Review The Dune Rose


The Dune Rose is a Swedish indie-game originally named Ökenros, and is now translated into English. It is written by Wilhelm Person who has done a couple of other small games before, that are also availible in both Swedish and English, and it is illustrated by Ronja Melin (who really is an artistical chameleon). It is availible through as a print-on-demand game, or as a pdf from Due to the way Lulu's search-function (doesn't) work, I provide the link if anyone is interested: Lulu

The book looks like a typical cheap romance-novel that you will find near the check-out section of many grocery stores, which is not so strange as that is what it is intended to be a game about. This makes it a rather niche game to say the least, that plays on certain tropes and clichées. I do think though that the right group can have very fun with it for shorter campaigns, and one-shots, or include parts of it in their existing games. It might even help draw in some new players who might not feel comfortable with more traditional games like D&D. But it is not a game for everyone.

The book is well-written (unfortunately with a FEW typoes in it, which I reported to the author, so we will see if he can fix it. One possible advantage with print-on-demand). It is a relatively short game, only 155 pages long (and that includes stuff like namelists and character sheets), and the size is a small pocket book in the format 4.25 x 6.875 in / 108 x 175 mm. This makes it extremely easy to carry with you.

The book uses the format to first write about some rules, and then show through very well-written examples of play how these rules are used. Do not skip the examples, as they play out shole scenes. The examples of play takes up maybe half of the book, so they are longer than the actual rules. The author also talks about some of the tropes and criticisms of them.

When starting playing, you first have a session-zero in the form of a book club, where the players take the role of people who have all read this fictitious romance novel called "The Dune Rose", and discuss what elements from the book, they would like to tell a story about. So you do a bit of world-building, on the cultures involved and the general setting.

This world-building also includes deciding how raunchy the story should be. The raunchiness goes from Clean -> Sweet -> Middle -> Steamy -> Spicy. The lowest setting (Clean) means that a kiss at the end of the story marks the union of the main characters (the Heroine, and the love interest), whereas the highest (Spicy) means that sex is a core element of the story, involving multiple partners and/or advanced techniques. Put it at a level that all involved agree on.

Once this part of session zero is done, it is time to make the characters. At the minimum, you need a Heroine (the main character), and one love interest. But then you can fill out with other characters like mentors, companions, and more love interests, and other minor characters etc. The game is supposed to be so you can run it with/without a narrator (GM). You start by playing a scene/chapter for each of the characters everyday life and then have them start getting drawn towards their destiny. The story must of course end with a Happily Ever After for the Heroine. It might not be the one she was searching for throughout the story. Between the start and the end, you have as many chapters as you need to tell this story.

The system is inspired by FATE, but you will normally only roll 3 FATE-dice instead of the 4 from FATE. But you can have penalty-dice and/or bonus dice. Meaning you will either subtract the highest result(s) or the lowest even if you roll more than 3 dice. Of course there are ways to give other characters boosts in the form of bonus dice when they are about to roll the dice.

Each character has 3 stats called attributes: Vigor, Instinct, and Reason. The starting values will be between 1 and 7. A player has 10 points to spread out between those 3 stats, and each stat also has a defence-value. Those will be 0, 1, and 2, placed any way the player so chooses. A character also has 1 skill they are skilled at, and 3 they are competent at. They are assumed to be untrained in any others. It is up to the players to decide skills suitable for the background and culture that their character comes from. There is no premade skill-list.

Each character also has a secret ability, that lets them really shine in one situation. For example to be extra good at reading another person and find what they really want in a negotiation. Characters also have a "key", which is their drive and the way they get experience, by acting according to their nature. They can later purchase more of these keys, and even drop exisiting ones (and get a one-time amount of xp). And it is up to the players to decide if they acted according to these keys in a scene or not, and thus gain xp. Each character also starts play with a number of so called advances, which can be used from the start or later while playing to raise attributes/pools linked to their attributes, or buy new secrets or keys. Every 5 points of xp gives a new advance.

Equipment normally doesn't play any specific part other than maybe the narrative focus of the situation in a scene when the characters lack a certain piece of equipment, and thus there are no equipment-lists either. You are supposed to have the stuff that is relevant to your character.

Conclusion: It is a lightweight game, that can be used to tell very large and interesting stories or explore certain tropes. It is well worth its price if one wants to expand ones horizons regarding games from the normal dungeon-exploration, or fights against monsters. I would like to play it, not entirely sure I can convince some of the players in my gaming group to try. The book does not contain anything that is GM-only, so all players can, and should read it.
Last edited:

log in or register to remove this ad

Dungeon Delver's Guide

An Advertisement