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Previous rpg—Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium

Recently loaned a copy of the rarely-seen-in-the-wild of Dune: Chronicles of the Imperium (Last Unicorn Games). Being entrusted with a such a beast is a story in itself, but my purpose here is to ask:

Anyone actually ever game this?

I met a few folks who’ve read it, but never anyone who has put it into play.

Myself, I’m jotting notes I think might be useful for our group (I’m not our GM) when the time comes to venture forth beyond the play test.

Initial impressions are almost-equal parts cringe and fascination. But definitely some things worth examination and/or discussion.

Anyone with first-hand experience or just general thoughts about this? Any crib-worthy background to look for? Any parts that seemed to fall off the cliff?

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There was a nominal campaign for it that was due to be translated into the D20 system, but it never got published.

I cannot say that I played it directly, but I did buy the original publication, and played the ICON system with the Star Trek: The Next Generation RPG which had been released a couple of years before. Honestly, I felt that the emphasis on dueling within Dune placed a bit more strain on the system as it wasn’t particularly great for that. There were a few too many options, while the skill list was also too long. This was pretty normal for RPG systems of the time however. The book looked pretty but was surprisingly thin because they used very high quality, but fine paper. It also had numerous references to supplements that were, of course, never released so in that sense the core rules felt a bit incomplete.

Personally, I found (and still do) find that I liked the character gen, but the system as released not so much. I do regret a bit selling it on, but the guy I sold it to did run it.

I felt much the same about LUG-Trek mechanically, but still have my books for that. (when I get an itch for 90’s mechanics Trek, I prefer Prime Directive 1E)

I flipped the role of skills and attributes in the dice process and felt that a better fit for LUG-Trek.

Ran it back when it had just come out. A friend got it before I got hold of a copy of mine and insisted I run it (We had three Dune fanatics in the group)
It was one of my formative games as a GM and thus I learnt a lot while running. A lot of what not to do in many cases, but ce la vie. My group has fond memories of what they go up to. They weren’t Immoral, just Amoral. For the good of the House you see…

The first thing I will raise is that you want to look carefully at whether you want to include all the drama dice rules. (pg. 113-114)
The RAW says that if this rolls a 1 the best you can achieve is a pyrrhic victory. A lot of what ended up occurring in my game was based on these pyrrhic victories and the players trying to deal with what went wrong despite them succeeding. As these are all d6’s you essentially have a 1 in 6 chance of something going wrong regardless.
We ended up instituting a house rule that basically went: If the drama dice rolls a 6 and you succeed -> Dramatic success, If the drama dice rolls a 1 and you fail -> Dramatic failure. Pyrrhic Victories & Acceptable losses are ignored.

I also leant a lot on the House structure while running my game. The players had duties in their House and most of their actions went towards how to bolster the Houses standing and resources.
I had my players build their House at the start of the game alongside their characters. That way they felt more invested in the House. I used this as an opportunity to help flesh out their House and how it connected to the other Houses on the planet. I drew a rough map of the continents to help me visualise, but that is just general GM stuff.

The skill list, as @Trippy mentions, is too long and has a lot of restrictions. I.e the Propaganda Skill requires your intellect stat to be at +1, while the Psychology skill requires both Intellect at +1 and for you to have taken Suk Physician training. You will require the master list on pgs 78-79 to grasp all the restrictions.
One thing I will give it is that it gives a lot of suggestions for specialisations and also for the sort of difficulty levels different uses of the skill would require.
Beware the character archetypes as well. We found out part way through a scene that the assassin (currently under deep cover and so unarmed) needed to take out someone in the kitchen and found that they did not in fact have the unarmed combat skill… Cue a discussion on whether if he used the frying pan on the stove he would get a bonus for, and I quote, “Hot fat splatter”.

For combat in general you have a plethora of options. I recommend you ignore most of them.
Theoretically you have X number of Option points depending on initiative. You then use these to buy variable cost actions & reactions during the round pgs 122-125). Each subsequent action/reaction costs 1 more point. If you can’t afford to pay for an action you can’t do it. Unless it is a reaction in which case you can and you raise your difficulty by the missing points. @_@
It is telling that their example is a page and a half of solid text and ends with “Now the fight begins for true!”
I went with that my players had an action and a reaction each round.

Finally I recommend that any players who are playing a Swordmaster read Duncan Idaho’s training in the prequel books. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the RPG but does give a wonderful feel for the sort of varied training they go through to become a rounded Swordmaster

I’m pretty sure I still have my folder of the game upstairs somewhere. So many plans, so many schemes, so so many pyrrhic victories… :rofl:

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Nice write up @CountThalim! Plans within plans within plans…

I really like what they did with the LUG version. I’m pretty much the only person I know that ever actually ran it! :slight_smile:

The thing I liked the most was that several people could play a Mentat or Bene Gesserit etc and still have very different characters.

