Here's the situation: the player had a creature dominated. The module gave the list of standard, move, and minor actions the monster had in the standard monster block. But, there was a separate section in the module where it said he had the ability to modify the terrain (he was a giant in control of his tower, so he could open holes in the floor and cause other terrain issues). This ability could be done once per turn as a minor action (but wasn't listed specifically as "at will", just that it could be done once per turn).

Because this was not listed as the giant's powers, the GM said that the player couldn't use the special section as his dominate action. From a rules-as-written perspective, is this correct?

This is a more specific version of this: What can you make a dominated creature do?. And here are the rules for the Dominate effect (from that question):

The creature can't take actions voluntarily. Instead the dominator chooses a single action for the creature to take on the creature's turn: a standard, a move, a minor or a free action. The only powers or game features that the dominator can make the creature use are ones that can be used at will, such as at-will powers....


3 Answers 3


It should be allowed.

I'm trying to take this question from a mere rule-as-written point of view.


  • The creature can’t take actions voluntarily. Instead, the dominator chooses a single action for the creature to take on the creature’s turn: a standard, a move, a minor, or a free action. The only powers and other game features that the dominator can make the creature use are ones that can be used at will, such as at-will powers. For example, anything that is limited to being used only once per encounter or once per day does not qualify.
  • The creature grants combat advantage.
  • The creature can’t flank.

In spite of this condition, the creature’s allies remain its allies, and its enemies remain its enemies. If the dominator tries to force the creature to throw itself into a pit or to move into some other form of hindering terrain, the creature gets a saving throw to resist entering the terrain.
A wide variety of creatures and powers can impose this condition. Just as in myth and legend, vampires and fey creatures are adept at controlling the minds of others, but the specific limitations of this condition prevent such creatures from forcing player characters to expend their best powers.

The emphasis is mine. To me, first sentence ("the dominator chooses a single action") is general, and the second ("the only powers and other game features that the dominator can make the creature use...") is the exception.

So the dominator can make the dominated perform any action, unless that action can't be used at will. In this category we of course include Encounter and Daily powers, but also class features (like the "Sly Fortune's Favor" of the Deadly Trickster epic destiny).

The action provided by a terrain feature that can be repeatedly used, to me, falls within the domain of the first sentence (it is a single action), but doesn't fall into its exception (it is, in fact, a game element usable at will).


In many areas, such as the Dominate effect text, the rules will provide examples without being an exhaustive and conclusive list. The rule's text use of "such as at-will powers" is merely an example of the types of things that the PC would have access to when dominating a creature. Ultimately, it is up to the GM to determine what the extent of the available abilities are.

If it were me, I would have allowed it since the giant had an ability that functioned like an at-will power without being defined as "at-will" or as a "power".


Murky rules area

Sometimes because of DND4e's focus on combat rules, aspects of combat that mesh with the general world rules can get a bit iffy. As you've quoted, they can only use powers that they could use every turn "at will" such as "at-will" which makes for lots of confusion when you use a rules heavy phrase in a different way from everywhere else in the rules. RAW It could be played either way. Your DM probably felt it was too powerful/unbalancing for the PC to gain access to the extensive terrain modification abilities, additionally from a roleplay perspective part of the reason you can only do at will actions is that dominate only allows you to make simple demands on the creature dominated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I chatted with the DM after the session was over, and he said that he made that choice mainly because it was too powerful/unbalancing to give me that power. After he showed me what it could do, I agreed with him. :-). As it was, it worked as an extended stun, so I couldn't complain too much. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 21:12

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