This Discipline involves influencing the very thoughts and actions of others through the vampire's own force of will. Use of Dominate requires that the Kindred capture his victim's eye; as such, it may be used against only one subject at a time. The extent of this control depends on the particular power being applied. While truly potent, Dominate powers can be exacting to perform. Commands must be issued verbally; after all, direct mind- to- mind contact is the purview of Auspex. Still, some simple orders may be made with signs - for example, a pointed finger and forceful expression to indicate "Go!" If the subject doesn't understand the vampire (she doesn't speak the same language, the order doesn't make sense, she cannot hear his words), she won't comply with the directive, no matter how mighty the Kindred's supernatural will. Not surprisingly, Kindred who use Dominate were often willful, controlling individuals in mortal life. Indeed, it's quite possible that this is what drew the vampires' sires to them in the first place. After all, the Giovanni, Lasombra, Tremere and Ventrue clans who specialize in this Discipline consider strong will a definite benefit. Due to this tendency toward control, characters with high Dominate scores may be unable to spend experience points to increase Abilities such as Empathy.
The vampire locks eyes with the subject and speaks a one-word command which must be obeyed instantly. The order must be clear and straightforward - run, cough, fall, yawn, jump, laugh, sneeze, stop, belch, follow. If the command is at all confusing or ambiguous, the subject may respond slowly or perform the task poorly. The subject cannot be ordered to do something directly harmful to herself, so a command like "die" is ineffective. The command may be included in a sentence, thereby concealing the power's use from others. This effort at subtlety still requires the Kindred to make eye contact at the proper moment and stress the key word slightly. An alert bystander - or even the victim - may notice the emphasis; still, unless she's conversant with supernatural powers, the individual is likely to attribute the utterance and the subsequent action as bizarre coincidence.
System: The player rolls Manipulation + Intimidation (difficulty of the target's permanent Willpower). More successes force the subject to act with greater vigor or for a longer duration (continue running for a number of turns, go off on a laughing jag, sneeze uncontrollably).
With this power, a vampire can verbally implant a false thought or hypnotic suggestion in the subject's subconscious mind. Both Kindred and target must be free from distraction, since Mesmerize requires intense concentration and precise wording to he effective. The vampire may activate the imposed thought immediately or establish a stimulus that will trigger it later. The victim must be able to understand the vampire, although the two need to maintain eye contact only as long as it takes to implant the idea. Mesmerize allows for anything from simple, precise directives (handing over an item) to complex, highly involved ones (taking notes of someone's habits and relaying that information at an appointed time). A subject can have only one suggestion implanted at any time.
System: The player rolls Manipulation + Leadership (difficulty equal to the target's permanent Willpower). The number of successes determines how well the suggestion takes hold in the victim's subconscious. If the vampire scores one or two successes, the subject cannot be forced to do anything that seems strange to her (she might walk outside, but is unlikely to act like a chicken). At three or four successes, the command is effective unless following it endangers the subject. At five successes or greater, the vampire can implant nearly any sort of command. No matter how strong the Kindred's will, his command cannot force the subject to harm herself directly or defy her innate Nature. So, while a vampire who scored five successes could make a 98-pound weakling attack a 300-pound bouncer, he could not make the mortal shoot herself in the head. 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 lodges in the target's subconscious; the other suggestion is wiped clean. If the successes rolled are equal, the newer command supplants the old one.
The Forgetful Mind
After capturing the subject's gaze, the vampire delves into the subject's memories, stealing or re-creating them at his whim. The Forgetful Mind does not allow for telepathic contact; the Kindred operates much like a hypnotist, asking directed questions and drawing out answers from the subject. The degree of memory alteration depends on what the vampire desires. He may alter the subject's mind only slightly - quite effective for eliminating memories of the victim meeting or even being fed upon by the vampire - or utterly undo the victim's memories of her past. The degree of detail used has a direct bearing on how strongly the new memories take hold, since the victim's subconscious mind resists the alteration the vampire imposes. A simplistic or incomplete false memory ("You went to the movies last night.") crumbles much more quickly than does one with more attention to detail ("You went to the nine o'clock showing of the new Leonardo DiCaprio movie. You thought about getting some popcorn, but the line was too long so you went right into the theater. The couple next to you kept whispering through the film until someone else shushed them. You liked the movie well enough, but the plot seemed weak. You were tired after it ended, so you went home, watched a little late-night television, and went to bed."). Even in its simplest applications, The Forgetful Mind requires tremendous skill and finesse. It's a relatively simple matter to rifle through a victim's psyche and rip out the memories of the previous night, without even knowing what the subject did that evening. Doing so leaves a gap in the victim's mind, though, a hole that can give rise to further problems down the road. The Kindred may describe new memories, but these recollections seldom have the same degree of realism that the subject's true thoughts held. As such, this power isn't always completely effective. The victim may remember being bitten, but believe it to be an animal attack. Greater memories may return in pieces as dreams, or through sensory triggers like a familiar odor or spoken phrase. Even so, months or years may pass before the subject regains enough other lost memories to make sense of the fragments. A vampire can also sense when a subject's memories were altered through use of this power, and even restore them like a hypnotist draws forth psychologically suppressed thoughts. However, the Kindred cannot use The Forgetful Mind to restore his own memories if they were stolen in such a way.
