.

In brief, those Redcaps that do survive to old age have a built in support network (family), and wealth accumulated over the better part of a century. Obviously they are still part of the Order but if they don't need outside support, they probably have a lot more leeway in 'how' they serve. A Redcap who suddenly gains great wealth might suddenly retire to a plush villa that serves as a waystation, for example.

If a redcap finishes apprenticeship at 20 with no children and takes a LR when 35 that leaves them 15 years to produce children. In principle this is a bit shorter than a typical 20 year stretch for mundanes. On the other hand by the time they are 80 their youngest children will be 45, and they may be relying on their grandchildren rather than their children to support them if a family support procedure is used.
Also I suspect given the house emphasis on children above things like traditional morality they may well typically have one or more children when the finish their apprenticeship. Indeed they may well have their parens support in 'getting into trouble' of the sort that produces offspring.

Which brings up the interesting question of a redcap descendant born into a noble bloodline... does the non-interference part of the code still fully apply and if so how?

So I found this thread really unexpected, I guess. It raised a question I had never considered, but which feels pretty straightforward.

Consider that house Mercere is fairly wealthy- it can afford to offer loans to wizards and construct fair number of magic items, despite having around a dozen hermetic wizards within it. Consider, as well, that the house is composed almost entirely of Redcaps.

As such, the idea that they would just leave old Redcaps out to struggle just because they can't work seems absolutely bizarre. Socially, taking care of your relatives in their old age, especially if you have the resources to do so, is absolutely expected. Not doing that is at the very best cruel.

Paying to take care of an old Redcap is unlikely to be that much of a resource drain on the house- consider how many normal hermetic wizards there are who, because of their advanced age and warping, are no longer helping their covenant or contributing in anyway. They're still cared for. Their rights are still respected.

If you want a fancy or exciting retirement, then perhaps you'll need to pull some favors. If you want to just enjoy your time with your grandchildren and sit by a warm fire telling stories to young Redcaps about the places you've seen and the dangers you survived, then I don't see why the house wouldn't do that.

It's in their best interest to do so, since they will eventually meet the same fate.

I think the point is less about whether it exists and more about how and when. I mean if you could simply declare retirement whenever and be supported by the house there would be a lot of retired freeloaders. On the other hand neither the modern 40 years and a pension not the classical medieval pas it on to your children who take care of you seems like a great fit either. There isn't exactly a standard retirement age in the medieval period even before you get into longevity rituals, and as mentioned above it may well be a multi-stage retirement. First retire from the road part of the job (or get promoted off the road) and then a full retirement.

As I think is mentioned in the House Mercere write-up, Redcap sexual morality would be somewhat scandalous even to the modern mind. I can see where marriage is optional, and may be more polyamorous.

I envision magical Detect the Bloodline devices to collect stray threads and a real welcoming duty and effort on behalf of the Redcaps, even if the byblow is too old for training. Family is Family.

A Redcap descendant in a noble family is almost certainly a bastard, so the noble family may be tolerant of an arranged vanishing. I supposed the Harm To Magi clause could be invoked if a father or husband somehow blames another mage or Redcap.