Nascent & Minor Houses

Following on from a discussion on the Discord channel I have been wondering about how people view the smaller Houses.
When I first ran Dune my players were part of a Minor House. They and all of the other Minor Houses on the planet were fairly traditional, they controlled an area of land (Half a continent or a very large island) and were very militaristic or were the Great Houses stewards.

Looking at the current rules there are options for a lot more different styles of House. An Industrial Understanding domain House is more likely to hold campuses & offices than swathes of land & numerous legions.
Yet land is still considered important. The description of a House Minor suggests it controls about a third of a planet. Suggesting a maximum number of about 4 to a planet.

My current view of a Minor House is that the territory it controls isn’t that important. They will all control some I’m sure, but unless their Domain is something that requires large spaces like fields they may only control a single city or island. How much land does a Political Expertise House require if they can hang around near their House Major?

This means that you can have a lot more Nascent & Minor Houses on any one planet. Maybe a dozen or more for a heavily built up planet controlled by a Great House. Geidi Prime may well be swarming with Minor Houses, all squabbling for House Hakonnens favour and to avoid being backstabbed by their peers.

That is how I see them at least. How does everyone else view the Nascent & Minor Houses in Dune?

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Very interested in views and experience of others as well! I don’t have enough experience yet to have a strong opinion about this one.

From the perspective of impact on the game, what do you see as the benefit or drawback of trying many more minor houses in a single location? As I see…

Having more parties involved in local politics has the obvious benefit of being able to pick up a new actor for a new plotline when necessary. Things don’t get boring so easy by the same repeated villain being behind all schemes.

On the other hand, this also deflates the strength and capabilities of houses. If a minor house is at least as strong as the USA, China, Russia in today’s world (controlling a significant portion of a planet) then even a minor house is obviously a big player. They would have many thousands of soldiers, and enough resources not to care about minor things (like a single thopter, costs of a minor mission, etc). If some minor houses have much less in terms of terrirories controlled and people ruled, because their excellence is more research or art based, and there are dozens thriving on a single planet, then they are much more vulnerable organisations. Every loss of an important facility, loss of manpower would tax them seriously. They would not have near infinite resouces for critical missions.

In other words: even a less land & soldiers focused house, if they are already a minor house with some imperial significance could need resources to back up their activities. Even if they only have a secondary domain, that is an area of excellence in which they are among the larger players in the galaxy. Say, somebody involved in some kind of research - they would need many huge campuses, thousands of key researchers, tens of thousands of assistants (remember: without computers, probably a much larger number of people are needed for administration, scientific gruntwork, and working through data - or at least a large number of mentats.

Also, a minor house with huge investments in more intellectual capabilities (like research facilities) would need security. How could they hope to remain in business if competitors could just run them over with armies, or easily hire saboteurs to destroy their work? So, they would still need armies or other arrangements to ensure safety.

In short: I certainly don’t know, I’m very interested in any experience from anybody about such scaling issues.

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I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

I think the true military forces of the Imperium is much smaller than most people would expect.

This is partly due to things like say the Guild controlling space travel and there is no known external threat. So the only threat is from house on house violence or domestic unrest.

Now when I say true military I am talking about any forces trained along the lines of soldiers today. They are trained for the possibility of war no matter the reason.

Whereas on the other hand, you may not need a spec ops trained individual to patrol the streets of a village. A individual trained like a police officer may be more appropriate. So it a question of what would any house no matter their strength be wanting to make sure is guarded by their best trained men. Basically the house home. So all houses I would say have a retinue of highly trained men to guard the family whether is like the secret service in the USA or more in line with the presidential guard units you get in some countries.

Then it comes down to what level of protection the house Major give and their attitude to house minor conflict. Also the house major might not allow house minor to grow their military forces beyond a certain size.

So in those cases, the house minor may have instead police forces that most members are also part of hunting lodges. Not allowed an official air force. There is a lot of gliding clubs that are sponsored in the area.

Also this before we are talking about the passive security tech that may be in place. From shield replacements to the facilities being built in secure underground bases.

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Agreed, there is a lot of tech than can do a very good security job.

Its really down to what each House focuses on.
There are certainly some excellent military training centres (Ginaz for instance)
but like all things a well trained and equipped military is very expensive.
Given you have to ship them for any conquest and pay vast extra payments for the Guild, many people just train a basic security force.
But I’d imagine each House will have at least one solidly trained fighting unit, if only for raids and to offer a military response. After all, no army at all, or one perceived weak, may invite attacks from other Houses.

For instance, I get the impression the Atreides have a very solid and well trained army, but its not as large as it might be as Caladan is peaceful. So its based on quality not quantity for when they need to show off world muscle.
The Harkonnen will give any thug a gun, so they have a vast army, mostly for keeping civil order on their own planet, but few of them have any degree of real skill beyond brutality and knowing which end to point.

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I agree with these thoughts. Think about how Muad’Dib’s Jihad is a force composed entirely of Fremen. Talking from a numbers perspective, the percentage of Fremen that are of fighting age and capability is at most 30-40% of all Fremen. That 40% of all Fremen on Dune rolls over the entire Imperium. There could not have been any significant allied military forces to counter them.

There was one force substantial enough to be a thorn to the Jihadis (Thorvald) but I recommend reading Paul of Dune for that story.

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It’s an interesting take on Minor Houses. My understanding was that they weren’t land dependant - a modern-day example could be House Musk whose primary domain is space launch vehicle technologies (a secondary domain could be excentricity). Thinking of the artisan-type houses, there wouldn’t necessarily be a need for them to control land. So with all that in mind, you could potentially have hundreds of House Minors on a single planet. Although I grant you it’s probably easier to GM otherwise.

As for militaries, I think it’s hard to know. We’re given the impression Muad’Dib’s Jihad was a solo effort, but he almost certainly had a large portion of the Landsraad offering allegiance to him - The Fremen likely fought the toughest of battles whilst the allies dealt with the lesser/easier threats. I guess there’s no right or wrong intrepretation, so long as it feel comfortable for you and your group.

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