For years, the rules of Dungeons & Dragons have pleased, inspired, and occasionally even mystified those of us who love this game of fantasy adventure. Since D&D debuted in 1974, its rules have literally filled volumes, and discussions of them have been carried out at conventions, in online forums, in magazines, and around game tables at home. Each new edition has preserved certain rules of its forerunners while introducing new ones—rules that invite testing, questions, and sometimes revision.
This column looks to explore the rules of the current edition. This is the place to come for guidance on understanding a particularly complex part of the game and for explanations of notable changes to the rules. Do you wonder how to solve a particular rules conundrum? You may well find the answer here. Are you curious why a rule has changed the way it has? This column will give you the straight answer.
Each installment of the column will focus on a particular rule or set of rules, which leads us to this installment’s topic: domination.
The Dominated Condition, Revised
We have changed the definition of dominated, a condition that appears in the powers of psions, warlocks, mind flayers, vampires, and others. This change was included in the rules update of January 19, 2010. It also appears in the Player’s Handbook 3 glossary.
In the Player’s Handbook, the condition’s definition states that you’re dazed if you’re dominated. In the new version of the condition, we instead say the following:
You can’t take actions. Instead, the dominating creature chooses a single action for you to take on your turn: a standard, a move, or a minor action. The only powers it can make you use are at-will powers. You also grant combat advantage and can’t flank.
The condition has no mention now of the dazed condition. We dropped it for three main reasons:
1. Wrong Story: The dazed condition was never quite right for the story of what was happening to a dominated character. The poor soul isn’t reduced to a single action on his or her turn; the character is incapacitated while the dominator controls him or her like a puppet.
2. Sneaking in Where Only Dazed Belonged: The dominated condition was getting unintentionally included when the game referred to dazing effects. For example, the Primal Power feat Staggering Smash lets you push an enemy that you daze. Before the change to the dominated condition, that feat technically let you push an enemy you dominated—an unintentional benefit.
3. Giving Away Free Actions: The dazed condition includes the provision that a dazed character can take free actions as normal. By incorporating that condition without qualification, the dominated condition was unintentionally allowing a dominated character to take free actions. Free actions are fine for a dazed character, but not for a dominated one. We don’t want the puppet running around and attacking using free-action moves and attacks granted by a warlord ally, for instance.
Even after its revision, the current definition remains silent on a point that puzzles some groups: Do a dominated creature’s allegiances change? Do its allies become its enemies; and its enemies, its allies?
The answer is no. A dominated creature’s allies remain its allies; and its enemies, its enemies. This means a vampire can’t dominate an enemy cleric and then command the cleric to use his sacred flame power and give that power’s temporary hit points to the vampire (as sacred flame grants temporary hit points only to an ally of the cleric).
Another clarification: The rule about a dominated creature’s at-will powers is almost always sufficient for an encounter, since a typical dominator makes its thrall simply use an at-will power to attack. However, some DMs and players might want to access the dominated creature’s other abilities, the ones that aren’t powers. In such cases, use the following rule of thumb: The only powers and other game features that the dominator can make its thrall use are ones that can be used at-will. This means anything limited to being used only once per encounter, or once per day, does not qualify.
In next month’s installment, we’ll look at changes to the teleportation rules that have been made over the past year. Until then, send your most burning rules questions to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.