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How do you handle Dominate?

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  • How do you handle Dominate?

    We know few things seem to upset players more than losing control of their characters or having their character do something they don't want them to, so the question is: how do you handle NPCs using dominate (or Mind sphere, etc.) on the PCs and how often does it happen in your stories?

  • #2
    I have a player in my game who hates it so much (he's a bit of a control freak irl) that he buys Willpower 10 and Iron Will for every character he makes.

    My attitude is (as both a PC and ST) that overriding someone's agency like that is a fantastic way to make everlasting enemies, which is probably why Dominate should be used in an exceedingly subtle manner, or backed up with other methods of control like Presence or Blood Bond. When I have players get pissed about it, I simply say "Sounds like this vamp just made an enemy. What are you going to do about it?"

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Hades View Post
      I have a player in my game who hates it so much (he's a bit of a control freak irl) that he buys Willpower 10 and Iron Will for every character he makes.

      My attitude is (as both a PC and ST) that overriding someone's agency like that is a fantastic way to make everlasting enemies, which is probably why Dominate should be used in an exceedingly subtle manner, or backed up with other methods of control like Presence or Blood Bond. When I have players get pissed about it, I simply say "Sounds like this vamp just made an enemy. What are you going to do about it?"

      Sure, it's a fantastic way to make everlasting enemies, so if the cainite using dominate is powerful enough, he'd better use other methods to make sure it won't backfire, like forcing a blood bond or using other powers to reduce the capacity of the offended party to take revenge (like conditioning, etc.). I also have players who hate it very much, I just generally disallow WP 10 and Iron Will without a very good excuse (besides limiting the effectiveness of Iron Will to just increase the difficulty of mind controlling powers by 2). What I think is somewhat interesting is that there are players who prefer to be insta-destroyed by an NPC than being dominated. But do you have it happening often in your games? In my games, nowadays it's rare, lately it's more often to see my PCs using dominate in another PC than an NPC dominating one.
      Last edited by Herr Meister; 07-04-2022, 08:17 PM.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Herr Meister View Post


        Sure, it's a fantastic way to make everlasting enemies, so if the cainite using dominate is powerful enough, he'd better use other methods to make sure it won't backfire, like forcing a blood bond or using other powers to reduce the capacity of the offended party to take revenge (like conditioning, etc.). I also have players who hate it very much, I just generally disallow WP 10 and Iron Will without a very good excuse (besides limiting the effectiveness of Iron Will to just increase the difficulty of mind controlling powers by 2. What I think is somewhat interesting is that there are players who prefer to be insta-destroyed by an NPC than being dominated. But do you have it happening often in your games? In my games, nowadays it's rare, lately it's more often to see my PCs using dominate in another PC than an NPC dominating one.
        I mean, it does happen, yeah. Generally though, I find PC's use Dominate to get around Nobodies like security guards or to interrogate defeated enemies, both of which don't tend to stick around in the story. As far as NPC's using Dominate goes, I usually do it in such a fashion that the player doesn't question it. If they start to question it or go against it, that's when I say "Yeah, no, you do what you're told" and only then do they realize it. The character response has typically been to avoid that NPC afterwards, which is understandable.

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        • #5
          The most important thing is how you phrase it.
          Rather than "You do X"
          use
          "You find yourself doing X"

          Use language like this: it's not the storyteller taking control of the character, it's Dominate taking control of the character. The body is moving on it's own. The character is free to think what they want, they're free to do anything that doesn't get in the way of the Dominate; if they try to warn the person they've been dominating into killing, the words never escape their mouth, or they just can't bring themselves to type the message.

          Dominate's like an elastic band, if the player wants to go with the flow, accept the dominate, and say, figure out the best strategy fulfill the order and get out without consequences, you allow your player the leeway to act on their own accord. If they really, really don't want to go with the Dominate, then go with the most time efficient, quick and dirty way to get it done, even if that leaves them with a confused and horrified expression and a smoking gun in their hand before an audience.


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          • #6

            Rather than "You do X"
            use
            "You find yourself doing X"
            That's basically how I do it. My question was more related to how people handle it in their games. I know some ST who outright take the character sheet from the PC and use it to attack another PC, etc. I prefer to say things like: "After hearing Hans Hermann von Katte's words, you realized you turned into your colleague Haifisch and attacked him with your sword".

            I was more interested in knowing how often things like this happen in other people's games and how people like to handle it, etc.

