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From 90 reviews

Other Dust

First Edition


Publisher Description

The world is an open grave.

Green glass plains and trinitite pearls necklace the throats of torn cities. Prismatic jungles heave with nanite-infested life, thick with twisted bodies and fever-hot madness. The ancient towers of Old Terra are cast down into the mire and the stars above no longer send their ships of steel and burning light.

Humanity has been reduced to struggling enclaves and fugitive tribes. Left to scavenge the bones of their former glory, mankind yet fights the New Earth with steel, salvage, and a burning defiance. If the motherworld means to end her children, she’s going to need a bigger apocalypse.

Other Dust is a stand-alone, fully-compatible companion game to the free Stars Without Number sci-fi RPG. Within its pages savage mutants, crazed psychic overlords, runaway war machines and the relentless decay of a shattered world all conspire to snuff the last few embers of humanity. Yet heroes remain among the scattered survivors, and their courage and will to defy the coming night might yet save their people from a waiting doom. Use the tools this book provides to rebuild societies, reforge their ancient bonds, and bring a new dawn to a thousand points of night!


A Spin-Off From Stars Without Number [ edit ]

Stars Without Number took an "old school renaissance" set of rules (ie. rules largely inspired by early editions of Dungeons and Dragons) and brought them to the genre of space opera, creating a very successful independent RPG.  That game was particularly adapted to "sandbox" gaming, where instead of a linear/planned adventure the game master simply prepares the universe and encourages the party to seek adventures in it.

After the success of SWN Kevin Crawford decided to create a separate (but compatible) post-apocalyptic RPG, called Other Dust.  In the universe of Stars Without Number a great tragedy (The Scream) caused the psychics responsible for space travel to go mad or die.

Other Dust is set 200 years later, on planet Earth, where one of the psychics-gone-mad caused countless people to turn into mutants (interestingly, not because of radiation, as in many post-apocalyptic games, but instead because of corrupted nanomachines).

A Unique World With Familiar Post-Apocalyptic Themes [ edit ]

The (non-radioactive) mutations are just one example of how Other Dust strives to check all the post-apocalyptic boxes expected by fans of of the genre.  For instance, the game's mechanics cover survival basics such as food and water, while also (since much the world's resources have been corrupted) avoiding toxins.

Every day each character gains a hunger and a thirst point, which they can remove by eating food/drinking water.  However, eating/drinking from corrupted sources leads to them gaining toxin points.  Acquiring six thirst or forty-five hunger points will kill a character ... but so will acquiring thirty toxin points.

Groups, Enclaves, and Ruins

True to its sandbox roots Other Dust also has rules for the GM to build groups, with groups having levels ("Tiers" 1-3) based on their size, resources, perks, etc.  Players can also build their own groups, and can even build settlements, with the game providing rules for various buildings.  The game also offers similar detailed rules for creating enclaves, the closest thing to countries left in the wasteland.

Finally the game provides a number of pages (including several full of tables) for generating ruins on the fly.  There are also several tables provided for generating loot found, and when coupled with the provided advice on sandbox adventure-writing the game gives even a GM who's new to the sandbox approach everything they need to easily get started with it.

Other Dust, First Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse

Character Creation [ edit ]


True to it's "old school" roots Other Dust uses the standard Dungeons and Dragons attributes (Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma).  They are determined by rolling 3d6 and assigning the result (in the order rolled) to the appropriate attribute.

(NOTE: Unlike D&D, in Other Dust attribute bonuses at most go up to +2, and penalties only down to -2.)

Background Packages and Classes

Next, instead of a race the character gets a background package, such as Entertainer, Noble, or Tribal Hunter.  Each package provides the character with several starting skills.

Next, the character chooses one of four classes: Scrounger, Slayer, Speaker, and Survivor.  Classes determine the character's attack bonus and saving throw, and each class gains an ability they can use once per day. Scroungers can auto-succeed at a skill check, Slayers can automatically hit, Speakers can automatically succeed at a social manipulation, and Survivors can return from 0 HP to 1 HP.


