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, […]

Herald-Inspectors

The role of the herald in Medieval western Europe was multifaceted: messenger, diplomat, announcer, and an expert in the system of personal and family insignia called “heraldry”. Starting in 1530 in England and Wales, royal heralds were sent out to verify that everyone using a coat of arms was approved to be doing so and […]

PCs on the Battlefield: Benedict Arnold Tries to Take Over

American schoolchildren learn about Ethan Allen’s 1775 seizure of Fort Ticonderoga, an important moment early in the Revolutionary War. What’s less commonly talked about is that the man who’d go on to be the war’s most famous traitor almost botched the whole thing. Right when Allen was about to start the operation, Connecticut businessman Benedict […]

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 […]

Maroons of the Great Dismal Swamp

Before the American Revolutionary War, slavery was legal in all thirteen colonies. There were no slave states and free states, no Mason-Dixon line that people fleeing slavery could cross and find freedom. Still, there were places you could go: English Florida to live among the Seminoles, a big city to lose yourself in the crowd, […]

The Uncertain Truth Behind Thugee

The word ‘thug’ arrived in English in the early 1800s to refer to a specific kind of bandit operating in India. The concept of ‘thugee’ (the practices of thugs) soon lodged itself in the Anglophone popular consciousness, spawning media like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But real-life thugee was very different from the […]

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 […]

The Battlemap Entrance of Maiden Castle

The east entrance to the Iron Age hillfort at Maiden Castle, Dorset, England, makes a really great battlemap for RPG combats. Lucky for us, it also has some really interesting history and archaeology behind it! As a battlemap, it’s got strongpoints a single PC can hold, branching paths, and restrictions on movement that are interesting […]

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 […]

Retaking the Ship from Confederate Pirates

In July, 1861, the U.S. merchant sailing vessel S.J. Waring was seized by Confederate pirates. William Tillman, a black man and the ship’s cook and steward, learned the pirates intended to seize him too and sell him into slavery in the Confederacy. Tillman was not going to let that happen. He spent nine days quietly […]

Seeing the Enemy with Shang Oracle Bones

China’s Shang dynasty ruled a Bronze Age proto-state that used a lot of divination to inform the king’s decisions. The pyromancy that Shang officials wielded to understand their world left a rich trove of documentary evidence: oracle bones covered in burns and writing. They’re a great fit for RPG campaigns, even ones that don’t have […]

Old Essex County Jail

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 Justin Moor. Thanks for helping keep […]

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 […]