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            • #7
              It's been many years since I played Vampire actually, and the last time I played was in the very, very long campaign of 4th gen methusas, and to tell you the truth, we barely used disciplines. Most of the time we just talked and plotted. I had Presence 6, yet I only ever used it a single time, and against another player, and used only Presence 3 - in a moment of anger, and I just said "Get out!" and with a ton of dices, off he went at full speed. In the almost 5 years we played, I really dont remember a single time where any PC or NPC actually used Dominate at all. As an example, I had Obfuscate 9 - and I only ever used it once, in a Gangrel meeting, where I was invited by my best friend, a 4th gen Gangrel. I challenged a 5th Gangrel, a powerful warrior, to teach them a lesson - so I used my 9 Obfuscate with the small pool of 18 dices and quietus 1 (yes, I was a "Children of Osiris former setite, but I learned quietus 1 just to complement my Obfuscate), then I used Serpentis 1 and... Oh yes, that was the second time I used Presence 3. Serpentis 1 while invisible to paralyse my victims, Presence 3 to leave him utterly defenseless. So, I - a totally mental/social char, defeated a powerful warrior without touching him. I did that to show that, first, Gangrels should just train their martial skills, and that there are many other powers to be aware of, and secondly, that while a Gangrel may be honorable and fight with honor, their enemies will not, and will cheat and use dirty tricks to defeat them.

              PS: that was basically what my character did. I was like the "sage of the mountain", imparting wisdom everywhere I went, and totally removed from earthly matters - I could always convince other vampires to let me pass or stay on their lands.

              So... To tell the truth, I wouldnt know what to say. I never used it or being subjected to it, not even on very long campaigns.

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              • #8
                I've seen Dominate mostly used in NPC. As per my experience as player, I was Dominated to reveal stuff then forget by an NPC, or into paralisis by a PC. All punctual, short, stuff.

                I was never a complete Manchurian, so on that end I can't say. It could be a problem for me if I have to sit half an hour and see how character "does stuff" w/o my input. It already can be tiring to wait for STs attention, only to have my "turn" taken away or "scripted". Best if it doesn't take long. Other than that, prob. no issue (well, there could be if the Dominator it's particularly sadistic or otherwise damaging, but then, that goes beyond Dominate)

                A circumstance that takes control of the player, and I've seen more commonly, it's Frenzy. ST just takes control of the character and says what happens.

                Personaly, were I STing Vampire (and the action can't be solved with a "you run away in maddened terror" or "you awake to see the massacre"), I would let playersto keep the control . As long as it's clear that the character isn't in control, I see not why not. Ofc, this works if players are "professional" about it, so to speak. No wonder if many would try to take advantage, given the option.
                Last edited by Aleph; 07-05-2022, 12:22 PM.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Aleph View Post
                  I've seen Dominate mostly used in NPC. As per my experience as player, I was Dominated to reveal stuff then forget by an NPC, or into paralisis by a PC. All punctual, short, stuff.

                  I was never a complete Manchurian, so on that end I can't say. It could be a problem for me if I have to sit half an hour and see how character "does stuff" w/o my input. It already can be tiring to wait for STs attention, only to have my "turn" taken away or "scripted". Best if it doesn't take long. Other than that, prob. no issue (well, there could be if the Dominator it's particularly sadistic or otherwise damaging, but then, that goes beyond Dominate)

                  A circumstance that takes control of the player, and I've seen more commonly, it's Frenzy. ST just takes control of the character and says what happens.

                  Personaly, were I STing Vampire (and the action can't be solved with a "you run away in maddened terror" or "you awake to see the massacre"), I would let playersto keep the control . As long as it's clear that the character isn't in control, I see not why not. Ofc, this works if players are "professional" about it, so to speak. No wonder if many would try to take advantage, given the option.

                  Yes, I agree that if the characters spend a long time doing stuff without their permission it can be very troublesome, as in the case a character is possessed, etc. I many times prefer to simply state what happened, like when we're drunk or somehow "out of control" and just realize the shit we've done afterwards, etc. Frenzy takes us to a very similar situation, most of the times, I prefer to take control of the PC or tell him what he did, etc. There are few players I would trust to control their characters while in frenzy or dominated, but I'd say it's the ideal situation (and as a ST, I fail to see any difficulty in it).

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                  • #10
                    If it's a problem, maybe pay att. if you as the ST are using it RAW.

                    1): "Both Kindred and target must be free from distraction, since Mesmerize requires intense concentration and precise wording to be effective." (V20, pg. 152)

                    So, it cannot be used in most partys, Elysium gatherings, even at a restaurant table for two.

                    In fact, perhaps a simple television or one earbud could supposedly prevent the fulfillment of the prerequisites. Anyway, most of the time the player characters will be accompanied, which generates distractions, stimulation, preventing RAW attempts to dominate the target. For Mesmerize to be used, the PC must be in a 1v1 situation with someone, alone. You can't, RAW, walk up to someone on a dance floor or something and just hypnotize them into following you or anything like that.

