If you guys are wondering why I’d split Part 2 into separate posts, it’s because I realized that Character Creation in Dune deserves a bit more detail.
First off, let’s go over the nature of the Player Characters in Dune. See, given the grand scope of the game, there are options to play Main Characters and Supporting Characters.
- Main Characters are the primary character and the protagonists of the adventures that the players will go on. They’re usually prominent members of a noble House, and there are 2 different methods of creating main characters (which we’ll get to later!)
- Supporting Characters are also player characters but are meant to be made quickly and as-needed to fill a role needed by the group as the scene dictates. These are usually the servants, vassals and other subordinates and can be either Notable or Minor.
- Notable supporting characters are likely to be recurring characters and will likely be specialists
- Minor supporting characters are quick to make and are disposable for scenes where their skills are necessary
Character creation methods
As mentioned above, there are two methods for creating characters for Dune: Planned and Creation in Play.
- Planned Creation is the traditional sort of character creation where you pick out an Archetype and assign points to skills and decide their focuses and talents and select your characters drives.
- Creation in Play is one where you make fewer decisions right off the bat, but get to play immediately right after picking out a few key choices: Archetype, a few skills, a drive and one drive statement. The rest are defined through play. At certain points in the game you can choose to define one of the elements, locking them in as the players get a handle on the kind of game that the GM is running.
For the purpose of today’s example we’ll be going for Planned Creation.
Step One: Concept
We begin with deciding what kind of character we’d like to create. For the purpose of today’s post let’s go with something simple: a House Courtier, someone with a quick wit, but also a quick draw if things get hairy.
A Note on Factions
Outside of the noble Houses, player characters in Dune can also hail from Factions such as the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats, the Spacing Guild, a Suk doctor, or even a Fremen. These characters are loyal to the House they serve, but are also subject to ties to their own faction. Readers familiar with Lady Jessica understand how this sort of thing works.
Picking a faction changes a little bit of character creation as your choices are more limited, but you also open up certain powers or assets that make you “more powerful” in some ways to the standard character.
Step Two: Archetype
At this point, we’ll choose an Archetype from a list. The book has 20 Archetypes (in addition to the Factions mentioned above) to choose from, and each grants a Trait, a Primary Skill, a Secondary Skill, Focuses and a Talent. In addition there’s also a note on the sort of Drives that a character of that Archetype might have.
Given the concept we had, let’s go with the Courtier Archetype. That means the character gets:
- Trait: Courtier
- Primary Skill: Communicate
- Secondary Skill: Understand
- Focuses: Charm, Musical Instrument
- Talents: Subtle Words
- Suggested Drives: Power and Duty
Step Three: Skills
Characters in Dune have five skills: Battle, Communicate, Discipline, Move and Understand. It’s a surprisingly short list of skills, but does cover a broad scope of actions and are rated from 4 to 8.
At character creation Primary Skills are rated at 6, Secondary Skills are rated at 5 and all other skills begin at 4. After which, the player then distributes 5 more points, but can’t raise a skill beyond 8. With that we give our Courtier the following skills:
- Battle 6
- Communicate 7
- Discipline 5
- Move 4
- Understand 6
Step Four: Focuses
A starting character has four focuses, which are the specializations within the Skills. Focuses are associated with a single skill, but can be used with any skill if the Focus applies in some manner.
We already know that our Courtier has Charm (Communicate) and Musical Instrument (Understand), we still have two other Focuses to pick. Let’s go with Short Blades (Battle) and Body Language (Understand).
Step Five: Talents
A starting character has three talents, one of which is the one you get from the Archetype. The other two talents may be chosen freely from a list of over 50(!) in the core book.
Given the nature of our character, let’s go with the following:
- Subtle Words – When spending Momentum in a Communicate test, you may create a new trait for free upon the character you have spoken to.
- Passive Scrutiny – When entering a scene, you may ask one question of the gamemaster as if you’d spent Momentum to Obtain Information
- Bold (Battle) – When attempting a Battle Test and you buy d20s by generating Threat, you may reroll a single d20
Step Six: Drives and Drive Statements
Drives are the internal nature of a character. While Skills are all about what they can do, Drives are all about their beliefs and motivations.
In Dune, there are 5 Drives: Duty, Faith, Justice, Power and Truth. Like skills, they’re rated from 4 to 8. Unlike Skills, you can rate these however you want according to the importance for the character. Once you’ve ranked them, you assign the associated value to it.
For our Courtier let’s go with:
- Duty 6
- Faith 5
- Justice 7
- Power 8
- Truth 4
Now that we have that settled, we now need to come up with three Drive Statements for our three highest Drives. These statements are fairly freeform, but I’m very glad that the book has a bunch of examples to choose from.
There’s a fairly long list of considerations for Drive Statements so it helps to take your time in making these. Though admittedly, fans of FATE might find this easy given how similar they are to Aspects.
Here are the Drives I’ve come up with for our Courtier:
- Power – “Power must be used wisely and cleverly”
- Justice – “Life isn’t fair”
- Duty – “Acceptance of place is the death of freedom”
Already we have a pretty good idea of what kind of person the Courtier is, and what kind of trouble they can get themselves into.
Step Seven: Assets
Assets represent tools and resources available to a character. These can be pretty much anything from tools to weapons to resources as long as the character owns it. Assets can be tangible or intangible and a character begins play with three assets, one of which must be tangible.
For our Courtier let’s go with the following Assets:
- Blade – Keywords: Melee Weapon
- Valuable Item (Musical Instrument) – Keywords: Fragile, Portable, Precious
- Courtesan – Keywords: Attractive, Cunning, Resourceful
Just for flavor let’s go and make the Musical Instrument a “Ubiquitous item”, maybe some sort of extremely rare instrument akin to a Stradivarius.
Step Eight: Finishing Touches
At this point we’re generally done, but we do have the usual details to fill out. The most important of these would be the one additional Trait for the character, and an Ambition.
The Trait to be assigned is meant to reflect the character’s reputation and how they’re regarded by others (and not necessarily what they’re truly like!). Let’s go with “Charming” for now.
The Ambition is essentially a goal related to your highest rate Drive. For our Courtier, we’re looking at an Ambition related to Power. Let’s say that our Courtier aims to become a master politician that spars with words in the highest of courts against the best minds that the known universe has to offer.
The rest of the character is fleshed out, from their Names (helpful list included!), Personality, Appearance and Relationships!
I’m very happy with the ability to make Notable and Minor Supporting characters. Of course there’s a Threat cost to bring them into play, but having them around adds to the sense that the setting’s noble Houses don’t act in a vacuum and can pull on a significant amount of resources.
Character creation is quick, with a possible slow moment at Drive Statements and Ambitions, but with a dedicated Session Zero these should be no problem.
I’m honestly eager to see what a real Session Zero will feel like, and will likely pull on the usual suspects of my gaming group to try this out!
Join us In our next entry in this series, where we’ll look at the core mechanics of the Dune version of 2d20!