Dune

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Hi all, we went to watch the latest Dune film last night and had a great time - well worth seeing IMHO. It sticks very much closer to the book than the old David Lynch version (though necessarily omitting some complexities in the interest of keeping to a reasonable length). Beautifully imagined and presented. As most of us probably know,it stops more or less at the same dividing point that Herbert did in the book, with the hope and expectation that there will be a part 2 in time.

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    edited October 24

    My friend and game design collaborator Albert has a theory that that Herbert didn't write Dune - that Herbert co-opted it - because of the vast gulf of difference between Dune and - say - Whipping Star or The Lazarus Effect. My position is somewhat different in that I think Herbert possibly came into possession of this vast and intricate universe as notes and data, and assembled the book into something coherent. I was a fan of Herbert's back in the day, and can see characteristic Herbert phrasing and character development throughout, and especially his utter and complete lack of humor, but he has a strong point in that none of Herbert's other works have anything like this superb worldbuilding. Now Herbert was a very close lifelong friend of both Jack Vance and Poul Anderson, and both of them could do some amazing worldbuilding. Did they lend a hand? Or were their abilities in this matter a matter of envy, so that when chance brought Herbert this background he just used it? Who knows? Just a matter for speculation!

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    What an interesting theory. We read one of Herbert's books in the club a while back - I can't remember the title, and can't find it listed in the Monthly Book Selections, but it was about a hive culture establishing itself in Oregon somewhere. I remember at the time thinking how different it was from Dune and sequels.

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    edited October 24

    It was Hellstrom's Hive - book #67 for us. You can find the list of the first 71 books pinned in the Nominations & Suggestions thread.

    I recently found a copy of another Herbert book in a little free library, called Direct Descent. I'll share a photo in another thread.

    I read The White Plague a long time ago... can't remember much about it, except it was a pandemic thriller.

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    I watched the film today and also enjoyed it. It's a spectacle that really needs a big screen to do it justice: you can tell it's the same director as Arrival and Blade Runner 2: The Fanfic.

    I was rather surprised at how closely to the book it stayed: I'd have thought there would have been more variation for the sake of a different medium and the fifty-five years since publication.

    To veer this towards RPGs, what games would you use to run Dune? We've got the Modiphius licensed game, Burning Sands Jihad (Burning Wheel), Fading Suns, Baroque Space Opera (for Fate).

    Are those good fits? What would you use?

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    edited October 25

    I'd use my own StarCluster 4 -Wavefront Empire. I mean I have it, and it's designed for Dune-esque gaming. Not that anyone else would use it...:D

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    With the gaming, would you want to stay on the political level of the various factions (Great Houses, Bene Gesserit, Tleilaxu and so on)? Or the individual struggles on a planet (Paul, Duncan, the Mentats, Ireland etc)? Or the personal development level (mastering BG skills, face dancing, spice etc)? Or try to blend all of them?
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    I'd let the players decide.

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    I honestly don’t think I’d try to game Dune. The politics are interesting, and especially the politics of scarcity, but I’m not good at running politics.
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    I think the book does the best thing, and have individuals making choices that have huge implications. Paul is just a 15 year old boy, but his choices overturn the Imperial order. Given that, would you really want to play a game of low-level functionaries in some minor House? Similarly, Paul is left alone and without resources. Is it fun to have a game where functionaries are capable of most things on your behalf?

    But I think these are challenges in any game in a setting with a reasonably well-functioning and reasonably benign state.

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    @NeilNjae I'm not sure Dune is about individuals making choices. While I appreciate many things about Dune, it seems to me that the story, about how blood-lines are beyond any individual's control, is simply another example of an ideology that blood-lines are the be-all and end-all of real important existence, where a great dictator saves us all from ... another great dictator, where blood-conflict structures all human experience. Typical popular mid-century American SF. MArakisGA etc.

    This one of the reasons I think they are properly fantasy, and puerile fantasy at that, rather than any worthwhile descriptions of human reality. I grant that Herbert at least seemed interested in somehow subverting this nihilistic trope, but I suggest that he failed to escape its thanatological appeal. And certainly the reception of Dune completely denied its subversion. It's pure death-cult.

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    I’d actually be fine with playing low level functionaries trying to steer a state. I prefer low levels to big heroes. But I don’t see how playing this kind of game on Dune would be more satisfying than in Gormemghast, for example.

