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The effect of the warlock's Misty Escape feature is that when the warlock takes damage she can use her reaction to teleport away to a location of her choosing within range.

The effect of failing a saving throw against the dissonant whispers spell is that the target must use her reaction if available to move up to her speed away from the caster.

Suppose a warlock with the Misty Escape feature fails her save against dissonant whispers. If she has her reaction available, whichever effect happens first will use that reaction, and the second effect will not happen because her reaction has already been used. So, which effect happens?

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Dissonant Whispers happens.

With Misty Escape, the warlock "can" use their reaction to teleport away, but when failing a save against dissonant whispers the warlock "must immediately" use their reaction to flee.

In D&D specific beats general, and "must" is more specific than "can" because "must" is compulsory while "can" is optional.

So, the effect of dissonant whispers happens first, preventing the effect of Misty Escape.

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Whichever the person casting the spell chooses

I think there is a good argument to be made that this would fall under the category of simultaneous effects and thus would follow the optional (thanks @Derek Stucki) rules outlined in Xanathar's Guide to Everything:

Simultaneous Effects

If two or more things happen at the same time on a character or monster’s turn, the person at the game table — whether player or DM — who controls that creature decides the order in which those things happen. For example, if two effects occur at the end of a player character’s turn, the player decides which of the two effects happens first. (p. 77)

In this case, one trigger, the spell, is causing two effects to trigger immediately: the ability to teleport and the compulsion to run. I would argue that, per the above quote, the person who gets to decide is the one on whose turn Dissonant Whispers was cast. Most of the time this would be the caster of the spell's turn, but it is also possible that the spell was cast using a readied action which would mean that it was cast on someone else's turn.

However, these are optional as pointed out before and thus not binding in all campaigns.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is definitely the other possible answer I had in mind, and I was hoping somebody would post it. I'm interested in which of these answers the community can determine to be correct. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Dec 4 '17 at 0:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well seeing as this is an optional rule, I highly doubt that this can be unanimously declared to be the right answer RAW for all people's campaigns. That being said, I do think it is a good way to adjudicate it. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 4 '17 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only reason I don't like this is that it's a real interpretation created that minimizes the effect of Dissonant Whispers - one of the only things that forces a creature to use their own movement and open themselves up to an OA. Bypassing the "must move" for "can move" doesn't seem simultaneous time, but an override like Bloodcinder wrote. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 4 '17 at 22:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch This is hardly a broad nerf for DW. In fact, in this case it isn't a nerf at all because it is the caster of the spell who gets to decide and they are going to decide to allow them to run away I'm assuming. And the "must move" never gets downgraded to "can move" but it is a case of "must move if able" which has always been the case. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Dec 4 '17 at 22:21

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