Join 3,524 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


His name is a +2 Killing Word
January 11, 2011 12:16 PM   Subscribe

The Dune RPG that never was.
posted by Artw (70 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Heh, was wondering if that was gonna get posted here.

Boardgames have always been more my thing than RPGs, so I'll just say again: if you can get a copy of the old Avalon Hill Dune, absolutely do. It's a fantastic game.
posted by kmz at 12:20 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Huh. It seems like it's a bit too restrictive a setting for an RPG but maybe that's just my tastes. Could it have been worse than the 2010 module for Star Frontiers?
posted by GuyZero at 12:24 PM on January 11, 2011


Leonov Blueprint Set?

I don't know that Dune is that restrictive, given that both the WH40K universe and the Metabarons universe are crazy-ass knock-offs of it... It seems like they had an eye on the big picture picture even if the provided material was largely centered on the main story.
posted by Artw at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn that Leto II! To suppress the Bene Gygasserit breeding program just as they were on the crux of producing a prescient DM capable of seeing into the future and having, at long last, the ability to predict and steer around all the ways in which his players might fuck up the campaign's plot arc.
posted by cortex at 12:30 PM on January 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


I'm sure they made it work on some level but like I said I think it's just not my taste in RPG storytelling. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is funny because the audience knows how futile the characters' actions are relative to the plot of Hamlet. It's a funny conceit for a play/movie, I personally think it would be a dreary conceit for a campaign.

You know, Thufir says "We've sent an advance team to Arrakeen to clean out the palace," YOU ARE that advance team. The first member of House Atreides on Arrakis! "We're having the devil's own time clearing out these sabotage devices, but we're almost done," because of YOUR work!

I guess I just always had "bad" experiences with player who walk into the beginning of those sorts of encounters and then decide to screw it and go do something else. You need players who are OK with very limited strategic decision-making and a GM that can move players along without making to feel too much like the game is on rails.
posted by GuyZero at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2011


Or what cortex said but less funny.
posted by GuyZero at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2011


The issue of the PCs messing up the canonical plot is reminding me of this awful cutscene* I saw from some computer game where some horrid generic emo character wastes Han and Chewbacca. Wrong in so many ways...

* I beleive it may technically be playable in some horrid button mashing way.
posted by Artw at 12:41 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


"He who controls Hasbro controls the universe!"
posted by papercake at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Last Unicorn Games system that preceded this was awful mechanically but divine in the flavour text.

I produced a d20 Modern total conversion based on this called the Rulbuk and have been running a campaign based on the Moritani / Ginaz kanly.

There is a yahoo group here with all my campaign materials as well as a Planetelogica written by an impressively nerdy astronomer listing all planets and systems in the Duniverse backed up with an investigation of their potential etymologies. Very very good.
posted by artaxerxes at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I must save against fear. Fear is the round-killer. Fear is the critical miss that brings total obliteration.
posted by cortex at 12:46 PM on January 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


this awful cutscene*

I heard there’s also downloadable content which lets you play a character who looks like you as a child, and then an NPC who looks like George Lucas rolls in on a golf cart and rapes your character. Just what I heard.

It's funny because it's true...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2011


It is by will alone I set my dice in motion.
posted by cortex at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


I think you mean WIS alone.
posted by Artw at 12:49 PM on January 11, 2011


It is by will alone I set my dice in motion.

Not canon! NOT CANON!!!!!
posted by mr_roboto at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're worried about non-canon, my DM punishment for characters who go off-script or otherwise try to interfere with The Golden Path is to drop them in the Herbert/Anderson "supplementary" novels.

What? They picked that over living out the rest of their lives in a pain-amplifier.
posted by adipocere at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess I just always had "bad" experiences with player who walk into the beginning of those sorts of encounters and then decide to screw it and go do something else.

I've always found running (or playing) campaigns in literary adaptations tricky. Players will do what they want to do and it's not a lot of fun for anyone if the gamemaster gets out their whips. On the other hand, going off-book gets you into uncharted lands that, while fun to play, can be hard to feel seemless with the original fictional universe.

It can be really hard to hold on to the flavour of the source material while playing a fun game. Either the pre-existing plot takes over or you have to break the plot and throw out the book's cannon. These write-ups, wisely I think, give the players interesting roles in the first book (or, as I prefere to think of it, only book), but that begs the question, what next? At some point, the gamemaster is going to have to start making up their own background, which runs the risk of feeling unattached to the universe of Dune.

