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We're playing nWoD 2e and I've got a mixed group with a demon and a vampire in it. They are using the vampire power Dominate and the demon power Devil's Advocate quite extensively, and have even managed to regularly win battles against enemies stronger than them by using just those powers.

Some examples:

  • The vampire regularly dominates the enemy with "Don't move" while the demon hits him with an aggravated attack.
  • The demon uses Devil's Advocate to get a group of enemies to attack one another
  • A few times, when the vampire would have left another vampire alive but the demon deemed them a risk for the group, he just used Devil's Advocate to force the Vampire PC to diablerize the enemy vampire. (The players are both OK with this though — they use powers on each other regularly — so no problem there.)

The problem is, now both players are saying that the powers are just too strong, as they seem to be dominating the whole game.

For Dominate, one thing we haven't been using is the idea that enemies don't necessarily meet your eyes during combat (as they look more at where your arms and body are moving than at how beautiful your eyes look). I'm contemplating adding a roll against NPCs' wits to see if they meet or avoid the vampire's eyes each round of combat.

But that aside, I'm not sure how these powers could be balanced or what I as a ST could do so that they won't dominate the whole game any longer. What can I as the ST do to avoid these powers dominating play, without going so far as to remove or completely nerf them?

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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't address the subject of your question, but I must know -- when the Demon commands the Vampire to commit diablerie, how many Breaking Points is that? It sounds like the kind of thing that would cause Humanity to plummet. \$\endgroup\$ – Jadasc Dec 9 '14 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Deploy specific countermeasures: issue mirrored sunglasses and holy symbols to all NPCs. \$\endgroup\$ – AJMansfield Dec 10 '14 at 1:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jadasc so far it was 2 breaking points and the vampire succeeded in the rolls. AJMansfield: holy symbols? What for? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas E. Dec 10 '14 at 6:51
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These powers have built-in limitations that can be used to help you. Change how run things to take this into greater account. Let your players know in advance that this is happening, so they don't feel like the rug is getting pulled out from under them.

Dominate

Dominate fails when the subject would clearly be endangered by complying. From your examples, it sounds like you should apply this limit more broadly.

For example, if I Dominate a man with "Don't move" he will move to defend himself as soon as he sees my companion is about to attack him. He would never have stopped in the first place if I or my companion have assumed a physically threatening posture, such that his danger was apparent.

The limit on Dominate can apply to any form of danger or serious harm. No one will hand over their life savings or admit to scandalous, career-ending actions.

Devil's Advocate

This is a far less controlled power than Dominate. Subjects will behave according to their natural tendencies, but from a skewed position. NPCs aren't all identical people who attack when they are unhappy. Create variations in how they react to this power beyond "shoot someone else".

They disagree with their most recent stated position. If someone comes in guns blazing, what have they stated? You might get them to stop shooting if the "statement" is "I'm trying to kill you". They don't have a reason to say "I'm trying to kill my friend instead".

The way I read the power, it's about arguments and disagreements. People will advocate for their new position. It could lead to violence, but doesn't have to and it doesn't start there.

Story Options

Try creating challenges and situations that work differently than before. If the bad guys turn on each other, have only one. Use characters that supernatural as well, and give them a roll or ability to resist the powers.

Have an adversary send pawns to interact with the PCs. The adversary can prime those pawns (possibly with Dominate) with odd ideas or instructions that will make the PCs powers have unexpected results.

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Dominate and other forms of mind control, although potent, have some weaknesses that are pretty easy to exploit.

  1. As written, unless you've achieved an Exceptional Success, the Mesmerize power takes two actions to enact — one to put the Mesmerized condition on and one to give the command. That gives the victim a round to escape, fight back, or call for help before the vampire can make them stand still for the beating. Furthermore…

  2. The Mesmerized condition that allows dominate commands to work is Resolved when the subject takes a point of bashing or lethal (or worse) or takes an action that he was commanded to do that causes a Breaking Point. Once the Condition is resolved, the target is at +3 dice to resist further attempts to Mesmerize him. This is particularly appropriate for Mister How About You Guys All Fight Each Other? Unless these are people who are used to hurting others, that will cause the command to break sooner or later.

  3. Dominate is a one-target power; while the vampire is doing his mystic gaze, there's plenty of time for the other people in the fight to take actions against him. You know who knows that? Other vampires.

So: don't send single targets after this pair of mind controllers; come in groups, and bring weapons. Use speed to your advantage, attacking during the period when they're trying to put the whammy on but before the commands can be given. As @Jessa says, use minions, or talk on the phone or via Skype. (You need to see and hear the vampire directly for Dominate to work without the use of Devotions.)

Lastly: send opponents with high Resolve. This is an opposed roll, after all, and you have Willpower for a reason.

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