The Guardian Portrait states that it can innately cast a variety of spells.

The description of its innate ability specifies it needs no material components.

The portrait can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components: 3/day each: counterspell, crown of madness, hypnotic pattern, telekinesis

False Appearance. While the figure in the portrait remains motionless, the portrait is indistinguishable from a normal painting.

Is it a general rule that innately case spells don’t need material components - or is the exception for material components always listed if possible? Do innately cast spells always need the somatic and verbal components of the original spells unless noted?


Innate spells should follow the normal rules unless otherwise noted

An innate spell can have special rules or restrictions. For example, a drow mage can innately cast the levitate spell, but the spell has a “self only” restriction, which means that the spell affects only the drow mage. (MM 10)

The implication here is that there can be special rules that would override the normal rules. However there are no "normal" rules for innate spellcasting.

Thus, in the absence of any other spellcasting rules specific to innate spellcasting, the normal rules would be the standard spellcasting rules from the PHB. That would mean that innate spells need all the components as normal spells (unless a specific rule for that monster says otherwise).

Jeremy Crawford has confirmed this via Twitter:

Q: Innate spellcasting doesn't require material components. Verbal and somatic?

A: Casting a spell requires all its components unless a trait or feature says otherwise.

Thanks @NickBrown for finding the perfect tweet

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is the text in the box from a book, or are you just organizing it in a box for neatness? \$\endgroup\$ – Javelin Apr 4 '18 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Javelin it's from the introduction to the Monster Manual but that is my fault completely for neglecting to put the citation in there. I don't actually have the book at the moment, but I'll put something there for the time being to avoid confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 4 '18 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer begs the question: How does a painting on a wall use material components? \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht - Reinstate Monica Apr 4 '18 at 23:32

Innate spellcasting uses the same components as other spellcasting (unless otherwise specified).

Rubiksmoose is absolutely correct. I even doubted his answer (despite looking up the rule he quotes from Innate Spellcasting - Monster Manual p10), since it seems counter-intuitive to me that innate spellcasting would still require material components. So I kept looking for other rules that might clarify this. However, this exchange with Jeremy Crawford shows him refute the questioner's claim where he thought only verbal or somatic might matter.

Jeremy Crawford on Twitter

Q: Innate spellcasting doesn't require material components. Verbal and somatic?

A: Casting a spell requires all its components unless a trait or feature says otherwise.

So clearly, when you take the rule & this tweet together, in the absence of any contradicting rules, innate spellcasting uses the same components by default as normal spellcasting. The only major difference is not using slots for innate spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great find with the Tweet! \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Apr 4 '18 at 14:17

As mentioned by Nick Brown and Rubiksmoose, Innate Spellcasting per se does require all components listed for the respective spell, since there is nothing in the rules that states it wouldn't.

However, the Monster Manual states on page 11:

If a spellcasting monster needs material components to cast its spells, assume that it has the material components it needs to cast the spells in its stat block.

Therefore, you as the DM don't have to worry about these components, since this paragraph is valid for both regular and innate spellcasting.

Also, many monsters with Innate Spellcasting have an additional note that states something like:

Innate Spellcasting. The cambion's spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14). The cambion can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components: [...]

They would still have to use somatic and verbal components, though, since nothing states that they don't.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not that if the statblock doesn't say it requires no material components, and the spell would normally require material components, then the creature would still need a free hand to interact with the material components (or, if there are both material and somatic components, the same hand can be used for both but it must still be free). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 4 '18 at 18:00

If a Creature can cast spells, it can cast them. As a General Rule, if such a Creature is capable of fulfilling a Component, then it has to do so.

The Guardian Portrait is capable of speaking and knows languages, so the Guardian Portrait would be required to speak to fulfill the Verbal Component.

If a creature cannot speak (or knows no verbal languages) and yet is stated to be able to innately cast spells which require a verbal component (somehow), then it is assumed that the creature can cast that spell regardless of not speaking because the statblock says that creature can cast those spells, and specific rules always override general rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe constructs count as creatures as well, therefore the distinction is redundant. Otherwise, constructs wouldn't be affected by spells such as fireball, which targets creatures. There are also several questions on this site that discuss the 5e definition of creatures, if you're interested in details. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Apr 4 '18 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the only answer that fully answers the question, as it applies to the Guardian Portrait \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht - Reinstate Monica Apr 4 '18 at 23:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ "so the Guardian Portrait would be required to speak in one of its languages to fulfill the Verbal Component" - This is not necessarily true. Per the description of verbal components: "Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren't the source of the spell's power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion." The mystic words being chanted do not necessarily need to be in any particular language. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 5 '18 at 5:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ That said, I think you are correct that it's safe to assume that a creature that can innately cast a spell with a verbal component is able to form the sounds for that verbal component in some way, regardless of whether it can speak any languages. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 5 '18 at 5:30

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