The players don't have a lot of places to go "off-stage" in most single-source adaptations. Herbert in particular had a style and imagination that's hard to do on your own, particularly on the fly. We've all had times when someone blows away the main baddie for the next six months of play with a lucky crit (or, one of the major "good guys"---I've had players who would ocasionally do in their boss/CO/tribal leader just for the heck of it.). What then? What happens if they do hop that Highliner to Kaitain?

There are exceptions. Tolkein left behind more than enough background material to do interesting things with Middle Earth. Then there are literary, but purpose-built game-worlds like Gloranta and Tekumel and Harn. Star Wars sort of works, but it's hard to run Jedi without them dominating a game (from a plot point, if not a power-imbalance one---the Empire is supposed to be hunting them after all). Star Trek might work, but there's never been a definitive adaptation for it.

When I was running games, I usually preferred to start from a number of source materials, rather than rely on a single one. I would have bought this as a source book in a heatbeat though. You betcha.
posted by bonehead at 1:00 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who says you have to play within the story-arc seen in the books? You could always "Frank Herbert"* things up and set it before the original series. There's been a GURPS 3e Dune ebook floating around for donkey's years now whose suggestion is that you just don't have anything to do with the main characters from the novels - perhaps ex-House Atreides soldiers now working as smugglers and having to deal with Harkonnen or Sardaukar troops searching for them as well as interacting with Fremen in the desert and dodgy merchants in the capital.

Add to that some interaction with the Guild and the dangers of the desert itself and you've got a fairly wide ranging bunch of scenarios/interactions from action to negotiation, all the while you can have the story arc play out in the background. Perhaps they hear about Halleck joining a crazy Fremen religion and decide to seek it out for themselves...


*which, if you take the letters and rearrange them spells "ruin father's memory" assuming you are pretty lax with the letters that you are using or can just Kwisatz Haderach them over from Caladan along with all the rain. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
posted by longbaugh at 1:07 PM on January 11, 2011


The whole concept of having to play around the margins of an existing franchise reminds me of the DC heroes game I ran for a while in the 90s wherein my characters spent about half their time fucking with Batman just because they could.
posted by COBRA! at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Seems there are Dune sourcebooks all over.
posted by Zed at 1:18 PM on January 11, 2011


Uh, never was? I have a copy sitting in my attic.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:20 PM on January 11, 2011


Am I the only one who came here expecting to see a rocket propelled grenade fired by yelling?*

*...and disappointed not to find it?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:21 PM on January 11, 2011


There's also Burning Sands: Jihad (download), a conversion of the Burning Wheel system to Dune.
posted by jiawen at 1:23 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Jesus COBRA! You can't mess with the goddamn Batman. What are you; retarded?
posted by longbaugh at 1:23 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


perhaps ex-House Atreides soldiers now working as smugglers and having to deal with Harkonnen or Sardaukar troops searching for them as well as interacting with Fremen in the desert and dodgy merchants in the capital.

My reaction at that point is to say, if we're really not going to engage the narrative at all, why not chuck the setting entirely and play Traveller instead?
posted by bonehead at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2011


Am I the only one who came here expecting to see a rocket propelled grenade fired by yelling?*

NOT CANON!

(Also, not cannon.)
posted by kmz at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Not familiar with Traveller, but wouldn't the allure of playing in the Dune universe simply be that the Dune universe is really, really interesting, even if you don't engage the narrative of the original text?

Of course I also think it would be pretty fun if there was an RPG in which you play rebel house-elves in the Harry Potter universe.
posted by jnrussell at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


(or Faded Suns, which is very, very Dunoid)
posted by bonehead at 1:30 PM on January 11, 2011


Blimey! Seeing that makes me feel very old!
posted by Large_Pudding at 1:35 PM on January 11, 2011


Or, better yet, you get to play as Paul Atreides after mis-jumping into the Traveller universe!

"Your Bene Gesserit powers are impressive, but unfortunately unless you fill out Form 22-A-iv Part 4 I can't approve your ship for refuelling."
posted by GuyZero at 1:39 PM on January 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


The issue of the PCs messing up the canonical plot is reminding me of this awful cutscene* I saw from some computer game where some horrid generic emo character wastes Han and Chewbacca. Wrong in so many ways...

