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Witness The Fall Of Dune’s Imperium First Hand

Put the players within spitting distance of the fall of House Atreides and the rise of Muad’Dib.


The best licensed role playing games have settings where there’s room to run. Luke might be blowing up the Death Star and Frodo might be dropping off The One Ring but there’s still plenty of opportunities for characters to have some adventures and take out some bad guys. Dune is also a great example of this and the Adventures In The Imperium line from Modiphius has taken great pains to show off the setting beyond the first novel (and the two most recent movies). The latest release, Fall of the Imperium takes an intriguing track. This twelve adventure campaign, designed by Richard August, Simon Berman, Jason Brick, Jason Durall, Keith Garrett, Jack Norris, Andrew Peregrine, Dave Semark, Hilary Sklar, Devinder Thiara, Mari Tokuda and Rachel J. Wilkinson put the players within spitting distance of the fall of House Atreides and the rise of Muad’Dib. The company sent along a review copy just in time for the second film to hit digital and home video. Did the campaign bring glory to my house? Let’s play to find out.

The first thing to note is that there are some intractable things that happen in the book, House Harkonnen gets control of Arrakis, Atreides still falls, Paul becomes Muad’dib and he wages war on the Imperium to become the new Emperor. While this may strike some as too much of a railroad, the campaign is called Fall of the Imperium. It’s a lot easier to write about those events rather than plot for every possibility that happens at the table. The question posed to Game Masters and players is how the player’s house fares during these tumultuous times? Do they ally with Harkonnen to get their hands on spice when production drops and then betray them when they lose favor? Do they stick with Atreides even though the house is dissolved but they know it will rise again? There’s some discussion in the book about player knowledge of the events and how to use it in the story. Overall, this is about the journey, not the destination, told by the four acts of the adventures.

Each of the acts of the campaign follows a similar overall arc. One of the larger powers in the universe is trying to control or benefit from the events in the main story. The player's house happens to be in the right place at the right time and right time so they are thrust into some intrigue with the current state of events on Arrakis. Each act is made up of three adventures, giving this whole campaign a solid length to it. It also pairs well with Masters of Dune as a sequel to that campaign.

The rest of the review contains spoilers for the adventures. Here’s my takeaway: While this book works as a campaign for group hot to play through the events of the recent films or first book, I think it’s an even better choice after the players have set up rivalries and alliances from a campaign in progress. That makes it easier for the Game Master to set up the unexpected alliances and sudden betrayals that come once the spice dries up during this campaign.

The first act, called “The Gathering Storm”, covers the period seen in the first film. The Emperor gives Arrakis to Duke Leto and eventually wipes out House Atreides in a merciless sneak attack led by House Harkonnen. Atreides takes over even if the players are running the planet as House Nagara from the Agents of Dune boxed set, setting up some potential conflict. The players are contacted by House Ecaz, a Harkonnen rival looking to strike while they sense Baron Vladimir is on his back foot. It’s up to the players to decide whether to side with the Harkonnen or help Ecaz try to stick in the blade. The players survive the attack on Arrakis thanks to whomever they side with. I like that this chapter finds a way to have the players witness a pivotal event in the story even if they can’t really do anything to stop it.

“Muad’Dib” ironically whisks the players away from Arrakis as they must now seek out new sources of spice from other houses as Harkonnen hoards the precious drug. The adventures include everything from a James Bond style ski chalet escape on an ice world to some puzzle solving and codebreaking to discover evidence of Harkonnen treachery. I really like how the authors handle the puzzles here. The characters can make rolls to solve them but if the players do they unlock small perks for their characters, like a Truth called Puzzle Solver. This was my favorite act since the puzzle solving was something I hadn’t really seen in other adventures for the line.

The “Fall of the Imperium” section mirrors the second film with a lot of appearances by known characters. It’s also the weakest section since there are a lot of variables in where the players are at this point. On the other hand, it also offers the most flexibility of the sections with scenes where players might take out Rabban or Gurney Halbeck if their alliances point one way or the other. In the end, however, Paul still begins his crusade so accomplishing those things feel a bit hollow.

The last section “War Across A Million Worlds” goes past the movie into the early stages of Paul’s reign. It shows the tyrant that he’s become by forcing the players to betray a house that’s been a long time ally because they’ve been accused of working against the new emperor. Thi act would benefit from being part of a longer campaign. Setting up a house that’s been through thick and thin with the players as the one they have to destroy would make for some excellent divided loyalties to wrap up the story.

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Rob Wieland

Rob Wieland

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