Thursday, 23 February 2017

Brutality vs. Modern Sensibilities

In the course of a game that endeavours to recreate a period or geographical location with a modicum of fidelity to historical reality, players are doomed to stumble into events, attitudes, and conventions that will duly vex the workings of their modern minds if they're unprepared. The relative ubiquitousness of violence in medieval England is one of them.
I think that because we play in a setting that mimcs a real time and place to the best of my ability, and certainly more realistically than hack-and-slash Hollywood portrayals, it's easy to conflate the game world with the world we know simply because it's more like reality than films or video games are.
This first came up when the party chanced into a shepherd beating hell out of his servant boy in a clearing in the woods. When I ran that encounter, I had no intention whatever of it being any sort of dilemma for the players to 'solve'. And yet, looking at the situation as they did with modern eyes, they saw child abuse and wanted to put a stop to it. They ended up in a quandary, and decided perhaps that interference might do more harm than good, and they eventually walked away, feeling none too sanguine about the whole affair.
The thing is, the very characters the players are running would, in all probability, have been beaten just as severely, and rather frequently, throughout their own childhoods. The players may see unlawful cruelty, but the characters would probably just see the everday discipline inherent in childrearing. In fact, at this time and in this place, parents who neglected to beat their children frequently were seen as irresponsible parents.
This is a mindset that continued until, really, just the last couple of generations. The idea that 'it's never okay to hit a child' is actually a quite recent invention. You'll see a different set of standars and values when reading older books meant for children. I recently came across a .pdf of the novel Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It's a lovely look into the lives of the American pioneers, and shows an admirable culture of responsibility and self-determination. It also, for better or worse, features several scenes of parents brutally beating their children. In one scene, little Laura slaps her sister's face in anger, and her father promptly calls her over to be whipped with a lash he kept hanging on the wall for just that purpose.
'But Mary said--'

'That makes no difference. It is what I say that you must mind.'
These sorts of scenes were played down in the Little House on the Prairie television series, filmed as it was in the 1980s, when corporal punishment at home and in schools was already on the wane. In the books and the televised versions alike, Charles Ingalls was presented as the paragon of fatherhood and manly virtue (putting aside for the moment that the real Charles Ingalls did many things that were questionable at best, like defaulting on rent and then sneaking his family out of town before the landlord could catch them). The point was that morality was absolute, and would admit of no excuses.
Within the context of such a cultural framework, it should be expected that adults are also going resort to hitting each other, sometimes with objects that quite a bit more damage than hands and switches, as a means of solving problems.
In our last session, the entourage came upon a certain tale, recorded in Ralph of Coggeshall's Chronicon Anglicanum, one of the few history books available in our campaign world, in which a 'merman' or some sort of mysterious acquatic humanoid had been captured in a fishing net a couple fo centuries before our game takes place. In Abbot Ralph's record, the merman's captors wanted to find out who or what he was, but he wouldn't talk, so the first thing they did was to torture him. I related this and other details to the players merely in passing, but one of them cried out in apparent objection, 'But why did they torture him?'
'Because he wouldn't talk' was the answer. Simple.
This is the way things were.
If the reaction on this realisation is still something like But that doesn't make it right! then spare a thought for the upbringings your game world counterparts would almsot certainly have endured. If the PCs hadn't been smacked around and learnt that violence is the way to deal with problems, how likely would they have been to embark on a career that involves killing people?

Sunday, 29 January 2017

On Having Raided the Merchant’s Crypt

Well done, entourage of ten. You took a beating, and many of you lost a lot of blood, but no lives, largely thanks to the healing powers of two clerics and a paladin present. It was a long battle, but you successfully destroyed all of the skeletons that came into animation and flocked to the sword you were removing from the dead merchant's coffin. 

I want you to remember this adventure well, because any decisions you make in this connexion during the next session are likely to affect you for the duration of your short lives. 

Perhaps it was a bit underhanded of me as a DM to lead you into this adventure by giving information as a 'hook' to the one character whose player wasn't actually present; and to thereby lead you into the skein of circumstances surrounding it, but what the hell—you’re all big boys and girls. You can handle it. Unless, of course, it turns out that you can’t. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

The basic premise of the quest was fairly innocuous. I filched it from a set of pre-fab adventures called ‘One-Room Dungeons’ which are available online somewhere. This one was called 'The Merchant's Crypt', and if you happen to look it up and read it, you won't find anything more than you knew already by the end of last session. But, scheming fiend that I am, I chose to connect it to something larger and more diabolical just because that’s the way I roll. 

