Faster means of communication than redcaps

As has been discussed before, the use of redcaps by the order raises the question of why an order of wizards need messengers who travel by road. Why don't the redcaps use Leap of Homecoming to jump between covenants instantly? Why don't magi communicate via Haunt of the Living Ghost (ArsM5, p.144) or use a Creo Mentem effect to speak into someone's mind?

One of the main responses to this is that these alternative forms of communication involve arcane connections, and magi would not want an AC to their covenant carried around by a redcap who could be kidnapped, or in the hands of another covenant they may not trust, and even more so with an AC to themselves.

However, I am wondering if there would be a system that involves an AC to a neutral entity.

For example, covenants could swap ACs to a mundane employee, perhaps someone who lives outside the covenant, and then messages could be spoken into that person's mind and he/she is paid to deliver those messages to the magi (who could, perhaps, read their mind to verify the accuracy of the message).

Alternatively, an AC to a room could be used with a Muto Terram effect to write a message into the wall, which would then disappear when the spell expires. Perhaps this could be at a central location where redcaps live, and one is always on duty at the wall. When a message arrives it is copied and sent out, dramatically reducing the distance needed to travel to collect then deliver a message.

Any problems with these ideas?

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It is certainly possible to create other methods of communication. You'd probably be hard pressed to find a single method that works well for all covenants, but sure, you can eliminate the need for redcaps as messengers if you want.

The main problem with that is a meta-problem: By doing that you eliminate all stories that involve redcaps in any way as well.

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I have often presented a situation where (mainly older, more established) covenants simply have a designated area, outside the Aegis but inside their area of control, that is designated "arrival area".
Arcane Connections to this particular area are handed out to friendly magi etc.
Usually a few grogs have the (usually boring) job of receiving visitors and directing them to the covenant - or providing a first line of defense if necessary.

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My own (not justified by RAW in any way) take is that that redcap network somehow mystically binds the Order together. In my campaigns the heads of houses know this through the ritual at the Fane of the Founders. Possibly the schism war was foreshadowed by the attempted decoupling of House Diedne from this redcap network...?

Bob

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Are we talking about the communications network or about particular hotlines?

I am sure some covenant, in special situations, set up hotlines to communicate with particular allies, where there is an exceptional need. That is possible in so many different ways, which are better left to a thread dedicated to that.

Redcaps provide a network of communication where anyone can correspond with anyone. I would defend that network as slow and mundane purely to maintain the medieval feel. If it is replaced by instant, teleporting carrier owls or Mercere portals, the world is no longer going to feel remotely medieval, and that would not be the game I want to play. I am willing to bend backwards to protect the illusion of the the redcap service.

Now there are many reasons why the mundane service is not completely bollocks.

  1. The redcaps have earned trust over centuries and are not easily replaced by any mundane labour. Furthermore, the redcaps are independent stakeholders who would not necessarily accept the chore of leaving in the local village to relay messages for one covenant.
  2. Travelling by mundane means is an excellent way to gather news and gossip, which may be important for the Order.
  3. The magic devices are expensive, and there might not be enough magi to meet the demand to make a full magical network.
  4. High-speed communication may not be important enough, for most covenants, to invest the resources.
  5. Magic means is a security risk and may fall into the wrong hands, and it is just possible that most magi are rather paranoid about it.
  6. Redcaps may not accept the warping from magic devices, making leap of homecoming devices expensive as they cannot be inherited without warping.

While an abundance of magic devices to replace mundane travel seem like an easy and obvious feature to achieve, we just have to tailor the world so that it simply has not happened.

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Yes, but most of what you refer to @loke are suggestions that have been covered extensively before. My 2 suggestions do not involve any magic items, no use of warping magical effects, and have no more security risk than the risk of a redcap being kidnapped or robbed.

I agree that the redcap network is nice and adds to the medieval feel, but when a player says, "why don't we have ACs to mundanes outside all other covenants and send messages by speaking into their minds?" I want to have an answer that makes sense.

EDIT: I guess the use of mundanes may be a higher security risk than the use of redcaps. But the use of the message wall would be no higher risk, and dramatically cut down redcap travel time.

My answer is that they could. Absolutely. No problem. But it would take time and effort. They would have to recruit the messengers, possibly across language barriers, and find means to sustain them over time. Even if they are able to send a mundane messenger to the other covenant, there is no guarantee that they will actually listen, let alone respond. Paying a random peasant for the work might turn out not to be that simple. Tom, Dick, and Harry may not like the feeling of a eerie wizard speaking into their head. And you may have to invest the time to fixate the AC too.

The writing of the wall may feel less intrusive on your mundane allies, but you still need to have someone to read the wall, and a means to respond. Either you need a trusted mundane to relay, or you need trust with the partner covenant to allow it inside their own sphere. Either way it involves an AC which can potentially be abused, for instance a hostile wizard using it to target you at the time when you make a transmission.

