RPG Review – Other Dust

Other Dust

I’m not that great at reading book-length RPG supplements on the computer (or tablet). I usually skim them, but miss the interesting bits.

On a related note, I finally printed out Sine Nomine‘s Other Dust supplement last weekend. I can’t recall when I actually picked up the PDF, but the datestamp is from July ’12. I don’t remember it from last summer, but I’m sure giving it a good read now.

It bills itself as a sandbox guide for “roleplaying after the end” and is inspired by the “classic role-playing games of the seventies and early eighties”. Both statements are accurate.

Read on for a review, as well as a preview of how I’m planning on swiping stuff for Tempora Mutantur

Rules Systems

Other Dust is a supplement for the Stars Without Numbers RPG, though it’s written as a stand-alone game. The rules are old-school D&D in nature, with the addition of Skill Checks and tweaking of saving throws. The character classes are adjusted for post-apoc campaigns, and appear quite reasonable. I haven’t tried the skill system in play, but it seems pretty non-offensive. Rules for mutations are rudimentary but also quite open-ended. The tables give a fair selection of abilities, but nothing exceptional. Some referee judgement is required, which is just fine in my opinion.

Next up there’s some stuff from the Systems chapter that I want to steal for my game…

Negative Conditions:

In Other Dust, each condition applies a -2 penalty to d20 rolls. Condition description are open-ended, so you can be hungry, thirsty, fatigued, or whatever. Some conditions have special rules (if you’re hungry enough, you may become starving), but in general this is a neat, elegant system for applying penalties to characters. Consider it swiped.

Survival and Foraging:

Other Dust also features good rules for survival and foraging. In the default Tempora Mutantur campaign, PCs are supplied sufficient food and water for their surface expeditions, but Other Dust provides a good system for when you’re caught without supplies. Expect a blog post at some point providing a Tempora Mutantur equivalent.

Damaged Goods:

There’s a nifty system provided for equipment conditions and progressive damage. I’m not sure if I’d want to track this for every piece of equipment that the PCs own, but it might come in handy for Ancient relics. I’ll apply this on a case-by-case basis in my games.

Sandbox Play

Where Other Dust excels is in support of post-apocalyptic “sandbox play”. The tables provided for Enclaves, Adventures, Loot, and Groups are excellent and sufficient to provide for countless sessions of interesting play. Honestly, I’ve never seen the equivalent of these tables in any other RPG supplement. My only criticism is that some elements are tied to the implied setting of Stars Without Number, but it’s easy enough to ignore or modify results which are overly specific.

These sections are worth the price of admission alone – I’d recommend Other Dust to any post-apoc RPG gamers on their strength. The fact that the supplement is written with old-school attitudes in mind is just gravy.

Other Stuff

The Equipment and Artifacts chapters are good but not exceptional. The Post-Apocalyptic Bestiary is quite weak, IMHO. The Bonelands sample campaign is very good, and the sample communities can easily be swiped for any other post-apoc campaign. The Random Tables and Gamemaster Resources are also quite strong. The quick stats for NPCs are close enough to Tempora Mutantur for me to steal with minimal adjustment, which is always welcome.

Final Verdict

This is an awesome supplement for old-school sandbox post-apoc campaigns. My biggest gripe is that it’s tied pretty tightly to the Stars Without Number setting – I would have preferred a ‘generic’ toolbox with some sample campaign settings. Also, the Mutations and Bestiary sections are somewhat mediocre.

That being said, the setting is very creative and manages to cram a lot of post-apoc tropes into the game without stretching credulity. An the sandbox guidelines are worth the weight in depleted uranium.

I give Other Dust a strong recommendation; you should go out and buy it now.

Other Dust: ☢☢☢☢ (4/5)

Expect to see some Tempora Mutantur rules updates which look suspiciously close to the systems described from this game…

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