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The Redcap described in Volo's Guide to Monsters is a chaotic evil fey that looks like a demonic garden gnome. They have a strange property - they burst out of the ground wearing heavy iron boots. They are described in VGtM thus:

The creature has a pointed leather cap, pants of similar material, heavy iron boots, and a heavy bladed weapon. From the moment it awakens, a redcap desires only murder and carnage, and it sets out to satisfy these cravings.

Redcaps lack subtlety. They live for direct confrontation and the mayhem of mortal combat. Even if a redcap wanted to be stealthy, its iron boots force it to take ponderous, thunderous steps. When a redcap is near to potential prey, though, it can close the distance quickly and get in a vicious swing of its weapon before the target can react.

Because of these boots, the statblock for the Redcap lists this interesting feature:

Iron Boots. While moving, the redcap has disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks.

Why doesn't a redcap just...take his boots off? Are his boots actually just his feet? Is subtlety just so far removed from his nature that even with his 10 intelligence he doesn't think that maybe barreling through the forest like a tiny freight train isn't the only option?

Is there any official source material (Fifth Edition preferred) that explains the lore surrounding a redcap and his boots?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The description of the redcaps here sound like the redcaps from the comic Mage. The only thing missing is the actual red cap (red because soaked in blood, which after a bit is probably another reason for lack of stealth). \$\endgroup\$
    – NomadMaker
    Sep 6 '20 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ This oddity in the question's timeline is the result of an unrelated experiment investigating gold badge duplicate closure behavior. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 18 '21 at 14:35
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They could take off their boots, but they don't

Redcaps are based on older myths from England, and in all of them they wear iron boots. D&D simply copied that part of the lore in and then attached some rules to it.

Wikpedia:

Redcap is depicted as "a short, thickset old man with long prominent teeth, skinny fingers armed with talons like eagles, large eyes of a fiery red colour, grisly hair streaming down his shoulders, iron boots, a pikestaff in his left hand, and a red cap on his head".

Mythology wikia:

Redcaps are very fast in spite of the heavy iron pikes they wield and the iron-shod boots they wear.

Villains wikia:

Redcaps often wore iron-boots and attacked their victims with iron pikes - yet despite their awkward appearance Redcaps were said to be supernaturally fast

None of these sources suggest anything about the boots being part of their body, they're just boots. However the creatures don't have an origin story in any of these myths. D&D made one and apparently it involves them just appearing with their full gear (they are also born with their magical red caps, as well as their scythes) but that's probably mostly because it's the easiest way to explain how this whole "you need to soak this thing in blood every 3 days" works without having to come up with a way for them to make the cap. (And why would they do that then, anyway?)

So yeah, they could take off their boots. But they don't. Probably because the boots are useful to them (enabling their sprint-kick power, which makes them considerably more dangerous and creates more carnage, which they like).

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    \$\begingroup\$ In support of Erik's answer, remember also that redcaps are Fey; they are inherently bound rules, either by inherent nature, Geas or by the Fey Courts, depending on source material. As such a redcap's mental perception of the situation need not match A redcap removing its boots might be like a human removing their hand: doable, survivable, but for the most part unthinkable (albeit much harder to reverse). \$\endgroup\$
    – sharur
    Sep 6 '20 at 16:38
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They live for direct confrontation and the mayhem of mortal combat.

A redcap apparently isn't just interested in the death of their enemy. It's the journey, not the destination, so to speak. Using stealth would be the antithesis of direct confrontation, and any attack made before the opponent is even aware they are being attacked could kill them before the real "fun" begins.

Even if the attack only weakened them, that's less time the redcap gets to fight face-to-face.

[...] it can close the distance quickly and get in a vicious swing of its weapon before the target can react."

"React" here, presumably means to dodge or counterattack. while not precluding cowering in terror, which the redcap would probably relish.

So could a redcap take off its boots? Sure. Would it want to take them off? Maybe, but surely not just to be stealthy.

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Their boots are not their feet

The "Variant: Madcaps" sidebar by the section on redcaps in Baldur's Gate: Descent into Avernus says (p. 240; emphases mine):

A madcap is a redcap that soaks its hat in demon ichor instead of blood. [...]

When a madcap drops to 0 hit points, its hateful existence comes to an end in spectacular fashion as it bursts into flames, reducing itself, its ichor-soaked hat, and its pants to ashes instantly while leaving behind its weapon and smoldering iron boots.

We can assume that a madcap is physically the same as a redcap, while its demon-induced insanity just makes it act differently. Since the death of the madcap immolates itself but not its boots, it is clear that the boots are not a physical part of its being.

Whether they can't or won't, they don't take them off

The lore description of the redcap implies that they would not take off their boots if they could, since they prefer slaughter to stealth, but it is also possible that they physically cannot remove them.

Per the section on redcaps in Volo's Guide to Monsters, p. 188 (emphases mine):

From the moment it awakens, a redcap desires only murder and carnage, and it sets out to satisfy these cravings. Redcaps lack subtlety. They live for direct confrontation and the mayhem of mortal combat. Even if a redcap wanted to be stealthy, its iron boots force it to take ponderous, thunderous steps.

"Even if it wanted to be stealthy" means that they do not, in fact, want to be stealthy. "Its iron boots force it" might imply that they are not physically capable of taking them off.

Tight leather boots may be slipped on and off because of the natural yield, stretch, and give of the leather and the flexibility of the shape allows them to change and accommodate the larger parts like the ankles and the width of the balls of the feet. If the inherently inflexible iron boots fit a redcap's feet snugly, it may be impossible to remove them since the narrower parts of the boots cannot slip past the wider parts of the feet.

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Couldn’t druids just wear metal armour?

I mean, they must know that it’s superior to leather or hide?

A redcap without iron boots would not be a redcap just like a Druid in plate mail would not be a druid. There are some things that are impossible not because you can’t but because you won’t.

Also, they are boots not feet. This is in VGTM where the word used is “boots” and not “feet”.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Some citations to official source material would go a long way to helping this answer, since that's what I asked for. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 '20 at 2:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Added source ref \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Sep 6 '20 at 2:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Did you though? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 '20 at 3:00

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