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DShomshak

Strange, Small Crafts

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Background: In my current Fantasy campaign, most artisans in the city of Thalassene belong to guilds: the cobbler’s guild, the silk-weaver’s guild, the papermaker and printer’s guild, and so on. (There are also guilds for professions such as doctors, lawyers and bankers.)

 

But some crafts are too small to have guilds. There just aren’t enough artisans to make it worthwhile. These are locally called “oddmongers.” And just as most of the big-time jewelers cluster around Gold Court and most undertakers are on Coffin Street, the oddmongers have a neighborhood of their own called, naturally, Oddmonger. This is where the PCs are based, so I’m developing the neighborhood more than the rest of the city.

 

I have thought of many different oddmongers, but I could use more. Suggest away! Explain why a craft wouldn’t employ many practitioners, and why it wouldn’t be folded into some larger group of artisans. To illustrate, here’s what I already have:

 

Parasol-Makers. Some lace, some cloth, some painted paper. A couple factories as well as freelance artisans, but I’s enough of a specialty/luxury item that the whole industry fits easily on one short street.

 

Fanmakers. Likewise, and on the same street as the parasol-makers. Paper or cloth fans may be painted, so the business involves limners as well as artisans to glue the material to the frame of wood or ivory ribs. Lots of people own fans, but it doesn't take a lot of people to make them.

 

Artificial Flower Makers. Paper, silk and one fellow who works in glass. The craft began with religion: flowers as a common offering at household shrines to show piety, but the cost mounts up for fresh flowers every few days. So, buy realistic fakes. (Though it eventually became something of an art form in its own right.)

 

Wax Fruit Maker. A newly invented craft, for similar purposes as artificial flowers: Look like you can afford fresh fruit all the time, when you actually can’t.

 

Featherworkers. Anything from little ornaments to shimmering feather cloaks. A foreign craft introduced by Furanian refugees.

 

Picture-Scroll Printers. A sort of long comic book in scroll form. Outside the printer’s guild because halflings invented it and still dominate the craft. (Inspired by RL art form from old Japan, btw.)

 

Sugar-Spinner. A gnome who is both a master alchemist and master tinker invented cotton candy. No one else has yet duplicated his two-story machine, which requires several strapping laborers to turn the cranks, pump the bellows and stoke the furnace. The confectioner’s guild would like to have him, but he insists that selling cotton candy is only to fund his further experiments to his ultimate goal: edible candy clothing! It’s genius, I tell you! Genius!

 

Tattoo Artists. Complex, detailed body art, not the basic ink of a soldier, sailor or thug.

 

Music-Box Maker. Another luxury item, too tinkery for the musical instrument makers, and too musical for the tinkers.

 

Bonsai. Some gods are traditionally worshiped at sacred trees rather than temples. How to do this in a built-up city? Own a miniature, portable sacred tree.

 

Toy Soldier Maker. More detailed than usual for the pewtersmiths; comparable to jewelers. But  they are not jewelers.

 

Lens Grinders. You can buy spyglasses or spectacles, but these precision items cost a lot.

 

Denturists. Another precision craft, and costly enough that the market remains small.

 

Paper Appliqué. Another foreign craft, recently introduced: patterns or pictures of colored cut paper applied to a wooden surface and coated with lacquer or varnish. Not quite a poor man’s enamel work, but not quite as expensive.

 

China-Doll Makers. This requires specialized forms of multiple crafts: porcelain-workers to make the heads and other body parts, some tinkering to put them together, and seamstresses to make the miniature clothing. Hm. There might be enough artisans to form a Toymaker's Guild, but presently they're scattered: People who make wooden toys, for instance, in the woodworker's guild.

 

Mask Makers. Several possible crafts (cloth, leather, wood, etc.), possibly in combination. For costume parties, some religious festivals, or the big Autocrat’s Ascension Day parade down in Mactown.

 

Vellum Maker. Papyrus and true paper have largely supplanted parchment and vellum, but the lone business in town that still makes writing material from animal skins stubbornly resists absorption into the guild.

 

Pearl Carver. Making stuff from nacre. Not quite a jeweler, and there’s a foreign aspect as many techniques and designs are copied from the merfolk.
 

Alchemists have a small guild, but there is no magic guild.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

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Musical Instrument Makers - There might even be enough of these guys to form a guild, but they don't, because different types of instruments involve very different materials and skills.  The horn-makers, woodwind makers, drum-makers, and stringed-instrument makers have little in common.

