DUNE #12 - Behind the Shield Wall

By Andrew Peregrine

The gamemaster always has the hardest job, but we've done our best to make it as easy as possible. Still, a little extra advice never hurts, especially if you are new to Dune or the 2d20 system. So here are a few pieces of guidance to help the gamemaster take their first steps on Arrakis.

Stay in one place

If you are new to the Dune setting there is a lot to take in. But that doesn't mean you can't run a game. In this case focus on a particular part of Arrakis, maybe a particular quarter of Arrakeen, or a particular Fremen sietch, and populate it to suit your campaign. You don't need to know everything about the world to make a small corner of it live, and this allows you to build up detail over several adventures. You can always expand as you get more comfortable.

Be clear about the rules

If everyone is new to the game, take some time to be clear about what difficulty ratings are and what skills are to be used. The players will need clear instructions on what is being rolled as many of their talents and abilities may rely on them. So take a little time to figure out what rule needs to apply until you've got the hang of things rather than rushing through.

Take your time with tests

In many games, it takes several tests and rolls to resolve a situation. But in Dune, a single dice roll can sometimes resolve a whole conflict. Don't be in a hurry to rush through one test to get to the next. Applying traits will change the difficulty and each one you add is creating a new layer to the scene. Take a moment to describe how each trait or asset applies to what is going on. Let each point of Momentum or Threat being spent represent something narrative, like an ally or a stroke of luck. Create a back and forth between the gamemaster and the players, taking it in turns to add to what is going on until it becomes time to roll the dice and see how the exchange turns out.

Threat is not just for countering PC abilities.

Spending Threat might initially feel very aggressive, as it is a way to make things harder for the player characters. So, it is common to only spend it to return a test to a status quo and counteract their abilities. But this is actually more frustrating for the players as this means they are as good with or without these abilities - given the gamemaster uses Threat to neutralize them. So, feel free to throw Threat into any test you like and build the stakes before the player characters start considering their reaction. They are elite agents, they can handle it. This way they will have overcome a deadly adversary by the skin of their teeth, instead of defeating a villain without using any of their coolest abilities.

Use your threat

To reiterate some of the above point - use the Threat you are given. It's not unfair, and you have it for a reason. Without Threat, things will always go too well for the player characters. Dune is a place of surprise attacks and secret agendas, meaning the simplest task can quickly turn dangerous. Threat is your key to making that happen. If you don't spend it, the players won't think twice about giving it to you, and they should never feel safe while the gamemaster has a single point of Threat behind the screen.