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.

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