What Foul Dust is a solo RPG inspired by the classic American novel The Great Gatsby that has players becoming members of the rich elite in 1920s New York.
Designed to be played by a single person, What Foul Dust centres around the themes of the impossible American Dream and what the player character is willing to do to achieve it. What Foul Dust uses a combination of gameplay systems from The Wretched by Chris Bissette – a solo roleplaying game about being alone in a spaceship that contributor Chase Carter praised for its evocative nature – and The Wretched & Alone by Bisette and Sanders, with the player being challenged to journal their characters’ descent into self-destruction and despair under the weight of capitalism and class.
The player becomes a dreamer who ran away from their childhood poverty to pursue their perceived destiny in New York City. What Foul Dust encourages players to acknowledge the fact that North America is the homeland of native people and that the novel it takes inspiration from, The Great Gatsby, erased the existence of indigenous people from its pages, with Elijah Forbes being hired as a sensitivity reader on the journaling game. When creating their character, players will need to consider how they got involved in organised crime and whether the wealth and connections they gained through it have actually made them happy.
Though their dream seems just out of reach, the player character suddenly finds themselves under investigation from the old guard and must try to find a way out. Players use a pack of standard playing cards to tell the story of their dreamer, with each suit representing a new twist in the tale. Whilst hearts indicate that a character has somehow gotten closer to achieving their dream, clubs represent the social class barriers that prevent a dreamer from making their way in society. When playing the upcoming roleplaying game, players will draw cards, roll d6s and use a tumble tower to tell the story of their character, with each new session giving the player an opportunity to tell a fresh story.
What Foul Dust was created by James Hanna, a game designer whose experiences of teaching The Great Gatsby led them to design an RPG based on the book when it entered the public domain in 2021.
The Great Gatsby is a novel written by F Scott Fitzgerald in 1925 that portrays the futility of the American Dream and the ruthlessness of a society defined by class. The book is narrated from the perspective of Nick Carraway, a young socialite who gets wrapped-up in a drama between the members of the rich elite, including discontented billionaire Jay Gatsby, and the ambitious working classes who dream of wealth and status. There have been multiple film adaptations of The Great Gatsby, including a 2013 movie directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.