You removed the sword from the mausoleum and at the end of the last session you had decided to carry it to the churchyard and bury it. It is of such weight that it takes two of your men to carry it, so it would clearly require a STR greater than 18 to actually use it in combat. You decided to bury it on hallowed ground because the sword is clearly evil—the paladin detected a loathsome sentience from it at once—and, this being Trinity Sunday, most of the village are feasting at the lord’s hall, so you’re not likely to be spotted going from the cemetery to the church.

The picture below is a basic rendering of the weapon. 

It is two-handed, more than five feet long, and constructed of an uncannily durable black alloy that resisted all of Ragnar’s attempts to break it. It appears to have been forged from a single piece of metal, with the exception of the pommel, which is a sphere of obsidian or some other coal-dark gemstone grasped firmly into talons at the end of the grip. The grip is wound with black leather from some unknown beast, and the chappe is decorated with a demoniac head with eyes made of the same gemstone as the pommel, and horns that wrap around the reverse side of the guard. The blade is considerably wider than that of most two-handed swords. It’s queer-looking, it’s conscious, and it’s malicious. 

I want you to remember all this, because when the actions you take during the next session come back to bite you in the posterior at some later date, I don’t want to hear anyone say, ‘Wait, did we do something with black sword? When did that happen?’

It happened on Trinity Sunday in the 50th year of the Reign of King Edward III. 

Thursday, 12 January 2017

What It's Like to Be Me

The entourage are about to go grave-robbing, because one exuberant member is a heretical, blaspheming heathen, and I don't want to delve too deep into that story until it's underway, so for the nonce I'll just entertain you with a peek inside my psyche.
When I mentioned several posts back how exhausting it was to run the game, one of our players commented that he had had no idea. As an introvert, I draw my energy from time alone, and find it depleted by human interaction. My ideal formula, to really be at my best, is about two hours of time alone for every hour I spent with people other than my wife. (Interestingly, her personality is similar to mine, and even in each other's company we spend prolonged periods without talking. Before going to sleep, we lie beside each other and read our seperate books for an hour, and it's bliss.) Extraverts draw their energy from the 'good vibes' of other people, and usually don't know what it's like for us. Extraversion is, I think, typically interpreted to be the default position because extraverts dominate numerically and socially.
In MBTI terms, our current campaign consists of ESFJ, ESFJ and ENTJ. I normally test INTJ, but have tested ISTJ on a few occasions. (My wife is as likely to test ENTJ as INTJ, depending on her mental space at the time.) This might be unusual; I've read that people who enjoy RPGs and video games tend to be introverts. I don't interact with enough people to be able to draw any kind of statistical relevance from my own experience. But I'll tell you what it's like for me as a DM.
By way of analogy, I'm a person of average fitness going, twice a month for a several hours at a session, to work out with professional athletes. Normally, I exercise alone, and I follow my program at my own pace, following a set plan with no surprises. It's difficult but rewarding, and I feel good at the end. These bimonthly special sessions are a different matter. At the same time I'm trying to relay information as concisely as possible without missing out anything essential, bits of other conversations are flying about, I'm asked questions and expected to know the answer--after all, I'm the DM--and the answer has to be both correct and succinct. I'm trying to hold several strands of information at once while engaging everyone's attention and not making errors. It's sort of like being told,  'Okay, now bench press your own body weight ten times!' As soon as I hit the bench for the first rep, I'm told, 'Wait, before you do that, do a hundred pushups!' So I scramble off the bench and get into position, trying to remember that I have to get back on the bench press as soon as I finish, and another athlete is meanwhile asking, 'What's your body fat percentage? How many pullups can you do? What was the exact protein content of your breakfast?'
When I play a character in AD&D, he is always an ESTP. I always had a phantasy of being an ESTP, like Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Branson, or Jack Sparrow. I couldn't conceivably spend protracted periods in the wild with other adventurers in my real-life personality. I would self-destruct after a few days. The kind of character I play, though, would thrive on it. (I miss the days when someone else was DM and I could be that character, living vicariously in a world that doesn't exist.) Introversion, unfortunately is neither a choice nor a habit, but, as someone once put it, a nervous system setting. That part of my life which requires interacting with the world beyond my garden, fighting crowds, and meeting new people would be much easier if I had my character's personality--but then, I would probably be living a life of adventure, not playing at one from the comfort of my dining room.
I was, incidentally, told once, 'Well, if you don't enjoy it, just don't do it'. I don't believe I'm alone in this--although I may be in something of a minority--but I do a great many things for purposes other than pure 'enjoyment'. Perhaps most people, especially those who have jobs they don't like, go through so much on a day-to-day basis that when they're finished with work, they just want to have fun. Cyndi Lauper wouldn't have sung it if it weren't true. But for me, the chance for exposure to different ways of thinking, the intellectual benefits of types of mental gymnastics far outside my comfort zone, and a visceral immersion into another world, are very much worth the expense of mental and physical energy.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Toward a Better 2017