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Oh and the artwork in the book is gorgeous. It ruined me for what I expect for a decade before other RPGs caught up.

Well, now you know of at least two others…

@CountThalim - the various prereqs were a pain. the Skills/focuses system should have been used a bit more to reduce the key entries, but I don’t feel is was overly long. It was, however, too many restrictions.

This is true.

Have to return the book to its home today, but made copious notes (and a couple of photos of page spreads) that I hope to pass along to our (current-era) Dune group. This was a wonder to look through. :astonished:

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Closest I’ve ever got to roleplaying Dune is Fading Suns…

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I found a scan of the rulebook and read the big chunks of it, yet I cannot imagine playing it TBH, as the mechanics seemed daunting to say the least. A good portion of lore though.

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Combat options aside the mechanics weren’t too bad. Crunchier than some of the systems I was using (mainly white wolf at that time) but it wasn’t the hardest system I had run with.

At no point did I feel like I needed a calculator… :rofl:

I’ve also got only a scan of the rulebook from somewhere. I even wrote a short outline for a campaign taking place between the first two novels and spanning seven years (10202-10209). The campaign would have had six chapters:

  1. The Battle for the Leadership of House Corrino between Irulan and Wensicia after the Death of Shaddam IV
  2. The Appearance of a Caimant for the Leadership of House Harkonnen
  3. Cryptic References to a Mysterious Menace
  4. The Attack of the Synchronized
  5. Muadd’did’s second Jihad
  6. The Battle for the Imperial Regency

In some regards this campaign was also some sort of continuation of the Butlerian Jihad-novels. The decisions of the PCs during some chapters could change everything:

  1. In the first chapter they could help Irulan to regain control of her House, gaining them apowerful ally which comes in handy during later chapters
  2. In the second chapter they could be responsible for the resurrection of House Harkonnen, even if the claimant is just a Ghola.
  3. In the sixth chapter they have to decide who will be the legal guardian of Muad’dib’s children and also the regent of the Imperium. Here they could support Irulan again or even chose some one else (even one of the PCs).

I’ve written the whole outline in German.
dune-kampagne.pdf (92.1 KB)

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The core mechanics of the system aren’t hard:
(Att + relevant Edge) d6, keep highest, add skill (specialization instead, if relevant), compare to difficulty number.

LUG really did a great job on layout and background, but rules presentation? Not great in any of the games.

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I ran the game back when it first came out. Our group had also been playing LUG’s Star Trek RPG, so we were familiar enough with the general mechanics, though we had also found ourselves somewhat frustrated by how they fell apart at the fringes. The whole “roll attribute d6, then add skill” kind of breaks down at high difficulties since skills maxed out at 5 generally and difficulties could be 12+ for “difficult” tasks; unless you rolled a 6 on the Drama Die (or spend “Karama”) it felt like it didn’t matter whether you were Gurney Halleck or a raw house conscript, you had a 1 in 6 chance of success.

When Wizards ate LUG and the only result was everything about LUG died, I actually did most of a conversion of Dune to the Decipher rules (the fact that they got the Star Trek license next made it convenient to play “LUG Trek is to Decipher Trek as LUG Dune is to ____” ) but we never ended up playtesting them.

My LUG Dune book is sitting here next to the computer to this day. I think I’ve still got that rules conversion kicking around on a hard drive here some 20 years later…

@$%&. I’m old! Why didn’t anyone tell me this?!? Where do all the years go? :sob:

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It sneaks up on you. One minute you are gaming till 3am because with a couple of hours sleep you’ll be ok at lectures tomorrow.
The next you are calling it at 10 as you have to be up early to get the kids school lunches prepped and finish off the big project for your boss…

Me too - that and Coriolis…

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I ran it, and still have the book on my shelf next to my Dune Encyclopaedia

Some of the rules were a hot mess - but they did rush it out due to their … issues

The character creation system was superb and would love to see this type of creation again - you made characters not stat blocks

Combat was REALLY interesting and once my players got into it (we made cards of the actions they could use which really helped) we found it smooth and interesting

My players had (off the top of my head) a noble, weapons master and a BG (combat spec)

It ran VERY well - but you could see the need for expansion books etc

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And they were so close. We know they had books for the House Majors, Arrakis and the Bene Gesserit. Cover artwork, in some case the core manuscripts… And then… nothing. :cry:

I wonder how many copies of the original RPG we have on this forum. I’ve counted at least 4 so far. :smiley:

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So that would be 5 with mine.

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