Making Stun and Dominate Not Suck

by Mike Shea on 18 July 2011

Stuns and dominates are no fun. They aren’t fun for the players and they aren’t fun for the dungeon master. They steal away the most precious of resources: actions, and leave everyone involved frustrated and angry. Today we’re going to look at two simple house rules you might consider to alleviate the frustration of stuns and dominates without reducing their effectiveness in combat. While we’ve covered ways to deal with stuns and dominates against monsters, today we’re going to focus on reducing the frustration of stuns and dominates when inflicted on PCs.

Like all good house rules, you can enforce these behind your DM screen without your players having to learn new rules or modify their own mechanics. You can simply replace stunning and dominating monster powers with these house rules. You don’t even have to do it all the time, just when you feel like a stun or a dominate would frustrate more than add excitement to a battle, which, in my experience, is most of the time.

House Ruling Stuns

A year ago I wrote an article on status effect alternatives in which I recommend a new status effect called “Sundered”. Instead of giving it such a flowery name, we can simply house rule that stun effects now result in -2 to defenses (-4 at the epic tier) and give vulnerability 5 per tier. This can be a save-ends or end-of-next-turn effect as it is described in the monster power.

This results in a major lowering of PC defenses without stealing actions. That defender might not be so strong now that every attack on him or her hits more often and a lot harder than before. Still, the player hasn’t lost actions and now has to choose how to react to this lowering of defenses. The overall result is in a faster battle with a good deal of threat on each side.

House Ruling Dominates

Dominate is a complicated ability. It has a lot of rules tied together in one effect since it dazes and only allows the use of at-will powers. It brings in the topic of allegiance into play as well and, when misused, can result in an obscene amount of opportunity attacks inflicted on the dominated creature. This doesn’t even mention the actions stolen from the PC. We can make this much simpler, much more direct, and without being so painful to the player running the affected PC.

Instead of the standard dominate, consider the following effect: This creature immediately moves its speed and makes an at-will attack against the closest ally with a +5 bonus to damage per tier.

Like the stun variant, it doesn’t steal actions from the player but it still has the controller-style ability of getting the creature away from the monster. Like dominate’s movement, the affected creature will provoke opportunity attacks when leaving enemy threatened squares, but at least it only happens the one time. The extra damage modifier of this version of dominate helps off-set the fact that it only affects the creature once instead of potential multiple turns in a battle.

Working towards a faster and more fun battle

The intent of both of these changes is to get rid of elements to 4e that aren’t fun (stolen actions) and get the game to run a bit faster with less tracking of status effects and a greater focus on damage inflicted in both directions. Next time you run a stunning or dominating creature, try replacing the effect with one of these and see what your group thinks.

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