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A (Hopefully Mostly Correct) Partial Duel Example

I think with the Nathan interpretation, you still make a roll to “free” move when there’s an asset there, so his rule would make this a difficulty 4 free move…

It’s a bit of a muddle. On the strength of the book (ignoring forum discussions), I would have read it as assets only affecting attacks (not moves), except in the special case of espionage (where it’s specifically mentioned).

I guess you kind of want them to impede movement in duels as well, but probably not skirmishes…

How and when assets and traits apply their effects is largely left up to GM discretion, though some consistency in application is obviously valuable for player agency and intentionality. I played out a test duel the other day as an example on another forum, and for that example, I ruled that while moving into a zone with defensive assets didn’t affect difficulty, moving out of them did - in essence, for the purposes of movement, count only the assets in your current zone.

So, if you’re moving from your guard zone to your opponent’s guard zone facing it, and you’re not moving Boldly or Subtly, then it’s free - you’re advancing into their guard, putting your blade closer to theirs. But try and move that blade past theirs (to the zone behind), or try and move a blade away to capitalise on an opening, and suddenly the asset’s effect applies…

This could be varied based on what it is the asset represents: if you’re playing out a warfare scene, a minefield asset could reasonably be applied to the difficulty of assets moving into the zone, for example, as could defensive measures like locks and security systems in Espionage. In the case of a duel, it made more sense to me in that moment to have the assets impair moving away from a defensive asset rather than moving towards one (similar to Attacks of Opportunity in D&D, or tackle zones in Blood Bowl - no penalty to step into your foe’s reach, but a risk when you try to step away or past). I’d be wary about applying the effects of assets in both the origin and destination zones, though, as that feels like it would be too easy to stack too much


Just checking (still waiting for the book…) if any of the feedback will change the example before I PDF it.

We’ll … if @Highground hasn’t tired of it, I’d guess that making the move penalties based on the from locations (rather than to) would bring it in lane with @Modiphius-Nathan ’s example (although out of line with espionage…)

Thanks for this- reading the example duel all the way through actually made how duels are meant to work click for me.

The sticking point before had been that the book really didn’t make it clear that Defensive Assets were meant to make it harder to move your own Assets. Without that little detail the RAW doesn’t work as a combat system at all- the zones are just a track that you move the assets along like a race game before you reach the Personal Zone and then start hitting every round until one combatant is down.

Maybe the key elements of this should be worked out and added to the FAQ? (And if Dune doesn’t have one yet then it probably should.)


I’m not tired of it. I want to make sure that we have something accurate and useful to refer to. However, I feel like the move aspect isn’t super clear yet. Also, I think @Andy-Modiphius said he was going to try to take a thorough read as well (although I totally understand if he has better ways to spend his time–I want him to make more Dune).

It seems like the official word is that this is left up to GM fiat which means that it’s a little ill-defined. As I guess I’m the GM in this case, my goal is to find the most RAI way to rule this. A core philosophy of this ruleset appears to be to make each mechanic as extensible as possible.

It seems like we can treat things in two ways widely:

Assets increasing difficulty to move into a zone

In a duel: This could be treated as the asset deflecting an asset as it tries to move in. This makes sense with a rapier being moved into a Guard zone where the defender has their own rapier. The attacker fails the move roll and is parried. It also models a shield’s behavior well. The shield prevents one from getting a weapon near the body by making it harder to enter the Target zone.

In a skirmish: this could represent a barrier being erected or even caltrops being thrown down to prevent pursuit. These would add their rating to the Move test as you tried to move into a zone containing those assets.

Scope: is an important thing to hash out. Assets also have a scope: you don’t consider the value of an individual trooper’s body shield when you consider the rating of a cadre of troopers as a warfare asset. In the same way, I think we ignore defensive assets such as body shields and rapiers in skirmishes when one tries to move into an opponent’s zone. The only thing that inhibits entering a zone in a skirmish are skirmish level defensive assets.

Defensive assets making it more difficult to enter a zone also lines up closely with the Espionage rules as @Tupper has pointed out. “Security measure assets protect a zone by making it harder to enter that zone, with the protection provided having a rating equal to the security measure’s Quality” p.178. Interestingly, on the same page, it says “The Difficulty of skill tests to move a spy asset subtly or boldly increase by +1 for each security measure in place in the destination zone” which at first glance appears to contradict the prior quote. Here’s my read on that: the first quote refers to a simple Move test (not subtle or bold) and the latter appears to refer to the situations where one is boldly or subtly moving an asset. (As a side not, there is also a bit of copy on this page that says “If the security measures have a higher Quality, the spy asset cannot enter that zone without attempting to move subtly or boldly” which appears to confirm that there definitely is an option to Move without using one of those two options supporting @Modiphius-Nathan’s position on this thread.)

