As the heavy bronze doors open outward, a gust of cold air escapes the tomb with an icy howl. The delicate sound of swishing sand and faint, ghostly whispers can be heard inside the entryway’s dark hall. Within the chilling blackness ahead lie clues to the mystery of disappearing nearby townsfolk and of this vast structure that, inexplicably, has somehow “grown” from the very earth itself.
Nearby lumberjacks grumble about their missing colleagues. Werewolves are rumored to wander the forest. The candles of St. Anya’s church faintly sing a haunting and mesmerizing tune. No one knows quite where to lay blame, but an unease has settled in.
Swordfish Islands’ The Tomb of Black Sand is a 5e/OSR adventure that takes a party of 3-to-6 4th level characters inside a vast underground catacomb infused with madness, terror and a barrage of dangers that will challenge players’ wits as much as their swords. The Tomb is where the missing villagers turn up, but how they got there, why, and what is happening to them is a twisted, macabre tale for a GM that leans to the dark side, and who doesn’t shy away from a total party kill.
The Tomb itself seems to be alive and imbued with peril.
Tomb is meant to be plugged in to existing campaigns and requires the following: a Forest, large enough to support generations of loggers from the nearby town as well as the spread of blight that extends from the Tomb; a Town (either Brighton, the one provided in the adventure, or any medium-sized village with enough townspeople to support the mysterious disappearances); and a glut of corpses (mass burial grounds, former battlefield, etc.).
But even more interesting, and more challenging for players, is the cold start provided: all players wake up within the tomb, completely naked, stripped of all their gear and find themselves within the very same “process” within which the other missing townsfolk find themselves involved.
The Tomb of Black Sand is co-written by ENnie-award winning authors Jacob Hurst and Donnie Garcia, with maps created by Karl Stjernberg, a cover painting by legendary fantasy artist Daniel Horne and interior black-and-white illustrations by Gabriel Hernandez. As intelligent and challenging as is the Tomb’s narrative, the black-and-white interior art give the book a distinctly old school ambiance — like an old school RPG zine. In fact, Tomb was one of the successful Kickstarter campaigns from last year’s Zine Quest.
For the RPG collectors, Tomb is a 3000 copy edition of the highest quality RPG publishing. It is a cloth hardcover book, wrapped in Luminaire Ebony fabric that, in the words of author Hurst, “glitters in the way I imagine the black sand would.” Glitter it does, and is complemented by a silver foil stamped title treatment, as well as inlaid or “tip in” cover art that adorns the book like a framed work of art.
“We take production values very seriously over here,” adds Hurst, “because if you’re going to consume the resources to make a physical object we want to go all the way. The physical object should be an experience because it enables you to use all your senses. It literally has a smell and a feel, and the foil’s got that shine, as does the slight sparkle in the cloth.”
The Tomb of Black Sand embodies everything that is truly awesome about today’s RPG renaissance. It’s worthy of framing as much as it is playing.
— Marc Star