[Let’s Study] Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, Part 4 Conflict

Dune is a setting rife with conflict, and in so many flavors. From knife duels to social maneuvering, Dune Adventures in the Imperium presents many ways to resolve Conflicts while doing it’s best to compress the mechanics in a fashion that’s easy to learn.

Scope

Dune Adventures in the Imperium has mechanics for 5 types of Conflict:

  • Dueling – physical conflict between individuals using melee weapons
  • Skirmishes – involves physical conflict between a handful of combatants and can take place over short ranges
  • Warfare – strategic level physical combat on the level of massed troops, tanks and large-scale weapons
  • Espionage – stealth and deception to access a secure location or important person for various ends like theft, sabotage, assassination and the like
  • Intrigue – social conflict where participants vie for leverage to pursue their agendas while disabling their opponent’s actions

These various Conflicts can bleed into one another. Something that started as a Duel might eventually become a Skirmish as one side or the other (or both) call on reinforcements. Espionage, might transition to a Duel should an attempt to Assassinate someone end with the target managing to defend himself.

Assets and Zones

Conflicts rely heavily on assigning Assets. As discussed in the Character Creation post, Assets can be Tangible and Intangible, and can even be created within the scene!

Zones are the area in which the conflict takes place. In physical conflicts, this is easy enough to determine, as a map where a Skirmish happens can be divided into discrete areas, and a map of the city for a Warfare Conflict can be carved into strategic locations to be held. However, for Espionage and Intrigue, the “map” for these Zones can be a bit abstract, as Espionage Zones often represent the steps that need to be overcome to obtain access to the target, while Intrigue Zones tend to be social circles and relationships that need to be won over.

Initiative

Determining the order of actions in Dune is a bit different from most other games. Instead of having the usual “All player characters go first” rule that 2d20 tends to use, Dune has a hybrid approach.

At the start of the first turn, the gamemaster selects which character takes the first turn, usually from the PCs. Once that PC has taken an action, they can either:

  • Allow the opposing side to choose someone to act next
  • Spend 2 Momentum to Keep the Initiative and either take a second action at +1 Difficulty to any Skill Tests made, OR allow an allied character (who hasn’t acted yet this turn) to take their action. This can only be done once until at least one opposing character has taken their turn.

It’s a bit different from how things are usually done, but it does open itself to interesting opportunities for both sides to “pull ahead” of the initiative order to borrow a term from the HERO system.

Taking your Turn

On a players turn, they can choose to Move or Use an Asset. While this seems simplistic at first glance, Dune’s Action structure is rather elegant.

Move

This allows you to move an asset (or your character) to an adjacent zone. Momentum can be spent to move additional zones. It doesn’t quite end there though. Players also have the option of moving subtly or boldly which requires a skill test.

Succeeding in a subtle move lets you move your asset and you reduce the Momentum cost of Keeping the Initiative to 0, while succeeding in a bold move provokes an opponent to act in a fashion of your design. You move your asset and get to move an opposing character’s asset.

Use an Asset

This is a catch-all for a whole slew of actions in game and always involve a Skill Test:

  • Attacking an opponent with an intent to harm or defeat them
  • Attempt to remove an opponent’s asset from play
  • Attempt to create a new trait for the scene or a new asset for your character or an ally
  • Attempt to overcome an obstacle
  • Attempt to gain information about the situation
  • Attempt to remove a trait or similar complication from an ally or aid a defeated ally

Each of these could be a standard Skill Test, but are also often contests against a defending character. Others are turned into extended tasks where the character makes progress towards their goal over several actions.

Conflict Outcomes

On a successful attack, the outcome depends on the opponent. Minor non-player characters or minor supporting characters are defeated. But if the attack is made against a notable or major non-player character, then defeating them is an extended task requiring a goal equal to the target character’s most appropriate skill.

Every successful attack made to them counts as 2 points plus the Quality of the asset used to attack. Momentum can also be used to further add +1 to the Quality for that attack only. Once the extended task goal is met, the character is defeated.

Defeat means that the character may no longer participate in the conflict. They’re either unconscious, injured, forced out of a social gathering, or lost in a crowd.


Thoughts

It’s not easy to come up with a singular system to manage multiple types of conflict but 2d20 has done this before. That said, the addition of Dune’s options of subtle and bold Move actions were a pleasant and interesting variation.

Each type of Conflict is much more detailed than this post lets on, but each of them operated under the same basic structure. While I’m familiar with 2d20 games, I think I’ll need to spend a bit of time running test scenarios just to get more used to it.

Join us In our next entry in this series, where we’ll do a quick look at the GMing chapters and the sample adventure and wrap up with a review!

If you’d like to get a Physical or PDF copy of Dune Adventures in the Imperium, you can grab it over at the Modiphius Website or PDF in DriveThruRPG [Affiliate Link].

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