Because of all of this, I am inclined to favor assets increasing the difficulty of moving into a zone.

Assets increasing difficulty to move out of a zone

Above, Nathan said

This seems like it could be taken as his ruling for that instance rather than for the wider mechanic (although it does make sense that that would be his wider stance or else why rule it that way in the moment) but I’ll see if he wants to respond to that.

That said, there are things that I like about this approach.

In a duel: Say I move my rapier into an opponent’s guard zone. They respond by placing their own rapier into that guard zone to prevent my moving it further. This does a good job of modeling real life fencing–you extend an attack and your opponent must intercept with their blade to defend. I like this concept very much. On the other side, say I want to bring my blade back to my own guard zone. The opponent’s blade actually inhibits me from doing that. That could mean that my blade is grappled by theirs which is an ok way to look at it I guess. The problem is with shields. I don’t like that the shield doesn’t prevent you from getting close to the Target zone by increasing the difficulty to enter it and that it does increase the difficulty of moving a weapon away from a target zone. In that case, it still provides its Quality in protection against attack but as far as movement is concerned, it seems counter purpose.

**In a skirmish (or even warfare): ** this approach seems even worse to me. Let’s go back to the barrier concept. If defensive assets prevent movement out of a zone, than barriers (treated as an asset and not as an obstacle [and I understand that we could treat it that way]) don’t really work. This would apply to traps too. Say I have a character with a ranged weapon in an overwatch position and I set traps/caltrops/whatever to prevent people from getting to me. If we treat defensive assets in this way, it doesn’t seem like there is a way to do it.

How does it fit in with the wider mechanics? I don’t feel that it does as well as the other approach. Being that I’ve seen Andy say (while being interviewed on YouTube) that people get hung up not knowing how to do something because they’re looking for a subsystem for a particular thing that they probably already know how to do it because the system is the same for pretty much everything. That makes me feel like the first approach (increase difficulty moving into…) is more RAI generally.

Another approach altogether:

We decide the behavior on an asset level. Suppose we determine that a shield always defends against coming into its zone, but a weapon being used as a defensive asset defends against leaving the zone. This doesn’t feel very in line with the system which treats items as generic bonuses/penalties and stays away from crunch like statting out particular items. I only mention it because it could reconcile the two sides but it would increase the overhead on the narration…

What skill should be used to move assets?

What do we think about what skill is used to move an asset around? I was using Move in the example above because I was following suit with skirmishes. However, in duel scope, I’m starting to lean toward preferring using Battle for this which would more likely include a characters combat related focuses to come into play.


@Tantavalist I quite agree with you about this being a tricky bit of the rules. It seems that this is an issue that will come up in any duel, so it really needs to be addressed. As I read the rule book, the only interaction that assets seemed to have was that you could try to eliminate assets en route i.e. have a go at disarming your opponent as their knife passed yours.

Note that this non-interaction isn’t such a big deal the other conflicts. A skirmish could probably manage without this. If I move into a zone with enemies in it, they may take a swipe at me. Similarly, in warfare, if my troops advance into an enemy occupied zone, they invite attacks.

Espionage, which is more about going to interesting places to gather info and then getting out to tell the tale, specifically makes it hard to move into defended areas (and you might find guards having a go at eliminating your spies while they’re there).

Lastly intrigue seems less movement-o-centric, so this is a side issue here.

My hunch is that the conflict rules were written for skirmishes originally, and the designers then realised they could generalise them. For warfare and intrigue, the generalisation was pretty obvious. For espionage, it needed tweaking since movement is everything there. The dueling case perhaps seemed like a generalisation of warfare at first glance, but it perhaps needed some specialised movement rules (like espionage).


@Highground I think this is a really good discussion. I think the only thing I have to add is how this might play out in terms of counteroffensives (thinking of more general cases). Picture a group of soldiers trying to block the way, while another group tries to push through. While the attackers are trying (and failing) to push through, should the defenders be able to attack them?

Similarly in a duel, if I stop you, could I then up the ante by disarming you?

I’m fairly on the fence with this one… per my previous post, I can see that in some conflicts impairing movement may not be an important issue.

@Highground One other thought (which harkens back to your earlier comments): what role does quality play here? Quality (at the moment) affects attacks (and defending against attacks). It’s unclear what it would do to movements (or attempts to block movement).

In the case of espionage, high quality spies can slip past low quality defences relatively easily, and only get impeded by high quality defences.

