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Author Topic: Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas  (Read 1329 times)

tenbones

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« on: January 12, 2018, 02:56:00 PM »
Across many threads beyond counting - page after page of debate on whether Dune could be done as an RPG - and the many reasons it can't, then queue the inevitable "Just use" .

I got bored and started considering for kicks and giggles doing a Dune as fantasy setting as a thought experiment. I was thinking it would be pure fluff (so everyone could use it and apply their system of choice. My setting conceits are the following (and please jump in if you have ideas that I may have missed). So it doesn't obviously have to be full-on perfect copy, but I want to cleave to the considerations of the first two books. The extrapolations beyond those would be something to add on to later.

One single world - There will be a large desert region, perhaps its own continent, as well as other continents that will hold their own biomes you'd find in an Earth-like world. The desert biome continent will have natural hazards that requires special knowledge to access (see the Guild).

The Imperium - Sure there might be city states, and perhaps there could be unclaimed areas, but overshadowing it all - is the The Imperium.The Imperium will consist of large powerful Great Houses and Minor Houses, where House rulers make up the Great Convention from whom is chosen a single Emperor. Robust House creation rules including fiefdom stats for management conflicts.

The Convention (The Landsraad) - The body of House Rulers that oversee their individual territories. They are constantly vying for political and economical control. And while they maintain individual military power - they are dependent on the The Guild for various innovations - not the least of which is access to the Spice - which allows Houses of the Great Convention to operate. The rules for territorial management will be gauged by resource accounts that tie directly to the Guild. Houses are able to call upon the Guild for special requests they cannot (or more accurately are unable) to fulfill on their own that are governed by the Guild.

The Guild (Spacing Guild/CHOAM) - One Guild to rule them all. Geography will have natural barriers requiring Guild access. Essentially this is the Overguild that controls major mercantile and processing concerns. Ships that cross the sea (or other locales) will require special materials for manufacture as well as navigation-skills to get there. Guild Navigators use spice in measured allotments to give them the ability to navigate their vessels. Without the spice, they're useless. Without the navigators, no one is getting any Spice. They maintain their own military - primarily naval. This may/may not include sky-ships (haven't thought this through yet). The Guild oversees the accounts of the Houses of the Convention by supplying them with materials, information, services for a price. The most expensive services are charged in Spice units.

The Sisterhood (Bene Gesserit) - Advisers to the Houses of the Landsraad and they are necessary because they administer their religion and philosophy to the masses to keep them pacified as they extol the necessities of the status-quo (as long as it serves their larger purpose). They have special skills derived from Spice consumption and secret training including powerful post-cognitive skills. Masters of social intrigue they secretly administer a breeding program where they can create a male member that can do pre-cognitive powers as well as whatever else the GM needs. It should be a mechanical MacGuffin that has potential in-play ability for the PC's.

The Counters (Mentats) - Specialists trained as their own independent guild. They use the Spice to enhance their cognitive functions to super-human(oid) levels. They are the ultimate in logistics and planning, including military, analysis and covert operations. Skill monkeys taken to crazy levels. They are naturally distrustful of the Sisterhood. They have their own special programs where they use Spice-heightened skills to create weaponry and gadgetry - not limited to changing life itself (if ones skill is high enough).

Spice as Magic - Spice is what fuels magic. What magic? Depends on the system you wanna use. Spice comes from the Arrakis Desert (continent, whatever). A dangerous land with dangerous natives. And big ass worms that crap Spice. Spice extends life. With the right training and amount, it extends consciousness and lets you work "Magic" and even fuels some meta-skills (like navigation from the Guild). Spice economy will be based on quality and quantity of Spice including the production of the refined Spice - not just the raw stuff. This is a natural bottle-neck that further allows the Guild and Bene Gesserit to exist. Quality and quantity could be used as a mechanic itself to allow access to certain abilities.

Possible extra options:

  • The Spice has inherent properties that grant benefits to their user depending on quality/quantity.
  • It is addictive. And once a certain level of addiction is reached it becomes lethal to wean oneself off. (This might be mitigated through in-game processes but would be a huge secret).
  • Powers achieved via Spice intake will be specified based on the system. But they will include at minimum the abilities attributed to the setting's factions at minimum. GM's can add/subtract to their taste.
  • The only known source of the Spice are the great sandworms (or whatever) whose ecological requirements are extremely narrow.

