Tuesday, 8 March 2016

The Party's Current Predicament

This is a continuation of last week's post about the legal system, primarily to give the party some additional background information that would come in the course of conversation with those 'agents of the law' in whose care the party now find themselves.
It was asked, when one of the party interrogated certain villagers about the foresters and received the answer that they hadn't had anything to do with the foresters hoped they never would, why this was. It may be helpful to remember that in the modern world, poor people in any urban ghetto would answer the same about the police.
The king's foresters are there to catch and punish commoners with the temerity to poach. The king owns the forests and decides who can hunt there. He might hunt with his own party, or grant limited hunting rights to those he favours, or grant a local lord 'full warren', which is tantamount to giving that lord his own private forest. Other than that, no one is legally allowed to hunt there. Catching smaller game, such as birds and coneys, would likely result in a mere fine, but killing anything large, such as a deer, is punishable by hanging.
All of this is not merely because the king is greedy and cruel. (He is, but that's rather beside the point.) This is an integral part of the medieval English legal system, and is in place because the scarcity of food in general makes it a status symbol, with big game at the top. The bulk of commoners' sustainance comes from what they can produce themselves, which is mostly grain, with a three- to six-fold yield on seed the best they can hope. Civilisation is surviving by a very slender margin.
Currently, the foresters have sheltered the party in the cylindrical keep where they take their meals and watch over the woods from a high place when they're not out patroling. The foresters are sympathetic to adventurers because adventurers can perform a public service that legal and resource constraints preclude the foresters doing themselves: Hunting down and getting rid of outlaws. The foresters would certainly appreciate this, and offer the party a place to recover spend the night.
They would not, however, be likely to spare any food if the party happen to run short of rations at this point. The continuous cold snap that still delays the onset of spring weather has meant that the fields have barely thawed, preventing farmers from plowing them, and preventing what few seeds they have planted from growing. People are living on their grain stores, with crafty merchants hording supplies and illegally speculating on the prices. The town authorities are insisting on the prices set by the Assize of Bread and Ale, which means many bakers cannot afford enough wheat for their product. Tension has been mounting in town as the bakers threaten to go on strike, which would bring activity to a halt across the countryside.
When we left the party, they had just found their way through the wilderness and back toward the foresters' tower--they had got lost during the night, but in daylight the paladin's trained bird was able to spot the tower from above and guide the party to it--after a sleepless vigil huddled around a fire without shelter. The party sagely concluded that the outlaws wouldn't venture into the woods to track them in temperatures that cold, and were able to keep a fire blazing and not actually freeze to death, but they will have frostbite. They will have lost some HP because of it. (And get XP for the loss. Perhaps they'll consider purchasing gloves, overcoats, blankets, bedrolls and a tent--or perhaps they won't, considering how much the encumbrance would slow their travel; at any rate, they will have learnt something from it.)
Now it remains for the party to determine their next move. For the moment, they are safe, and could probably make use of the foresters' shelter and fire for several days before being asked to leave; but they will be hungry, and supplies are dwindling.

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