A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.-From the Manual of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan
Let me get this out of the way first, I *really* like Dune.
I haven’t read all the books, but that doesn’t matter. The world-building, the strange, lyrical dialogue of the inhabitants, and the grand, sweeping scale of the Space Opera world of Dune is something that has won it’s place in my heart.
And that’s why the moment that Modiphius’ RPG for it “Dune: Adventures in the Imperium” released on PDF, I bought it right away both for personal consumption and for study.
Dune: Adventures in the Imperium is the core book of a new RPG line that uses a variant of Modiphius’ 2d20 system mechanics. As an avid fan of Modphius’ 2d20 games (see my Conan, Infinity, Star Trek Adventures and John Carter of Mars Let’s Study Series on this very blog), I was eager to see what they would do with the game.
Chapter 1: Introduction
As a core book, the Introduction of the Dune RPG spends a bit of time explaining itself and how it’s structured, as well as taking the time to introduce RPGs to those who stumbled upon the book who aren’t familiar with this type of game.
In addition to giving an overview of the various chapters of the book and what they contain, the Introduction also gives a quick synopsis of the key events, themes and conflicts of the setting. More importantly, it tells you up front what roles the players are expect to take in the game, which I will quote below:
Your player characters are about to enter this world as the primary agents of one of the Houses of the Imperium. How powerful that House is depends on the choices of the group, and the more power it has, the more enemies it accrues. The more resources it has, the more the others will try to take from it. The player characters might serve their House in different ways. They might be part of the noble family, a Bene Gesserit advisor, lethal duelist, cunning spymaster, or even one of the elusive desert-dwelling Fremen. The characters have been sent by their House to the desert planet Arrakis, more commonly called ‘Dune’ by its natives. There they can advance both their House and their own prestige, if they can survive.-p.9 Dune Adventures in the Imperium
That one paragraph alone immediately paints a picture of the wide array of different adventures and conflicts you’ll end up in, and what the stakes are. This isn’t a game of kicking down doors and clearing rooms of monsters.
Take note also that the word “hero” isn’t mentioned anywhere in that paragraph. 😉
Eras of Play
The next part of the introduction goes over the Eras of Play. Dune is a sprawling epic that takes place across an enormous span of time, and the game aims to be able to sustain games in the most well known eras of this setting as described in the various books. These are:
- Butlerian Jihad
- The Imperium – The tail end of this particular era is the default timeframe of this game
- The Ascension of Muad’Dib
- Era of the God Emperor
- The Scattering
- The Age of the Enemy
Each of these is fodder for a dozen different campaigns for fans and scholars of the setting. What’s more, the book does imply that the team does hope to be able to explore more of these with supplements in the future.
Example of Play
Always an important addition to a core rulebook, there’s a very quick, one-page example of play written in narrative format. Sure the rules mentioned might not quite make sense yet, but it’s a nice thing to go back to and review once you’re studying the mechanics.
Chapter 2: The Known Universe
It’s not a small thing to try and condense the setting of Dune into a single chapter, but the game does a great job of it. It begins, of course, with a history of the Imperium, going over the key moments that led to the Butlerian Jihad, the rise of the Great Houses, and the Imperium.
What follows is an overview of the Imperium, it’s major factions such as the Great Houses, CHOAM, the Spacing Guild and the Emperor. Life in the Imperium is described with details regarding the neo-feudal way of life, the various great schools such as the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats and the Suk Doctors, and even the Swordmasters of Ginaz.
This Chapter ends with a description of several key planets, with majority of the pagecount obviously dedicated to the one planet the matters the most: Arrakis, otherwise known as Dune. Found also in this description are an overview of the Fremen, the natives of Arrakis. Among the other planets mentioned in this section are Caladan, IX and Giedi Prime.
Dune Adventures in the Imperium makes for a solid introduction to the setting of Dune, taking down the obstacles of trying to get new people into such a rich and established setting without them getting lost. The long and sordid history of the setting helps ground players in what it means to inhabit the setting, and more importantly, it gives them an idea of the themes and stories that work in it.
Join us In our next entry in this series, where we’ll be taking on the fun stuff: Creating Your House and Creating Your Characters!