General ideas for sub-systems and Setting Mechanics
Domain Mechanics - Rules for the acquisition, creation, governing of Domains that range in scale from local to large-scale. Domains will have stats that will be based on security, production, cost, and resources. Random table generators for events that will impact Domain stats.

Faction Mechanics - Rules for the creation of Houses, Guild factions, non-Imperial factions based on independent concerns. These will include benefits that produce resources or special options that will grant Domains and members personal abilities at scale. Rules for faction-to-faction politics - including random generators for GM's that just want random events to occur. These generators can be prompts for contact between factions that don't normally have contact, which could invoke adventures

Travel is Dangerous and Restrictive - So while there might be plenty of means to travel normally within the core regions of the Imperium (where it would be like any fantasy setting) - beyond a certain point it is dangerous. Super-predators, independent factions that are mobile and dangerous (outlaws). This could be due to environmental needs (which only the Guild can alleviate) or political ones. Mechanics naturally should include encounter tables appropriate for the area or region based on these conceits.

Regional Resources - Some resources can only be found in specific regions. Some might be completely secret and only be available from specific Factions. Resources will range from Domain-scale to personal. The Guild controls much of the intra-faction trade, as middle-men if nothing else.


… so put some more in here - thoughts/ideas - big or small.

finarvyn

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2018, 04:22:56 PM »
I did something like this once for Star Wars, the notion that it's all on a single world. What I did was place various city-states called Tattooine and Alderaan and such on a map and then allow for travel either by land or by airship a la Barsoom. Was a lot of fun.

So basically I'm saying that I love the concept that you have detailed here. The basic notion of Dune superimposed on a single world is pretty cool, although some of the advantage of the Spice may be nullified since it's not needed as much for travel as in Herbert's books. But your "Spice as Magic" concept may work well, too, and certainly helps put a new value and demand on the Spice. I also like that you have come up with a way to use the factions in a fantasy setting, which is something I like in concept but can hardly ever pull off well. I like that each faction clearly has a purpose and an agenda....
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Baron Opal

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2018, 04:46:34 PM »
My current campaign is flavored by this.

"A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year 691, post cometam. The known world is ruled by the Illuminated Empress Amelia IV. In this time the most precious substance in the Nine Planes is the mineral orichalcum. Orichalcum extends life. Orichalcum expands consciousness. Orichalcum is vital to the performance of magic. The temples of the faithful and the guilds of the magicians depend upon orichalcum to invest themselves with the means to hear the Patrons and exercise the Will.

Orichalcum exists on only one plane in all Creation. A desolate, ruined realm with vast deserts of ash and salt, which contain the starfall craters that yield this precious material. Hidden away among the craters dotting the lansdscape of these deserts are a people known as the Unhomed who have long fought to survive against the metallic tripods the stride across the wastes."

tenbones

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2018, 04:53:00 PM »
Quote from: finarvyn;1019092
I did something like this once for Star Wars, the notion that it's all on a single world. What I did was place various city-states called Tattooine and Alderaan and such on a map and then allow for travel either by land or by airship a la Barsoom. Was a lot of fun.

So basically I'm saying that I love the concept that you have detailed here. The basic notion of Dune superimposed on a single world is pretty cool, although some of the advantage of the Spice may be nullified since it's not needed as much for travel as in Herbert's books. But your "Spice as Magic" concept may work well, too, and certainly helps put a new value and demand on the Spice. I also like that you have come up with a way to use the factions in a fantasy setting, which is something I like in concept but can hardly ever pull off well. I like that each faction clearly has a purpose and an agenda....

Well... I looked at it this way. Dune is an implied universe - but let's face it, it's a bunch of clustered mini-settings. So doing the same thing on one world shouldn't be an issue. The House Harkonnen might live in the Giedi Mountains which could be literally anywhere. Heck, you could do the whole thing on a giant archipelago and the main land-mass is the Arrakis Desert!

But the issue of course is travel beyond a certain point be rendered difficult. Perhaps weather patterns are so fierce only certain routes are known. Special conveyances may be required - all under Guild control. Even like the books, Guild Navigators are attuned to navigating to these hard to reach locations and therefore their class would have access to that spell/skill/Edge whatever.

