Build A Campaign From The Sands of Desert Planet


Arrakis is central to the Dune setting. It’s home to a valuable resource, the setting for the majority of the novels and the first thing most fans think of when someone mentions the world. The latest campaign book for Dune: Adventures In The Imperium focuses on the titular planet with a collection of seven adventures based in the sands of Arrakis. Desert Planet Adventure Compendium Volume 1 brings together three new adventures and four digital releases just in time for players to get hyped by the new movie. Modiphius sent along a review copy to check out. Did these adventures awaken the sleeper? Let’s play to find out.

The book opens with a small gazetteer on Arrakeen, Dune’s biggest city. It’s the hub where most of the adventures start. It serves as an introduction to the city, some locations and some people in the adventures and provides Arrakeen as sort of a Mos Eisley style dirty city full of alleyway intrigue and shadowy assassins in every doorway. The section also gives a summary on how to thread together the adventures into a full campaign. The short version is that the character’s house wants in on the spice smuggling game. These adventures provide the means, motive and opportunity to set up one of the great money makers in the Imperium.

Each adventure also provides options on how to modify it based on campaign setup, whether the Harkonnen, Atreides or the player’s house is the one in charge of spice harvesting on the planet. While I appreciate these discussions, there are a couple of rough edges. Most of the advice assumes the games are set in and around the first novel. While this may be the most popular era, I would have liked to see a little more discussions of times when Dune’s fate wasn't already cemented. There are also some references in the text to other books that don’t seem to have come out and references that made sense when the digital adventures were published as stand alone products. Generally, I prefer when adventures provide these options but they can make a GM wonder if they misplaced something while reading.

The remainder of the review contains spoilers for the adventures. If you are a Dune GM I recommend picking up this collection if you don’t already have the previously published adventures in PDF.

The first three adventures are pulled together as a mini campaign called “Arrival.” They are a touch shorter than the other adventures and feel like they can be completed in one or two sessions, while most of the digital adventures feel like they are built for 2 to 3 sessions. “Arrival” focuses on the players coming to Arrakis and establishing a presence there for their house.

“Heat and Dust” throws the players into the deep end of the intrigue pool with an assassination attempt and a welcome party full of gossip, rumors and power brokering. I really enjoyed the setup of the party because of how it detailed the power players, what they want and how players can use the mechanics to get it. It also includes several smaller NPCs for color, which are the secret ingredient of stories like these. Of course the players want to spend time hobnobbing with Duke Leto but it’s folks like the noblewoman playing dumb because she thinks it will land her a rich husband that have the real potential to become allies and rivals in a campaign.

“Blood In The Water” introduces players to Tulan Dass who is set up as a main component in their spice smuggling plans. He sends them on a more traditional mission to check in on some smugglers who he contracted for an illicit water shipment. This introduces the players to the Fremen and sets them up to make a hard choice; bring back the water to make themselves valuable to the crime lord or let the Fremen take the water back from the smugglers in the hopes they’ll help in the future? Both chives can impact the campaign in interesting ways.

“A Storm of Blades” gives players a chance to rub elbows with Chani and break her cousin out of Harkonnen prison. This adventure feels like a big heis/action beat for the players standing around as bodyguards in the other sections. I liked that the adventure had a different flavor based on how the players treated the Fremen in the previous story. I also appreciate that it covered multiple approaches ranging from a surprise attack to the classic “we’re the inspection team, what do you mean you didn’t get the Baron’s letter?” deception plan.

In “Shaitain’s Bargain”, the main antagonist is a ticking clock of betrayal. Will the players betray their uneasy Harkonnen allies first or will the Harkonnen leave them to be buried in the sands? Played in sequence, this adventure can be heavily influenced by how the Fremen view the players.The map the players are supposed to locate will shift the balance of power to whoever possesses it by the end.

The next adventure, “Coriolis Storm”, was the most disappointing one in the collection. The references and general outline, where the players must outwait a massive sandstorm while trapped in an isolated weather station, invoked the paranoiac feel of The Thing. Instead, it was mostly a timed dungeon crawl trying to avoid traps until the storm blew over.

“Time Becomes A Narrow Door”, on the other hand, ended up being my favorite story. It plays not just with the themes of religion in Dune but also toys with the player’s meta knowledge a little bit. The players are sent to rescue a noble from a religious cult but discover that he’s not the victim but the leader. The cult believes him to be the Mehdi, a role that will one day be fulfilled by Paul Atreides. The players have to wrestle with the political implications of a false prophet while also dealing with their out of game knowledge and wondering how that will affect their characters.

The final adventure, “Desert Flower” takes the players in a direction heading off planet. One of the Emperor’s artists in residence is offering up a collection of paintings of the planet with a small exhibit on the planet before shipping everything to the Emperor. One of them gets stolen by some Fremen who understand that the artist accidentally captured one of the holy places for their people not shown to outsiders. The story wraps up in intrigues that feel like they hit the highlights of the other adventures; tense parties, religious implications and a hard choice for the PCs that will ensure that they will pick who wins and who loses.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

and provides Arrakeen as sort of a Mos Eisley style dirty city full of alleyway intrigue and shadowy assassins in every doorway.

I'm down for that! I like gritty operative style si fi city type play. More cyberpunk than space opera. Cutting deals with smugglers, crime lords, and corrupt bureaucrats is more fun than watching some nepo baby beat out other nepotism baby's to become emperor.

Related Articles

Remove ads

Remove ads


Remove ads

Recent & Upcoming Releases