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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.