 

Embroiderers - people who don't make clothing, but can add a person's name or insignia to an item of clothing.

 

If alchemists have a small guild, there might be others for various specialized magical crafts:  Wand Makers, Fortune Tellers, makers of "good luck charms" or items that offer some magical protection, maybe even "material component makers".

 

Game Makers - makers of playing cards, dice, et al.  Where do the gamblers get the stuff to gamble with?

 

There could possibly be some makers of high-quality items that many people make for themselves.  For example:  You can pluck a feather and make a writing quill yourself, but there might be a craftsman who has the skill to make really good ones that are fancy and last a long time.

 

Is it just crafted goods?  Or might there be some specialized services offered?

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Charm-makers.  Crafting symbolic good-luck talismans, preserved animal body-parts, dream-catchers, and similar bits of homey "magic." Not something that threatens any of the serious magicians, jewelers, taxidermists, or the like.

 

Beaders.  Stringing glass, pottery, stone or bone beads onto necklaces and bracelets, clothing, carpet fringes, etc. More of an adjunct to fashion than a competitor, and primarily for the budget-conscious.

 

Egg-painters.  I often saw this in Asian-themed curio shops in western North America -- lovely scenes hand-painted on eggshells, usually mounted in little glass display cases. Probably a folk-art hobby to gain some money on the side, rather than a full-time job.

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Beaders already operate in another neighborhood, as they are actually a somewhat important part of this trade city. Excerpted from the player's guide I wrote for Thalassene:

------------

    Not everything in Old Town is wretched. Some neighborhoods are poverty-proud, the houses and tenements kept tidy and the streets patrolled by volunteer guards. Prinks, the neighborhood of milliners and ribbon-makers, and Gauds, the neighborhood where cheap ornaments, beads and trinkets are made, are quite nice. Their inhabitants see themselves as the gentry of Old Town.

------------------

BOX: Trade Beads
    A branch of the Vitrio (glazers’ guild) in Gauds produces trade beads of multicolored glass. As the name suggests, these beads are widely traded to primitive cultures for their local commodities. Thalassene manufactures more trade beads than any other city in the Empire, and of the highest quality and demand in distant lands. It’s a point of pride in the Vitrio that some countries use Thalassene trade beads for money. Other countries buy trade beads just to trade with their own neighbors, giving the Plenary Empire a presence in lands where its name is unknown. Lorusa Beader, owner of the largest trade-bead factory, is the leading citizen in Gauds.

-------------

Years back when I researched primitive money and ancient commerce for an Exalted writing job, I learned a bit about trade beads from a book on early money. Multicolored trade beads were once widely used as proto-money in Africa. The book said a curious aspect of their use is that glass can't be dated. (At least it couldn't at the time the book was written. Might be possible now.) So if you found a trade bead somewhere in the hinterlands of Africa, it might be 2 years old, made in, say, England... or 2,000 years old, made in Rome. The practice is that old, and the beads never wear out.

 

This is why Fantasy GMs should do research. It's not to "get it right," a shifty concept for an imaginary world. It's because you'll find bits of truth that really are stranger than fiction.

 

Dean Shomshak
 

 

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Thalassene is a large city by pre-modern standards: 200,000 people, comparable to the largest Medieval cities such as Paris or Constantinople. So even crafts for luxury or semi-luxury goods, such as embroidery, can pretty sizeable if they are also labor intensive. One of the neighborhoods is named Broider for its chief industry -- though a lot of the work is for trade or to supply the hinterlands.

 

Wand- and rod-makers are a definite possibility. Wizards would go to a jeweler for orbs or crystals, or a wood-carver for a staff, but wands and rods tend to be flashier and look like they could involve multiple crafts. (Even assuming the manufacture is purely mundane, on which I have not yet decided.) Good call. (And I'm not a fan of "spell component puches," but there too, in a large community it would make sense to pay someone to gather all the whatnots instead of scrounding around oneself.)

 

Other good thoughts, too.

 

Dean Shomshak

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Writer, transcriber and calligrapher. Someone who writes letters, notes, maybe even short books, etc... for those who are illiterate but still need to send letters or want to get information out. 
 

and by necessity, a “reader”. Someone you could hire to read the letters you receive if you are not able to read. 
 

