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In a recent game of 10th level characters, we had a small issue in the group. To set the scene, my character was a serpentfolk witch, specializing in enchantment and specifically mind-magic. We had a were-tiger barbarian, a half-dragon bugbear paladin (worshiped Apsu the Waybringer), and a dark stalker rogue. (It was a monster campaign, in case that wasn't obvious).

Well, the focus of the campaign was supposed to be monstrous entities overcoming social taboos in order to aid a kingdom from a threat that only they would have the power to overcome. The problem was, while the majority of the group was good-aligned, the barbarian was chaotic neutral.

My character, on the other hand, was lawful good, and worshipped Abadar. Specifically, being raised in a caste-system, he was of the belief that the most good came from conforming to the law.

So, when the chaotic barbarian continuously thwarted our attempts to negotiate with the local royalty (with the gods on high who had bid us to complete the mission continuously saying that All of Us were needed) I decided to dominate her.

It worked. She stopped being chaotic, at least at the times we needed her to be. Also, having no knowledge of spellcasting, she had no idea it was me who had done it. The game continued, the GM agreed that it was within reason for my character to do this, and everyone had fun.

Except her. She got horribly upset, claiming that she should be the only one who can control her character, and that if she wants to be chaotic then she should be allowed to. No one disagreed, because we play that the player has complete control of the character, so long as the player can give some kind of reason why the character would act that way (which only really prevents characters from acting completely insane.)

So, here's my question; Was what I did wrong? I broke no rules, no one else in the group blames me (except her, and she's less mad at me and more mad at the DM for letting me do it) and I never abused the ability. All I did was keep her from being chaotic at important moments.

To put it another way: Is controlling another player's character, specifically through rules allowed in the game, acceptable behavior?

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Would you like playing in a campaign where not following another player's ideas resulted in losing control of your character? –  Melon Feb 27 '13 at 19:27
Required reading: What is "my guy syndrome"? –  SevenSidedDie Aug 5 '14 at 7:13
How did she have no idea (her character in game) that it was you? Dominate requires that you share a language and give commands. –  Simanos Mar 15 at 20:00
also "Subjects resist this control, and any subject forced to take actions against its nature receives a new saving throw with a +2 bonus" –  Simanos Mar 15 at 20:03

7 Answers 7

up vote 31 down vote accepted

This is an extremely tricky and delicate situation. As a DM, I generally do not allow social skills (Diplomacy, Intimidate, etc) to be used on other PCs, and while I've never had the issue come up, I don't think I would allow mind-control magic to be used either. The reason?

People play RPGs to participate in a group story with a character under their own control.

By taking away that player's autonomy, even just at certain times and even just for specific and generally noble reasons, you're taking away that player's fun.

I played under an extremely controlling GM once, and it was a miserable experience. It was so long ago I don't remember the specifics, but one particular incident that stands out in my memory is when my character did something that all the other players considered reasonable, but which didn't follow the path the GM wanted us to follow. The GM had an NPC knock me out (no saving throw, no defenses, just boom! unconscious), throw me in a bag, and literally drag me along in the plot. He argued that it was the right thing to do because it forwarded the plot, but I stopped playing shortly after, because it's not fun when someone else controls my character. After all, why am I even there, then?

One way you might have handled your situation without taking away the player's autonomy would be to talk to her, out of game, about how her character and her choices were interfering with the group and the game. Ask her for ways that her character could be more closely integrated into the group's goals, and discuss what might happen if she insists on playing in a counterproductive manner.

As an example, in one of my more recent games, I played a chaotic barbarian in a generally good-aligned group, not unlike your situation in many ways. My character had been magically altered to have a "trigger" that would send her into an unstoppable rage when set off. At first it was an interesting roleplay opportunity, but later an unfortunate series of events caused my character to kill an important NPC while in one of those rages, which lost our party major face with key political figures. After that session, the GM suggested to me that my character might not be a good fit for the party, and asked me to consider rolling up a new one. I could see the problems and I was aware that the party was upset about the NPC's death, so I agreed.

In my situation, the GM was on the ball, both about handling things out of game, and about finding a way for my character to exit the party gracefully. Your GM could have dealt with the matter differently, by talking to the player out of character, or by telling the group to find a way to resolve it in-character (and making it possible by finding a way around the "All of you" decree).

So in short, yes, it was wrong to take away another player's autonomy and choices, no matter the reason. If it must be done, then discuss it with the player first, and make sure you have their full consent before doing it.

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Well, some games give other players the chance to control parts of your character. Dogs in the Vineyard is famous for it; you retain ultimate control over what your character thinks about their actions, but if you lose a conflict your literally and figuratively lose control and your character will do something determined by the winner. My quibble is with the unqualified "people play RPGs to…" part, which says all people play to do that, which isn't true. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 28 '13 at 3:57

Is it Lawful Good to control another being to suit your own ends, even if they are Lawful Good ends?

Also, what would be the in-game consequences of the were-tiger finding out about that the witch had charmed her?

It's almost always a bad idea to take control of another player's character for whatever reason without their consent, because the whole point of playing is to control your character. But beyond that, if I were the DM, and upon talking to the players realized that this was a problem but not one that threatened the viability of the game as a whole, I'd resolve the issue in-game.

For example, anyone who is actually Lawful Good might object to the mind control and inform the were-tiger. Or perhaps a secret opponent of the group was watching and will do it to sow discord. Or perhaps the court wizard noticed and cautions the royalty against you, seeing as how you feel it necessary to use mind control magic on each other--who knows what you will stoop to or what you are capable of if you will do that?