Happy New Year.
I have nothing of crucial import to relate or even much desire to say anything, but one of my promises to myself for 2017 is that I would get back into the habit of updating this thing once a week. The danger there is that a lack of material will cause me to scrape the barrel and, unable to come up with anything, might post an expose of any of the countless adventures and side quests with which I shower the party, only to say Look at what you fucks missed because you didn't follow that hook!
That wouldn't be nice at all.
One would hope, though--or least I would--that being forced to write something every week might focus energy by the very force of habit and make the writer more prolific. It couldn't hurt to spend more time on the game.
Or could it?
Most of the time, before I game, I prepare orders of magnitude more material than the party is possibly going to use. I sort of go all-out for a week, and really get into the campaign world. I see all sorts of possibilities and exploit them. Unfortunately, we rarely play. We play so rarely these days, in fact, that game time moves more slowly than real time.
I attribute this partly to everyone wanting to accomplish a great deal of things in the space of a few game days. It is rushed, to be sure, but I sort of understand it--lounging around enough for the PCs to recover psychically as well as physically would mean spending money on food, when they could be out there earning more, by adventuring, than they spend per day. Even though it would be the most natural thing in the world after intense action, no one wants their PC to sit around when it's usually just a question of whether leaving today with all the money versus leaving Tuesday minus twelve shillings. To the player, it's the same instant no matter what day we decide it is in the game.
I can tell you, though, if it were me, I wouldn't have my character do much in winter. Somewhere around mid-autumn when it became physically painful to grasp the pommel of a sword and I faced the prospect of my horse getting stuck in snow, I would say That's all for this year, mates, I'm going to batton down the hatches. See you in spring.
(In game time it happens to be spring at the moment, buy I'm saying this because it's ostensibly winter right now in the place in the world where I type this. We have absolutely no weather to show for it.)
Incidentally, one of our players, who happens to be leaving us for foreign shores in the near future, is keen on buying an inn, which I think is a capital idea. It would be a perfect place for his character to retire, while also providing a home base for the rest of the entourage--free lodging plus a little bit of extra cash to spare, if the business is successful.
Currently, the party is in Oxford and hoping to get some clues toward a certain mysterious book they're carrying. Our prospective inn buyer can expect some information on real estate from his sources when he returns to Ludeforde. The entourage is ten strong and all have horses.
We're supposed to play this weekend. Let's see if we do.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The Communication Network

Our entourage has been milling about Shropshire for quite some time now, and has developed a reputation within its borders. This seems to have come as a surprise to at least one player, though, and so I'd like to make a brief excursion into the way in which information travelled in the Middle Ages. 

It's difficult for us to imagine life without the Internet, without television or radio, without printed media, when just about the only source of information to which anyone had access was human conversation. With people spending most of their lives in only one town, village, or hamlet, how on earth could anyone learn about anything happening as far away as the next shire?

The perhaps surprising answer is: Remarkably well.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, within any medieval man's given locality, he is known, to some degree, by just about everyone. Even in a large town, it's highly probable that nearly all of the residents would know each other by sight, as such residents comprised nearly all of one's human acquaintance for nearly all of one's life. At the very least, the guards at the city gate would be well enough acquainted with the denizens within its walls that they would know who charge entry tolls and who should and should not be going in or out. This, after all, is their job. Trying to masquerade as a resident to escape the toll simply isn't an option.
In turn, each person's connections would extend well beyond his place of residence. He might have relatives in several other municipalities, some of them perhaps hundreds of miles away. Aside from the letters that the literate would exchange, there is an intricate and highly-developed gossip network in place.
People simply spent a lot of time talking. There would be ample time to talk at the market, while getting water at the town well, when passing in the road in the midst of errands, over the merchandise bought and sold at the city stall, and over food and drink at the ale house. New information was exchanged with eager relish, just as it is today; only, with so much less of it to go around, medieval people tended to do quite a bit more with what they had.

