Ways to kick off a Dune Campaign

Hello everyone,
How did you launch your Dune campaigns? Did you plot after Session Zero, after your group came up with the house? Or did you start with an idea and give your group appropriate guidelines for the design of their House?
I’m leaning towards the latter, but would like to hear how you did it and how it worked out.

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I started with some basic ideas about how I wanted my campaign to develop. Very high level stuff: The murder of the Warmaster, internal discord, a connected external house trying to stir things up, etc…

Then I did session 0 which was House creation and rough character creation.
I gave them some key elements I had already created, such as the core elements of the family tree.
That gave me a lot of jumping off points and direction towards where my players were intending to focus their interests.
This brought in other aspects like a connection to the Spacing Guild, a greater focus on the higher levels of the House, more details of the environment they are working in and so on

So I have a solid plan of what the starting point is, but a lot of the direction is driven by my players as to which areas they are investigating. If they ignore a plot line it is dropped or modified to fit what they are looking into.

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I’ve used two different homebrew scenarios to do this. I didn’t really want the Players to be stuck playing House Atreides (as in the beta-test intro scenario). I really liked the hour or so we spent Generating a Minor House and its primary/secondary domain. We then just talked through the Roles and decided if PCs would have the Role or be someone who reports to one of the Roles. Rather than create EVERY Role (even a name and brief description can take a while) just create the ones you really need - PCs and/or their immediate boss.
I wanted to set the first few games on Arrakis (easier for people to feel they are playing Dune if you use Dune). We may have a few sessions set elsewhere, but want to stick with Dune for the first few adventures.
The Harkonnen re-occupation of Carthag in the months and years after after the purging of the Atreides seems like a good setting with a clear enemy and a lot of plot options for various Minor Houses schemeing and positioning themselves.

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We designed Wormsign and Desertfall to be good campaign starters, but there is also some detail baked in.
As each PC has an ambition you can start by asking them how they want to go about achieving them. The same might apply for the House - what does it want, there is your starting point.
However this isn’t so good if the players don’t know the setting very well as they’ll need some time to find their feet. But that is where one of the published adventures can help.

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I started with Harvesters of Dune; it’s still on-going, my intent is to use Jaris for custom scenarii in the future involving how the players want to grow their nascent house.

We play before the Atreides get the Arrakis fief too.

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I’m using the time at the end of 10191AG, shortly after the purge of House Atreides and I’m intending to lengthen the gap between that, and the events at the end of the book from just 2 years (canon) to take maybe 10 years of ever-increasing Fremen raids and Harkonnen oppression as the backdrop to the Players’ stories. They are based in Carthag which I envision as a cross between…

  • High-tech (No Thinking Machines) version of a “Blade-runner” metropolis mixed with Oppressive Security Checks, ID Cards and suspensor “flying police cars”
  • Hot, dry, sand-blown, high-rise and narrow alleyways city with huge disparity between rich and poor (Harkonnen-allied and the rest)
  • Corrupt Harkonnen commanders (under Rabban “the Beast” Harkonnen) would probably be accepting bribes like some sort of “official” protection racket
  • Other Houses with business interests on Arrakis, would most likely be scrabbling about trying to appear “Friendly” with the Harkonnens while MAYBE working against them, or at least trying to go unnoticed by them
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