Next each player gets 3 points to spend on their character's mutations.  They can either spend them to get +1 to an attribute bonus, or to get a new beneficial mutation.  Such mutations cost 2 points, or only 1 if they come with a flaw.

To acquire a mutation a player first rolls on the "Stigmata" table to learn its visual effect.  Next they roll on the "Mutation Flaw" table, and then finally "Mutation Benefit" table.

Flaws include things like missing limbs, saving throw penalties, or suffering more damage from certain sources (eg. crushing weapons).  Benefits range from the more basic, like night vision or aquatic breathing, to the more fantastic, such as having a "biogun", or the ability to phase through walls.

If a player gets no mutations, and spends all three points on attribute bonuses, that character becomes immune to all mutations in the future.

Hit Points and Languages

Every character gets a d6 plus their Constitution bonus as their starting hit points (+2 for Survivors).  However, low hit point rolls are (potentially) only a short-term problem: every time a character levels they get to reroll their hit points, and keep whichever total is higher.

Each character also gets one starting language, plus one per point of Intelligence bonus (or more if they take the Language skill).

Core Mechanics [ edit ]

Skill Checks

First the GM decides on a difficulty number (ranging from six at the easiest, to twelve or higher for truly challenging tasks).  Then the player rolls 2d6 and adds their skill rank and relevant attribute bonus.  If they beat the assigned number, they succeed.

Opposed Skill Checks

When competing against another character both simply make a skill check, and the higher roll wins.  Ties are re-rolled.

Saving Throws

When a character faces any sort of non-combat threat, such as a disease, nanite infection, or psychic attack ... or if they simply need to be lucky to survive ... they make a saving throw.  This is done by rolling a d20 and attempting to equal or beat the character's associated saving throw score for that threat.

There are five Saving Throw types: Physical Effect, Mental Effect, Evasion, Tech, and Luck.

Combat [ edit ]


To determine who acts first in Other Dust every player (and the GM, for NPCs) rolls a d8 and adds their Dexterity bonus.  Ties go to the PCs.

If a group is surprised they must make Wisdom/Perception checks and beat their ambushers' average Dexterity/Stealth skill, or else they can't act for the first round of combat.


Each round of combat a character can take one action (eg.attack), plus any reasonable number of "free actions" (eg. draw a weapon, drop prone).  They can also move up to 20 meters, or 40 meters if they take no other action.

Similar to D&D, if a character moves away from a foe with a weapon, they must spend an action to do so, or else all adjacent enemies get a free attack on them.


Attacks are made by rolling a d20 and adding their attack bonus plus their relevant attribute modifier and combat skill.  If that result, minus the defender's armor class, is greater than or equal to 20, the attack hits.

If the d20 roll is a 1 the attack automatically misses, and if it rolls a 20 then the attack automatically hits.


Each weapon deals a specified amount of damage, such as d8 for a sword or d6 for a laser pistol.  On a hit the attacker rolls that damage and subtracts it from the defender's hit points.

Great Reviews, But Not Quite as Great as its Parent [ edit ]

Aggregated Review Scores

SourceAverage Score# of ReviewsAs Of
Amazon4.3 / 5101/27/2022
Drive Thru RPG4.8 / 5711/27/2022
Good Reads4.6 / 551/27/2022
RPG Geek8.25 / 1041/27/2022

Stars Without Number was an incredibly popular game, and so it's almost inevitable that Other Dust would live in its shadow.  For instance, on Drive Thru RPG SWN earned an amazingly high 4.9 / 5 stars, from over 350 customer reviews.  Other Dust still got a very high 4.8 stars, but from only about a fifth of the reviewers.

Other sites gave Other Dust similarly high scores, though not quite as high.  On the lowest end, Amazon only gave Other Dust an average 4.3 / 5 stars ... although that came from only ten reviews, so perhaps don't take it quite as seriously.

Ultimately, every site gave the game a better than four star result, and on Amazon 75% gave the game five stars.  If you're looking for an "old school" set of core rules, which include basic survival mechanics, mutations, and other post-apocalyptic staples, coupled with a unique post-psychic-apocalyptic setting and a ton of tools for GMs to create free-form campaign 'sandboxes", Other Dust will be perfect for you.