I’m curious where other people would be interested in setting their Dune RPGs and the scope or role of characters in their campaign. Personally I’m interested in setting up somewhere between the Butlerian Jihad and Herbert’s Dune storyline. My favorite books were the House series from the early 2000s so this would be a strong possibility. For characters I’d like to affiliate them with one of the major Houses likely as client/cadet and remove them to some other part of the universe. I think it would be easiest to remove them from major story conflicts so they could do their own thing but still carry rivalries where they go. When I build a campaign in a canon universe I like to establish a center stage for my players even if it’s a small one.
Such a good question!
As to period, while my heart wants to play in the first novel, I’m afraid that it’s simply too canonical to mess with. For the game master in me, the period right after Dune and before Dune Messiah–the high point of the jihad–seems really fruitful. There’s a great amount of dynamism and movement through the universe as the Fremen cover planet after planet, and diasporic flights as refugees flee (making this period fairly topical to modern concerns, too).
Similar to your feeling, I’d install my characters near a Great House to provide them a modicum of protection during the violence, and then set them loose on the politics of the Landsraad, probably starting with the planetary Sysselraad. Maybe one of the Atreides Minor Houses on Caladan, who could conceivably make a claim for remaining loyal to the Duke even after the fall on Arrakis.
Interested in hearing other replies!
I am actually thinking about the Heretics of Dune setting, with the Honored Matres. I kind of liked where the books had gone by that point.
Oh the possibilities!
I think to start, I would favour the years leading up to the first book, and following it. I would love to tell the story of how another great house deals with the massive changes Paul brings about. Or the guerrilla war from the perspective of the fremen, and the following jihad.
I’d start small, to be honest - on Arrakis itself. It’s obviously the focus of the books, but beyond that it’s cosmopolitan, insofar that there are multiple interestsin it from Houses, Guilds and so on. As such, there is a reason to have PCs come from diverse backgrounds. The era it should be set in is difficult, but I’d suggest that maybe the period of Harkonnen rule before the Atreides take over. That way, the events of the book need not disrupt more low key scenarios - while the Harkonnen rule make good villians. That, and the oppressiveness of planet’s geology.
After this, the game could build on the setting, explanding through supplements towards different planets and eras.
The Butlerian Jihad, Man vs Machine
Actually, I’ve been thinking on this again.
The best set up, for the core game at least, would be for a a bit like ‘Rogue One’ for Star Wars. That is, have the core game start with the situation just preceding the events of the original game and allow for PCs to interact with the overarching story as anonymous, behind the scenes agents and other third parties. They could act emissaries, spies or assassins tied to a particular House or other allegience.
Follow on supplements could then expand, both geograpically and in terms of the books narrative.
My thoughts were similar to Trippy’s, That would tie into the upcoming movie and make for great infighting for the group. Perhaps a joint task force pushed together y the Emperor.
Thinking on it, I find I will need to wait for the rulebook to come out and see how it is set up. While I find the book Dune to be the best of them all and the rest not nearly as good, but the setting as a whole has a very wide set of possibilities. So many that I can’t settle on one. So I’ll wait for the book and then see what stands out.
My preference for the core rules would be either pre-Muad’dib, or Jihad, but NOT the Fremen Takeover of Arrakis.
Why not the War for Arrakis lead by Muad’dib? Too constrained, and too inherently linked to the iconic characters of the novels. Plus, too likely to lead to powergamer combat heavy gaming. Now, as a miniatures adaptation (similar to the STA Code Red), sure, that’s ideal. A minis game needs a reasonably constrained setting in ways an RPG usually stifles under.
Either post Chapterhouse or pre Dune would be my vote.
I ran an abortive play by email game (using GURPS, of all things) several years ago, with basically this exact premise. Each of the players belonged to a different faction, and they all came together at the homeworld of a Minor House where a Guild Heighliner had just disappeared in a freak accident. This was the introduction I wrote up:
A beginning is a most delicate time…
Know then that it is the year 10,189. A hundred and four centuries ago, the Butlerain Jihad raged throughout the Known Universe, destroying whole worlds in a quest to rid the Universe of thinking machines and other dehumanizing technology.
The Jihad succeeded. Mostly.
Now, millennia later, countless worlds throughout the Known Universe owe their allegiance to the Imperium and its emperor Shaddam IV of the House Corrino.