At supper, families would have plenty of time to share all they’d learnt during the day, and this in turn would be passed on to each of their contacts the next day. If they left their village for the parish church, they would carry information there and bring news back. Likewise if they went even further, such as to town on a market day; and travellers on the roads between towns would eagerly share what they’d heard through the grapevine as well as significant announcements from the town crier. With sufficient time to talk, theories and opinions would be developed and exchanged, and lots and lots of detail would be included.

Since people encountered so many fewer strangers than they do now, they would be acutely attuned to differences in facial features, dress, and mannerisms, and would be able to describe these to the people they knew. It’s not hard to see how the party, on entering a town for the first time, might be recognised by people who had merely heard of them.It wouldn’t take long for word to spread to everyone who cares. It would be extremely hard to keep a low profile in all but the largest towns.

It’s even harder, perhaps, for people accustomed to focusing on their smartphones, and ignoring their surroundings, to place themselves in a world where paying attention is one’s only guide to knowledge. As the campaign world’s filter, the DM is the only source of that information.

I’m talking, obviously, about adventure hooks.

The entourage is about to embark on a hundred-mile journey, and perhaps go town-hopping along the way. This is splendid. They may very well end up in an adventure or more; it all depends on what they do with the information they’re given. Or perhaps I should say: The information they proactively collect.

As DM, I'm not going to be able to make too much happen to them. For one thing, now that this group is ten well-armed and, in a few cases, dangerous-looking people, who
will almost certainly all be on horseback by the time they leave the shire, bands of thieves are unlikely to bother them on the road. So that pretty much omits the DM force-feeding any action of that type.

They’ll have to talk to people, whether at the inns where they stay, the churches where they mingle, or to people into whom they bump on the street. They'll have to listen, whether to the town crier, to snippets of conversation overheard or misheard, or 
to things told directly to them, which could be the first clue toward incredible intrigue, or could be worth nothing.

Or they could ignore everything but the road in front of them, and have a right boring trip.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Entourage in Detail

The number of individual personalities surrounding the PCs in our campaign has increased to such an extent, including as it does henchmen, lackeys, and NPCs just a long for the ride, that it is now less precise to call this group a party than an entourage.

We’ve got a game coming up next week, so we could probably all do with a refresher on who everyone is. The picture below depicts the lot in what would be their most frequent respective postures. The description to follow outlines each character, from left to right.

Addy and Simkin (always a pair). Lackeys, 0 Level.
Role: Basically, they’re just there to carry stuff for the adventurers, and do menial tasks (gather firewood, set up and break down camp, cook, care for the horses, etc.) so that the adventurers can spend their time and energy on more important things. They have very few of their own possessions, so they can pick up a lot of the encumbrance that would otherwise slow the party down.
Goals: Having known only abject poverty their entire lives, they are content to live hand to mouth and be provided with enough to eat and a few coins here and there; thus far, they have never expressed any ambitions beyond survival from week to week.
History: The scions of peasant farmers of the lowest stock, they grew up living hand to mouth until even their own families couldn’t afford them. They formed a pair at some point, and took to roaming the countryside to eke out a living through seasonal labour, stealing chickens, and so on. When they met Dodge (see below), they attached themselves to him as lackeys, and have been following him around ever since.

Dodge. Fighter, Level 1.   
Henchman of Luna.
Role: Soldier under Luna’s command; proficient in sword, both bow types, and knife.  Supplies additional brawn for the PCs, and never complains about anything (nor, for that matter, does he talk much at all).
Goals: Live a life of adventure fighting for the cause of Good, and stay alive as long as possible. He would also like to remit wealth to his family in Posselau.
History: The third son of poor farmers in Posselau, his life was a struggle from the onset. He managed to obtain an apprenticeship to a blacksmith, but sought an opportunity to escape it soon after getting hit in the face with molten iron. Ran away once, taking refuge in a snake-infested cave, but was brought back and beaten severely for his transgression. Befriended by Hamish (see below) and learning of the existence of the PCs, he finally found a chance to leave Posselau (taking his lackeys with him).

