Friday, March 31, 2017

Other Dust Review

This is my review of Sine Nomine's Other Dust RPG. While I generally try to avoid game mechanics coverage, there's some useable and not-so-useable stuff here to consider.

  • Skills. I know not everyone is a fan of skill systems, and I think a lot of the tacked-on skill systems in D&D and clones don't work all that well, but in a modern, sci-fi, or post apocalyptic game a skill system really is needed. The philosophy that, "characters should be able to do anything," while true to a certain degree, does NOT apply to specialized training and skill fields that, no, not everyone can do. In a post apocalyptic setting, having characters (player or non-player) with specialized training and knowledge is almost a major requirement to the setting. Of course, for Other Dust specifically, I'm not entirely sold on the skill selections, but I find that there is never going to be a perfect skill system out there, everyone has different requirements and preferences in the mechanics involved, so this isn't really a detraction.
  • Training Packages. While I didn't care that much for the classes themselves, the inclusion of training packages helps customize the basic classes into a bunch of different variations.
  • Starting Gear table. I love the table with one small little caveat. If it's going to be a d100 table, it should have had 100 entries.
  • Falling and Suffocations rules. Elegantly simple and usable, easily modified for non-metric systems of measurement, though I'd probably make the small change of having suffocation base time as three minutes, not four.
  • Negative Conditions. A simple, useful system, though there are some individual issues.
  • Sustenance rules. An interesting system that is fairly easy to implement and use. Combined with a similarly useful foraging system. May be more or less complex than desired though, tough call.
  • Fairly decent rules for equipment damage and repair. Nothing really ground breaking, but the rules are solid and usable.
  • Creating Your Wasteland. The whole chapter is one of the key draws of Sine Nomine's offerings, an intricately usable sandbox generation system. This material can be ripped for any post apocalyptic game. The only small caveat is the possible need to adjust some of the items that are setting dependent.
  • I'll give some props to the Encumbrance system here, it's quick and usable, though I admit not to my particular preference.
  • While somewhat generic, the Servants & Hirelings material is pretty good stuff.
  • Land and Property. It is great that this kind of system is included, and it is one of the few domain-level play type items seen in a post apocalyptic RPG.
  • Creating Creatures. The Role table is quite useful, though I admit to having mixed feelings on the role breakdowns, some are great basic roles, others just don't seem to quite hit the spot.
  • Beastmen. Mutated animals are always welcome, though there is an EXTREMELY limited base animals selection given.
  • Humans. Other Dust's "Men" monster entry is superior to the 'ripped straight from D&D' approach from Mutant Future.
  • Overall there is a good (if limited) selection of useful and interesting monster opponents, my only problem lies more with their relation to the setting material.
  • The campaign material. While the background/setting specific material isn't my cup of tea, there is a decently detailed and usable sample campaign area.
  • Quick Enclave Architecture Details. While I felt that this should have been in the Creating Your Wasteland chapter and not in the GM resources (even though Creating Your Wasteland IS a huge GM Resource), it is a good tool to have.
  • Overall the GM Resource chapter is pretty useful, and maps and random tables are always welcome.

  • I'm going to be upfront about not liking the setting/background material. It is certainly interesting, consistent, imaginative, and useful. I just can't really warm to it personally. This means that for making the material usable to me requires a bit of work to change the features based on the setting material, not a lot of work, but some work would have to be done.
  • Table of Contents. I'm sorry, but I really, really prefer a Table of Contents that lists more than just chapters. It really needs to include the major sections of each chapter for ease of reference.
  • While there was a fair selection of the useful and good idea of Backgrounds, I felt that many of the labels and the selections were a little off. Definitely missing a "Healer" background (yes, I know there's a "Healer" training package), possibly some others that don't come to mind immediately, I would probably rework some and add in enough additional options to give a nice d20 table to roll on for those who prefer randomly rolling their background. Overall pretty good, but I think I prefer something more like the backgrounds presented in The Mutant Epoch (despite not quite caring for how that system is caste based).
  • Language. A lot of mention goes on into the existence of multiple languages, but no list of languages is included. Sure some might consider that added flavor of the unnecessary variety and go with the assumption of standard Earth languages, but the lack of inclusion of a list of languages really annoys given the constant references to picking other languages and "common Enclave language."
  • Character Class. While I'm totally sold on the inclusion of character classes, I just didn't really get a good feeling about the ones used. I felt like they tried to go for the basic four D&D class equivalents, but missed the mark somehow.
  • Re-rolling Hit Dice upon gaining a new level. I know where this system comes from, I just think it is stupid as hell.
  • I'm on the fence about the barter economy used. I know I said I prefer barter systems (which make sense in post apocalyptic settings) to even more abstract systems, like the one used in Barbarians of the Aftermath, but the same dislike stemming from lack of hard value for treasure holds true here.
  • The mutation system. Not so much the mutations themselves, but the whole bit with System Strain derived from the setting cause for mutations. This is just one of those areas where the setting/background affects game mechanics that I would have to eliminate.
  • Radiation rules. They're appropriate to the setting, but lack the somewhat more useful elegance of Mutant Future's radiation rules.
  • Limited diseases & toxins. Three just really wasn't enough.
  • I found the armor and weapons a bit lacking myself, but it is a fairly easy fix.
  • Quick Religion Generation. I dislike this not because I think it is somehow bad or unusable, but rather because this was a missed chance to have some random tables for creating wacky wasteland cults.
  • Like the Table of Contents, the Index seems a little bare-bones.
  • No Spidergoats.
  • While breaking and fixing equipment rules where pretty good, the rules for building items from scrap felt way too abstracted to really interest me. It's a simple, usable system, just not what I'm looking for.

Overall I feel that Other Dust is a pretty good GM toolkit for generating post apocalyptic campaigns. I admit I don't care for the setting and that dislike means that this would not be my go-to game for post apocalyptic gaming. I really feel that this offering would have worked a lot better designed solely as a GM toolkit full of sandbox generating tables and material than an independent RPG. However, there are also some fairly usable mechanical systems that could be incorporated into other systems, though I'd go with them more on a pick and choose basis than adapting the material whole.