That same DLC (for Star Wars:The Force Unleashed II) allows you to drop-kick Ewoks. Goes a long way toward making up for the prequels.
posted by longdaysjourney at 1:47 PM on January 11, 2011


The idea would be that you establish the background and the boundaries of the game and gradually introduce the backstory from the novels. Eventually the PCs would be fighting alongside Fremen troops to seize Arakeen back from the harkonnen scum and then everything gets a bit screwy, they all get killed and you bring them back as gholas or some such. That way you can mess around and have them appear throughout the remainder of the series should you be so inclined (I wouldn't be as I can't see much fun in Leto II's empire).

You can stop them walking up to Paul Atreides and killing him by the fact that a) he knows they will try and b) his Fedaykin will fuck you up. That's not plot railroading - Paul is a total badass and his sietch-kin would all die to protect him.
posted by longbaugh at 1:49 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have a copy sitting in my attic.

To no surprise, they've been going over this on the rpg.net forums. The Last Unicorn Games edition whose cover is in that article was published, but the article is about a never completed d20 game.
posted by Zed at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jesus COBRA! You can't mess with the goddamn Batman. What are you; retarded?
posted by longbaugh


I wish I could travel back in time and give Young Me a copy of All-Star Batman, so that I'd have a good template for Batman fucking back.
posted by COBRA! at 1:56 PM on January 11, 2011


My son slept just long enough for me to dig it up. I don't think I've ever actually read the thing all the way through. I knew it was going to be scarce when I bought it so have never cracked the spine, kept it sealed up, and nice and dry.

Wonder if I should sell it? My gaming days are mostly behind me.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:58 PM on January 11, 2011


Hell, I'd buy it. It would be interesting to see just what they did with it.
posted by adipocere at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2011


By report, it was literally available for only two days at a GenCon, so it's a legendarily rare item.
posted by Zed at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2011


Yeah, they had like 50 copies they sold online for like two hours after GenCon. Due to my rpg.net obsession back in the day, I was able to score a copy. The only other copy I can see for sale at the moment is like 500 bucks, which seems crazy-go-nuts for any rpg that wasn't printed in a small box in the 1970.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:19 PM on January 11, 2011


So when they say "Limited edition," they're serious.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:24 PM on January 11, 2011


The thought of d20 Dune makes my head hurt.

I do love the art on that cover they posted. I used to own Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth, which is pretty bloody unplayable (although useful for stealing ideas from) and it was gorgeous. I think it must have been the same artist.
posted by immlass at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well the data said that people wanted to play new, original characters in Dune, but in the Main Storyline, but they didn't want to play the MAIN characters.

Players are idiots. Players don't know what they want. Players will like what I tell them to like.

WHERE ARE MY DAMNED CHEETOS
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:33 PM on January 11, 2011


That same DLC (for Star Wars:The Force Unleashed II) allows you to drop-kick Ewoks. Goes a long way toward making up for the prequels.

I dunno, Emo Sith, with his overdone gloominess and massively ramped up power levels and the fact taht he seems to be designed to trump everyone else in the SW universe by sheer power of Emo-ness, and you can bet he;s going to do some brooding along the way, seems a million times more hateful than ewoks.
posted by Artw at 2:42 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth

One of the trilogy of games that made me realise my roleplaying days were over. The others were Immortal: Invisible War, and everything ever made by White Wolf.

"Can't we just roll some dice, kill some orcs, take their stuff and go whoring?"

"Why? Do you have a new game called "Orc Apocalypse: Weirding of the Canticled Monotyrant" in which we literally play ourselves, but transported to a darker, more emotional world, and we get to explore our feelings and get experience for writing poetry about our characters?"

"You know, I think I'll just stay home and play Sonic the Hedgehog."
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:44 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd totally buy a game where Emo Sith gets dropkicked by Ewoks.

WICKET KICKED FIRST!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:45 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know what would be sweet? A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy RPG.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:59 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding the love for the Dune boardgame. As a child, I liked not just by the game itself but by the design of it - the circular cards and the way they fit into the rotary discs for duelling. Very cool. I suspect that it has either been thrown out or is in storage somewhere. The true casualty of divorce is always the war games...
posted by DNye at 3:16 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is by will alone I set my dice in motion.

