Lucilla

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 […]

By Order of General Ludd and His Luddites

The Luddites were a British labor movement active roughly between 1811 and 1817. They opposed the growing mechanization of the British textile industry by smashing machines, burning buildings, and threatening – and sometimes killing – business leaders and magistrates. They had a secret, probably fictional, leader. And they’re more relevant now than ever. Let’s look at what […]

The Scandalous Memoirs of Regency England

For the upper classes, the early 1800s in Britain were an elegant and glamorous age. This is the time of Bridgerton, Emma, and Pride and Prejudice. In London high society, it was an era of lavish balls, fabulous outfits, and not thinking too much about the ongoing Napoleonic Wars or the growing poverty in the […]

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 […]

The Lavish High Society of 1888 Vienna

In 1888, the Austro-Hungarian empire was in its decadent final decades. In Vienna, the capital, baroque splendor was on full display. Yet while ‘baroque’ can mean glitzy and overwrought, it also refers to an artistic style then over a century out of date. And that’s late 1800s Vienna: a cultural Mecca that was also the […]

“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 […]

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 […]