Probably both not an Oddmonger area business specifically, but there would probably be one or two shops of each available in the zone, as chances are a lot more people in the Oddmonger area are illiterate compared to some of the richer and more successful guild areas in the city. 
 

adventure plot seed I just thought of:

 

poor, illiterate farmer receives a letter from long estranged family member. Can’t read it so hires a reader to read it to him. Is actually a will or notice that he has inherited a lot of money/land/whatnot. Reader lies to farmer and goes to collect/get money (or whatever) himself. Players discover the con/fraud and must Stop reader and get the poor farmer what he is due and make his life better. 

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 People forgot the obvious one.  Food carts.  Prepared food that can be put together by anyone who can cook.  A lot of folks forget street food. I may joke about "Fried Weasel on a Stick"*, but the food is out there. Living in Los Angeles, food was always available from food trucks, food carts (danger dogs), ice cream carts, and fruit carts. Now there may be restrictions as to what can be sold (no alcohol), but the offerings can be varied and add local flavor to your cities and towns. 

 

 

 

*Stolen shamelessly from Sam & Max

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7 minutes ago, Scott Ruggels said:

 People forgot the obvious one.  Food carts.  Prepared food that can be put together by anyone who can cook.  A lot of folks forget street food. I may joke about "Fried Weasel on a Stick"*, but the food is out there. Living in Los Angeles, food was always available from food trucks, food carts (danger dogs), ice cream carts, and fruit carts. Now there may be restrictions as to what can be sold (no alcohol), but the offerings can be varied and add local flavor to your cities and towns. 

 

And they can exist anywhere and anywhen.  I don't doubt for a second that there were food carts in Ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia!

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On February 22, 2020 at 10:54 PM, mallet said:

Writer, transcriber and calligrapher. Someone who writes letters, notes, maybe even short books, etc... for those who are illiterate but still need to send letters or want to get information out. 
 

and by necessity, a “reader”.

 

Heh heh heh-- this is one I do myself, particularly in slightly-more-realistic fantasy:  the Office of the Public Scribe.  In larger communities, it may be tax funded and contain four or five employees.  In more rural areas, it might cost a coin as it's just someone who could read and write and hung up a shingle  (the traditional, nigh-universally understood sign across the tribes of Man is a skin scroll, in ink well, and a quill).  Generally things can be written, translated, read, transcribed, and even posted or couriered if such service is available in that area.  They are also recognized "official" witnesses, should such a service be required.

 

They have a Guild, though not all who practice belong.  Guild-certified Public Scribes are the best, if pricey (when not tax funded).  They are each fluent in no less than four languages (two of which will be regional) and many of them know five or six.  Their handwriting is flawless and precise, and where applicable all will be certified by local government as functionaries with regard to witnessing and recording any deal or transaction, and while not court officials or barristers will be familiar with any documentation laws in effect in the area they serve, and can assist in drawing up at-least-locally legal documents.  Again, all for a price. ;)

 

I took the inspiration from telegram offices (may they rest in peace) and public notaries.  :)

 

 

1 hour ago, Scott Ruggels said:

 People forgot the obvious one.  Food carts.  

 

You know, I've done vendors and bazzars but a food cart never occurred to me.

 

 

(and my favorite Sam and Max gag is "Buck Naked; Texas Ranger.")

 

 

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The first scenario I ran to introduce the PCs to Thalassene and each other involved a food cart and an angry scion of a patrician family. 😁

 

I've already noted a few scribes on the neighborhood map. The excellent online article, "Medieval Demographics Made Easy" by S. John Ross, says that in Paris of 1292 there was one copyist" per 2,000 people. I have a notary in the neighborhood, too. As a devotee of Maion, the god of justice and the dead, he particularly specializes in wills. There's also one fully credentialed attorney, who is an arrogant bastard and high on my list of victims if I ever run a murder mystery scenario.

 

Dunno if there were food carts in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, but ancient Rome had lunch counters. So does Thalassene. One of the vendors in Oddmonger is a Vohinese halfling -- the equatorial ethnic group that introduced curry to port cities such as Thalassene.

 

Dean Shomshak

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And I'm doing something with LL's egg painters. I'm just not sure what, except these won't be mere knicknacks. There's a purpose.

 

Soul vessels? The painted scene is of the afterlife home intended for the deceased. Keep your egg handy in case of unexpected death.

 

A very large egg might double as a crematory urn.

 

Instead of a landscape, the egg is painted with the image of a protective spirit. It is believed to act like the Jewish Teraphim or Mesopotamian Papsukkal, calling a protective spirit to watch over the house. People who know the proper spells and rites can make a ward-egg that really works.