Hamish. Cleric, Level 1.
Henchman of Luna.
Goals: Get as close to God as possible. Hopes eventually to retire to a secluded monastic life in old age and devote his life to more peaceful forms of worship than those currently necessary.
Role: Clerical knowledge of religion and healing. If necessary, can use cross-shaped staff as weapon with the shillelagh spell.
History: Was abandoned to a monastery in the far north as a child. For reasons not yet disclosed, he traveled south to Shropshire after having been swindled of all possessions. Has worked as a scribe, and taught Dodge to read and write in Latin. When rumours of the PCs and their reputation came through the church in Posselau, he persuaded Dodge and his lackeys to seek them out and petition to join them.

Waleran Thayler. Cleric, Level 3.
Role: Draw lightning down from stormy skies to annihilate opponents; fight with javelin and war hammer; heal the entourage’s wounds.
Goals: Wealth and power foremost, and fame secondarily.
History: After a sketchy and troubled youth, fell in with an underground temple of the Sami pagan deity Horagales, who blessed him with the power to call lightning. Still aligned with the temple, he adheres to the cult’s dietary and lifestyle restrictions, remaining celibate to maintain his magical powers. Mostly. Has had sex at least once, and really wants to again. His big ears and weird face tend to turn most women off, though. 

Luna. Paladin, Level 3.
Role: Ridding the world of evil; fighting; healing.
Goals: Serve the Lord; eventually acquire holy steed and holy sword to further this goal.
History: The eldest surviving daughter of the master groom at Ludeforde Castle, she had the opportunity to absorb her father’s skill with animals as well as noble decorum and connections within the Earl of March’s household. Her natural beauty and inherent religious devotion, enhanced with her charisma and prowess with weapons of war, set her on an inevitable course to travel the world on a holy quest. Somewhat unexpectedly, she has not yet expressed any desire to leave Shropshire.

Llewellyn Fjord. Bard, Level 2.
Role: Magically inspire and augment the power and prowess of the other adventurers through music, song and stories; fight with bow and sword when circumstances require. 
Goals: Fill the world with beauty and music, and have a smashing old time in the meanwhile.
History: Grew up somewhat sheltered in the remote reaches of western Shropshire, just inside the Welsh border. Was always so gifted with music that his talent seemed almost supernatural; and in pieces of history gleaned from his grandfather, suspects that there are some very bizarre facts surrounding his parentage.

Tabetha Hawthorne. Bard, Level 1.
Henchman of Llewellyn.
Role: Provide genius insight and scholarship, and music (especially harp and vocal) to augment the benefits of Llewellyn's; also a gifted archer, and will use the bow in combat when necessary.
Goals:  Ultimately, peaceful rest in Heaven when the Lord deigns to release her from the misery of mortal existence.
History: Clearly suffered something tragic, the details of which are shrouded in mystery. Travels with a horse called Richard, after the crown prince Richard of Bordeaux.

Ragnar Bjorgvinson. Barbarian, Level 2.
Former PC now under DM control.
Role: Specialist in battle axe, proficient in several other weapons, and can skipper a boat if that’s ever needed. Will generally do whatever the PCs, who are all more intelligent, tell him to do. 
Goals: Do as he pleases, take what he wants, and general satisfy his animal urges.
History: Grew up on the boats, as a mariner bringing shiploads of herring from Scandinavia. Walked away from service after a vicious quarrel with his captain when the boat docked at Bristol, met the party when they were still a small group, and joined them to a living by his axe. 

Hugh from Afar. Cleric, Level 3.
Role: Scholar. Only loosely associated with the entourage; not an official member. Sought to travel with them on hearing of Luna’s reputation for miraculous healing and other gifts of God. Currently engaged in writing a history of the region. Follows the party at a distance, learning as he goes; in a pinch, will provide clerical services such as healing and turn undead.
Goals: Gain knowledge, keep extensive notes, and keep a safe distance from actual combat. 
History: As a friar gifted with healing, helped to hold back the last outbreak of plague in the north. Parentage and upbringing unknown.  