System: The player states what sorts of alteration he wants to perform, then rolls Wits + Subterfuge (difficulty of the target's Willpower score). Any success pacifies the victim for the amount of time it takes the vampire to perform the verbal alteration, provided the vampire does not act aggressively toward the victim. The table below indicates the degree of modification possible to the subject's memory, depending on the number of successes gained. If the successes rolled don't allow for the extent of change the character desired, the Storyteller reduces the resulting impact on the victim's mind.
1 success May remove a single memory; lasts one day.
2 successes May remove, but not alter, memory permanently.
3 successes May make slight changes to memory.
4 successes May alter or remove entire scene from subject's memory.
5 successes May reconstruct entire periods of subject's life.
To restore removed memories or sense false ones in a subject, the character's Dominate rating must be equal to or higher than that of the vampire who made the alteration. If so, the player must make a Wits + Empathy roll (difficulty equal to the original vampire's permanent Willpower) and score more successes than his predecessor did.
Most victims cannot stand against the effects of Dominate. Still, there are situations where this Discipline is powerless to sway the subject.
- Mortals: Few mortals can hope to resist Dominate, their strength of will nothing compared to the supernatural magnetism of a vampire. Still, there are extremely rare individuals who, due to strong religious faith, unique psychic talent or simple mental resolve, can shrug off this Discipline's effects. Beyond these scattered few, a select number of organizations like the Inquisition know certain rituals to render a mortal immune. Only a foolish vampire ignores the potential threat such human beings represent.
- Vampires: It is impossible to Dominate another Kindred who is of stronger Blood - the vampire must be of an equal or higher generation than the target for the powers to be effective.
- Nature: A character's Nature can have a distinct impact on how easily Dominate influences her. A vampire might control subjects with inherently empathic Natures (Caregiver, Child, Conformist) more easily, while those whose Natures denote a great degree of inner strength (Bravo, Director, Rebel) can be more of a challenge. The Storyteller may reduce the required difficulty or number of successes by one or two when the player rolls against those subjects with "weaker" Natures, or raise them by a similar amount for "stronger" Natures. On the other hand, "strong" Natures might be more easily influenced to take aggressive actions - for example, coaxing a Rebel to denounce the prince is likely easier than goading a Conformist to do the same thing. Ultimately, the Storyteller must adjudicate this.
- Botches: If a Dominate roll botches, the target is rendered immune to future attempts by the same vampire or the rest of the story.
Through sustained manipulation, the vampire can make a subject more pliant to the Kindred's will. Over time, the victim becomes increasingly susceptible to the vampire's influence while simultaneously growing more resistant to the corrupting efforts of other immortals. Gaining complete control over a subject's mind is no small task, taking weeks or even months to accomplish. Kindred often fill their retainers' heads with subtle whispers and veiled urges, thereby ensuring these mortals' loyalty. Yet vampires must pay a high price for the minds they ensnare. Servants Dominated in this way lose much of their passion and individuality. They follow the vampire's orders quite literally, seldom taking initiative or showing any imagination. In the end, such retainers become like automatons or the walking dead.