It is by the juice of mountain dew that roleplay becomes a need, the gut acquires girth, the girth becomes off-putting.
posted by clarknova at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


My cousin lent me a copy of the first Force Unleashed, which seemed like a great idea. The game was literally unfinished (the glitch where the game tells you to bring down a Star Destroyer using the force, then gives you instructions on how to do it, but the instructions ARE WRONG?!), and yeah, somehow 'Starkiller' (blech) shows more power than any Jedi, ever, in any of the movies?

Not picking up 2.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:31 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wonder if I should sell it? My gaming days are mostly behind me.

Slice the spine off it and run it through the scanner. Then upload.
posted by Ritchie at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2011


It's already available in scanned format. My quick google searches proved that much.

I'm still on the fence. On one hand, selling it could possibly net me a significant chunk of a week's worth of daycare. On the other, I'm unsure if I want to deal with eBay.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:25 PM on January 11, 2011


Oh god. Everything about Starkiller is just horrible. Did you know that he was responsible for the formation of the Rebel Alliance?
posted by Artw at 4:54 PM on January 11, 2011


Since we've got an RPG thread today, I'll note that The Laundry RPG based on our own cstross' Laundry books is on sale till Monday as an $11 PDF. (Paranoia: Troubleshooters, too.)
posted by Zed at 5:06 PM on January 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


HE WHO CONTROLS THE DICE CONTROLS THE WORLD!
posted by nola at 5:33 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The dice extend life. The dice expand consciousness.
posted by adamdschneider at 7:46 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


On a related note, this is on my birthday wishlist (though out-of-stock currently).
posted by jnrussell at 8:28 PM on January 11, 2011


This thread is so full of awesome (well except for the Force Unleashed bits). The Laundry RPG? Can't wait.

Back in the 90s I worked on (never released outside my own project folder) Dune diceless RPG. I just didn't see how luck (and especially critical hits/failures) and supremely capable (Bene Gesserrit anyone?) characters would ever work. I was also a big fan (and player) of the Amber diceless RPG and that system was just so good for for political back stabbing.

Ah memories.
posted by schwa at 9:39 PM on January 11, 2011


Imagine the min/maxing possibilities of the Dune Universe. Say, a half-Fremen, half-sandworm rogue with the Navigator proficiency. Warps through space on demand, +5,000,000 CON, never needs to drink, plus automatic success on Easy pickpocket tasks.

(Weakness: -10 on Save vs Being Ridden by Kwisatz Haderach.)
posted by No-sword at 11:47 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know what would be sweet? A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy RPG.

We're playing it.
posted by odinsdream at 7:28 AM on January 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The whole Starkiller thing is mirrored in most of the Star Wars novels/comics etc that I've seen. The writers feel that they have to have something worse than the Death Star or a character who can out-Jedi Luke or out-scoundrel Han. It's like they peaked too soon with the enemy they had to face in ANH and had to just make it worse and worse. I seem to recall some sort of spaceship that snuffed out suns and all sorts of other crap.

It's also a mark of piss poor writing when your protagonist is just not going to have any sort of difficulty wading through the opposition. Having a character that can use the force to manipluate a Star Destroyer is just silly. What next? He moves the Death Star and makes it point elsewhere? I get that in a video game it's important to be able to wade through the enemies and not get killed by the first Jawa who shouts "Wootini!" but you've got to have some sort of progression along a power curve or you might as well just play "Stampy McStampfoot & The Kettletron" and just kill ants for 1000 gamerscore.

As anyone who has ever GM'd an RPG can tell you - you don't have to have the PCs save the world every week, you have to ramp up the difficulty slowly and then you have to fuck with them a little bit (Robin D Laws had a great series of essays about this) before they get centre stage. They can't just start out as The Avengers*, they've got to be the friendly neighbourhood Spiderman first.

schwa - you don't let them be Bene Gesserits. For best results set one against them. Using a diceless system is ideal in that case since you don't have to codify their abilities within the game's mechanics. Bene Gesserit could isolate and move individual muscles in their toes. I defy anyone to work the many uses of that out in any system.