The Emperor presides over the Landsraad, an assembly comprised of the 100 Great Houses and representatives from the thousands of Minor Houses scattered through the Imperium.
Each Minor House aspires to Greatness, and each Great House longs to become the Imperial House, to cast out the Corrinos and begin a dynasty of their own. So it has been for 10,000 years.
There are other forces in the Imperium, whose ambitions dwarf the mere pursuit of the Imperial throne.
The Bene Gesserit make their presence known throughout the Imperium, but their greatest labors are in secret. There are vague whispers of a breeding program, and nervous guesses about the powers that a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother has at her command. But no one outside the order can even begin to conceive of how deep their motives truly run, or how great their powers really are.
The Tleilax are trusted by none, hated by almost all, but traded with by everyone possessing the wealth to buy their services. They are masters of genetics, able to produce a human – or any other creature – made to order. Throughout the Imperium they are dismissed as decadent peddlers of flesh, but a few look past the convenient image of the “dirty Tleilaxu” and wonder if there isn’t some greater purpose behind their mastery over the most basic building blocks of life.
The Spacing Guild holds an absolute monopoly on interstellar travel. No one outside the Guild has ever seen a Guild Navigator; no one knows how they can safely guide ships through the folds of space from one star to another; no one even knows where their homeworld is. The Guild appears content to provide this service to the Imperium and collect its profits. But to really think about the Guild is inevitably to wonder: what secrets must they possess to go to such lengths to hide behind their veil, and how much further might they go if they were ever truly threatened?
Like the Tleilaxu, the Ixians are both distrusted and despised. They are tolerated because of their control over forbidden technology; technology absent from the rest of the Imperium since the Butlerain Jihad. The Ixians mostly keep to the shadows, never giving away too much, never giving the Imperium a reason to finish the Jihad’s work. But are they simply merchants, or do they have a far-reaching agenda of their own?
There are rumors of still more players in the great game. There are fleeting visions and garbled messages. There are half-remembered tales of refugees fleeing the Butlerain Jihad and legends of breakaway factions from the Bene Gesserit and the Tleilaxu and the Guild who fled into uncharted space for unguessable purposes promising someday to return. And then there are the renegade Houses, who chose exile into the unknown over destruction at the hands of a rival House or disgrace at the hands of the Emperor.
No one is sure which are real and which are merely shadow. Some of these hidden factions must certainly be genuine; perhaps only a handful, perhaps many. The only thing that can be said for sure about them is that anyone who returns to the Imperium after remaining in hiding for several millennia surely must have a very good reason for doing so, and for choosing this particular moment for their re-emergence.
At this moment, the Imperium is kept stable by the balance of forces. Every faction has its own agenda, its own vision by which it wishes to reshape the Imperium. But none are strong enough to move openly; all believe, and rightly so, that if they did, the whole of the Known Universe would be against them; that they would be destroyed utterly if their true agendas were revealed. So they plot in secret, and over the longest of terms. Among those in the Imperium who possess both a sense of humor and of history there is a joke: if you haven’t been scheming and planning for at least 5,000 years, you’re just not trying.
With so many opposing forces in such a precarious balance, even something as seemingly minor as a feud between two Houses, or the actions of a band of desert nomads on a distant and barely habitable world, or the freak disappearance of a Guild ship, could alter the balance of power.
Those who watch from the highest circles of power know that all these things, and more, have happened. The long feud between House Atredies and House Harkonnen threatens to erupt into war. At the same time, reliable rumor has it that the Emperor plans to give the Atredies control of the desert world of Arrakis, only known source of the life-extending spice melange. Why the Emperor would do this is anyone’s guess.
Such minor events as these could have great and unpredictable repercussions. They could even, conceivably, bring the entire Imperium crashing down.
Of course, it is always possible that there are those who want exactly that to happen…
The event that kicked off the game - the disappearance of a Heighliner - was the result of a desperate plan by the Minor House in question. They had been vassals of the Harkonnens for several hundred years, and came up with a scheme to try and break away - and at the same time advance to Great House status, or maybe even higher.
Their plan was to build starships of their own and challenge the Spacing Guild. Per the Dune Encyclopedia, the actual technology to build foldspace drives was well known, so building the ships wasn’t really a huge issue (hiding the construction from their Harkonnen masters was another thing, naturally!). But of course, they had no more idea than anyone else outside of the Guild how Navigators were able to safely guide starships. So once their small fleet of ships was constructed, they advanced to phase two of the plan: kidnap a Navigator right out of his Heighliner, and force the answers out of him by whatever means necessary.
