From the introduction:
Hearthe is a planet covered in red sand. Fresh water is extremely scarce and the wells that serve the city are guarded heavily. The city is ruled by a merciless Lich-Queen whose magical powers are unrivaled save by her master. Her agents are everywhere and ruthless when they catch a traitor. Yet there are many willing to give their lives to overthrow her and to bring justice to their people. The situation inside the city is barbaric. No one is trusted, and freedom is just a dream.
Outside the city, the desert is roamed by ravenous creatures of unimaginable cunning and cruelty. The once busy trade routes have fallen silent as the other cities either vanished or were abandoned. Haarduune is cut off and stands alone against the encroaching sands. Every day could be her last. Hope is something only whispered about and never given more than a fleeting thought for fear what little of it is left will shatter into a thousand pieces and be scattered by the scorching desert winds.
Dreadsands is a genre-specific implementation of the author's generic, universal G.A.M.E. (Generic Action Mediation Engine) System. However, the Dreadsands manual includes all needed material from The G.A.M.E. System.