|The Beginning Is A Delicate Time...|
I've wanted to run a Dune RPG for a while, but for various reasons it hasn't ever happened. It came back to mind in the past year or so as I reread my way through all of Dune - finally completing the last of Frank Herbert's sequels. Still, playing a game set in the world had been only a pipe dream....
Until this Wednesday.
|Francesca Annis as a rather delectable Jessica in David Lynch's Dune.|
|The Shortening Of The WAy|
|Not Generic 90s RPG Rules Set #723|
Instead, my preferred choice was Burning Wheel, a fantasy RPG which has a free supplement called Burning Sands which is Dune-with-serial-numbers-filed-off. I've ran Burning Wheel before for some of my regular players - Ailsa, Raj and Matthew did a little one-off, and Matthew has ran us through the related game Mouse Guard. From this we learned that we were alright with the core mechanics but that it isn't ideal for one-off play: in particular, it's got a very fiddly combat system called Fight! and an equally detailed social combat system called Duel of Wits. Burning Wheel has lots of cool stuff going on but it requires a fair bit of player knowledge of the system to work.
Another reason it's not ideal for one-off play is that several game mechanics only come up if you design your own characters and play them over months of sessions - stuff like the lifepath system for character creation, the way you track individual dice rolls for each skill to track when they individually advance and the existence of not one, not two but three separate types of "Hero Points" The end result is that when the players sat down and saw these terrifying character sheets...
|LOOK AT IT. LOOOOOOOOOOOK AT IT.|
For our one-off the adventure I used was Instruments of Kanly, the sample adventure out of the Last Unicorn Games edition. Charles, Raj, Matthew and Ailsa played: an intellectual junior noble, a suspicious Mentat Warmaster, a loyal Swordmaster bodyguard and a bitter Assassin. Serving House Tseida, they travelled to the planet Chusuk to take part in an auction for a musical instrument which is an artifact with connections to both their house and their rivals House D'Murjzin.
|Princess Irulan from the Sci-Fi Channel mini-series - wearing one of her more sane outfits.|
The end result was theft attempts, suspicion, diplomacy and an awkward finale in which House Tseida appears complicit in a crime and must choose between two imperfect options.
|The Spice Must Flow|
That said, tone wise the game felt pretty good to me. I love Dune, me, and getting to say words like Navachristianity, Kanly, Heighliner and Sysselraad make the 13 year old in me squee with delight. The players definitely seemed to get into the swing of things - they schemed and politicked in the way of Dune, with Raj particularly getting into the head of an unhinged Mentat who trusted no-one. All the characters were quite potent power-wise which was another plus for me - Dune's main character are almost all total bad-asses, trained by exclusive schools or veterans of decades of adventure. Bad dice luck happens, but on the whole our Assassin, Mentat and Swordmaster felt equal in awesomeness to Gurney Halleck, Thufir Hawat or Duncan Idaho to me.
|I still have my very battered copy of Dune with this cover.|
Would I play this again? I think so. I wouldn't want to do another one-off, though - I'd want to do a proper campaign. Burning Sands assumes as it's default a post Dune, pre-Dune Messiah game with the players either taking the side of the Fremem Jihad or the nobles resisting it. I think that's an idea with legs - my only real limitation is finding the time to fit it into the many other games and game ideas we have sloshing about...