Spotted Tail and the First Lakota Teamsters

The Lakota Sioux leader Spotted Tail was a remarkable – and controversial – figure in the 19th-century Great Plains. Among his many accomplishments, Spotted Tail got his band into the freight business, getting paid to haul wagons across the plains. The man himself makes a compelling NPC, and his efforts to get some of his […]

Language Windows Into the Vagrant Underworld

Since I was first exposed to D&D, I’ve thought it was neat that one of the languages you could be proficient in was “thieves’ cant,” a language for rogues. Real life and real languages are more complicated, but secret languages do exist, and they have been used in criminal activity. One such is Rotwelsch, a […]

Ben Franklin’s Almanac Prank

In 1730, future American founding father Ben Franklin published his first almanac. While Poor Richard’s Almanack is famous today, Franklin had to do something to stand out in a crowded market. So he used a gimmick: he predicted the death of the author of a rival almanac, then kept the gag going for years, absolutely […]

Akbar’s Hunt

The court hunts of the Mughal Empire in 16th-century India were remarkably gameable affairs, where the army beat the bushes to gather a forest’s worth of animals into a ring for courtiers to fight. They were also tools of geopolitics, used to quell rebellions before they arose. Money changed hands, hunters fought tigers and elephants, […]

More NPC Foibles from the Mughals

In my last post, I wrote about the character foibles of two of India’s Mughal emperors and how those foibles can make good quirks for memorable NPCs. Today I’m doing the second half of that thought with their successors, the last three of the truly great Mughals: the patron of the arts Jahangir, the mismanager […]

NPC Foibles from the Mughals

Back in 2020, I wrote two posts about character foibles of Roman emperors that made good quirks for NPCs. Now I’m going to do it again with the Mughal emperors of India, who were just as quirky and gameable! Skipping over Babur, the first Mughal emperor (who has his own five-part series), this first post […]

Weird Treasure: Letters of Introduction

In the seventeenth century, an Iraqi named Elias al-Mûsili traveled throughout Latin America, armed with a thick stack of letters of introduction from some very prestigious people. With these letters, he was welcome just about anywhere ruled by Spain – and he accumulated more letters as he went. Historically, letters of introduction were boilerplate, a […]

Hunting the Wilderness Fop

In 1773, failed architect William Mylne fled his creditors in Scotland by absconding to the backwoods of the American colonies: a little shack outside Augusta, Georgia. He had a vision of setting himself up as a farmer, but a lack of funds and his own incompetence foiled his plans. He abandoned Georgia and traveled overland […]

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 […]

Six Political Power Players from the Pangani Revolt

Last week we looked at a really complicated (and interesting!) revolt against the Zanzibar Sultanate in 1888 Pangani, Tanzania. The revolt featured three different factions: the independents, who wanted total separation from the Sultanate; the autonomy faction, which wanted to reduce Zanzibari authority over Pangani and restore the privileges of the local elites; and the […]

Moving Lost Packages with the 6888th Postal Directory

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (its soldiers just called it the ‘six-triple-eight’) was a groundbreaking U.S. Army unit in WWII: the first unit of black, female soldiers America ever sent overseas. The 6888th was deployed to Birmingham, England, sorting mail bound for U.S. troops on the front lines in Europe. The unit’s commanding officer, […]

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 […]


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 […]

The Chinese Legation to the Paris Commune

In 1870, the government of China had to send an emergency legation to Paris in response to an incident in a Chinese port. It was an unusual circumstance; this was only the third formal diplomatic mission sent by the Qing dynasty to the Western world. A translator with the 1870 mission, Zhang Deyi, had served […]

Andrew Battel: Pirate, Convict, Merchant, and Mercenary

Andrew Battel was a failed English pirate. Captured by his intended victims, he was forced into convict labor by Portuguese colonial officials in Angola, Africa. He then went on to a varied career as a Portuguese soldier, a weird sort of half-merchant-half-mercenary dude, a minor warchief, a soldier again, and finally a deserter. His and […]