“Dune, Chronicles of the Imperium” is the only official adaptation of the Dune license to an RPG, and unfortunately it was a very short-lived game, with only a limited edition print run made as a promotion for GenCon one year. Wizards of the Coast had just bought up Last Unicorn Games at the time, and discovered to their chagrin that the Herbert estate wouldn’t transfer the license to them (many posit that this is because it would end up being published by the new owners of the Star Wars license, and would be forced to play a ‘second fiddle’ role in their game inventory).
One of the “holy grails” of RPGs, I picked up the game on a whim at GenCon that year. I’m a Dune fan, and had honestly expected that I would see copies at my FLGS soon after GenCon where I could buy it for less and support them too. But I was short on reading material for the flight home, so I grabbed a copy.
As befits a game with the long political background of Dune, the first step in character creation is choosing your house affiliation. In the case of the game I ran of Dune, everyone was members of minor houses affiliated with the Imperial House itself – House Corrino. For whatever reason, no one in that game made a Mentat, so I’ll make one here as my sample character. I’ll name him Alexander Davis. In any other science fiction setting, Alexander would have been a programmer, but in a world without thinking machines, his talents at programming and general geekiness ended up with him learning from the mentat school on how to do the advanced mathematics and probability analysis in his head instead of on paper or using mechanical aids. Alexander is not an adveturous type, prefering studies to travel after his older brother passed the guild examinations and became a navigator.
Alexander’s initial abilities are determined by his Great House affiliation. As a member of a minor house affiliated with Corrino, he gets benefits in both presence and willpower, and his skills are suited to a planetary lifestyle happily working within the empire instead of travelling the various planets of the member houses of the Landsraad.
His mentat training increases his Intellect and some of it’s related abilities, as well as his Willpower. It also grants him a battery of skills specific to his mentat tasks and a few mentat-specific traits (including of course an addition to sapho juice).
Then we get to the character’s background which is divided into three time-frames. Early Life, House Service, and Personal Calling. Since Alexander wasn’t set up to be a mentat from his infancy, we’ll avoid the mentat priming for his early life – he only got discovered as a would-be mentat when he really hid himself from the world in reaction to his brother (his idol as a child) leaving the family never to be seen again as a guild navigator. So we’ll start him off with an Academic Education where he studied economics, politics and galactic culture (focused on the Harkonen who were the house in charge of Arrakis at the time).
His service to his house, as a mentat, has been primarily academic also – serving as consultant on foreign affairs, politics and the Harkonen. This gives him a boost to his Intellect, as well as some more academic skills. Finally we get to his personal calling – in this case what sets him apart from his peers as a purely academic mentat was his survival along with a few key family members from a horrific attack by unknown parties upon his charges. This has left him understanding the importance of survival and combat skills in addition to pure academic knowledge, as well as thrusting him into the core of trusted family members that make up the classic “adventuring group” for a roleplaying game (and keeps him from being a character who can’t actually do much more than advise the rest of the group). To represent this, I use the Arena Fighter personal calling instead of making a new one, just changing the flavour of it.
Alexander Davis, House Evangelos Mentat
Intellect: 4 (Logic +1, Perception +1)
Charisma: 2 (Presence +1, Willpower +2)
Administration (Intelligence) 1 (2)
Armed Combat (Concealed) 2 (1)
Computation (Straight-Line) 2 (2)
Culture (Corrino, Harkonen) 2 (1,2)
Espionage (Counter Intelligence) 1 (1)
History (Corrino) 2 (1)
Interrogation (Questioning) 1 (2)
Observation (Search) 2 (1)
Mentat Trance (Memorize) 2 (2)
Persuasion (Logic) 1 (1)
Projection (Aproximation Analysis) 3 (3)
Politics (Corrino) 2 (1)
Propaganda (Misinformation) 1 (2)
Subterfuge (Equivocation) 1 (1)
World Knowledge (Kaitain) 1 (1)
Information Network 1
Machine Logic 2
Mentat Awareness 2
Mnemonic Conditioning 2
Sapho Addiction 2
Shield Fighting 1