BAD MOON RISING: An Adventure & Campaign Starter for Tomb of Black Sand


Jesper Myrfors

Apparently, one thing I really like is strange moons and in particular, those that, like a Cuckoo bird, have displaced the native moon. Here is a quick set-up that I did to run Tomb of Black Sand (Swordfish Islands) for PAXSouth 2020 (RIP). I have also included a short blurb on how to spin it into a potentially longer campaign.


✦DM NOTEThe PCs are part of a mystical order representing a union between human forest communities, druids, and forest spirits. The players have done something wrong. And in their dispiration to correct that mistake (not necessarily all the exact same one) they ended up in the Tomb. The Siblings are powerful but have been petrified maybe by the Order or maybe by some other faction. They are not benevolent, but still only children. To reinforce this mystical order, I only provided pre-gens in the following 5e classes, Thieves, Fighter (Champion), Druids (Circle of Land, Forest), Fighter (Eldritch Knights), Rangers, Wizards

OPENING: All of you stand on a dark grey plain. Flocks of corvids & carrion birds, not yet glimpsed by your eyes, wheel & dive overhead.

In front of you is an endless void swallowing black sand. A step forward would bring release, but that blessed step is halted by a warm presence- one that holds promise. When you turn two figures, siblings, speak in unison:
“You desperately seek oblivion, but purpose we now supply:
Rescue us from this tomb, where we rest not in death, but still eternal lie.

Beyond a lover’s lake measuring adoration in tears,
We embrace under a purple sky, trapped only together with our fears.

And our egress is blocked and your eyes won’t reveal,
This portal home or its lock; the key- a smashed lunar seal.

Now we must be silent as the Raven Queen is always vigil,
So holy knights remember us and the quartered silver sigil.”

✦DM NOTE: This describes the two purple sheet-covered statues of two siblings in room 13C described as being petrified by the nobility to prevent a world-ending prophecy involving them from coming true. The rest is references to how to get out of the tomb.

CURRENTLY: You awake, stiff, heavy, and covered in a gossamer and crystal burial shroud. It is cold like woven ice water and burns the thin skin of your face.

You have a heavy almost life-ending guilt for something you did or didn't do-- a broken oath. But this is only a dull ache, covered over by the scab of new purpose the Siblings have given you.

Around you the sounds of a shovel scraping against stone in deafening silence. The scent in the air is two types of rot: bodily and spiritual. Shroud-muted figures toil lit by flicking candles.
CONNECTIONS OF THE PAST (roll for your relationship to the person to your left):

✦DM NOTEThis just helps explain party cohesion and gives the players a little something to roleplay around. Its amazing how well little things like this work.

1. Entered the Order together
2. Inexplicable doppelganger of
3. Mentor to
4. Squire of
5. Broke an oath with
6. Do not fully trust
7. Owe a life debt to
8. Share a dream of the nemesis moon

OPENING: The PCs are part of an important pact between the scattered human communities of Vast Wold and the creatures therein. The pact was brokered by the druidic communities. These sacred woods sit in the center of the world (at least as far as the PCs are concerned).

Its main opposition is to the arrival of the nemesis moon, Ghorath, which has unseated the silver moon in the sky. It now sits as a black spot against the noon sun and a red baleful eye at night.

In this world the gods have gone silent, their voices drowned by the usurper moon’s song.

EAST the coastal communities of the cities under the Seven Faceless Angels (the only human fortifications left)
WEST the GÜL kingdoms in the unconsecrated empires (the ruminates of the human kingdoms)
NORTH the northern desolations of the Null and Hobgoblin enclaves
SOUTH is a flooded coastline that connects the EAST to the VAST WOLD


REAPERCON 2023: Great fun! This was my second time going and I had an even better time than in 2022. If you found me and chatted, you got this ribbon: Moldvay Basic 1981

Classes I Took: ReaperCon has several classes on just about every aspect of miniature painting you could want and at all skill levels. I took two classes. The first was about the basic materials you need to get started patining and why. Most of the material was stuff you could find in your kitchen. The second was a class on basic painting techniques which really is understanding your mini needs just 3 colors: a base, a darker, thiner wash, and a dry brushed highlight color. Reaper sells triads for this and also ~5 color kits for different types of mini "ecosystems" like goblinods, undead, or adventurers.