"Spice" as a mana-mechanic could have sliding scalar effects depending on how gritty and/or powerful you want it.

As for the Factions - yeah that's the meat-and-potatoes driving the conceits of the world-in-motion. Sure the PC's are doing whatever they want, but the world around them is being pushed by these factions interacting with one another. That means each faction could easily have their own random-table generators, and even sub-tables for each region illuminating their general interests in that area. Plus once you start factoring the ginormous amount of adventure-hooks you could generate for the PC's to dive into... it's campaigns forever.

It would be important for me to create a faction system that rewards PC's for engaging in the interests of their respective factions plus rules for them to create their own faction - or even take over an established one.

tenbones

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #4 on: January 12, 2018, 04:53:32 PM »
Quote from: Baron Opal;1019098
My current campaign is flavored by this.

"A beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year 691, post cometam. The known world is ruled by the Illuminated Empress Amelia IV. In this time the most precious substance in the Nine Planes is the mineral orichalcum. Orichalcum extends life. Orichalcum expands consciousness. Orichalcum is vital to the performance of magic. The temples of the faithful and the guilds of the magicians depend upon orichalcum to invest themselves with the means to hear the Patrons and exercise the Will.

Orichalcum exists on only one plane in all Creation. A desolate, ruined realm with vast deserts of ash and salt, which contain the starfall craters that yield this precious material. Hidden away among the craters dotting the lansdscape of these deserts are a people known as the Unhomed who have long fought to survive against the metallic tripods the stride across the wastes."

on point!

HappyDaze

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2018, 09:13:27 PM »
I remember reading the Wheel of Time RPG and thinking that a lot of it felt like a Dune/LotR hybrid.

Dumarest

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2018, 12:00:17 AM »
Quote from: HappyDaze;1019122
I remember reading the Wheel of Time RPG and thinking that a lot of it felt like a Dune/LotR hybrid.

Is that good, bad, or neutral?

Telarus

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2018, 12:58:02 PM »
Really good idea. A long while ago, I let a bunch of players co-create a mini-setting for an Earthdawn game (to test a bunch of house rules). One girl wanted to play a goblin from the Wastes beyond Jerris (where the corrisive ash storms come from). Her goblin culture had developed the magical equivalent of the fremen stillsuit in order to survive. I only ran a couple of sessions at the edge of the Wastes and the Poison Forest (where the animated-yet-decaying wildlife is caught in a macabre cycle), but this reminded me of how fun that was. Nicely done.

HappyDaze

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2018, 07:24:18 PM »
Quote from: Dumarest;1019142
Is that good, bad, or neutral?

I think he meant it in a good way. I never liked the Jordan books d/t writing style, but if he did steal and blend story elements from Dune & LotR, at least he had good taste.

Eric Diaz

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2018, 08:14:19 PM »
Well, it might be worth mentioning that "Dune as fantasy setting" has been done - it is one of the main inspirations behind Dark Sun.

There you will find: one single desert world, intrigue, psionics, resource scarcity, dangerous travel, etc.

I am not that familiar with Dune to contribute.... But here are a some ideas about DS FWIW.

They are very "gonzo", so that might be different from what you're looking for. I borrowed heavily from CAS, T├ękumel, Barsoom etc.

http://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com.br/2015/06/mad-max-dark-sun-and-50-things-that.html

http://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com.br/2015/10/mad-sun-part-i-inspirations.html
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HappyDaze

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2018, 10:13:38 PM »
Other than having a desert (which was only one world in the Dune Universe), I see very little to connect Dark Sun and Dune.

Eric Diaz

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2018, 08:45:54 AM »
Quote from: HappyDaze;1019393
Other than having a desert (which was only one world in the Dune Universe), I see very little to connect Dark Sun and Dune.

There is the stuff I mentioned that seems to fit the OP - intrigue, scarcity of resources (especially water), etc. - but you can probably find that anywhere. Also psionic powers.

IIRC there were other things... Like the dragons that get warped by power, similar to the God Emperor of Dune (haven't read the book, just know about it).

It is the best setting I can think of for "fantasy RPG Dune". There might be others, I don't know.

