Divine Intervention and the 885 Siege of Paris

Through much of 885 and 886 A.D., a large force of raiders from Scandinavia besieged Paris. An eyewitness account of the Viking siege has survived: the Bella Parisiacae Urbis (Battle of the City of Paris) by Abbo, a monk of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Brother Abbo did not seek to produce a literal and accurate […]

The Abandoned God of Wat Kon Laeng & 13th Age Review

Sukhothai, in what is today central Thailand, was the capital of a Medieval Thai kingdom in the 1200s and 1300s. The city was later abandoned, and by the mid-20th century, the ruins were totally overgrown by jungle. When archaeologists began to study the site, they were initially perplexed by an odd pyramid south of the […]

I’ll Sell You Sicily, but You’ll Still Have to Conquer It (Part 2: The Conquest)

From 1250 to 1266, four successive popes worked to sell the Kingdom of Sicily to any capable European warrior-aristocrat who could afford their steep asking price. The trouble was, the papacy didn’t own Sicily. The kingdom already had a king. Anyone who bought what the popes were selling would still have to conquer Sicily themselves. […]

I’ll Sell You Sicily, but You’ll Still Have to Conquer It (Part 1: The Hook)

From 1250 to 1266, four successive popes worked to sell the Kingdom of Sicily to any capable European warrior-aristocrat who could afford the steep asking price. The trouble was, the papacy didn’t own Sicily. In fact, Sicily already had a king who was none too pleased with the whole affair. These popes weren’t selling control […]

Five Dead Bodies in an Old Chaco Farmstead

In or around 1030 AD, two women, three babies, and two dogs asphyxiated to death in a farmhouse in a thriving community at the bottom of a canyon in New Mexico. Was this event a tragic accident or was it murder? Modern archaeologists have investigated the site thoroughly and lean towards accident – but it’s still […]

The Marriage Politics of Blanche of Castille

Blanche of Castille was Queen of France from 1223 to 1252. She was a juggernaut – one of the most powerful people on the continent. She led spy rings, commanded armies, and helped turn France into the pre-eminent power in Europe. The story of how she negotiated a marriage for her son, King Louis IX (the […]

The Villainous Sorcerer-King Against Imperial Mali

Last week, we dug into the West African griot-song The Epic of Sundiata, about the eponymous founder of the Mali Empire who lived circa 1217-1255. Sundiata’s mother dominates the first half of the epic, and she makes a fabulous NPC! This week we’re going to look at the second half of the epic through a […]

The Buffalo-Ghost Queen of Imperial Mali

Sundiata (circa 1217-1255), the founder of the Mali Empire, is famed in song and story in part because of his eponymous griot-song The Epic of Sundiata. And it’s deservedly famous – it’s a great story! But the coolest character in the epic isn’t Sundiata. It’s his mom, Sogolon Kondé. She’s a sorcerer with a buffalo ghost, […]

The NPC Guest List at Babur’s Last, Greatest Party

This week we return for our final intriguing moment in the autobiography of Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. In 1528 he threw an enormous party with an astonishing cast of characters. Having all these people – all with their own reasons to love and hate one another – in the same place […]

Chasing Your Boss’ Mirror-Universe Twin Through Punjab

This week we return to another intriguing moment in the autobiography of Babur (1483-1530). He would go on to found the Mughal Empire in India, but at this point in his story he was mid-career: king of Kabul with his eyes on the stars. This post is going to be about a manhunt! It’s got […]

The Secret Peasant Book Club

In the countryside near 1500s Venice, most people were illiterate – but not all. A small number of literate peasants swapped books amongst themselves. Some of the books were forbidden. One miller was hauled before the Inquisition, not for reading banned books, but for developing his own theology from them that existed outside the bounds of Christianity. […]

The Library of Ivan the Terrible

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 Colin Wixted. Thanks for helping keep […]

NPCs from Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies

Christine de Pizan was a 15th-century French feminist author. Her work The Book of the City of Ladies (~1405) is a full-throated defense of the spiritual and moral worth of women in a society that viewed them as base, lustful, and inferior. The largest part of the City of Ladies is a collection of short […]

Terrible Mountain Travels in 16th-Century Afghanistan

This week we return to another intriguing moment in the life of Babur (1483-1530). He would go on to found the Mughal Empire in India, but at this point in his story he was fleeing from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan. He would soon claim a new kingdom, then have to make a perilous mountain crossing in […]

Family Strife and Secret Language in the Fall of Gao

The Epic of Askia Muhammad recounts many important events in the history of the Songhai people of Niger and Mali. It’s a long song – it takes hours to sing – and it has sections in multiple languages. Among other stories, it tells the tale of a terrible turmoil in a Songhai noble family and how this […]