Hold on a sec. From @Modiphius-Nathan’s example on RPGnet

I’m now one blade down, but still have my opponent on the defensive - my remaining weapon is closer to him than his are to me. Carefully, I try to adjust my position as we circle one another, trying to get my blade past his guard slowly, and hopefully he won’t realise until it’s too late. This would be moving the asset Subtly, which is normally difficulty 2, but if I succeed I can keep the initiative for free, opening me to make my attack straight away… but the GM has said that, as I’m trying to move past one of his blades, the difficulty goes up by 1, to 3. This gets tough. I add another point to Threat to buy an extra die and go for it… and I fail. I get to move the blade up to his personal zone (the test is for the ‘subtle’ effect), but my opponent gets to move one of his blades, and I can’t keep the initiative at all. Worse, I rolled a complication, which the GM decides means I’m now Overextended , having committed too much to attacking and leaving myself exposed to a counterattack.

So… even if I fail on a roll, I still get to move? Doesn’t this render a lot of this moot (especially if duellists are using “free” moves, and not going to get any bonuses for succeeding)? I’d always assumed that a failed move meant you forfeit your move (like in the skirmish example in the core book where

On their turn, one of the thugs from another zone attempts to move into Kara’s, but he fails, so Kara holds him at bay.

Now I’m getting really confused…

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Another Highground wall of text incoming:
@Tupper I’m not sure if I’ve got this totally correct but here’s what I think. If we’re dealing with group of soldiers it seems like we’re in warfare and the soldiers are warfare assets.
In the warfare section on p.183 says “Warfare revolves around targeting and defeating assets, and the system for doing so is the same.” If my asset (soldiers) is trying to push into a zone by your asset (soldiers) and you are trying to repel them, I can move in any of the 3 ways:
Normal move: I think this is a Difficulty 0 test + your soldier asset’s rating. Success means that my soldiers successfully enter your zone. If I want my soldiers to attack yours, I’ll need to keep the initiative or wait until next turn. That would be Target an asset as laid out on p.168. Your asset is just as free to target mine on its turn also.
Subtle move: This means that I’m moving stealthily and your soldiers may not be aware that they are on the move (under the cover of darkness or something). I could even requiring a trait such as “dark” or “thick smoke” or something like that to allow this if your asset already knows mine is there. In that case, it’s a Difficulty 2 + the raring of your asset (as I read it). The quality of your troops makes it that much harder to sneak up on them. If I succeed, I can keep the initiative for free and attack them immediately. A bit like an ambush. I guess any benefits for surprise would be GM fiat again.
Bold move: This means that I’m overtly moving and making a fuss about it. It’s the same roll as above but if I’m successful, I get to move one of your assets–maybe even the one in this zone as I push you back. I think as the GM, I’d impose that the asset moved be one that can make narrative sense. Like I would let someone moving boldly cause an enemy asset all the way on the other side of the battle to move for some reason.
In any of those cases: if I fail, I don’t move (I agree with the example in the book) and I can’t keep the initiative. Your forces have held me off and you can freely move one asset (maybe into my zone).

I think this is just targeting an asset per p. 168. In order to target a tangible asset, you need to attack it using an asset of your own and it must be in the same zone to do that (as I read it) so I don’t think the defenders could attack at that point.
To take this further, if the defender is trying to prevent the opposition from moving through their area, I think that could be reflected by creating a trait on that zone (“impassable” or something) so they don’t just truck right on through either by spending momentum or on their next action. Traits/assets make things possible/impossible or easier/harder. In this case the trait would make it impossible to move through that zone until that trait is dealt with. I suppose this could be also done by creating an asset such as a barricade. That’s some of the difficulty that I run into is that everything is so wide open and you could treat it so many different ways but under the hood, it’s either making a test or making a trait (and assets are also just traits).

Just like above, I think you’d have to have an asset like a weapon in the same zone and then target my asset. The difference here is that my weapon is actually being wielded by my character and so is a contest and not a simple test.

I’m still not sure on that one. I’m hoping that a developer will weigh in on that but I have a feeling it will be along the lines of “whatever the GM and player agree makes sense in that moment.”
In general, I’m in favor of everyone knowing the rules in advance so expectations are managed and no one is taken by surprise (by the rules or the GM’s interpretation of). I think the way that I’m inclined to deal with this at my table is to allow the trait’s quality to come into play as often as possible unless otherwise stated. Having a shield with a quality of 2 doesn’t make sense if it’s only going to provide a +1 bonus to defend me.


I gotta say, the apparent lack of clarity in what should be a core element of the system, is giving me some concern while I await my book.


I know what you mean. I’d have liked to see a little bit more definition with the system. Perhaps we’ll get more clarity as further releases drop. That said, the questions we’re asking (like do you apply a defensive asset’s affect when you’re moving into or out of a zone and does it get its full quality or just +1 per) don’t really detract from the system as long as you’re consistent with the ruling and that the PCs and NPCs both get the benefit/penalty from the decision. It shouldn’t change the balance of play. It’s almost algebraic in that way–if you reward/penalize both sides equally.

Unless the devs come in and change my mind, I have a pretty clear picture of how I’ll run the system at my table. I’m a huge Dune fanatic so, by the horns of the Great Mother, I’ll make the system work.


@ColinChapmanNZ Most of the book is fairly lucid, but the conflict section is a bit opaque. In theory it should be quite accessible, since it’s supposed to be one unified system, and then the different cases (duel, skirmish, warfare, etc) should provide loads of examples. But it’s not very well worded/explained. What makes it really hard to follow is that all the examples are fluff, with no examples of rolls, modifiers etc, that could have disambiguated the rules.

I’ve got no problem with making a call as a GM when dealing with an unusual/interesting situation, but it seems with the conflict rules as they stand, you have to make quite a few calls about how the rules work in “normal” circumstances. Put another way, they feel a bit incomplete.

Before I sound too grumpy, I do think it’s a really good idea to have all the conflicts using a unified approach. It’s a really elegant idea, and could speed up play a lot.

@Highground I think on the whole I’m in agreement with you about using a penalty when you move into a location rather than from, in a duel. I like that it’s the same as how things work in espionage. I’d avoid using such a penalty in a skirmish or warfare (for the reason previously mentioned: it might be impossible for combatants to close with each other once there were a few assets in a zone. In a duel this isn’t going to be a problem, since each side will only have 2-3 assets total). I also wouldn’t bother in intrigue, because it’s not really about moving.

In terms of quality, don’t forget that you get bonus momentum from high quality assets if they don’t provide any other situational bonus. So your quality 2 knife is going to get you lots of bonus momentum when you (successfully) make bold/subtle moves.

My point about the soldiers fighting was poorly explained. Let me give an example from a duel. Say we are facing each other, each with two knives in our two defensive zones. I try to move my right knife into your left zone, and on to your personal zone. Suppose I’m not very good with my knife skills/rolls.

Penalties based on where I’m going to I fail my roll and can’t get my knife out of my defensive zone. This is annoying, but that’s about it. In fact, it may be handy, because at least it’s hindering you moving forward.

Penalties based on where I’m coming from I move into your zone easily enough. However, I then fail to move on. This makes it hard to launch my attack, but, to add insult to (lack of) injury, leaves my knife sitting in the same zone as yours, where you can have a go at disarming me.

I still think the “to” penalty is the way to go, but I’m just presenting this as a “feature” of the “from” penalty.

I’m a bit concerned by @Modiphius-Nathan’s suggestion that when you fail a move roll, you still get to move (see my previous quote). Reading the rulebook, it now doesn’t seem clear that a failed move roll rules out your “regular” move (although it does preclude using momentum to move farther). By Nathan’s interpretation, blocking with a knife will make it harder to get the bonuses from bold/subtle moves, but won’t do much to slow the inexorable movement of a knife towards the opponent’s target zone.


This is an important point and one that hits on presentation rather than design.

I feel like I see this with exception-based design, where you run into a cascade problem, emergent complexity, or whatever you want to call it, i.e. simple resolution system but then you begin to pile on specific (and, hopefully, predictable) nuances. Works fine, until it doesn’t.

The presentation here works for me (that’s not to say that it’ll work well for others) as it tends to run from general (Conflict Overview) to specific (Conflict Types) and tends to lay out bolt-ons in a formatted way and avoids some of the heavy complexity of, say, an Infinity (granted, I think it is intended there, since the war-game is also complex).

What I would love to see is for designers/editors format their rules more directly - an outline, bullet-points, formulas, flow charts, those would all work - in order to highlight rules/exceptions that may be embedded in text. Sure, you need the additional verbiage for context and/or clarity, but a summary would absolutely help just about every ruleset I’ve ever encountered.

The Appendix here is awesome in that regard. The only suggestion I could make would be to have additional breakdowns of the Conflict Types similar to Attack Sequence in the Appendix.

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Yeah I like the sound of that too. Also, like I said earlier

Both approaches have merit. I’m just interested in finding the better of the two approaches and sticking with it. Because other types of conflicts use the penalties moving into approach, I’m inclined to follow suit based on that alone–just to keep the system consistent.

