DUNE #13 - Factions: The Bene Gesserit
By Andrew Peregrine
In Dune: Adventures in the Imperium there are several character types that offer special powers and abilities. We call these faction characters as most have a form of dual allegiance to both the House they serve and the faction that trained them.
In this series, we look at each of these: what they can do, what powers they have and what sort of characters you can play. However, it is important to note that all of them have options beyond what we detail here. The faction gives them advanced training and a background, but the potential is limitless.
The Bene Gesserit occupies a strange place in the Imperium. As an order they are often mistrusted due to their secretive ways and the many skills they have to manipulate those they meet. However, this does not stop almost every House making use of their services and abilities, and taking Sisters as concubines and even wives. On the whole the order is regarded as neutral in Imperial politics, a position they work hard to maintain.
The Bene Gesserit trains women in advanced bodily control and observation. This training grants them mastery over the body’s muscles, reflexes, and even autonomic systems. This understanding also makes them aware of the subtle clues that others give away by their body language, the reflexive ticks and twitches that can show falsehood or deceit. This ability to see and know more than anyone else is one of the reasons others refer to the Sisterhood as ‘witches’.
Bene Gesserit characters can be exceptionally varied. While some women join the Sisterhood and remain cloistered within it, the order prefers to make use of their agents out in the Imperium where possible. They provide concubines for the nobility, Truthsayers for the Imperial court, and they send their Sisters far and wide to watch and wait for when they can be useful. Once a woman is trained, there are several different roles she can take on. Despite the Sisterhood’s reputation, these skills are in high demand.
Some examples of potential player character Bene Gesserit are:
Many noblewomen, like Princess Irulan, study Bene Gesserit techniques as a form of ‘finishing school’ before taking up the duties as a noble when they get older. The nobility believe they are effectively stealing the secrets of the order. But most noblewomen are also indoctrinated by the Sisterhood as part of their training. They can be exceptionally loyal to the Bene Gesserit, even above their own House, as dedicated as any other Sister of the order. In this way the Bene Gesserit places agents among the highest levels of society. Such characters will not be as adept as their Sisters, as they also must learn the skills expected of them as nobles. But the combination of abilities can make them exceptional politicians and agents.
The most common role for a Sister outside the order is to be assigned as a concubine to a noble. While many are simply expected to act as a companion, if she becomes a ‘bound concubine’, her children are placed in the line of succession for the House. The Bene Gesserit skills in determining what people want and need, accompanied with their exceptional physical control, make them very skilled lovers. It also makes them excellent spies, able to coax ‘pillow talk’ from their lovers. It should be no surprise that many who enter a household as simple concubines quickly become the unofficial (or even official) ‘lady of the house’.
Many forget that their physical control makes Bene Gesserit lethal fighters, and the Sisterhood does not skimp on combat training. This makes a Bene Gesserit agent an excellent undercover bodyguard (or even an overt one). Acting as a servant or handmaiden, she might remain close to her charge and not appear threatening, until enemy assassins make their move. This allows her to stay with her primary, even when other bodyguards might be made to wait elsewhere. Of course, the skills that make her a good bodyguard might be used for attack as well as defense, making such as agent a lethal assassin. However, the Sisterhood tends to frown on their agents being used in this way, unless it is for their own agenda.
The Sisterhood is known to be wise and (to a certain degree) is considered neutral by the Houses. This gives them a supposedly unbiased perspective as either advisors or as teachers, which is much prized. Most Bene Gesserit teach their daughters what they know as a matter of course, although not their sons. It is not impossible for men to acquire Bene Gesserit training, but such is exceptionally rare. There is nothing but the secrecy of the order that stops men learning the skills. Jessica taught her son Paul, and her potential grandson in law Farad’n many of the order’s secrets. However, Jessica was something of a rogue agent, and few Sisters might be able to do the same without them and their students suffering severe punishment.
The Bene Gesserit have worked for centuries to place their agents across the Imperium, in noble courts, far tribal communities, even amidst other factions where they can. Their network of information is vast and made up of many undercover operatives who listen and report from unobtrusive positions across the Imperium. Some even take things a step further and quietly nudge the intentions of others to suit the agenda of the Sisterhood.