Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Prophet of the Pot

I'd heard of Diogenes and his search for one honest man with his lamp. I think I even knew about his stoicism and challenge of convention. But somehow until this week I missed that dude lived in a pot!

I stumbled upon a line drawing online that showed this and I thought it would be a perfect NPC for Nidus, my own Striped Mage of sorts. He could offer information and maybe identify things. Only after searching did I realize it was Diogenes and that him living in the "tub" was famous.

Tub is a translation of the Greek pithos which was a big ceramic vessel, often sunk into the ground. Some web pages translate pithos as jug or jar, which makes sense for the smaller versions. But for my American ear pot sounds better for something that big.

Frustratingly, I somehow lost that first line drawing I came across. (If you find a good public domain illustration of Diogenes in his pot let me know) But there are several other illustrations.

There is a famous anecdote of Alexander the Great meeting Diogenes and the latter not being impressed. This doesn't interest me much because it's just the kind of anecdote someone would make up. It does point to the fact that the idea of Diogenes in his pot is archetypal enough in that it was considered for creating this kind of apocryphal tale.

Maybe the hardest part of DMing for me is acting as NPCs without going into cliche. It would probably be a good idea to have some clear guidelines of my Prophet of the Pots values and ideals.

Trouble is, I don't think Diogenes would give a fig about helping adventurers find treasure or identify their material goods-- he lives in a pot! But maybe that's the point-- he's a rich source of info that the players need to learn to tap, find out what matters to him, find out how to interact with him.

And also, my Prophet of the Pot is not Diogenes, maybe he has different ideas about things. Do you have any iconic information giving NPCs in your campaign? Any ideas on how you might run a Prophet of the Pot?


  1. I'd keep in the Cynical quips and stunts. Well, except for the public masturbation one.

    The original rules lawyer:

    When Plato gave Socrates' definition of man as "featherless bipeds" and was much praised for the definition, Diogenes plucked a chicken and brought it into Plato's Academy, saying, "Behold! I've brought you a man." After this incident, "with broad flat nails" was added to Plato's definition.

    An information merchant posing as a philosopher. He only gives out information of equal worth and novelty to that received. His commission is a meal's worth of food.

    The information "A group of wealthy adventurers is exploring the dungeon east of town" is, of course, as up for sale as anything else.

    His arch-rival is a Stylite.

  2. Swiped from a post on

    The otyugh the players are after is capable of speech. Moreover, it's a prophet. It sits in a trash-heap temple that civilized men prefer not to speak of, attended by sickly acolytes that prepare the rotten garbage in disgusting flavor combinations that only an otyugh would find palatable. It doesn't see the future, rather it sort of tastes it. If you want it to tell the future for you, you have to pay its price. Usually it wants to taste something it has never tasted before.

    Inspired a level of my megadungeon.

  3. Great comments, thanks.

    @Roger: 1) I was actually toying with how far I should go in trying to shake up the players. Diogenes' public performance is probably too far, but I suppose it depends on which players are at the session and how much they've had to drink.

    2) Yeah, Pillar-Saints! I was actually thinking about posting about them. Actually I think Michael Curtis did blog about them already. . . checking . . . yep:

    @Red: I read somewhere about a DM that roleplayed an otyugh speaking in 3rd person and the players took such a liking to it they started feeding it monsters and sort of taking care of it. Can't remember which blog that was on . . .

  4. Enjoyed reading this but I must say that you're missing something rather important about the Pithos -- call it what you want in English, but the legend communicated through Dio Chrysostom was that Diogenes lived large wine jar. Keeping this in mind puts Diogenes utterances in a new light ( a wine-soaked one!...)

  5. Oh, and BTW...Diogenes was not a Stoic. He was a Cynic philosopher.