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 […]

PCs on the Battlefield: Babur Waits in the Dark

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 in what’s today Uzbekistan. He was nineteen years old and a king without a country. He was about to get involved […]

“No, I’m the Real Martin Guerre!”

In 1548, Basque peasant Martin Guerre disappeared from his village in southwest France, abandoning his wife and child. Eight years later, he returned. Life improved; he was a better husband, father, and member of his community. But Guerre’s uncle brought a lawsuit against him claiming this peasant wasn’t the real Martin Guerre, but a similar-looking […]

Palace Intrigue with a Teenage King

The great conquerer Babur (1483-1530) is best known as the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, but he got his start a thousand miles away. He was born in what is today Uzbekistan, and at the age of eleven was thrust into the snake pit that was Central Asian geopolitics. His time as a […]

A Wedding to Remember: Three Lais by Marie de France

This week we’re going to look at three lais: courtly Medieval short tales of love and adventure. Their author is a mysterious and engaging figure, and their contents are perfect for the gaming table: secret twins, secret parents, schemes, adultery, murder, and werewolves! This post is brought to you by beloved Patreon backer Robert Nichols. […]

The Politics of the First Witches’ Sabbaths

Today, a standard component of the European myth of the witch is that witches are organized. They maintain heretical Satanic sects or covens and form a vast conspiracy to undermine the Christian order. From Faust to The Witch (2015), the idea is almost taken as a given. But it’s actually a pretty new concept. The […]

Earnest Pleas in Early Muslim Poetry

Khalifa ibn Khayyat was an Arab historian and religious scholar active in the 800s A.D. His history of the Umayyad and early Abbasid caliphates is one of the oldest to have survived. It records a lot more poetry than you see in Western histories. Most of these poems are put in the mouths of people […]

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 […]