 

Other?

 

Dean Shomshak

 

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I just recalled my grandfather and his hobbies. He was an avid collector, mainly philately, but also pocket watches and sami knives. One of his more obscure collections was of hair art -- clock chains and brooches are what I remember. Really fiddly stuff.

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17 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

Glove Makers. A specialised form of sewing.

Pure Gatherers. These proud folk gather the "pure" from the streets and sell it to the glove makers who use it to whiten the leather of the gloves.

 

"Medieval Demographics Made Easy" mentions glove makers. Using the ratio given, there'd be 83 in Thalassene -- not an insignificant guild.

 

Good bit of "local color" for the associated "Pure Gatherers," though. (Huh. Somebody's right in the "Immersion" thread: Fantasy verisimilitude requires poo.😁

 

Actually, the whole list from MDME may be of interest, so here it is with explanatory text:

-----------------

Each type of business is given a Support Value (SV). This is the number of people it takes to support a single business of that sort. For instance, the SV for shoemakers (by far the most common trade in towns) is 150. This means that there will be one shoemaker for every 150 people in an area. These numbers can vary by up to 60% in either direction, but provide a useful baseline for GMs. Think about the nature of the town or city to decide if the numbers need to be changed. A port, for instance, will have more fishmongers than the table indicates.


To find the number of, say, inns in a city, divide the population of the city by the SV value for inns (2,000). For a village of 400 people, this reveals only 20% of an inn! This means that there is a 20% chance of there being one at all. And even if there is one, it will be smaller and less impressive than an urban inn. The SV for taverns is 400, so there will be a single tavern.


    Business        SV
    Shoemakers        150
    Furriers        250
    Maidservants        250
    Tailors            250
    Barbers        350
    Jewelers        400
    Taverns/Restaurants    400
    Old-Clothes        400
    Pastry-cooks        500
    Masons        500
    Carpenters        550
    Weavers        600
    Chandlers        700
    Mercers        700
    Coopers        700
    Bakers            800
    Watercarriers        850
    Scabbardmakers    850
    Wine-Sellers        900
    Hatmakers        950
    Saddlers        1,000
    Chicken Butchers    1,000
    Pursemakers        1,100
    Butchers        1,200
    Fishmongers        1,200
    Beer-Sellers        1,400
    Buckle Makers    1,400
    Plasterers        1,400
    Spice Merchants    1,400
    Blacksmiths        1,500
    Painters        1,500
    Doctors        1,700*
    Roofers        1,800
    Bathers        1,900
    Locksmiths        1,900
    Ropemakers        1,900
    Copyists        2,000
    Harness-Makers    2,000
    Inns            2,000
    Rugmakers        2,000
    Sculptors        2,000
    Tanners        2,000
    Bleachers        2,100
    Cutlers            2,300
    Hay Merchants    2,300
    Glovemakers        2,400
    Woodsellers        2,400
    Woodcarvers        2,400
    Bookbinders        3,000
    Illuminators        3,900
    Booksellers        6,300
    *These are licensed doctors. Total doctor SV is 350.
Some other figures: There will be one noble household per 200 population, one lawyer ("Advocate") per 650, one clergymaqn per 40, and and one priest per 25-30 clergy.

----------------------

These can of course be adjusted to suit campaign needs. For instance, Thalassene probably has more booksellers, since this setting has the printing press.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

 

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17 hours ago, drunkonduty said:

Glove Makers. A specialised form of sewing.

Pure Gatherers. These proud folk gather the "pure" from the streets and sell it to the glove makers who use it to whiten the leather of the gloves.

 

"Medieval Demographics Made Easy" mentions glove makers. Using the ratio given, there'd be 83 in Thalassene -- not an insignificant guild.

 

Good bit of "local color" for the associated "Pure Gatherers," though. (Huh. Somebody's right in the "Immersion" thread: Fantasy verisimilitude requires poo.😁

 

Actually, the whole list from MDME may be of interest, so here it is with explanatory text:

-----------------

Each type of business is given a Support Value (SV). This is the number of people it takes to support a single business of that sort. For instance, the SV for shoemakers (by far the most common trade in towns) is 150. This means that there will be one shoemaker for every 150 people in an area. These numbers can vary by up to 60% in either direction, but provide a useful baseline for GMs. Think about the nature of the town or city to decide if the numbers need to be changed. A port, for instance, will have more fishmongers than the table indicates.