Paint & Take: ReaperCon also has a large area where you can practice these skills. You just sit down at a table. Grab a random mini from the large pile on the table and start painting. Its really neat.

Games I Played: 

Dungeon Dwellers feels like if someone "5e'd" OD&D (check out the link). We investigated a puzzle involving the flashing of sewer fireflies and glowing tiles. We fought giant rats, dire rats, and rat-people. I never hit once as a fighter despite a +7 to-hit but yelled insults at those rats as if I did.

TMNT & Other Strangeness is a nostalgic classic for me as it was the first RPG I ever learned. The GM handed out 6 sheets with pre-defined character personalities (I got "neurotic" with a knife affinity) and then we had to roll our mutated animal. Sparrows. We ended up spending our mutant points on one more size of height, hull articulated hands and arms, and gliding ability. We fought rednecks, encounter Disneyland controlled by a 6ft tall mouse who hated commies, and liberated DJ Fuzzybutt in order to fix our own AI "parent".

Games I Ran:

Through Ultan's Door vol 1: Once again players are acolytes of the CULT OF THE SLUMBERING GOD (says the silver & blue ribbon) trying to get their "chosen one" through the titular door, avoid forces of opposing gods, and be anointed by the Weaver of Shadows. Unlike last year's players who died fighting the white swine, this year's party traveled by the sewers and then cut their way to the spider daemon to receive the mark-- after making a small sacrifice of their lone hiring gained in the mini-game we played before. As the DM I missed with all my attacks save for a single one where I nat 20'd the thief into an early grave- well the Death & Dismemberment table put them into a bleed-out state.

Tomb Robbers of the Crystal Frontier: Back to a crystal-infected frontier! This years TOMB ROBBERS (as per my ribbon for the game) chose to first find Merkvy and boy they did. But they decide to quickly cut a deal with him and even acquiesce to his choice of loyalty oath (Tell me what's in the well to the south). This ends in their almost death so back for revenge they vicious cut the ill-fated former tomb robber down. And encouraged by finding his treasure and eventually find themselves in the same spot as last year's group in front of the "Red Queen". However, unlike last year's group, this group released the Queen and vowed allegiance to her. Scarlett Town wasn't the same. The players seemed impressed that was an actual written outcome.

Nightwick Abbey: I had an opportunity to run the hell-haunted Abbey "after-hours". The party's cleric was in search of Nightwick Village's vicar who was thought lost to the Abbey. The party's magic-user was in search of a fabled gold skull of wisdom. And the party's two fighters were in it for the gold. They were tricked by floating mad monks, interrupted a silent dance, turned that same hoard of skeletons (seriously rolled 9 then 12), blacked out and awoke in a columned hallway, were hunted by deermen, stalked by the mirror image of one of their hirelings (You know what you did in the woods Kevin!), gave offerings to the Abbey, and finally half of the party was tricked into crossing a pit-trap by "manimals". At that point, I found an "Escape the Dungeon Table" and the only person to make it out was the other hireling. Good job hireling Micheal✤.

While I am biased, Nightwick is still one of the easiest dungeons to use and run as a DM. All of the information you need for each room is laid right out in front of you. All the above was done in over a ~2 hour period.

People I Chatted With: Nice to get the opportunity to sit down and chat with the team from Swordfish Islands. I've run into them for several different cons now since PAXSouth (RIP). It always fascinates me to hear how the books get made and all the various steps to that. They also encouraged me to look towards ZineQuest as a potential place for the "Wine Dungeon".

Here is a pretty workable hireling rules for con games. If you are randomly assigning equipment, players can offer up 1 piece of armor (min AC 12) & weapon (min 1d6 dmg) to earn a roll on whatever hireling table you are using. A shield or better armor/weapon gains a max +1 on that roll.