So, I’ve been running the Roll20 Modiphius Dune RPG and it is going well. The Roll20 setup rules are good and I haven’t been using any rulebook. I did not use a module except for the player characters that came with it. I instead had a campaign set on Dune before the rule of the Harkonnens.
My break with canon is that the Spacing Guild has convinced the Emperor to let a cadre of Minor Houses harvest the Spice, so as to let competition keep the price down and to prevent any monopoly of this resource.
It also lets players get to play different Houses and still be on that great sandbox with the Freman, the Shai-Hulud and interstellar intrigue.
The Different Houses in the GiN Live Playtest are:
(NPC) House Bardem Domains: Artistic Produce.
• Members: Lady Mouva.
(NPC) House Lendam — Nascent scientific/religious house from Ix, profit-driven bankers, Emperor-worshipping power cult Domains: Science Machinery.
• Members: High Engineer Akala.
(NPC) House Misr — nascent agricultural house, democratic Zensunni heritage.
• Traits: Farmers, Unimposing
• Domains: Farming Expertise, Espionage Produce. Members: Macki
(Players) House Windsor — scientific house, restored by SG intervention after Harkonnen persecution. Domains: Science Produce
• Members: Rex (deceased), Jürgen, Ben.
(Players) House Yeng — military house, former Harkonnen vassal. Traits: Knowledgeable, Secretive. Domains: Kanly Workers, Espionage Workers
• Members: Docent Mithridates.
So, we have two players who are in House Windsor and one who is House Yeng. A fourth player has decided to play a Freman. Initially one of the players was a representative of the Spacing Guild but then switched to having House Yeng. This makes for an interesting game and one of the players is very artistic and has made digital art for each of the Houses.
The game uses the Modiphius 2D20 House rule system which I am still learning. To my new eyes it seems very cinematic. Two 20-sided dice rolls are generated based on the fluctuations in the power of a beam of light on the Roll20 server. This roll must be below a number based on one a character’s Skills plus one of their Drives. A roll of 1 is a Critical Success can give an additional Success. If the number of successes scored is greater than the Difficulty, each success above the Difficulty becomes a single point of Momentum.
A roll of 20 on the other hand means Complications. Much like Call of Cthulhu and BRP (Basic Roll Playing) systems you are trying to roll under the target. Unlike that system that whittles your sanity down and moves your skills up if you use them Dune moves you in a more abstract fashion.
Combat and resolution of skills rely a lot on narrative and not on a succession of hit points. Death is not something that occurs at a zero point. As the rule set in Roll20 says, “Defeat does not mean death. While it often does in Dune, enemies can yield, be exiled, knocked out, or be stripped of resources.”
This is a science fiction RPG that firmly lives in the world of the Dune novels, especially the earliest ones. Unlike the TTRPG Mothership, which works within certain futuristic dystopian/megacorporate tropes, it comes with a very deep and specific lore. Those who play it and enjoy it best seem to be those who love the novels themselves. So far, I think if you like the books, any of the TV mini-series or the latest movie than you would like this Roll20 version.