The game began at that point - all the players knew was that a Heighliner had disappeared; and one player who had connections to the Spacing Guild Bank also knew there were some serious financial irregularities in the Minor House’s finances, and unexplained diversions of resources (the starship construction project, naturally).
The other wrinkle to the scenario was that the Harkonnens were using the Minor House to construct the artillery weapons that they eventually used in their attack on Arrakis shortly after the Atredies took over there (recall in the novel that the Harkonnen use of such an old-fashioned and outdated weapon was a huge shock - and only possible on Arrakis because you couldn’t use shields in the desert for fear of the sandworms). So there was the possibility that the Harkonnen plans for Arrakis could be discovered or disrupted, depending on what the players did.
Sadly, the game fizzled out pretty quickly, but I always thought the idea had a lot of potential.
@starkllr, Your posts were very inspirational. The resume of the setting is fantastic. First time I have urge to run a game in Dune setting.
With the lock down suspending most of my regular games (but not work unfortunately) I’ve had a bit more time to think about a future Dune campaign.
My last one was based around a team of ‘problem solvers’ for a house minor of House Moritani on Grumman.
They put down a small serf rebellion, tracked it back to another minor house and generally began causing utter chaos as they came up with counter plots to strike back.
This did lead to a few hilarious situations such as trying to recall why they teamed the house heir up with a rebellious young teenager of the same age. The original plan was to see how the factions in the house would react to the fathers sudden rise in importance. They just forgot this after clearing up things like them sneaking out of the Palace at night because they were bored.
Or the session where to help a functionary of the opposing house defect they planned to use a boat accident and a fake body. Leading to a surreal conversation about whether it is best to pre-propellor your peasant and freeze them or use a freshly propellered peasant on the night…
For the future campaign I would use some of the similar themes. The players would act a remove from the House. So they would have freedom to resolve a situation as they saw fit, but would have little backup from the House itself.
I will probably have them travel around a bit more than I did previously. Arrakis might feature but it will be during the Harkonnen Governorship and so before the setting of the book. They would have to venture into the lions den on certain missions, possibly alongside a formal House delegation just to add more complexity.
In general I will probably draw inspiration from Conspiracy X and Spycraft games I have been in.
Do you think it would be possible to run a campaign, Pendragon style, that tracks the events of the book(s) but allows for characters to play a third party that is affected by, but independent of the book events as they occur?
Pendragon does this with The Great Pendragon Campaign, based mainly on Morte D’Arthur, and its a major body of work in RPG terms. However, The One Ring also attempted to do a similar thing with their Mirkwood Campaign and other adventures set in between the events of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. It would take an effort, therefore, but wouldn’t it be great if a Dune Campaign did the same sort of thing?
I could see 2 ways of doing so off the top of my head.
A third House Major that gets involved on Arrakis during the betrayal, possibly House Vernius as they have ties to the Atreides, and then essentially hangs around causing mischief to the Harkonnens until we have the Fremen uprising and can segue into the battle of the shield wall.
The other one (and the one I would prefer) would be to have the party Atreides at the start, have them go through the betrayal and join up with Gurney Halleck and the smugglers. You then have the few years of them being smugglers before they fall in with Paul again before the Fremen uprising and can tell the stories of them being some of the few that Paul can rely on to get in amongst the Harkonnens as they prepare their attack.
I tend to be very leery of running campaigns that tie to closely to the books, but given the large gap in Dune I could see something like these working. You have the anchor points at each end, but the middle is a blank canvas.
Yep, I prefer the latter idea. Indeed, that may end up being the basis of what I might run when the game comes out. Hope it is an option!
My preference would be to set it before or after, or even between the books, so I have more freedom to write without altering what Herbert wrote, or being constrained by it.
But I’m loving the ideas everyone is putting out in this thread. This game can’t come out soon enough!
I can only see the default setting as being just before House Atreides are granted the fief of Arrakis.
A short while later and you can’t play an Atreides as a ‘normal’ house and much later the entire universe is completely upended.
Hopefully we will get something akin to STA where the timeline will advance with each book. So the Smugglers book (We all know there will be one) will have more details about the time right after the first part of the book as there is the perfect entry with Guerney Halleck.
How they do the far future post Leto’s Imperium or the earlier prequels around the Butlerian Jihad I don’t know.