Dune: Adventures in the Imperium RPG

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Full disclosure: This product was sent to us for an honest and objective review. No promises were made of financial remuneration, free gifts or a fully-expenses paid holiday in the sunny Bahamas…….sadly.

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‘We begin in the year 10,191 of the Imperial Calendar, a time of feudal
politics, deadly assassins, and political rivalry in a universe where humanity has spread out across
thousands of planets. With this core rulebook, you and your friends can take on the roles of agents of a powerful noble House, looking to carve out a place in the complex society of the Imperium.
In this age, humanity has not just advanced but evolved. Some people have minds like comput- ers, able to store and process data with perfect accuracy. Others have learned unique Bene Ges- serit martial art skills that allow them incredible control over their nerves and muscles, making them lightning fast, lethal combatants. Some have even developed strange powers of deduction
and prophesy, and for this they are often called ‘witches’.
Then there is the spice.
This substance is the driving force behind the entire civilization of the Imperium. Without it, the Spacing Guild could not pilot their great Heigh- liner spacecraft across space in an instant, and several factions would be unable to use the abili- ties that grant them their power. Even for the less developed people of the Imperium, spice extends human lifespan, even doubling it, and the promise of more years will make some people do daring and desperate things.
But the spice is only found on one planet in the entire universe, the planet Arrakis. It is a hostile desert world of deadly sandstorms and great worms, where no drop of rain has ever fallen. So, the Fremen people of the deep desert know Arrakis by another name. They call it ‘Dune’.”

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When the good people who represent Modiphuis Games suggested to us at the 5D Pop Culture Website a short while ago to ”Spend the Holidays with Some Modiphius Tabletop Games” – well who were we to refuse? Especially when the pdf links they sent included core rule books for the likes of Achtung Cthulhu, Star Trek, Fallout and a number of other notable titles including the beauty I’ll be talking about in this article – Dune: Adventures in the Imperium.

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The fact that Frank Herbert is one of my favourite writers of all time, and reading Dune as a wide-eyed teenager was one of the fundamental influences into journeying headlong into the world of unapologetic nerdism, means that Modiphius and the writers of this game have a rather high bar to meet in terms of satisfying me. No pressure then people….

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Those who know me well (and to those people, I can’t apologise enough for that) will agree that occasionally I can be prone to the odd episode of hyperbole when it comes to some of my nerdy passions. However, it is safe to say that Dune resonated for me (as it has with many) from the moment I discovered it at 14 years old – and it still does this day. And yes, I loved the recent film and (whispering it very, very quietly) I even view the much-maligned David Lynch adaptation with some affection (puts on tin helmet and waits……)

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The setting of Dune covers a period of tens of thousands of years, which could be somewhat overwhelming if you are unfamiliar with it – but more about that point in a moment or two. In this game the focus is on the time just before Frank Herbert’s first novel Dune. The era of the Imperium sets the stage for the incredible events that are about to unfold. This gives your player characters a chance to understand the complexities of the setting, and perhaps even lead their House during the storm of Paul Atreides’ great Jihad.

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However, there is far more to the universe of Dune than the story of Paul Atreides. So the writers have divided the major eras of the setting into seven distinct ages. Each offers different opportunities for your player characters and your campaign, and as the line progresses, they hope to explore each one in more detail in the future.

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The Dune: Adventures in the Imperium core rulebook contains:

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Everything you need to create your own stories of intrigue and adventure on the sands of Arrakis as agents of a powerful noble House.

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A brand new version of the 2d20 System adapted specially for the Dune Universe, including rules for creating a noble House of your own, and systems for architect play, where you become the puppet masters, moving agents to your designs to serve your House.

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An extensive look at the Imperium, its society, factions, history, technology, culture, faith and more.

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Guidelines for novice and experienced gamemasters on how to run Dune themed campaigns of intrigue and adventure for the elite agents of a noble House.

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An introductory adventure ‘Harvesters of Dune’ designed to quickly get you and your fellow players involved in the byzantine plots of the Imperium on Arrakis.

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A deep dive into Dune history

Even for those of us who have devoured the books & lore there is always for me, at least in the back of my mind, a feeling of ’imposter syndrome’ because in all my years I‘ve never felt that I have a secure handle on the vast detailed complexity of the source material – and perhaps I never will. So for those of you worried that your own knowledge is similarly doubted – fear not, because the core rule book contains a broad yet immersive description of over 20,000 years of the history of Dune that I’m confidant will satisfy both old an new visitors to this wonderful setting.

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This beautiful beast of a book approaching 340 pages sets aside nearly 70 pages that explores the history, political & social factions, technology, myths and laws that I would argue are not only highly important, but hugely enjoyable to read in order to help one better understand the universe you are about to play in. Yes, you could get by with a skim over some parts, but I wouldn’t advise that at all. It was part of Herbert’s genius was firstly needing to know just what the essential nature of what ‘spice’ is to this universe, the governing imperium and the implications the drug has for Arrakis, the only planet that it can be found on. But not only that, he provided an incredibly rich tapestry of detail (sometimes misleadingly innocuous) that intertwines between houses, political factions, those with power and those without.

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The level of historical detail from the writers is incredible. There is no assumption from the writers that everyone will be familiar with the wider Dune periods. Instead there is, as the kids on the street call it, a real deep dive into the whole background. However, if you are the type of person that tends to avoid backgroundwrite-ups in core rule books then I would encourage you to avoid that habit and dive into the historical narrative that is included here. 

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This is not a dry rendition of 60 years of Dune mythos. Instead, it’s an informative and entertaining examination of a time that many of us, through the core works, think we know about. I found myself transfixed by the descriptions of factions that made me quickly realise just how previously lacking I had been in knowledge about this period. The introductory section is a remarkable taste of the lore that Herbert created, perfect for those less familiar with the Dune background and nicely compliments the original source materials available if you so wish.