EDIT: also this:

Quote from: tenbones;1019078
Travel is Dangerous and Restrictive - So while there might be plenty of means to travel normally within the core regions of the Imperium (where it would be like any fantasy setting) - beyond a certain point it is dangerous. Super-predators, independent factions that are mobile and dangerous (outlaws). This could be due to environmental needs (which only the Guild can alleviate) or political ones. Mechanics naturally should include encounter tables appropriate for the area or region based on these conceits.

Regional Resources - Some resources can only be found in specific regions. Some might be completely secret and only be available from specific Factions. Resources will range from Domain-scale to personal. The Guild controls much of the intra-faction trade, as middle-men if nothing else.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 08:54:04 AM by Eric Diaz »
Methods & Madness - my new D&D 5e / Old School / Game design blog
Including:
* 5e:Fortitude/Reflex/Will. Bringing balance to the Forge (you read that right).
* OSR: One page hacks is my answer to retroclones. Would love to take ONE PAGE from YOUR book!
* 3e vs. 4e vs. 5e - Can you trip an ooze? Does it require miniatures?

Simlasa

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2018, 02:17:58 PM »
Game of Thrones struck me as having a lot of Dune in its blood.
Some of that is the common ground of competing houses with defined character/style, above and beyond what the declared War of the Roses influence would suggest. Also, the red witches (whatever they're called) and the Meisters (sp?).
Not that there isn't a bunch of other stuff that doesn't fit with Dune (and there's no desert, unless you count the frozen north).. but the 'feel' of it is much more Dune-ish than it is LotR or trad-fantasy.

Ras Algethi

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2018, 05:34:50 PM »
Interesting read OP, looks cool.

tenbones

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Dune as a *Fantasy RPG*... campaign design ideas
« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2018, 01:41:07 PM »
Quote from: Eric Diaz;1019579
There is the stuff I mentioned that seems to fit the OP - intrigue, scarcity of resources (especially water), etc. - but you can probably find that anywhere. Also psionic powers.

IIRC there were other things... Like the dragons that get warped by power, similar to the God Emperor of Dune (haven't read the book, just know about it).

It is the best setting I can think of for "fantasy RPG Dune". There might be others, I don't know.

EDIT: also this:

Darksun is nothing like Dune other than they're set in desert-settings. Darksun is post-apocalyptic dark-ages sword-and-sorcery. Sure they have surface level similarities - but those conceits are largely superficial. Dune is feudal and deeply political and factionalized with a ginormous amount of religious mysticism at the core asking ginormous questions about the fundamental natures of people. Heady stuff for an RPG to be sure - which I'm less concerned with. But they're elements that greatly informs the setting.

It's one of the things I generally don't like about most D&D games I see when it comes to spellcasters, and divine-spellcasters in particular: a reductionist view of how of those forces, and those that wield them are completely absent from the setting's own assumptions. Clerics are reduced to just "the party healer", casters are "glass-cannons" and the context of those individuals as somehow "normal professions".

Dune takes all these things in their respective manner into account. In a Fantasy-version of Dune, the same tact with some twists would have to be established as well to establish why the world is as it is.

1) Being from the Sisterhood/Counters/Guild would have immediate implicit assumptions tied to it. Basically their factions have deep control over their activities. One of the conceits of Dune though it's rarely an issue - is that depending on how high-up the food chain within these respective factions you are, your abilities are predicated on obedience to your faction which they control via the various addictions you've acquired to maximize those abilities.

2) The world has to reflect the *need* for these beings to exist. The very abilities of these factions are the commodities they alone control. The Sisterhood are the ultimate in negotiations and even to some degree in spying. The Counters are masters of whatever skills they've trained in to super-human degrees, spies, assassins, strategy, logistics etc. Guildsmen are commodity controllers of production and the ability to acquire things necessary for the other factions to even survive. This would mean the Faction rules in play would have to account for these things. So being in bad-standing could cost you your life.

One good direct connection you made is the Dragon Lords <> God Emperor. Structurally they kind of inhabit the same space. But for the purposes of a Dune Fantasy RPG that would be way down the line. The God Emperor doesn't come to fruition until the end of the second book in the series and there's a LOT that could be done before that.