Your ideas are good, and I believe they are used as hotlines between close allies. However, expanding them into an Order-Wide network is difficult, and we owe it to the setting to make it so difficult that it takes the better part of a saga for the players to set it up. There are enough potential challenges that you can make a story out of each and every link they want to set up.

Canon makes some use of this. Normandy has a Mercere Portal Network, which should mean that redcap messaging is very fast. The same is being set up in Iberia (3ed). In Stonehenge (4ed) the redcaps use Leap of Homecoming to return to Mercere House, so that the round trip is less than a month per covenant visited, and they visit every covenant every other month, which is already fast by medieval standards.

This seems to be a response to a slightly different idea. My idea is that every covenant in your Tribunal has a grog who lives outside the covenant itself, and is paid well to act as a message conduit. Every other covenant in your Tribunal has a fixed AC to that grog, so can speak into his mind. He then tells you the message, normally within an hour, and you can respond in the same way.

Again, this is a slightly different idea. My idea is the wall is watched in shifts by redcaps at a central location, who take down the messages that appear and redcaps then ride from that location to the recipient. This means a redcap needs to travel from some central area of the Tribunal to a covenant, rather than across the entire Tribunal. Or there could be a few of these redcap "hubs" with a wall, reducing the distance even further. Messages that would otherwise take a week or more to arrive could arrive in a day or two.

Right. I focused on the question you posed, what if the players say that we want to do this, and their covenant takes the endeavour upon themselves. This idea assumes that every covenant takes part. I think that is going to be harder. I don't think the covenants have that much to talk about, and somebody still needs to fixate ACs and renew them every time a grog retires.

And the redcap would still be there, gathering news and gossip from the lands between the covenants, and they suffice for most messaging needs.

My response is the same as before. We owe it to the settings to make the other covenants so reluctant that it takes the better part of the saga to pull it off. I don't mind its happening, but for me it should be the beginning of the end of the saga, because the world changes into something less interesting to play.

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A few points.

While the redcap network might seem slow to some poor covenant out in the boonies of a Tribunal, that actual core of the network is an extremely vast and fast transportation system capable of moving not only messages but goods across the majority of Mystic Europe in an instant. The closer you are to the core network, the closer to instant using redcap services becomes. If you critically want to be as close to instant as possible, then it is possible with a lot of politicking and vis to get a link into the system.

Redcaps transport far more than just simple messages. The methods you suggested might be good for a simple message, but anything more in depth becomes difficult or impossible to efficiently do with them. How are you going to send those multi page missives to your research partner? Get that book you ordered? They will even deliver enchanted items that you ordered from another Magus. Anything beyond a paragraph and the instant-message system fails.

Another important thing redcaps do is serve as bankers and "money changers" for the Order. They do this in both the money of magic and mundane. Covenants and individual Magi can can have a standing balance of vis and silver. Vis can be exchanged for a different type. Due to their desire to limit how much profit they make, they make "gifts" of vis and silver to covenants. While some of those gifts go to covenants doing things that help House Mercere, they also grant much of it to weaker and poorer covenants in need. They can be especially generous to newer covenants. And all of this can be accessed without leaving your covenant.

Finally the slow part of the redcap network, that travel time from the core instant network to the widest flung covenants, is the part that performs one of the most valuable services of the redcaps. It is the part that gathers news and rumors, tales and legends, jokes and intrigues. They exchange that information through their core network, meaning that they have often have access to the best news and gossip of the entirety of Mystic Europe that is only a few months old at worst. They share all of this with the covenants they visit, providing both entertainment and knowledge. If they make an effort to ingrate themselves, a covenant can easily be more informed than any noble or priest on what is happening in Mystic Europe.

In short, the "slow part" of the redcap network is what is called "last mile" for things like cable and internet providers. Your suggested alternatives will run into the same problems that the old school (actual) cellular phone providers ran into. They might work great for short messages in their small area once you finally get them setup, but they are expensive in time and vis. They require cooperation and trust at a high level. They still need to tie into the nearest junction box of the redcap network for long distance. And they are incapable of easily replacing all the other things provided by the redcaps.

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Redcaps are the most prolific buyers of low level magic items in the Order of Hermes. They have the vis to buy magic items and little use for vis aside from buying magic items. A network of magical walls or professional listeners would remove the demand for magic items.

Disturbing the major domestic market of the Order of Hermes is probably an unpopular notion.

A big issue is trust. Mercere is trusted.

Any other system is vulnerable. Anyone wanting to buy in to any new system has to wonder what protection is there if someone who wants to mess with me, such as put fake messages in the mind of the grog, modify the wall message, etc.

I grant you any system is hackable if someone wants to spend enough time and effort, however, hacking Mercere will risk the wrath of the order. I would expect a violent response from the magical arm of Mercere; Guernicus helping out; and probably Tremere and Jerbiton on board as well.

Do you have this?

They talk about these ideas in here. If not, I really suggest getting it.