To find the number of, say, inns in a city, divide the population of the city by the SV value for inns (2,000). For a village of 400 people, this reveals only 20% of an inn! This means that there is a 20% chance of there being one at all. And even if there is one, it will be smaller and less impressive than an urban inn. The SV for taverns is 400, so there will be a single tavern.


    Business        SV
    Shoemakers        150
    Furriers        250
    Maidservants        250
    Tailors            250
    Barbers        350
    Jewelers        400
    Taverns/Restaurants    400
    Old-Clothes        400
    Pastry-cooks        500
    Masons        500
    Carpenters        550
    Weavers        600
    Chandlers        700
    Mercers        700
    Coopers        700
    Bakers            800
    Watercarriers        850
    Scabbardmakers    850
    Wine-Sellers        900
    Hatmakers        950
    Saddlers        1,000
    Chicken Butchers    1,000
    Pursemakers        1,100
    Butchers        1,200
    Fishmongers        1,200
    Beer-Sellers        1,400
    Buckle Makers    1,400
    Plasterers        1,400
    Spice Merchants    1,400
    Blacksmiths        1,500
    Painters        1,500
    Doctors        1,700*
    Roofers        1,800
    Bathers        1,900
    Locksmiths        1,900
    Ropemakers        1,900
    Copyists        2,000
    Harness-Makers    2,000
    Inns            2,000
    Rugmakers        2,000
    Sculptors        2,000
    Tanners        2,000
    Bleachers        2,100
    Cutlers            2,300
    Hay Merchants    2,300
    Glovemakers        2,400
    Woodsellers        2,400
    Woodcarvers        2,400
    Bookbinders        3,000
    Illuminators        3,900
    Booksellers        6,300
    *These are licensed doctors. Total doctor SV is 350.
Some other figures: There will be one noble household per 200 population, one lawyer ("Advocate") per 650, one clergymaqn per 40, and and one priest per 25-30 clergy.

----------------------

These can of course be adjusted to suit campaign needs. For instance, Thalassene probably has more booksellers, since this setting has the printing press.

 

Dean Shomshak

 

 

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Forgive me if I've missed it; blood pressure's way up right now, and reading is difficult when you can't focus--

 

but one that I have used with fair regularity in coastal cities-- that is, coastal cities with port-deep water, anyway-- is divers.  (Yes, of course they're free divers, unless you're using magic lungs, but if you have magic, you can make more money than doing salvage work!)

 

Can't afford to dry dock your ship?  Dive teams can scrape barnacles (more or less).  They can re-tie lost anchors (realistically, those things have _never_ been cheap if you opted for iron over stone, and even stone anchors had an iron rod and eye through the center) as well.  Primarily they spear fish whatever local delicacies may be in the waters nearby, but they can also salvage traps and odd bits of treasure as well. A particularly large or wealthy city may even have teams capable of doing some ship repairs while the ship is in the water, in particular, rudder replacement and riggings for such.

 

 

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Ooh. Excellent thought, Duke. Especially since one thing I already established about Thalassene is that a treaty with the local merfolk has long been an important part of the city's economy and culture. I thought in terms of merfolk trading nacre, pearls and coral for land-made tools, cloth and the like. Also, the treaty enjoins local merfolk to assist the crews of wrecked or sinking ships. But now that you've suggested them, these sorts of ship services seem virtually inevitable. Thank you!

 

(How much are merfolk part of city life? Well, since the city's legendary founding there's been the yearly ritual call;ed "the Marriage to the Sea." Merfolk call it "the Marriage to the Land." And one consequence is that some humans and some merfolk can effectively Multiform into the other race.)

 

Dean Shomshak

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Here's one more oddmonger: flint-knapper. This craft was once one of the most widely practiced in the world... at the dawn of humanity, 250 million years ago, and a few times since then. But the technology of chipped flint and obsidian still has a few specialized uses on Old Earth.

 

Religion would be an easy one. Religions are often conservative, and some cults might insist on an obsidian blade for sacrificing a victim. But I don't want to play the Cult Kookiness card too many times.

 

No, IIRC some people even IRL still have uses for an obsidian blade. The edge is much sharper than glass... and this world has skilled surgeons (as Rome did -- Galen did cataract surgery.) So there's a guy in Oddmonger who makes obsidian scalpels. A small, specialized but steady market.

 

Dean Shomshak

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