Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Potter's Shop


A nice collection of things from a direction that mostly gets ignored - containers and small ceramic bits and pieces ... along with some rather quality treasure.  The two foot tall majolica urn would be glazed pottery, very thin and highly decorated.  Blue is the most expensive tint.  What's marvelous about this piece is that the price is very high, it is difficult to exchange for money and it is so delicate and heavy that moving it is an enormous pain in the rear.  Even if the thief sees it sitting on the table in the palatial house he's breaking into, and knows what its worth, there's no convenient way to get down the outside wall with it, nor avoid the guard, nor move it once its home.  But hell, it's nearly 14,000 g.p.

The various items on these lists which are contained in flasks or pots include the cost and weight of the items on this table.  Thus, if you use your flask of oil without breaking it, you can return your empty here and get your 9 c.p. for it.  I've said this before ... the containers themselves, once the substance within was used, rarely receive any notice.  What did you do with the last flask from which you quaffed a potion?  Throw it away?  Did you even say you were doing that?

Various forms
The chandler's pot is a fairly large container used to melt wax and make candles - it is narrow and deep, and is set right into a fire.  The fish pot and the apothecaries' pots are both low, disc-like containers; the gluepot is fat and a little taller.  The flasks each have a fat bottom and a narrow spout.  The amphora is huge and typically has a spike in the bottom for stabbing into an earthen floor, resting in a corner or against other amphorae all leaning together.  On ships they were netted together to prevent them from falling over.  As a wine container it is excellent because the vessel is balanced so that it can be poured by a strong man holding the handle and the spiked bottom, or by two servants.  Sometimes an amphora has a bottom for standing up, this being the variety more often pictured.

Historically, there was a period in which amphorae were used to ship grain from Egypt to Rome, in order to feed the population of the city.  It was impractical to return the clay vessels, so they were heaped together at the Roman end, and broken to take up less room.  During the period of the empire this pile became huge, and was abandoned in order to create a second pile.  These piles still exist in Rome today, covered now by soil and trees.  Here is an image of the Testaccio hill, composed of pottery shards:

Ancient landfill
What else?  The description of the earthenware cup describes it as chestnut; that is a reference to the color, and not the wood.  A small amount of dye has been added to the object to color it.  I'm often experimenting with combinations of prices to see how A affects B; any piece of pottery has the potential to be dyed, glazed or otherwise decorated as the player might desire it, if the object is available once the request has been put in.  It only takes me less than a minute to fabricate a new object, provided I already have the algorithms in place.  I encourage my players to have new ideas.

By the way, the difference between earthenware, stoneware and porcelain is the quality of the clay which is used to make the pottery.  Earthenware is the cheapest pottery.  Stoneware is mixed with mineral-rich clays and porcelain with kaolin, a comparatively rare white clay which allows for very thin and delicate throwing.  I won't go further into it; pottery throwing is something of a widespread talent now and I'm sure some reader somewhere knows much more about it than I.

Very well; I'll get to the Printer's next, when I can.


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