I think your big problem in introducing it is that I think most mages like things as they are. To get a Tribunal to agree to a new system will take a lot of work. Which could be fun!

if you want to change it for your saga at the start, feel free but there are side effects to also be considered, as discussed by others.

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I have to support Jetpack's suggestion. TME provides in depth coverage of not only the topic of this thread, but several other areas where players think "humm, I could do this better!" that might pop up. TME and Hermetic Projects are two of my favorite AM5 books because they cover such outside the box thinking.

The thing is a that a safe and secure network with people you don't trust implicit still involves mundanes- so why not go ahead and use redcaps? I'm sure if you want to put a drop box in the redcap covenant to make your mail delivery faster that will teleport pieces of paper back and forth they would be perfectly happy to accept the upgrade. They can even put it near the Hermes portal, in case you want to send messages to another tribunal. What you would end up doing is simply upgrading teh redcap network for greater efficiency instead of replacing it.

The problem with relying on the Redcaps for package delivery is the tiny numbers. Even if Mercere has 2 to 3 times the members in any other House, that leaves 300 people to cover the entire Western world. A handful will be Gifted and occasionally engage in lab activities, others have permanent posts at waystations and Mercer houses, some more have ongoing administrative jobs in the House or places like the Theban Tribunal, and a few are slacking off or officially retired due to injury, age, or warping. Quickly, you're left with with the staff of a moderately large urban Post Office covering shipping to several hundred locations spread out across a quarter of the planet. They just don't have the time to get to everyone in a timely fashion. Despite magic flight, teleportation, and long range communications, the Redcaps simply cannot handle the logistics. And having spare resources to also engage in trade, banking, and a clandestine information gathering network? Hard no. Are they supposed to rely on hirelings, an army of paid workers who can never get full membership because they don't have the right parents, while moron true bloods get to be stupid for a century longer than you? Because that won't end badly, honest.

Forget the idea that the Redcaps resent or fight against competitors or advances that do the same job. They'll be overjoyed, relieved to take some pressure off. The Redcaps want to handle your requests, but they are so very busy. Researching better ways to ship information and packages would be the primary effort of Gifted Mercere, constantly seeking ways to do more with the tiny amount of human capital the Order has invested in their tasks. Please help.

Some of them will enjoy significant travel, the same as our commercial pilots, drivers, and sailors. But even they don't want to spend every single day spent on the road, endlessly grinding out the miles. The Redcaps will always be able to offer a premium service, trusted for centuries and carried out by dedicated members of the Order. Even if their delivery responsibilities wither to an elite concierge service, available only to the highest ranking - and best dressed - magi, they'll always have plenty to occupy themselves.

I think there may be varying assumptions about what constitutes «a timely fashion». Twice a year is certainly timely by medieval standards, and in most tribunals you don't need a more than ten travelling redcaps to do better than that. That leaves more than half of your 300 for office work, dedicated trade, retirement, and rogue absence. I really do not see a problem.

Just to work out the numbers. There are typically about ten covenants in a tribunal. Except for Novgorod, you can do the return walk from a central; Mercere House to any given covenant in a season. I.e. ten redcaps can visit ten covenants twice a year, and still retain to free seasons. In many cases two or three covenants located close together can be visited together in one season, and some tribunals are significantly smaller, and some have so many portals that you can reduce the number of redcaps.

Now, I do not mind there being 600 unGifted redcaps. Or 1000, if that is needed to make the service even more timely. Two or four visits per year is both fine with me. I don't want to see the medieval feel ruined by modern standards for quality of service, though.

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It's the default medieval mindset to resist changes. Someone taking up some of your duties makes you less important overall, and Redcaps enjoy special privileges (like magic items and protection of the Code from magi and protection of magi from mundanes). If someone else is doing part of their job, do they need these perks anymore? The Redcaps are a guild, or a union, and no guild or union has EVER outsourced labor if they could help it.

Now, House Mercere might welcome expansion, but the needs of House Mercere are also limited by the supply of magic items and longevity rituals. A tribunal probably can't support 100 Redcaps, which could need 8-10 longevity rituals a year and 200 levels of enchantments every year to be made, costing somewhere north of a queen of vis annually, what with the prices House Mercere pays for such.

Now you could go the Transylvanian route and just label any rando with no magic items or LR as Redcaps, but you won't get the loyalty and above-and-beyond service the Redcaps are famous for.

Actually it is very much a part of medieval mentality to try and increase your groups rights and privileges while decreasing their responsibilities over time. The downside is that typically happens over generations and generations for magi is a really freaking long time.

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True, but someone trying to remove the reason your group has those rights and privileges is actually a threat to your group. Without a reason for the rest of the Order to need your group of mundanes, the Magi will no longer have reason provide the means through which your group lives better than other mundanes.

So while House Mercere will gladly accept anything that makes their job easier, anything that makes them unneeded is a danger to the House and needs to be stamped out.

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