Sunday, July 21, 2024

‘Dune: Fall of the Imperium’ Is A Bold Work Of Tabletop Adaptation

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Modiphius’s Dune: Adventures In The Imperium series of TTRPGs, based on their 2d20 TTRPG system, has been a topic we’ve closely followed here. It’s been a popular new part of the TTRPG landscape thanks to the rising popularity of the classic book series brought on by Denis Villeneuve’s blockbuster films. It’s done quite a bit to flesh out the universe of Dune for new fans of the series, giving players a chance to enter and shape their own story by creating their own houses and even planets right alongside the famed Houses of Atreides and Harkonnen.

The system has played around the fringes of the Dune story for a while now with lots of little references and guest appearances, but their newest campaign is the most direct involvement yet. Fall of The Imperium was released right alongside Dune 2 and places players RIGHT into the story of Frank Herberts original story from the assassination of Duke Leto all the way to the start of the Fremen jihad. It’s not a tactic that a lot of adaptational TTRPG’s take (you won’t see the ALIEN RPG put you on the Nostromo) since the original stories are often so sacrosanct fans might not want to mess with them. But in Fall of the Imperium I think Modiphius made some interesting choices that make it not just a perfect story for Dune fans, but the perfect entry point for people wanting to try the system out for the first time.

Behind The Scenes Of A Dying Empire

If you’re not familiar with the way Dune: Adventures In The Imperium works, you don’t necessarily just create a player character for the game. Instead, players also have created a planet and house that they work for as agents and it is with this approach that the story has you operated in the various adventures. Very little of the stories choices and hooks hinge on anything your individual character wants and instead focuses on the path you and your group want to lay for your house. In Fall of the Empire, you’re working around the events of the original book and navigating a time when it…really sucks to be a great house in the Empire. But you’re also not a house that is going to make big waves in all of this. You and the houses you work with are background characters at best compared to Harkonnen and Atreides. It’s incredibly fun to explore the story through that lens, it’s like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead but for Dune. No matter how far the story wanders from established events it always pull back so your characters are involved with the next big moment.

Your Arrakis, Your Dune

Fall of the Imperium

The story of Fall of the Empire kicks off right when House Atreides takes over Arrakis, follows the rise of Paul as Muad’Dib, and finally explores the immediate effect his rise as Emperor will have on the universe. Whether you’re a fan of the books, the movies or, like me, both, this is a great opportunity to engage with the story on a deeper level by inserting your characters right into the action. While it can’t help but dig into the fanservice this type of story always has (deciding whether to kill Beast Rabban, flirting with Margot Henring, battling alongside the Sardaukar and Fremen, etc.), it largely does a great job letting you decide how closely you want to “observe” the story being told. The outcomes are inevitable, but you don’t have to pick the “right” side. The proper way to play the campaign, in fact, is to NOT go in as a fan wanting to take the side of Paul. You’re encouraged to view him as a complex and sinister figure, just as anyone else in the setting is, and decide based on the characters and house you’ve created what your best course of action is.

Alia's audience from Fall of the Empire
Alia’s audience

I won’t spoil too much of the story itself here since A. it’s mostly just following the plot of Dune and B. the assorted twists and turns are essential for it to work. But the thing I love about how Adventures In The Imperium approaches storytelling is that it’s never just about combat. There’s a few places where you can engage in battle or get into more limited duels, but for the most part the challenges that face your characters are mental, political, or even spiritual. And since it focuses on these much more complex problems it leads to more complex solutions. Take the final, big event in the plot of Dune that you can take part in: the overthrow of the emperor by Paul Muad’dib. Here your players have three choices: they can side with Paul (gaining his trust and the aid of the new Emperor and his Fremen), side with the Emperor (putting you at odds with the new power but getting an opportunity to help the Emperor and his Sardaukar and the rewards that come with it), or side with neither (which gets you nothing but some connections but still offers some interesting outcomes). All three have pros and cons that take careful consideration for players and GM alike, but also open up a whole web of possible stories from them.

Sardaukar and Fremen duel in Fall of the Imperium
Sardaukar and Fremen duel

Fall of the Imperium is an extremely cool approach to the world of Dune that goes above and beyond being a simple adaptation. Thanks to creative storytelling, a deeply immersive approach to the world, and a complex web of choices it truly allows a new level of engagement for Dune fans. If you’ve already played Adventures In The Imperium you know how good it is, but if you haven’t yet then this is the perfect on-ramp.

You can grab Fall of the Imperium from the Modiphius shop, Amazon, or your FLGS at and MSRP of $51.60.

Images via Modiphius

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