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.
Mentats are one of the most well-known characters in Dune and some of the most important agents for any House. They are trained from a young age to think in a particular way, allowing them to process information and store data in a similar way to a computer. With the equivalent of an eidetic memory, they can recall the most obscure facts and figures. But they are not just storehouses of information, they are human beings who can process and think in a way no computer could ever imagine. This allows them to revisit memories and make projections based on the precise facts they have recorded.
While most House rulers have a Mentat advisor, any House will have as many Mentats on their staff as they can manage. Mentats are useful in all manner of roles and the most efficient and loyal are among the most respected of all the House retainers. Their training makes them focus on clarity and truth as being inviolable, and this gives most a noted honesty and trustworthiness. Bad data is anathema to them, and so perpetrating lies and deceit is something most Mentats consider a failure on their part. The same cannot be said of the twisted Mentats of the Tleilaxu, but the less said of them the better.
Some examples of potential player character Mentats are:
One of the most important tasks for a Mentat is the storage and recall of information. Their minds can store libraries of facts they can recall in almost an instant. A Mentat can not only tell where a quote comes from, but recite the passage or even the whole book it is from. While this role is useful in a House on a day-to-day basis, not all the information a Mentat might store is quite so prosaic. Imperium politics is built on secrets, and the Mentats are the best place to keep all the dirty secrets a House might have. Nothing written down, no evidence recorded.
Retaining data is all very well, but it is more important to use that data effectively. With complete recall of a vast array of facts and the ability to calculate possible outcomes, Mentats are incomparable analysts and forecasters. If you want to know how close two Houses might be to war, your Mentat can review their history and current relationship and make a prediction. The Mentat can even tell you how accurate that prediction is, based on what data they are aware they are missing. Mentats can only predict from the data they have: they very specifically do not see into the future with prescient vision. So, analyst agents might be sent on missions to collect better information so their Mentat predictions can be more accurate.
With facts at their fingertips, Mentats make good teachers, although pure knowledge does not always make the best instructors. Those Mentats who do have the right skills can not only impart information to their students but track their progress and adapt their classes to each individual, to better support their learning style.
Similar to advisors, many Mentats serve as war-masters or masters of assassins for their rulers. With the complete history of warfare or the rules of kanly at the ready, they can predict attacks before they happen and see breaches in their enemies’ defenses. Their commitment to reliability makes them more trustworthy for those they serve, who find it easier to grant them command of such a vital aspect of the House’s defenses.
Mentats don’t just record memories, they can experience them at will. Each has a fortress of the mind, filled with rooms they can wander through and revisit as they please. This makes them expert criminal investigators. If they have looked around a crime scene, days later they can revisit it again in their mind, to look for more clues and hidden secrets, things that may not have seemed significant at the initial survey. Such Mentats also make excellent interrogators, able to remember their subjects’ complete testimonies and able to compare all their stories together to seek out discrepancies.