Conflict between Houses (thematic issues)

Hi all,

I have a question regarding the thematic handling of conflict between Houses (Great or not). We know from the novels that the Great Convention established a kind of enforced peace over the Houses where open conflict is largely not tolerated (and use of atomics expressly forbidden) but lesser forms of conflict are permittable.

As long as the forms are obeyed…

We have mention of ‘The War of Assassins’ and ‘Kanly’ as two types of conflict short of actual open warfare. So far so good.

So the first question I have is if there is no declared War of Assassins or Vendetta between 2 Houses, surely any killing of a rival house’s family, retainers, entourage etc etc is extra-judicial* and wouldn’t be countenanced by the Landsraad or Emperor. And if that is the case, surely punishment of the offending faction would be swift and brutal should this become public knowledge? The forms have not been obeyed after all.

(* this doesn’t include duelling to settle slights of honour, but in the original novel we have an example where Jessica is concerned that the banker at the banquet had enough rank to call Paul out, so there are limits as to who may duel whom)

The second question is what, in practical terms, is the difference between a War of Assassins and Kanly? Is Kanly merely a notion, a concept, which can be expressed through such actions as in a War of Assassins? My understanding is that the terms of a War of Assassins are set at the outset, limiting the actions to certain specifics only - so no two Wars of Assassins might necessarily follow along the same path.

Anyway, this is just something I have been thinking of while planning my own campaign and wondered if anyone else might have any thoughts on this?

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I have always viewed it as analogous to the cold war (and the Dune Encyclopedia does expressly call the US and the USSR Houses Washington and Steel)
Most of the time the Houses work through proxies and deniable assets. Everyone may know that those assassinations were on the orders of House Harkonnen, but without proof that can be presented before the Emperor you can’t do anything but strike back in a similar manner.

If a frigate bearing your House colours hauled up and levelled your enemies palace in front a block of neutral (ha!) delegates then yep, you are going to get dragged over the coals and severely punished.
If a bomb blows up their onithopter mid-flight though, they would have a harder time proving that you did it. Even if you are twirling your mustache and cackling as it goes down in Flames.

I feel a lot of the Factions in Dune are blatantly hypocritical. As long as you can claim plausible deniability they will let you get away with it. After all they probably are doing the same.
During the Arrakis hand over Duke Atreides complains that this Judge of the Change can’t be bought. Which implies that bribing officials for your advantage is fairly common, even amongst the ‘honorable’ Houses.

For the difference between Kanly and War of Assassins the novel glossary does have some description.
Kanly is described as a formal Fued or Vendetta.
While War of Assassins is called a limited form of Warfare.

Again this is only my interpretation but thst suggests to me that under Kanly you can start to use your own assassins and raiding forces. The Atreides send a small force to Geidi Prime to destroy Harkonnen spice stocks after they have declared Kanly.
But open warfare with Batallions and Gunships is not allowed.

With a War of Assasins you can start deploying heavier forces to seize and hold territory. Your Batallions can attack fiefs and your spaceforce might be able to enforce certain blockades. Though that last one would definitely be watched very carefully by the Spacing Guild.

With all of these there is also the corruption of those enforcing the rules. The Harkonnen got away with the attack on Arrakis as they had the Emperor backing them up and even then they disposed of the Judge of the Change when they became a problem.

So to put my rambling into order:

  • No Kanly or War of Assassins: Duels, proxies and deniable assets only.
  • Kanly: Your own Assasins and raiding parties, but no large deployments.
  • War of Assasins: Batallions and heavy firepower, but in carefully controlled deployments

Also you are probably right that conditions may be applied or enforced before Kanly or a War of Assassins is accepted by the Emperor.


And let us not forget the Baron Harkonnen was obsessed over keeping his hands clean so that he could fool the Emperor’s Truth Sayer… and he had a well know kanly against House Atreides! Similar to CountThalim, its essential what you can discretely get away with until the feud becomes a know fact

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Yep, that makes sense and fits in well with the lore we have so will pretty much adopt that moving forward. Thanks.