Dune Shield Rules Explained

Full disclosure here, I will be discussing various scenes from the new Dune movie. If you don’t want any spoilers, run away! Okay…I’ve never read any of the Dune books, and I haven’t watched the original Dune movie, so beyond a cool looking trailer for the new movie, I really wasn’t that excited about it. After Mistic’s 4.75 bong review for the new Dune movie on theredeyereport.com, I decided to give it a watch.  

I loved it! I thought it was one of the better science fiction movies I’ve seen. One element that stood out to me as super-cool was the use of personal shields and how they were represented on the screen.

We get an introduction to shields when Paul Atreides spars with Gurney Halleck early on. Paul activates his shield and tests it by tapping the edge of his blade against his hand. The shield glows blue and does not let the blade pass. Paul then turns his blade and slowly presses the side of it against his hand. The blade passes through and his shield glows red.

There’s some high-velocity action going on here!

This is called the Holtzman effect in the Dune universe. Shields repel fast moving objects like most projectiles, but slower moving objects like Paul’s slow-moving blade can pass through. You can’t just hack away at somebody wearing a personal shield. Throughout the sparring match between Paul and Gurney, we see flashes of blue. These are blade strikes, but the shield is blocking them, rendering them non-lethal hits. The force of the blows is being transmitted, so you can knock over an enemy combatant, but the actual blade will not cut through.

This requires special tactics. Gurney eventually gets a blade through Paul’s defenses, stopping it just short of his throat. A combatant needs to slow their attack enough to pass through the shield and then strike. At the end of the sparring match Paul has two blades to Gurney’s throat, but Gurney has managed to pass through Paul’s shield on his side, so it’s a draw.


Understanding the mechanics of the shields in Dune adds an entirely new layer to the combat scenes. It’s helpful to be aware of a few more Holtzman shield specs. You can calibrate the velocity at which the shields will stop projectiles and other matter. For a personal defense shield, you need to have a relatively high penetration velocity to allow gasses, including breathable air to pass through. For a vehicle defense shield you can set that penetration velocity much lower because you have life support capabilities on the craft to produce oxygen internally. The shield’s ability to stop a projectile is dependent on the total velocity, that of the projectile and of the person or vehicle wearing the shield. One more thing, sandworms are attracted to the harmonic vibrations of Holtzman shields. Apparently, they get super pissed off about them.

Let’s check out a few examples of these rules in play. During the hunter/seeker scene, the drone stops right in front of Paul’s eye. The operator doesn’t know that he’s not wearing a shield. So instead of launching across the room and stabbing Paul in the jugular, it needs to get up close and personal.

Paul has some big balls.

So how the hell did they get Duke Leto? Dr. Yueh shot him with something called a slow pellet stunner. This operates as you would imagine, it goes slow enough to get through a shield. Take note that Leto begins moving, adding to the total velocity, and the projectile passes through.

When the base is bombed, we can clearly see the projectiles slow to a crawl before detonating and destroying the ships. There might be some other weapons at play here, like I said I’m a newbie, so if you spot any, I’d like to hear about them.

The Duncan Idaho battles are even cooler when you begin paying closer attention to the shields. You must consider that each strike that he lands is either a fast feint that is blocked by the shield, but is still transferring force, or a lethal strike where he slows down at the last second to allow his blade to pass through the shield. When an enemy fires a slow projectile at Idaho, notice how he stops moving before deflecting the projectile away and moving on.

Duncan Idaho when he finds out you are on a low carb diet.

There are many more examples I can show you here regarding the shields in Dune. If you are a Dune newbie, look at some of the fight scenes now that you have a better grasp of the rules of the world. I think you’ll see the fights in a different light, I know I did.

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