                    2): "No matter how strong the Kindred’s will, his command cannot force the subject to harm herself directly or defy her innate Nature." (V20, pg. 153)

                    Depending on the PC's Nature, hypnosis to physically attack someone or reveal compromising secrets can simply be ignored, RAW, without even the PC needing to spend Willpower.
                    Better still, the PC can PRETEND to be under hypnosis and lie, or surprise the Dominate-user later.

                    Also, remember to pay att. to the system and not only to the flavour of the discipline. If the Dominate-user only gets two successes, stuff that seem strange to the PC may simply be ignored.

                    3) "If a vampire tries to Mesmerize a subject before the target fulfills a previously implanted directive, compare the successes rolled to those gained during the implanting of the first suggestion. Whichever roll had the greater number of successes is the command that now governs in the target’s behavior; the other suggestion is wiped clean. If the successes rolled are equal, the newer command supplants the old one." (V20, pg 153).

                    No ST will accept this level of muchkin-ism but, RAW, it's possible: Ask one of the other PC to buy Dominate 2, and make him try to Mesmerize you with with the following order: "Pursue your happiness". Make him/her roll dice again and again until he/she gets 10 successes. That done, now for someone to be able to hypnotize you, this vampire will have to get 10 successes on the roll.
                    Last edited by blailton; 07-05-2022, 09:20 PM.

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                    • #11
                      If it's a problem, maybe pay att. if you as the ST are using it RAW.
                      The thing is, it isn't a problem at all. In most of my games it's never an issue. It's more common to hear complaints about social disciplines being weaker exactly because of these well known "dirty" excuses (in the case of dominate, I'm most of the times inclined to utterly ignore these things because many players like the idea of taking advantage of these small details, "lawyering" etc) or in the case of Presence, the fact that it can be almost entirely ignored by spending a single WP point and rolling WP, something I changed recently in one of my games, exactly because I think it makes the discipline a bit subpar. I'm more interested in knowing how it's handled in other tables, etc. Just a curiosity thing, because most of the time, phisycally impressive character who are "lawyer inclined" are going to take advantage of these said arguments, while social characters don't get this chance, because it's harder to "argue with a blow in your face".In face of Dominate and Presence, I'm more inclined to buff than to nerf them.

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                      • #12
                        Dominate is one of those disciplines that is both overpowered and underpowered at the same time, and it depends entirely on the style of game you run.

                        Dominate has little to no functionality over telephones, email, VOIP, or video chat. So anyone who is concerned about Dominate will just conduct business via telepresence rather than direct interactions.

                        This started becoming a thing in my games a long time back when a group discussion about how the Tremere pay for things made us realize that Dominate really sucked for trying to conduct long distance business. All those rare components have to be purchased and shipped across the globe but Dominate only helped by assisting in Resource dot accumulation.

                        Then again if Vampire society was designed off of who had what powers, no clan would agree to things like Elysium due to Dominate being a concern. No one would hunt for prey every night, no one would attend parties. Every vampire would just stay in their hidden havens, with their herd, and stay away from each other. On the plus side this would really bring out the thrall and minion style of game play rather than Lost Boys hitting the local bar.

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                        • #13
                          My tips to run Dominate:
                          • Smart users are judicious. Punish an NPC that uses it dumbly, so the players know the limits they can expect;
                          • Tie roll and action clearly, so the players have a clearer notion that this is less lack of agency and more dice results;
                          • For more than a single action, talk to the player to be affected to be sure they're on board with it;
                          • Have something to negotiate, the PC can slip free for a cost and/or gain something for playing along;
                          • If a player tries to lawyer the character out of trouble, let then be, but take note of the argument for later use;
                          • Let it work on NPCs as you want it to work in general. NPCs that can't get to the PCs can get to other NPCs still;
                          • Be honest with your players when it comes to it.
                          Above all, though, I don't think the "Social Disciplines" need a lot of change, I think they need to see use in the proper context.

                          Our intuition on RPGs is to always look at the main characters in the action as the users or targets of effects, and that's a big part of how we face those Disciplines. But in special Dominate and Presence are better used actually on secondary characters and extras, or in Watsonian terms, on people you don't have stakes on (Dominate) and masses (Presence).

                          Vampires are poor targets for those powers except for very situational uses. But humans are not, and they outnumber vampires at least 10k to 1 in the worse vampire overpopulation conditions. Scanning every mortal for Dominate is unfeasible, and against Presence is futile. Do not think about what the user can do to other vampires, but what the many mortals in the world can do if an undead mind can direct their thoughts or emotions, and then you have a very interesting and powerful power without the need neither buff it nor worry about player agency too much.


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