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Character creation

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One of my favourite aspects of any roleplaying game is character creation and the opportunities it affords in not only developing an alter-go together with detailed back-story, but also helping to understand the mechanics of a new game. Dune: Adventures in the Imperium does things a little differently in that the process actually begins with House creation. As a player group you become a member of one of the noble houses, and depending on the size of the house you take the role as either a leader or an agent. You and your fellow players then decide upon various aspects of the house, such as as the overall power, areas of expertise, important member, the culture of the house etc. This is a beneficial narrative exercise, for both experienced and less-experienced in Dune lore, in developing a knowledge of the house that will bind you together as a playing group.

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There’s an additional aspect I like here for those who may be less familiar with the setting, in that there are a nice range of sample character scenarios to make use of. Another nice touch is that there is also the option of choosing one of two methods of character creation;

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PLANNED CREATION
This method involves going through several steps, making decisions at each step. You’ll choose an arche- type for your character, assign points to your skills, choose focuses and talents, select your drives and create your drive statements, and end up with a fully- formed character at the end of the process.
This method allows a player to start with the kind of character they want to play from the outset, and the process allows for a considerable amount of customisation of characters.

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CREATION IN PLAY
Creation in play is like planned creation, but you make fewer decisions. You make only a few key choices, such as an archetype, a couple of your skills, one of your drives and one drive statement, and leave the rest blank on your character sheet. The rest of the details will
be defined once play has begun—at particular points during the game, you may choose to define one of those elements, choosing a skill rating, a drive, a drive statement, a focus, or a talent to add to your character.
This allows play to begin more quickly, and characters to be developed during the game as they face challenges and overcome obstacles. This is often handy for groups who are less familiar with the system, as it allows them to make choices as they become accustomed to the way the game works rather than having to create a complete character before they start playing.

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Gameplay

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium uses a single type of dice to resolve the actions a character may attempt and the situations they may face: twenty-sided dice, often referred to as a d20. Most of the time more than one die is rolled at once: these dice are collectively referred to as a dice pool. The number of dice being rolled are noted as Xd20, where X is the number of dice being rolled, so 2d20 means two twenty-sided dice are rolled. Some situations or abilities allow a character to re-roll one or more dice. When re-rolling dice, you choose the dice you wish to re-roll.

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You then roll those dice again, and the new results replace the old ones, even if the new result is worse. Some situations allow you to re-roll a specific number of dice, while others allow an entire dice pool to be re- rolled. You may always choose how many dice you wish to re-roll, up to the maximum listed—in essence, you can always choose not to re-roll a die if you wish to keep that result. Once you’ve re-rolled a die, you may not re-roll it again: the second result stands, even if you have another ability that lets you re-roll

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The 2d20 ruleset will be familiar to those who have played other examples of Modiphius’’ games such as Star Trek Adventures, Conan: Adventures, Achtung Cthulhu and more – and while I can appreciate the viewpoint of critics who say that the die system can be overly crunchy, for me it’s one of my favoured mechanical applications and seems to fit perfectly in this particular textured and detailed world. The way that the 2d20 system is employed in this game is inspired.

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Adventure

The core book wraps with the sample adventure “Harvesters of Dune”, which sets the players as agents of the House currently controlling Spice production on Arrakis. A three-part story it looks to give a good introduction to the setting and basic systems of the game – leaving more complicated conflicts for another time. I haven’t had the chance to fully play these as yet – but hope to do so in the near future.

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Conclusions

Dune: Adventures in the Imperium is a skilfully made roleplaying game produced by individuals who clearly have a love and appreciation for the source material and thus have created a delightful roleplaying experience. I cannot help but say that the writers of both of this game have set the highest of bars for the release. For a start, the book is beautifully designed – the cover is stunning and the artwork throughout is gorgeous. Throughout the book, the artwork not only supports and exemplifies the core rules of the Dune: Adventures in the Imperium game, but also looks beautiful as a separate entity on its own with an impressive attention to Dune detail that clearly indicates a genuine labour of love from the game’s writers. The feel for the authentic nature of his universe is true in it’s attention to the detail and feel of the story that Frank Herbert created.

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The rules contained are easy to understand – real effort has been taken by Modiphius to gather both ‘more seasoned Dune afficionado’s’ but also newer visitors to the universer under its wing and provide an authentic taste of what the this magnificent story has to offer. If the aim was to use the release of this RPG to enthral, entice and envelope new players to the world the Imperium, as well as to compliment the roleplaying experience, then in my case they have succeeded……

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You can get Dune: Adventures in the Imperium in PDF or Print at the DriveThruRPG link Here
or via the Modiphius website.

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WHAT IS “MODIPHIUS”?

Modiphius is a British Entertainment publisher partnering with global creative talent to develop unique creative properties.
​They publish roleplaying games, boardgames, miniatures, novels, cool accessories and more. Their aim is to inspire those who read, play or encounter our work with tales of heroism, adventure and courage. 
As well as their own IP: Achtung! Cthulhu, Modiphius has also published other major licensed properties from Star Trek Adventures the roleplaying game, the forthcoming Fallout Wasteland Warfare wargame, Free League’s Tales From The Loop and the DUST Adventures RPG based on Paolo Parente’s DUST universe, to Thunderbirds and the introductory Airfix Battles Wargame.

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If you would like to donate & support the 5D Pop Culture website & keep informed of more features like this as well as some additional treats for supporters only – go here: https://ko-fi.com/5dpopculturewebsite

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One thought on “Dune: Adventures in the Imperium RPG

  • January 6, 2023 at 9:16 pm
    Permalink

    This looks great – Love Dune!

    Reply

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