Great Houses vs Major Houses vs Minor Houses

Not really related to the RPG, but that was one of the things that irked me in the Dune universe. If the Imperium has millions of planets, why do Houses have only one planet (or a couple)? It would be feasible that Real Great Houses have a whole area of space with lots and lots of planet. Or if they are limited to a couple there should be millions of noble houses, unlikely, but you get my point. I think this one of the points in Dune one should graciously gloss over. :slight_smile:

Its a good question here’s my take.

There are a lot of planets, but a very finite amount of ones that are habitable and/or mineral rich. I also assume the Guild keeps some really good ones quiet for themselves as they are the only ones capable of looking for more.

I get the impression that while there are ways to do it naturally, Dune doesn’t really have large scale terraforming technology. Also, given how some House treat their planets, some might be rendered inhabitable with pollution or empty of resources after a generation.

Then you add to that the political power of having more planets. Certainly the Corrino claim several, and they gave nine to House Taligari. Even the Harkonnen have at least two (Giedi Prime and Lankevil). But each new planet a House is given grants them more power, and as the Emperor controls who gets what I expect there are a fair few planets ‘in waiting’ to be granted as rewards for loyalty.

Then there is the betrayal factor. Sometimes a loyal House minor is given a small planet to administrate on behalf of its House Major. But then they use this to claim independence and achieve Major House status.

So basically, there are a lot of planets, but not all of them are useful, and everyone is very stingy with giving them out. :slight_smile:


There’s another factor to consider - the difficulty and expense of administering a multi-planet House thanks to the Spacing Guild monopoly.

The costs required for regular transport between two star systems might outweigh the economic benefits of controlling that second planet, especially if your House isn’t notably wealthy.

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I think the transport is not that much of a problem. It would function like the colonies in India or Americas. They had limited transportation too and it worked.

I think Andy touched most points. I think that Herbert simply did not give much thought of these things, as his stories were not much about planet hopping as such. :slight_smile:

True. But the British built and manned their own ships. They weren’t forced to deal with a totally opaque third party with an absolute monopoly who could jack up shipping costs 2X (or 20X) at any time and for any reason; or simply refuse them service entirely.

The only estimate we have for the size of the Imperium is an extrapolation from one of the Dune Appendixes. It talks of “…80 million deaths, approximately 6,000 for each planet in the Landsraad…”.
Which works out at a bit over 13,000 inhabited planets. Nothing about how industrialised or populated these are however.

Dragging in the Dune Encyclopaedia (Non-cannon, but perennially popular) that gives us an upper and lower band for the number of House Majors. Each House Major has between 1 & 10 votes in the Landsraad and the number of votes allocated to House Majors is 400. So our range of Major Houses is 40-400. Which feels like a reasonable number. (The British House of Lords has ranged from ~50-777).

The way I’d square this particular circle is fiddle the definitions. (AKA Fudge)
Because of the Guild, distances between planets is effectively irrelevant. But the Guild won’t stop at every two bit town, only the major ones. These are the ones that are counted as planetary Fiefs. Around these are the local systems that non-Guild vessels travel to. Many of these may have habitable planets, but they aren’t significant so get lumped in with the main Fief for purposes of determining who controls them.

Zanovar for example may have 10 local systems that have habitable planets. As they don’t have a Guild Heighliner stopping there the economies are tiny and they all are counted as part of the Zanovar Fief for purposes of awarding it to a House Major. Extrapolate that out for Taligari as a whole and they control about 90 planets. Most of which aren’t particularly valuable though.

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Yeah I’m pretty sure local space FTL is outside of the Guild monopoly. That is if you happen to have a number of solar systems in close proximity they can be traveled to by local traders using local FTL.

Also I like to imagine that under the Imperial House there are some Royal Houses led by Kings/Queens. Then the Major Houses led by Archdukes, Dukes, Counts, Barons. Then the Minor Houses which are planetbound.

I use the Dune Encyclopaedia cause its awesome and I think it should be believed when things in it are fun.