"The red print on my forehead,
Shall flame for a red star,
In the van of the violent marching, then
When the sky is torn of the trumpets ten,
And the hands of the happy howling men
Fling wide the gates of war.
"This blow that I return not
Ten times will I return
On kings and earls of all degree,
And armies wide as empires be
Shall slide like landslips to the sea
If the red star burn.
(from) The Ballad of the White Horse: Book IV G.K. Chesterton
Bad Moon Rising is a speculative fiction trope. It represents an ill omen of an upcoming epic conflict or disaster - and the disaster is of such magnitude that the skies themselves are altered. This could be the appearance of a new moon, star, or comet, or some significant alteration in an existing celestial body.
Depending on your setting the celestial body may be cause or effect - if you've decided that astrology actually means something in you campaign then a major celestial event will certainly be a big deal, but again, whether the new arrival causes the event or is merely a sign should be resolved.
Game and Story Use
- Consider using this trope when you want to emphasize that something really big is going on.
- This especially effective when it is unexpected - either because the PCs have no advance knowledge of an impending catastrophe, or if they have had some hints but didn't have any idea that the situation was this bad.
- Remember that the PCs aren't the only ones seeing such an omen. There is likely to be mass hysteria, cults are going to come out of the woodwork, and the entire world will stop in its daily activities to make sense of it all.
- If you're cunning, the coming of the comet can be a big part of the story arc … as the campaign begins it's a vague rumour - knowledgable astronomers have calculated the date and know it is a few years away. Many people who believe that comets are a sign from the gods don't believe that comets can be predicted by humans and either ignore them or make them shut up. But the seed has been planted. Later the PCs may find astrological charts involving the comet in enemy lairs or hear mad prophets ranting about it. With luck they'll start to tie everything that happens into its approach. Whether the comet actually does anything or the disasters are just self-fulfilling prophecy is up to you.
- The moon "Morrslieb" of Warhammer Fantasy fulfills this function. It's always a Bad Moon Rising when it grows large in the sky, since Morrslieb is a "bad moon" by its very definition. And when it starts to leer at you, you should really start to worry…
- Certain malevolent forces may have powers that wax and wane with certain celestial phenomena
- The classic example of this is the werewolf
- Another example is from the TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Fire Nation uses a type of magic that is aspected towards the sun; so when the sun is eclipsed by the moon, their powers are weakened. Conversely, when a blazing comet appears in the sky, their powers are augmented; and the leader of the Fire Nation times a major invasion with the arrival of such a comet.
- There may also be a scientific (or at least a technobabble) reason for such a connection.
- In The War of the Worlds, the Martian invasion was heralded by flashes of light on the surface of Mars when it was in opposition; because the Martians would naturally launch their attack when the two planets were closest to each other.
- In the Pern novels by Anne McCaffrey, the planet was ravaged by a plague called the Thread whenever the Red Star shone brightly in the sky; because that "star" was the source of the Thread and it could only migrate to the planet when the Red Star was close in its orbit.
- In Sid Meir's Alpha Centauri the rogue planet Hercules causes tidal effects and a huge upsurge in the activity of hostile native life every time it passes through perigee relative to Chiron.