DUNE #4 - Who are you?

By Andrew Peregrine

In Dune: Adventures in the Imperium, your characters are all elite agents of a noble House. But what does that really mean? Are there limits to what you can play, and what sort of options are available for characters inhabiting the Dune setting?

Well, the first place to start is with the House itself. As you get to create one of your own, it defines the style and favored skills of its agents. A House known for its skilled assassins will have a lot of assassins, for instance. As it is a House you have created yourself, this means it will be filled with archetypes of the sort of characters you want to play. If you want to create a group of musicians, you can create a House famous for its performers. In this way, character creation and House creation both build on each other.

However, your House is not only made up of its specialty. There are a range of roles that are required by any House, simply to function. You might not be known for your spies, but if you don’t have any, your House is in trouble. Remember that House Atreides was known mainly not for its spies or technology but as the producer of a staple rice crop, and it still had agents aplenty.

In broad terms, these agents fit into one of three general areas: diplomats, fighters, and spies. The diplomats and advisers are the ones going out to make the deals or share their expertise with the leaders of the House. As agents, they are the fixers, going into shady places to make clandestine deals with dangerous people. But they might just as easily be socialites, the center of any party, trading secrets as they sip wine.

There are plenty of exciting options for fighting characters as well. There are several different forms of combat and only a few master them all. The most common fighting style is the use of the blade. Personal shields limit the use of ranged weapons and require you to face your enemies in deadly close combat. With only a slow blade being able to penetrate a shield, combat is more a matter of tactics and cunning that it is raw strength or speed. This mixture makes the bodyguards, soldiers, agents, and swordmasters of each House lethal in the extreme.

Finally, we have the spies and assassins, for whom there is always work to be done. While there is a strict code of rules to the use of poison and assassins, vendetta is the business of the Imperium. As such, every House requires an array of specialists. They might need infiltrators to learn their enemies’ secrets, contacts to gain intelligence, couriers to pass secret codes and messages, and assassins to end problems before they begin. They also have to be highly skilled because every House has their own elite agents who will offer no quarter to those they uncover.

While this gives you a wide range of potential characters, there are also what we call ‘faction characters’ who are unique to the Dune setting. While these characters have pledged allegiance to the House as much as everyone else, they have loyalties elsewhere that pulls them in two directions. However, the knowledge and abilities they possess are jealously guarded secrets of their faction, making them exceptionally useful agents. For those of you new to Dune, they need a little more explanation:

  • Bene Gesserit: The women of this sisterhood have mastered a training regime of complete mental and physical control. It makes them graceful and deadly fighters, but also grants them incredible insight into body language and human motives.
  • Fremen: The desert people of Arrakis are secretive and elusive, but make powerful friends once their allegiance is given. Hardened by the ruthless desert, they are among the toughest fighters in the universe.
  • Mentat: Trained from an early age to memorize and process data, these valuable advisors are living computers, able to recall with perfect clarity and make predictions based on data sets.
  • Spacing Guild Agent: With a near monopoly on space travel, the Guild is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. They act as a neutral agent in many conflicts and as such also offer banking services to the Houses of the Landsraad. To have one of their number working with your House grants a powerful connection.
  • Suk Doctor: While the Suk doctors are the most highly trained (and expensive) in the universe, this is not their greatest asset. Each is mentally conditioned so they cannot harm another person, even by accident. In this way, they are the only physicians trusted to work on important nobles, even the Emperor himself. 

Beyond these options, there are a host of other different character possibilities, as it will be up to you what your House values in an agent. Whatever their skills, they will be tested on the sands of Arrakis, no matter who they are.