In either a social or combat scenario a single Bene Gesserit would be more than a match for almost any group of PCs. Only through teamwork and sheer awesomeness should they be able to prevail. In the example I gave above where you have some ex-Atreides troopers working as smugglers on Arrakis you should remember that House Atreides troops were, in canon, within a hair's capability of the Sardaukar.

When they fight the first ornithopter full of Harkonnen commandos have them being lead by a Sardaukar or two. They should be able to overcome the Harkonnens fairly quickly until the Sardaukar turns up, coming out in Hollywood style slo-motion from the dust storm thrown up by the 'Thopters ground effect with a knife in each hand and death in his eyes.



*Well, you can, but then you've got to ramp up the enemy level as well and then it just becomes very silly indeed.
posted by longbaugh at 7:36 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want to play Stampy McStampfoot & The Kettletron
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:01 AM on January 12, 2011


We're playing it.

Oh, no, not again.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:05 AM on January 12, 2011


Robin D Laws had a great series of essays about this

I would love to read these if you can point me in the right direction.

House Atreides troops were, in canon, within a hair's capability of the Sardaukar

Well, a small cadre of them were, anyway.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:22 AM on January 12, 2011


Robin's livejournal has some good stuff, he's had a bunch of articles appear in Pyramid and also had a book published featuring many of these as well as some original content. I haven't got the articles to hand at the moment as I'm at work and they frown on me tossing it off to that extent but I'd absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend his Laws of Good Gamesmastering - it's not exactly huge at under 40 pages but the online version from e23 is only $7.99 and it's superb value. It's great for new starters and old dogs alike.

Stampy McStampfoot & The Kettletron will be released on XBOX Live Arcade any day now and will cost 1600MS points. The DLC, Stampy McStampfoot & The Kettletron : Escape from Termite Mountain is being written as we speak and has yet to be priced.
posted by longbaugh at 8:48 AM on January 12, 2011


Of course I also think it would be pretty fun if there was an RPG in which you play rebel house-elves in the Harry Potter universe.

Ha! Awesome. My Life With Master might work for that....
posted by word_virus at 9:48 AM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what would be sweet? A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy RPG.

Traveller + Paranoia, away you go.
posted by rodgerd at 9:51 AM on January 12, 2011


Traveller + Paranoia, away you go.

Hm. You're on a scout, with 5 clones in cold berths below decks... you have to check in with the Computer every time you make port and you're assigned experimental Scout Service gear for field testing... and you aren't allowed to land if you don't have sufficient security clearance?

Or perhaps it's the reverse, the Paranoia setting with Traveller mechanics. And you simply re-program the Computer to allow you to have all six clones active at the same time to give you six times the ability to fill out paperwork and make rolls against Admin-4.

I'm unsure whether this is the best RPG crossover idea since the Gamma World conversion tables in 1st Ed AD&D or the worst since the Boot Hill conversion tables in 1st Ed AD&D.
posted by GuyZero at 11:18 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Some of Laws' gaming essays subsequent to his Laws of Good Gamemastering are collected in a $3.95 PDF, See Page XX. (Some more recent ones are still free online there.) I'm in the middle of the PDF now; good stuff.
posted by Zed at 12:22 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I played this game, and died of boredom when I lost my save vs. long monologue.
posted by Mister_A at 1:48 PM on January 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If I played this game my character would be named Sandy Ver'djeina.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:00 PM on January 12, 2011


Since we've got an RPG thread today, I'll note that The Laundry RPG based on our own cstross' Laundry books is on sale till Monday as an $11 PDF. (Paranoia: Troubleshooters, too.)

I picked up a print copy. I don't know about game mechanics but seems like they've done a really good job translating the tone of the books to RPG form - it's certainly the only RPG I know of that contains a complaint about govermental IT departments standardizing on IE6.

My one complaint would be that if you've read all the books there really isn't going to be much that's all that suprising to you in there, with the equipment section for instance being a compilation of every gadget Bob has encountered over the course of the stories, with some, like the tuxedo from the bond pastiche, seeming a bit irrelivant to general play.
posted by Artw at 5:06 PM on January 15, 2011


Cardboard Children: Deathwatch RPG - ONLY WAR.
posted by Artw at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2011


« Older ♡♢♣♠ Different kinds of playing card art....  |  Bird said the U.S. government ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments