A Night at the Casino: Skill Rolls, Contests, or Intrigue?

Say our PCs want to use an evening at an Arakeen gaming hall as a multipurpose reconnaissance exercise to fish for smuggling deals, ferret out enemy agents, and keep their eyes/ears open for intrigue opportunities (frex, an Atreides agent wanting to talk alliance), etc.

As a GM, how do you set this up? Individual skill tests? Contests between PCs and NPCs? Using the full Intrigue rules? All of the above dependent on context (or dependent on how involved you want the scene to be)?

Also, how do you game out an exchange of information between PCs and NPCs in the scenario above if an Atreides agent wants to deliver a subtle message to a PC without giving away anything to a Harkonnen agent? Set a Difficulty for the message to a PC, then set-up a contest using those successes between the Atreides and Harkonnen agents?


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I would like to know the answer to this question as well.

Thanks, @nobody002, and welcome to the forums!

If it helps for context, I was envisioning the scene to be similar to the dinner party scene in Dune, where as the party went on various dinner guests were unmasked as either Harkonnen agents or nascent allies of the Atreides. So, the scene above could be anything from PCs/NPCs sitting around a gaming table or one-off conversations as the natural drift of conversation happens over the course of an evening.

Given that the action we see in Dune stories are nuanced and the ruleset here is more narrative I feel like the answer has to be context based, i.e. driven entirely on the ‘fiction’ (to borrow a phrase). I’m probably stating the obvious but what I mean is that I likely need to pin down what I want (Are potential allies and enemies at the same table? If so, what exactly are they saying to each other and more importantly what are they trying to say or do with their comments.). I’m not saying you have to role-play this out as I think there’s plenty of room for a PC to say, “I want to understand if what the water-seller just said is a threat, etc.”

That said, it looks like it sets-up more as a series of contests, although, I’m not sure how you handle contests between two potential allies since the purpose of contests is to determine a winner - if both parties need to win, how do you ever imply something, e.g. does the Atreides agent need to beat a PC’s Understand+Truth to deliver a carefully worded message that he/she would understand? Or, does the PC need to beat the agent’s Communicate+Truth? I would assume you roll these against a set difficulty. Clearly, the Masterful Innuendo talent is your friend here but what if a PC or NPC doesn’t have that talent?

I could see moving this to Architect play and use that as a full Intrigue conflict but I was wanting to keep this at the PC level for the moment.

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There is a lot you can do there, depending on what the PCs choose to do and how big a scene you want it to be.

If they just want to find out one thing from an enemy at the casino you could resolve it all as one Espionage or Intrigue conflict.
But if the PCs want to get involved in more scenes within the location you can take those as they come.
Here is where Difficulty 0 tests are really useful for ‘we go in, what do we see?’ questions.
Any contest between people would be a conflict, but you can still make ordinary skill tests for impressing the bar staff or scouting out the security systems for instance.

Agent or Architect depends on the assets the PCs use. You can mix and match as well.

So, lets take Bond in Casino Royale at the poker game.
Bond, Vespa and their contact are agents in the scene.
Bond is running a conflict poker match against Lechifre and Vespa is making some social and observation tests to build momentum she can use to help out Bond.
As she spends momentum it might be described as a glance or nod to pass information to Bond about his opponents.

Meanwhile, Q is playing in architect mode.
When Bond is poisoned he makes medical tests using the Aston Martin asset to help Bond stay alive.
Sadly he fails the test, but Vespa can also make a roll using the same asset and thankfully succeeds.
(If I remember the scene correctly)

Hope that is useful as an example rather than just horribly confusing.


I think I would make this scene in a handful of ways.

  1. if it’s closely related to the dinner party I would focus on roleplay and communicate/Understand + Truth rolls, so the PC could identify allies and enemies.
  2. Then i would use intrigue rules + espionage rules to remove the enemies. I.e. use espionage to gather Intel, blackmail and other high quality assets to be used during an intrigue scene with the PC talking to their target.

2.5) This would probably take quite some time, and if you have more than one PC, one could be doing the conversation in agent level, while the other player in architect mode makes the espionage conflict.

  1. And if you have a bard-like player, you could even use or create a human distrans asset so the NPC could carry the message unknowingly, the downside of this part is that everyone at the scene would have those sensitive pieces of information…
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