Judah P. Benjamin

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 […]

Five Old Ibibio Women

The homeland of the Ibibio people is the delta of the Niger River in southeast Nigeria. In the mid-1960s, anthropologist Iris Andreski visited Ibibio villages in the rainforest and swamps between Calabar and Port Harcourt to interview the oldest women she could find. Her book, Old Wives’ Tales, is a collection of biographies of these […]

Rudivoravan: Fallen Princess Turned Cold War Broadcaster

Mrs. Rudi Voravan of Washington, D.C. was originally Her Serene Majesty Princess Rudivoravan of Siam (later Thailand). She was the granddaughter of one of Thailand’s most famous kings, was courted by two others, and spent her first twenty-four years living in palaces. Yet she renounced her royal status to marry a commoner. During the Cold […]

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 Pirate King of Iceland

In 1809, a British merchant ship carrying the former Danish pirate Jørgen Jørgensen arrived in Iceland, a Danish dependency. The pirate overthrew the Danish governor without bloodshed and proclaimed himself king of an independent Iceland. Two months later, a British warship arrived, arrested Jørgensen, and restored the Danish governor – even though Denmark and Britain […]

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 […]

Jashodaben Modi

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 Arthur Brown. Thanks for helping keep […]

Hu in the Asylum

From 1723 to 1725, the French asylum at Charenton held a patient named Hu John, a Chinese Catholic. How Hu got to France and how he came to be committed is a remarkable story. Springing him is an even better adventure! This post is brought to you by beloved Patreon backer Justin Moor. Thanks for […]

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 […]

Madame Chouteau’s Clever Frontier Inheritance

Marie-Thérèse Chouteau was one of the founders of the city of St. Louis, Missouri. She was a powerful and unusual woman, existing both inside the Franco-Spanish colonial system and outside it, depending on what suited her needs. The way she obtained her inheritance from her not-husband screams to be turned into an adventure, and she […]

Apostolic Succession, Donatism, and the Hidden Pope

We got a weird one this week, folks! This time, we’re going to look at the principle of apostolic succession in the Catholic Church, how it underpins the authority of the pope, how that triggered a revolt in the fourth century, how it impacted the Western Schism of 1378-1429 when there were three rival popes […]

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 […]

Lord Thomas of Marle, the Wickedest Man of His Generation

Thomas of Marle (1073-1130 A.D.), the Lord of Coucy, was a Medieval French nobleman so evil that the King of France, the Catholic Church, and his own father all tried to destroy him. The era’s chaotic politics gave Thomas the opportunity to rampage across the landscape – and sometimes threw him a lifeline when the consequences […]

Bandits, Agricultural College, and the Century of Humiliation

In 1924, in Guangzhou, China, six bandits kidnapped thirty-six students and staff at an agricultural college. What might otherwise be a pretty simple story of retrieving some hostages gets incredibly muddy with just a little bit of context – and the whole thing makes a great RPG adventure! This post is brought to you by […]

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 […]