    But when I think Dune, I think desert environments, scarcity, giant worms. These are all essentially environmental hazards. I’m not convinced playing against the environment would be satisfying. If you don’t play against the environment, are you really making use of the setting? Apart from this and politics, what does Dune offer? Psionics, I suppose.

    If psionics are your schtick, you’ve got the choice of playing the Dune RPG, or playing D&D in a desert setting filled with Purple Worms. The D&D option has loads of other things you could pull into it - undead, githyanki, different kinds of magic. So wouldn’t that make for a better role playing experience?

    I feel the same about the Blade Runner rpg. It works as a setting in the film because it’s moody backdrop scenery. But would that really translate well into an RPG? I don’t think so. It seems a bit pointless. How do you mechanically represent The Blade Runner setting, for example?

    Alien - kind of the same, really. It’s like taking Call of Cthulhu and putting it in space, getting rid of the gods, turning the cultists into selfish corporate manipulators, and restricting the choice of creatures to just shoggoths (but then giving us a few shoggoth subspecies). Frankly, I think COC provides a richer gaming experience and will still be around when the Alien RPG has been forgotten.
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    @Apocryphal agree completely. The problem with playing against the environment, whether natural, social, political, whatever, is that it's a crying game - the winner is fore-ordained. Play occurs within environments, not against them.

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    Wow.... just.... wow...

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    @BarnerCobblewood said:
    @NeilNjae I'm not sure Dune is about individuals making choices. While I appreciate many things about Dune, it seems to me that the story, about how blood-lines are beyond any individual's control, is simply another example of an ideology that blood-lines are the be-all and end-all of real important existence, where a great dictator saves us all from ... another great dictator, where blood-conflict structures all human experience. Typical popular mid-century American SF. MArakisGA etc.

    I disagree with the intent, but agree that it's widely taken as being a statement of the rightness of bloodlines and aristocracy.

    It's clear that Paul's position, even if not "bloodline" directly, is definitely akin to all kinds of inherited privilege. But he's shown as being someone who tries to use that power and privilege for his own ends, and it's a disaster. He's quickly in over his head, he destabilises the very regime he wants to rectify, and unleashes even wider horrors in the form of his jihad.

    He's not a Trump type, acting out of narcissism: he knows what he's doing and how bad it will be. But he's trapped by the power structures, as much as any of his subjects.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    I disagree with the intent, but agree that it's widely taken as being a statement of the rightness of bloodlines and aristocracy.

    It's clear that Paul's position, even if not "bloodline" directly, is definitely akin to all kinds of inherited privilege. But he's shown as being someone who tries to use that power and privilege for his own ends, and it's a disaster. He's quickly in over his head, he destabilises the very regime he wants to rectify, and unleashes even wider horrors in the form of his jihad.

    He's not a Trump type, acting out of narcissism: he knows what he's doing and how bad it will be. But he's trapped by the power structures, as much as any of his subjects.

    That’s my reading of the book, too. It’s been decades since I’ve read it, but in the next book doesn’t he gouge out his eyes to try to keep from seeing visions of the uncontrollable horrors he has unleashed across the galaxy? And it seems like God Emperor of Dune puts the lie to any interpretation of the prior books that anyone has individual agency.

    This reminds me of the third season of Westworld.

    Spoilers for Westworld and God Emperor of Dune
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    It’s learned in season 3 that a powerful AI in the real world uses all the data the corporate world knows about us to project our futures. These projections are used to decide what resources, opportunities, and so forth any particular individual is allowed, turning everyone but the very elite into “robots,” running the “loops” of behavior assigned to them so that no real freedom is possible. I haven’t yet finished this season, so I don’t know how it works out. I imagine they will drop the super AI into some water, thereby destroying it and freeing the world from its Golden Path.

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    @WildCard said:
    This reminds me of the third season of Westworld.

    Spoilers for Westworld and God Emperor of Dune
    It’s learned in season 3 that a powerful AI in the real world uses all the data the corporate world knows about us to project our futures. These projections are used to decide what resources, opportunities, and so forth any particular individual is allowed, turning everyone but the very elite into “robots,” running the “loops” of behavior assigned to them so that no real freedom is possible. I haven’t yet finished this season, so I don’t know how it works out. I imagine they will drop the super AI into some water, thereby destroying it and freeing the world from its Golden Path.

    Oddly enough we've just rewatched the Matrix trilogy (in anticipation of #4 later this year) and it doesn't sound too unlike that...

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