System: The player rolls Charisma + Leadership (difficulty of the target's permanent Willpower). Conditioning is an extended action; the Storyteller secretly determines the number of successes required. It typically requires between five and 10 times the subject's Self-Control score. Targets with more empathic Natures may require a lower number of successes, while those with willful Natures require a higher total. Only through roleplaying may a character discern whether his subject is conditioned successfully. A target may become more tractable even before becoming fully conditioned. Once the vampire accumulates half the required number of successes, the Storyteller may apply a lower difficulty to the vampire's subsequent uses of Dominate. After being conditioned, the target falls so far under the vampire's influence that the Kindred need not make eye contact or even be present to retain absolute control. The subject does exactly as she is told, so long as her master can communicate with her verbally. No command roll is necessary unless the subject is totally isolated from the vampire (in a different room, over the phone). Even if a command roll fails, the target will still likely carry out part of the orders given. After the subject is fully conditioned, other Kindred find her more difficult to Dominate. Such conditioning raises others' difficulties by two (to a maximum of 10). It is possible, though difficult, to shake conditioning. The subject must be separated entirely from the vampire to whom she was in thrall. This period of separation varies depending on the individual, but the Storyteller may set it at six months, less a number of weeks equal to the subject's Willpower score (so a person with 5 Willpower must stay away from the vampire for just under five months). The subject regains her personality slowly during this time, although she may still lapse into brief spells of listlessness. If the vampire encounters the target before that time passes, a single successful Charisma + Leadership roll (difficulty of the target's Willpower score) on the part of the vampire completely reasserts the dominance. If the subject makes it through the time period without intervention by her master, the target regains her former individuality. Even so, the vampire may reestablish conditioning more easily than the first time, since the subject is forever after predisposed to falling under the Kindred's mental control. New attempts require half the total number of successes that the last bout of conditioning did.
At this level of Dominate, the force of the Kindred's psyche is such that it can utterly supplant the mind of a mortal subject. Speaking isn't required, although the vampire must capture the victim's gaze. During the psychic struggle, the contestants' eyes are locked on one another. Once the Kindred crushes the subject's mind, the vampire moves his own consciousness into the victim's body and controls it as easily as he uses his own. The mortal falls into a mental fugue while under possession. She is aware of events only in a distorted, dreamlike fashion. In turn, the vampire's mind focuses entirely on controlling his mortal subject. His immortal body lies in a torpid state, defenseless against any actions made toward it. Vampires cannot possess one another in this fashion, as even the weakest Kindred's mind is strong enough to resist such straightforward mental dominance. Only through a blood bond can one vampire control another to this degree.
System: The vampire must completely strip away the target's Willpower prior to possessing her. The player spends a Willpower point, then rolls Charisma + Intimidation, while the subject rolls Willpower in a resisted action (difficulty 7 for both). For each success the vampire obtains over the victim's total, the target loses a point of temporary Willpower. Each success the subject gains over the vampire's total equals another die she adds to her roll on the next turn. It's often only a matter of time before the victim falls under the vampire's power. Only if the attacker botches can the subject escape her fate, since this makes the target permanently immune to any further Dominate attempts by that vampire. Once the target loses all her temporary Willpower, her mind is open to the vampire. The vampire rolls Manipulation + Intimidation (difficulty 7) to determine how fully he assumes control of the mortal shell. Similar to the Animalism power Subsume the Spirit, multiple successes allow the character to utilize some mental Disciplines, noted on the chart below.
1 success Cannot use Disciplines
2 successes Can use Auspex
3 successes Can also use Dominate, Presence
4 successes Can also use Chimerstry, Dementation
5 successes Can also use Necromancy, Thaumaturgy
The character may travel as far from his body as he is physically able while possessing the mortal. The vampire may also venture out during the day, albeit in the mortal form. However, the vampire's own body must be awake to do so, requiring a successful roll to remain awake (see p. 204). If the vampire leaves the mortal shell (by choice, if his body falls asleep, through supernatural expulsion, after sustaining significant injury), his consciousness returns to his physical form in an instant. Once freed from possession, the mortal regains mental control of herself. This can happen in an instant, or the victim may lie comatose for. days while her psyche copes with the violation. The vampire experiences everything the mortal body feels during possession, from pleasure to pain. In fact, any damage the victim's body sustains is also applied to the character's body (although the Kindred may soak as normal). If the mortal dies before the vampire's soul can flee from the body, the character's body falls into torpor. Presumably this is in sympathetic response to the massive trauma of death, although some Kindred believe that the vampire's soul is cast adrift during this time and must find its way back to the body. The Kindred can remain in the mortal's body even if his own torpid form is destroyed, though such a pathetic creature is not likely to exist for long. At each sunrise, the vampire must roll Courage (difficulty 8) or be expelled from the body. If forced from the mortal body, the vampire tumbles into the astral plane, his soul permanently lost in the spirit world. Nor may a vampire trapped in a mortal body be "re-Embraced"; if the Embrace occurs to such a creature, he simply meets Final Death.