Fantastical Islands from a Roman Novel

Lucian of Samosata was a second-century author writing in Roman Turkey. His best-known work is A True History, a satire of ancient historians who breathlessly repeated whatever half-baked tall tales they’d been told about foreign lands. Much as it pains me to see my beloved Herodotus so ill-treated, A True History is both funny and […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

Highgate Cemetery

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

La Tomatina

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 […]

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 […]