When we left the entourage, they had just returned to the village of Clutune in the wee hours of the morning, taking refuge in a stable just as the rain began to fall. They had fled from the forest just north of the village with a monty haul of treasure with which they absconded from a desperate battle between an imprisoned demoness and her guardian spirit. Ten strong, the entourage are currently nursing their wounds while they pass the time till dawn, talking by candlelight and waiting for their adrenaline to subside. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Don Quixote Stayed Here

During an excursion into Spanish literature with a member of our campaign, mention was made of Don Quixote, and I recalled that within that doorstop of a tome is plenty of fodder for encounter, and even adventure, ideas for our game.
The text in my possession is P. A. Motteux's 1712 English translation, still the best loved by many. The language is delightful, but might present an obstacle to anyone whose primary literary exposure comes from the 21st-century internet; that is to say, the majority of the general public. These days, even when I write for the university publication, the 'readability index' through which my papers are run says that they're too difficult to read, and I'm commanded to rephrase things in a 'simpler' (read: less precise) manner.
Don Quixote should really be read by everyone, though; all the better if they can read the original Spanish. Since I'm fairly confident that no one in our campaign is going to read it cover to cover anytime soon, however, I feel free to usurp, bastardise and cannibalise that cornucopia of ideas for all that it's worth--as soon as we start playing again, which, by the way, seems to keep getting pushed further and further back.
Our next session is at the beginning of November.
I am working on updating certain players' spreadsheets in response to the claim that two of them have ascended in level. The bare mathematics of the total XP of one of these two, however, forbids me to interpret that he has.
In the meantime, I'd like to revisit the subject of lodging as I offer a gem of a description of an inn, which serves to remind us how, despite the austerity, a stay at an inn is a big step up from lying in a rain-soaked mohair tent with only a bedroll between earth and weary body.
One of the servants in the inn was an Asturian wench, a broad-faced, flat-headed, saddle-nosed dowdy, blind of one eye, and the other almost out. However, the activity of her body supplied all other defects. She was not above three feet high from her heels to her head; and her shoulders, which somewhat loaded her, as having too much flesh upon them, made her look downwards oftener than she could have wished. This charming original likewise assisted the mistress and the daughter; and, with the latter, helped to make the Knight's bed, and a sorry one it was; the room where it stood was an old gambling cock-loft, which by manifold signs seems to have been, in the days of yore, a repository for chopped straw. Somewhat further, in a corner of that garret, a carrier had his lodging; and, though his bed was nothing but the panels and coverings of his mules, it was much better than that of Don Quixote, which only consisted of four rough-hewn boards laid upon two uneven tressels, a flock-bed, that, for thinness, might well have passed for a quilt, and was full of knobs and bunches, which, had they not peeped out through many a hole, and shown themselves to be of wool, might well have been taken for stones. The rest of that extraordinary bed's furniture was a pair of sheets, which rather seemed to be of leather than linen-cloth, and a coverlet whose every individual thread you might have told, and never have missed one in the tale.
It's striking that a night's repose in such environs is sufficient to regain lost HP (as, incidentally, it was for Don Quixote, whose bangs and bruises from his most recent skirmish were somewhat miraculously healed by the next morning). That should underscore the necessity of at least a roof and indoor heating after a hard day's travels; all the more if the party is recovering from combat.
Historian Ian Mortimer, in The Time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England, reminds us that the medieval traveler's place of rest depends on where he finds himself at sunset. When considering the alternatives, when he has a chance to stay at an inn, he should most certainly leap at it. Innkeepers are aware of this, and are likely to charge accordingly. Mortimer calls innkeepers 'no-nonsense men, shaped like bears' who are accustomed to handling all manner of ruffians and other obstreperous clients. They have the power to turn a customer out without his belongings, or even without his clothes, if he fails to make good on the bill.
Thus far, the party have run into few problems with inns or their masters. Nonetheless, they should always be aware that they're lucky to be allowed to stay, lest they get any ideas about complaining about the smoke, the fleas and bedbugs, the barking of the guard dogs, the smell of stale beer and dog urine in the rushes on the floor, or the creaking of stairs and bodily noises of fellow guests coming and going in the night. The only option remaining might be to bed down with the elements, which at the very least will provide no recovery of HP, and very well might lead to infection and other problems.
Or perhaps they could take their chances in a cheap bed in a hospital, on ancient unchanged sheets next to a pungent leper.