Faction Templates & Trait Imbalance

We have the Faction Templates of Bene Gesserit, Fremen, Mentat, Spacing Guild Agent, and Suk Doctor, and any Character using a Faction Templates starts an “additional bonus trait” as per page 110.

I get that it would be narratively ludicrous, and entirely counter to established Dune Lore to insist all PCs have to have one of those Faction Templates; so there has to be that option of not belonging to one of those Factions.

But for characters outside of those 5 factions it almost feels as if there is a “step missing” from Character Creation. If you don’t want to play a character from the faction Templates you miss out on a “bonus Trait”.

So we are left with one of two situations:

  1. It doesn’t matter if Non-Faction Characters begin with one less Trait than Faction Characters because Faction Traits have no tangible effect on play.
  2. It does matter if Non-Faction Characters begin with one less Trait than Faction Characters because Faction Traits do have a tangible effect on play.

If 1) is true, why bother with Faction Traits at all?
If 2) is true, how do we balance out the inherent disadvantage that Non-Faction Characters start with?


Traits can be both positive or negative.
By taking a faction you are tied to that faction for better or worse.

So by having an extra trait a faction character gets an advantage while at the same time getting a disadvantage which balances it out.

Traits are not like talents which are unambiguously beneficial to the character, they are descriptive.

Overall it is closer to your 1. But not quite so binary as you are viewing it.

I get that being a member of a Faction will entail some degree of responsibility toward that faction. But if membership was “neutral”, as you suggest, very few people would join those factions.

It does not make narrative sense for there to be no tangible benefit to Faction Membership, and if there is a tangible benefit then Non-Faction Characters start at a disadvantage.

And whether or not membership of a faction confers a net benefit is absolutely binary; it either does confer a net benefit, or it doesn’t. There is no middle ground.

The tangible benefit you are looking for is the ability to take from the faction specific talent list.

Which is a benefit, but as it replaces a talent from the general pool I wouldn’t say it is an unbalancing one.

Yup, I’d echo Thalim that traits can be good and bad.
For instance there is much you might be able to argue you can do in small ways just because you are ‘Bene Gesserit’. But it would clearly be a major social disadvantage when everyone thinks of you as a ‘witch’.

One extra trait grants very little, and there is no reason the GM can’t grant another trait for the non-faction characters if they really insist game balance is affected.

Thanks @CountThalim and @Andy-Modiphius ,

I am slowly starting to get my head around it all.

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Also, to @Andy-Modiphius’s point, I think of the opening scene of Dune, between Paul and Reverend Mother Mohiam.

Jessica is a Duke’s consort but still unable to prevent the test. That would be a pretty heavy responsibility.

Members of Factions are expected to act in certain ways and even be compelled to act counter to their personal goals/desires. Can be a cool role playing moment.

Honestly, I get that being a member of a faction brings responsibilities, maybe even restrictions; and I get all of the RP goodness that can bring to the table.

But it is a fact, both logical and semantic, that being a member of a faction either confers a benefit, or it doesn’t.

If it does there is, at least a perception of - and possibly an actual, imbalance between Faction PCs and Non-Faction PCs.

If it does not, why does anyone really bother joining the factions in the internal narrative?

I am having to pitch this to players who are already wary of the abstract nature of the rules, I need to get out ahead of any other potential obstacles, and at least understand why they are how they are; so I can deal with it if a player brings it up.

I can only speak for my group but the key reason is that it fits their back story.

My players will frequently not build perfect characters or will take options that seem to cause them more trouble than it is worth.
This isn’t restricted to Dune, it is a constant throughout our games.

It seems your group is very calculus based, they want to weigh up the benefits of X vs Y and not ‘waste’ points or options.
In that case the only non-RP benefit is the access to the restricted talents.

For my group the fact that they are now a member if the Spacing Guild is sufficient for them to take it.

Different groups, different priorities.

Not particularly; it is not about “wasting points”, its more about having an understanding of things so they can make informed decisions.

Especially when trying a new system for the first time.

They’ll likely start with a Character Concept and work from there, and if something fits the character’s narrative they’ll go with it, but they still like to know “going with it” means - which I guess is harder to grasp with so many things being loosely defined and abstract.

I think what I am getting confused over then is your comments that there should always be a benefit over and above it fitting the character or what is the point of it.

The benefit is getting access to the restricted talents.
Any reason beyond that is purely character and RP.

It may well be that I have a slightly blinkered view having only played within my group for quite a few years now.

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I follow.

On that basis then, I’d say being in a faction confers a benefit with the potential that PC actions may be circumscribed or limited based on faction goals.

In other words, faction PCs are not free agents in the sense that an unaligned PC might be.

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Oh, I understand that.

I was out of the hobby for a good few years; but since I have got back into it I have been a permanent GM, and for the same group of 5 players, although currently only 3 are playing regularly.

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I’m mainly echo Count Thalim’s point on this one.

One thing to bear in mind is that for the most part Faction characters are those with a duel allegiance. Except for Mentats, all the others have responsibilities and loyalties to something outside the house. Unless they have the Duel Alliance talent where they have balanced that trust they will always be considered a little outside. To a certain degree Mentats are often seen as equipment rather than people anyway in plenty of Houses.