I totally agree. Since the rules give an example where that doesn’t happen I think this was probably an oversight in that moment. If you think about it, it’s just a simple test to attempt an action (move from one zone to another). At its most general application, when you fail a test, you don’t get to do the thing you were trying to do. If that gets thrown out the window, we don’t really have a system at all.

Do you mean just that they’ll be generating more successes?

I think if we can plug the holes of uncertainty with the core conflict system it will be easy to rule the variations like dueling.

Still a lot of uncertainty with moving (asset):
-what is difficulty 2?
-Are there subtle and bold moves only?
-Do you lose chance to act again only for failing subtle/bold? -What about for the sometimes-ruled standard move?
-What becomes a contest?
-Is moving ever a contest? If not why the difficulty?
-If you move twice, what zone do you test against?
-moving in vs moving out with regards to defensive assets in same zone, etc.

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p. 166 “When you move, you may choose to try and gain an additional benefit, but there is a risk to this. You may attempt to move in a subtle way, trying to avoid attention, or you may move in a bold manner that provokes a response. In either case, this requires a skill test, with a Difficulty of 2. If you pass the skill test, you gain an additional benefit
My take is that subtle and bold moves are base Difficulty 2.

Not as far as I understand it. I think that was resolved in one of your prior posts. From that discussion:

So I guess there is a simple move option also that doesn’t require a test ([and this is one of the issues we’ve been debating] unless there is a defensive asset involved to impede you, then it’s a Difficulty 0 test and, depending on how you navigate the various interpretations, the difficulty increases by +1 per defensive asset in the zone or by the amount of the quality of the asset(s).

Well the first thing to address is whether or not you get to move on a failed attempt. I don’t think you do. On p. 175 there is an example “On their turn, one of the thugs from another zone attempts to move into Kara’s, but he fails, so Kara holds him at bay.” So it seems like you can’t move your asset on a failed Move test. It doesn’t state what kind of Move was attempted in the example so I assume it applies for all 3 types.
As for whether you can take further action on p. 166 it says “In either case, if you fail, you may not spend Momentum on additional movement, and one enemy may move a single asset one zone, as they react to your failed ploy. Further, if you fail, you may not Keep the Initiative.” I read this as your turn is now over. Even though the basic move isn’t mentioned here, I assume it’s the same. If you had to make a move test (because there was a defensive asset in the zone or something) and you didn’t pass, you don’t move and your turn is over.

I haven’t seen a situation where attempting to Move was ever a contest. In a conflict, contests are generally attacking an opponent or targeting an asset directly wielded by an opponent. On p. 168 it says “Typically speaking, targeting an asset is a skill test with a Difficulty of 2. If the asset is being wielded directly by a character—as in, it is an object in their hands—then it is a contest instead.” I would also extend this to things directly under a character’s control. Say there was an aerial battle and you tried to attack an ornithopter asset being flown by an opponent. That would be a contest.

I don’t think so. “Why the difficult?” The answer to this depends partly on the answer to the last question you asked. I favor the defensive assets protecting against moving into a zone. In that case, they represent things like barricades in a skirmish or tripwires. In a duel they represent assets protecting zones to inhibit an opponent moving their assets toward your Target zone.

I’m drawing this from your post here. From that post:

I see you pointed out:

I… guess? I’d rule it like that on the surface. I’m interested in finding a lightweight way to keep the action moving. The rules simple say if you spend 2 momentum, you get to move. Apparently that’s it. Then again the rules don’t really define the role of defensive assets during the Move action… I don’t think there’s a super clear answer to this.

I think we’re still debating that one. I’m still hoping one of the devs will weigh in on some of these questions.

Thanks, I know some of that’s stuff has been answered on posts before. I was just trying to consolidate what I have seen some still unsure on. As I’ve seen some of these answered both ways. I agree with your answers, and am really ok with the system, just want to run as intended as much as possible

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I totally agree that the problem is the examples are basically worthless - they are pure fluff. Nadia dodges and weaves and moves her blade to her other hand, and then succeeds in passing the shield for a slow-blade kill
How is any of that useful to teach people how to play?
I think there’s a good basis here, but I think it’s so poorly explained that I have my doubts even Modiphius actually even know how to run it correctly, or what correct way would even mean, especially given the many interpretations of things above.
I’m surprised Modiphius don’t just lay out a few blog posts and quickly give detailed examples with rolls, as surely that wouldn’t be that hard given they wrote the rules?

The book is mostly great, I love the art presentation and design, and I like 2D20, but I’m always puzzled why basically all 2D20 rulebooks fail near-completely at explanations of more complex things.


I mean those are just my takes. I’m still trying to sort it all out too. I haven’t actually put this on a table yet.

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