Potter's Field
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So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
MAT27:5-10

Basic Information

A potter's field is a type of cemetery used for the burial of outcasts and strangers. The name comes from the potter's field that The Bible records as being bought with the blood money that Judas Iscariot received for betraying Christ and then tried to give back to the Temple treasury. Since the Temple Priests were all too well aware where the money had come from, they could not accept it as a donation and instead spent it on a potter's field1 to be used for the burial of "foreigners"2 … and by implication, foreigners who had had no relatives to arrange their own funeral rites. See the flavour text for details.

Potter's fields continued in much the same vein thereafter - dumping grounds for the unknown, destitute and/or friendless dead. They are somewhat less common in the modern era where cremation is the usual way of disposing of the dead at minimum cost, but there are still plenty of places where poorly attended cardboard coffin funerals take place. For those who care about such things, the use of these places for 'all faiths and none' tend to mean that they don't count as sanctified ground. Given that they also tend to be placed on land that no-one else wants, the possibilities for them becoming a bad place are obvious.

This is also the sort of place where the more mundane variety of mass grave is likely to be found.

Sources

Bibliography
1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Anyone who dies unidentified and/or far from home is at risk of ending up in one of these. PCs might need to track down a friend, relative or some such who ended up as a numbered plot in one of these - and maybe get them exhumed and brought home. Records may not be good.
    • …and if you get to the numbered plot and dig up a box of bricks, what, exactly, does that mean? (Given the crappy record keeping that is…)
  • As these places are usually unsanctified and full of those who died in miserable circumstances, they are probably a necromancer's delight and the sort of place any sane shaman or medium avoids.
  • Good sources of undead, with or without necromantic help.
  • Probably a good place dump an unwanted corpse if you can disguise yourself as a municipal burial detail.
  • Many previous generations had a deep seated horror of a pauper's funeral - there are probably plot hooks in this: relatives to be tracked down, money to be sought (or funeral savings to be stolen and recovered) and, at the very least, making sure someone gets a decent turn-out at the graveside.
    • A PC cleric may be called upon to perform funeral rites for someone who would otherwise get a secular burial - this may be controversial if the person in question is shunned for a specific reason.
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