A Hydra gets extra reactions which "can be used only for opportunity attacks". The Dissonant Whispers spell forces a creature to consume its reaction to do stuff one cannot ordinarily do with a reaction.

Can Dissonant Whispers spam force a hydra to consume its reactions running away, or will the creature not have to spend its reactions on running and remain able to use them for opportunity attacks?


1 Answer 1


The Hydra uses one reaction to run away

The Hydra's "Reactive Heads" feature states that for every head beyond the first, the Hydra gains an extra reaction that can only be used for opportunity attacks. This means that the Hydra has one "normal" reaction, which would be consumed by Dissonant Whispers.

There are two reasons why the Hydra would not be able to use its extra reactions to move.

In the case of 5e, a specific rule always trumps a general one - in this case, Dissonant Whispers states that on a failed saving throw the creature must use its reaction to move away from you. However, the Hydra's Reactive Heads feature states that the extra reactions can only be used for opportunity attacks. This is a specific rule and trumps the general one.

Secondly, the wording of Dissonant Whispers states that the creature "must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move ..." In this case, we can consider the Hydra's extra reactions unavailable, because they can only be used for opportunity attacks.

In short, the Hydra will use its primary reaction to move away from the caster of Dissonant Whispers if it fails the saving throw, but the bonus reactions cannot be used in this way and as such it will hold on to them (possibly to take a big bite out of your front-liner barbarian).

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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer "If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins." How is this not a specific rule, the restriction to a Hydra's reaction, overriding/disallowing/contradicting a more general rule, dissonant whispers using any available reaction? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 21:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 because the abilities do not share a scope, so there is no basis to determine that one is more specific than the other \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 1:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer The one ability says you must use your reaction to move. The other says you can only use it to make an opportunity attack, and therefore, also says you cannot use it to move, directly overruling dissonant whispers. To me this is a more specific restriction overruling/preventing another less strict (and thus less specific / more general) restriction \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 1:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2: specific v general is often used loosely in answers on this site. The general rules on using reactions are in combat section of PHB. Once you get into two separate parts of the content, a spell description and a monster stat block - neither of which "inherits" any salient generic rules from any other section, then it is very hard to say whether a spell that modifies how the target's reactions can be used or a monster that modifies how its own reactions can be used should interact should the two rules clash. They don't clash though, and this answer demonstrates it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 6:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I believe see now; in this case the rules apply simultaneously and happen to work out nicely. But if they contradicted each other in an unresolvable way, then we would need a way to decide which rule is more specific. Here it's just that they happen to work out when applying together. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 10:06

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