So: bad idea overall unless you knew the other player was cool with it, but I would recover (with the were-tiger's player feeling at least somewhat vindicated) in game if possible.

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To answer your straight-up question of "Was what I did wrong?", I would say this:


Technically, you did nothing wrong in terms of gameplay. As you say, you broke no rules in game.

However, Yes

On several levels, I think you did something wrong. The other answers here are good reasons why it was wrong from a meta-game perspective (i.e., don't take control of another PC). In game, @Ichoran had a couple good points, and I have a few more to add.

1) I find it difficult to see how the barbarian would have no idea who dominated her. Sure, she may not have understood that she was the victim of a spell, but after wanting to do some action but being forced by a telepathic command to do elsewise, it doesn't take a rocket-scientist to understand that a magical compulsion is in play. And, it takes even less mental acuity to connect the dots to figure out that the party's mentalist is the one pulling the strings. Domination is not subtle, and it does not make the target comatose or unaware of what is going on, nor does it wipe away the memory of the domination once the spell's duration expires. After the domination wears off, you should have one extremely angry barbarian, who, if she is not a complete idiot, probably knows exactly who mentally controlled her.

2) The nature of domination is not goodly, as @Ichoran already brought up. Using it on enemies, like using a sword on them, is acceptable. Using it on friends seems to qualify as an evil act.

3) It is not in the best interest of the party's goals to dominate party members. Working out differences with other party members on an equal footing builds trust and camaraderie. Dominating a party member ruins that trust and equanimity. What would the other characters think about you doing this? Wouldn't they be scared of you and trust you less? Wouldn't they also take issue with you treating the barbarian as some kind of puppet? Teamwork would be destroyed.

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+1 for everything EXCEPT #2. While you could argue it isnt lawful (still debatable) there is nothing inherently evil about using this spell anymore than using a sleep spell –  Ben-Jamin Feb 27 '13 at 19:14
@MattHamsmith The Law end of the spectrum is all about placing individual freedoms below some greater cause. –  SevenSidedDie Feb 27 '13 at 23:47

In our group where almost every player is also a GM at some point (in different campaigns) we generally tend to avoid these situations in the first place.

When we start a new campaign or introduce a character into an existing group we make sure that the group consists of characters that are more or less compatible to one another. That does not mean, that the characters must all be happy-clappy best-friends-forever.

But everyone of us somehow understands that large enough differences in terms of political/eth(n)ical/moral alignment can break the group.

So, if a player really does not see how his choice would heavily disturb the play in a group -- "but I really want to play my chaotic evil orc necromancer!" -- the GM would just tell him to shut up and pick something else. (Generally supported by the rest of the players...) :)

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I think this is fairly easy to fix. In fiction, would you stick with a group if a guy mind-control you all the time? I would try to fix this in roleplay. Saying: "I'm acting against the law because I'm chaotic" is not a really good excuse. I don't donate money to charity because I'm good, I do it because it makes me feel good. Alignment is not for justification, it's a representation of your behavior.

That being said, I would try to fix this in game as much as possible. "I'm not going to dominate you again if you stop acting stupid in front of nobility". In many games with possible confrontation with players (like Vampire), that's what you do. If you don't respect the law and most of your party do, then why keeping you in the party? If players disagree about what kind of party they should be playing then you fix this as players.

You don't bring the kleptomaniac thief to a castle full of nobles and precious things for a diplomacy session with the King. You ask him to stay at the inn while the public relationship expert do his job. You don't ask the 300 lb full-plated half-orc with no skills in stealth to follow you on an infiltration mission.

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I understand both aspects of the situation and honestly I don't feel the actions were all that out of line. Barbarians are some what weak willed by nature and in all honesty mind magic seems a perfectly viable way to keep a barbarian at bay, if the player doesn't want to be susceptible to mind magic there are feats and magic items and ways to help defend against these things. I'd say the situation could make for some good RP. If the barbarian were to ever learn of the mind magic used on her I'm sure she'd have her own relations she could use or at the very least threaten to turn the caster into a fine smear on the wall if he ever tries to get into her mind again with magic. That said, I'd argue some out of character discussion could be warranted to make sure everyone's still having a good time, but characters should accept that they will each be good at doing what they are good at doing and at the time they will have their weaknesses. A barbarian failing a will save isn't exactly unheard of and should be expected from time to time.

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I hate to downvote a new user, but I cannot understate how strongly I disagree here. There's nothing wrong with the answer on a technical level (i.e. no misunderstanding of the site rules or what have you), I just think it's bad advice. Sorry, but I feel pretty strongly about that. Anyway, welcome to the site, and I hope you won't take my downvote too harshly; it won't mean very much in the long run. Check out our About page for more information on how that works, and when you get 20 rep, feel free to join the Role-playing Games Chat. –  KRyan Aug 4 '14 at 18:51
KRyan you didn't say why it's bad advice. Is the Wizard dominating the fighter any different than the fighter threatening the weakling wizard or rogue with violence (at low lvls especially) or the rogue threatening to kill them in their sleep? In all situations there can be threats and actions (my rogue was almost killed by an Asimar Paladin once for not agreeing and offending him). It can lead to a talk later and a party split up or new dynamics. –  Simanos Mar 15 at 20:12

You said yourself the barb was trolling the campaign by being evil. You could have kicked her out of the group but instead found a creative in game solution. I really don't enjoy chaotic characters in my campaigns and heavily DM hammer anyone who trolls the plot just to chaotic constantly. If this was real a group of lawful good wouldn't team up with chaotic evil.

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Nowhere does it say the Barbarian was evil... just chaotic. –  Purple Monkey Dec 29 '14 at 10:24

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