Professional NPCs from the Medieval Joke Book

Last month, we looked at some jokes from the earliest known printed joke book, the 15th-century Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini. This month we return to the Facetiae for more late Medieval/early Renaissance Italian jokes, each of which has at its heart a character who makes a great professional or tradesman NPC. Some readers of last […]

Tangling With the Night Watch

Societies, especially cities, have handled the enforcement of laws a lot of different ways in different places and times; the ubiquity of police in the 21st century can make it hard to imagine what other systems might even look like. One particularly gameable institution was the ‘night watch’. This system was found in a few […]

Lower-Class NPCs from the Medieval Joke Book

The earliest known printed joke book, the 15th-century Facetiae of Poggio Bracciolini, is a fabulous window into how this late Medieval/early Renaissance Italian saw his world. It’s also legitimately very funny. This week we’re going to look at seven jokes from the Facetiae, each of which has at its heart a character who makes a […]

Post-Pirate Politics in a Mughal Port

It was 1695 in Surat, a large seaport city in what is today northwest India and was at the time the Mughal Empire. Every year, ships from Surat sailed west across the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. They carried goods to trade in Yemen and Muslim pilgrims on the hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca […]

High Society NPCs from Aubrey’s Lives

Last month we looked at eleven bizarre scholarly NPCs from 1600s Britain, taken from a wonderful historical source: Aubrey’s Brief Lives. This week we return to the Lives for fourteen high-society NPCs, and – as before – we’re less interested in the real biographies of these people than in the gossip Aubrey reports about them. One […]

The Pirate Mutiny that Made the ‘Fancy’

In 1694, a mutiny occurred aboard a British ship moored in a Spanish harbor. A group of sailors, led by the first mate, overpowered the captain and those loyal to him. The mutineers set their enemies adrift and, with the rest of the crew apparently behind them, set off to become pirates! Their ship, rechristened […]

Scholarly NPCs from Aubrey’s Lives

Last month we looked at nine bizarre occult NPCs from 1600s Britain, taken from a wonderful historical source: Aubrey’s Brief Lives. This week we return to the Lives for eleven scholarly NPCs, and – as before – we’re less interested in the real biographies of these people than in the gossip Aubrey reports about them. One […]

The Olympic Spirits of Arbatel’s Grimoire

Arbatel de Magia Veterum (Arbatel: Of the Magic of the Ancients) is a 16th-century Swiss grimoire: a book of magic. It purports to be the revelations of an angel named Arbatel “concerning the greatest secrets which are lawful for man to know, and to use them without offense unto God”. It may contain the earliest […]

Occult NPCs from Aubrey’s Lives

Back in November, we looked at a weird ghost story from an even weirder source: Aubrey’s Brief Lives. This week we return to the Lives to look at his biographies of nine bizarre occult NPCs from 1600s Britain. Some were (according to Aubrey anyway) literally haunted by the ghosts of their sins; others were outright […]

The Trans Conquistador, Lieutenant Erauso

This week we’re going to look at a series of bloody, hair-raising adventures from the autobiography of a 17th-century nun, conquistador, murderer, and transman. Lieutenant Erauso was a celebrity in his own day, and his tales of mischief and mayhem across South America make terrific templates for RPG adventures! I’ll talk more about identifying Erauso […]

The Glass Delusion

The glass delusion was a weird pathology common in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance where the afflicted believed they were made of glass. It was also popular in literature, with some interesting changes to make it more suitable for fiction. The whole thing – history and fiction both – is super gameable! This post is […]

The Florentine Architecture Feud

The cathedral of Florence, Italy (Santa Maria del Fiore) is an architectural marvel. Yet its construction was marked by a three-decade-long fight between its most famous architect and his bitterest rival. This story’s got politically-motivated arrests, fine Renaissance art, a papal intercession, libel, and even a jewel theft! It makes amazing inspiration for an RPG […]

The Puzzling Genesis of the Piasa Bird

Rocky bluffs line the Mississippi River near Alton, Illinois. Painted on one is a terrible dragon with golden scales, red wings, antlers, and the face of a fanged man. It’s just a replica. The original painting wore away centuries ago – if it ever existed it all! This creature, the Piasa Bird, is a contentious piece […]

Duntulm Castle

Once a month here on the Molten Sulfur Blog, I run content taken from our book Archive: Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs. This post is one of eighty entries in Archive, each more gameable than the last! This post is brought to you by beloved Patreon backer Joel Dalenberg. Thanks for helping keep […]

Zheng He’s Alien Invasion

Material more than one year old is available to Patreon backers at the DEEP TIME ($2/month) level and higher. If you’d like access to this piece and hundreds more like it, consider becoming a patron! I’ll even write you a handwritten thank-you card.To view this content, you must be a member of The Molten Sulfur […]