11
\$\begingroup\$

In Curse of Strahd, the players can encounter an NPC with a special ability.

When the Tarokka reading indicates "Strahd's Enemy", "This NPC, whoever it ends up being, gains the following additional action: Inspire. While within sight of Strahd, this character grants inspiration to one player character he or she can see."

Since this ability is an action, it can potentially be used every combat round.

Is the NPC's use of this ability supposed to be an example of "specific beats general", where their ability as written within the context of the module overrides the PHB limitations that

Your DM can choose to give you inspiration for a variety of reasons. Typically, DMs award it when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way. Your DM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game. You either have inspiration or you don’t—you can’t stockpile multiple “inspirations” for later use.

or

are we to understand that the NPC's ability comes with the implied clause, "subject to the normal rules of Inspiration" or "as long as that character is not currently Inspired".

Related: How is this character useful as an ally in Curse of Strahd?

Related: Is there a hierarchy of specificity?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain exactly how you think these rules conflict, or why one would need to trump another, or how it's any different than having a bard with unlimited dice following you around? What do you think would happen other than every character having inspiration at the start of combat, and making every out-of-combat roll with inspiration unless a quick sequence of whole-group checks or saves was needed. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Aug 15 at 7:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Basically I am confused about what "specific beats general" means. In Daveman's answer using Heroism, both the Heroism spell and the rules for temporary hit points come from the PHB, so I see them at the same level and informed by one another. However, the rule for maximum one Inspiration point comes from the PHB (general), but the NPC granting inspiration comes from one NPC in one module (specific). Is that an example more specific than the general Inspiration rule, and or does it have to abide by the general Inspiration rule? How does one decide what is 'specific enough'? \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Aug 16 at 2:15
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It seems obvious to me that being able to grant inspiration doesn't imply stacking it, any more than a bard giving inspiration to the same creature on two consecutive rounds. At most you could refresh the duration before it expires, if it has limited duration like a bard's 10 minutes. Specific beats general if they directly contradict, but these don't. Of course one rule about something doesn't mean that all other rules stop applying. (If that was the case, "inspiration" wouldn't have any mechanical meaning because that's defined elsewhere as well.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Aug 16 at 2:21
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It's the same kind of question as "you can do X as a bonus action" doesn't override the fact that you can only do one bonus action per turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Aug 16 at 2:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ "'Specific beats general' if they directly contradict" : Well, the PHB says that a DM awards Inspiration based on player actions, while CoS says that this NPC grans inspiration based on the status of the NPC. So that is a direct contradiction and the module has precedence? But because "grants inspiration" and "has it or doesn't" are not directly contradictory, then there is no conflict there to reolve? \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Aug 16 at 2:40
25
\$\begingroup\$

The NPCs ability to grant inspiration every turn doesn't in any way alter inspirations normal limitations. Inspiration can potentially be used multiple times in a single turn (or on any other creature's turn), so granting a single use of it per NPC's turn in no way implies it should change its current limitations. Similarly, a generous DM could simply award inspiration every round for immersive descriptions of attacks or ability checks.

Consider for example Heroism.

Until the spell ends, the creature is immune to being frightened and gains temporary hit points equal to your spellcasting ability modifier at the start of each of its turns.

It grants more temporary hit points every turn. However that in no way removes Temporary Hit Points built in limitation of not-stacking.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
13
\$\begingroup\$

No, Inspiration works as normal

Using it every round would be achievable if the allied NPC grants the inspiration to the same PC every round and that PC uses the inspiration each round.

If the NPC chooses a different PC, doesn't use its action to grant Inspiration, or if the PC doesn't use their Inspiration (and thus make themselves a valid target for the next round's Inspiration action), that PC would not be able to use Inspiration each round.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note the use of quotation marks in my spoiler text. What is inside the quotations comes from the module. The line about "potentially every round" is my own writing. \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Aug 16 at 2:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kirt I tweaked my answer. Thanks for clarifying! \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Aug 16 at 6:41
5
\$\begingroup\$

Specific beats general if they directly contradict, but these don't in any way. Having a new potential source of inspiration (other than the DM's choice) doesn't change anything; just like DM-granted inspiration, if the target creature already has inspiration then nothing happens. A DM can't grant multiple banked uses of inspiration, so why should this NPC be able to?

When the base rules say "Your DM can choose to give you inspiration ...", they don't say that the DM must be the only possible source of it. So that's also not a conflict between base rules and this module. New ways for something to happen aren't conflicts, they just slot into the existing rules framework.

One specific rule about something doesn't mean that all other rules stop applying, only ones that actually contradict. (If that was the case, "inspiration" wouldn't even have any mechanical meaning because the whole game concept of what inspiration is is defined elsewhere as well.) Nothing about any of the wording in anything you quoted gives any hint that it should be able to stack, therefore there's no conflict with the general rule.

But because "grants inspiration" and "has it or doesn't" are not directly contradictory, then there is no conflict there to resolve?

Correct. "Grant" means the target creature now has inspiration. (Whether or not they had inspiration to start with.) If they already had inspiration, it's a waste of your action, but nothing in D&D stops you from wasting (part of) your turn. The known fact that inspiration can't stack means we need to interpret this phrasing as "set inspiration status to "yes"". (@daveman's example of Heroism and non-stacking temp HP is good.) e.g. "The NPC grants you some water" - "thanks, but my canteen is already full".

A sensible and obvious interpretation exists that's compatible with both rules. Therefore it's clear that's how the specific rule works. General rules and definitions of terms are the framework that specific rules are built on, and guide their interpretation. There's only a true conflict if you can't find a clear sensible interpretation of the wording that's compatible with the general rule. (Usually because the specific rule is pretty explicit about it.) e.g. the general rules around spellcasting tell you how to interpret rules about specific things that let you "cast" spells.

If a creature had an ability that was intended to override the general rule, it would tell you more explicitly. For example, "As an action, [NPC] can inspire another creature, giving them advantage on a d20 roll of their choice. A creature can have at most 5 uses of inspiration saved up, but disappear on a long rest." i.e. define a way for them to stack. There's no such language, and therefore no reason to expect that the general rule stops applying.

There are cases where two rules contradict and it's not clear which is more specific or general, so the DM has to make a ruling for how they interact, but this is not one of them.


It's the same kind of question as "you can do X as a bonus action" doesn't override the fact that you can only do one bonus action per turn. I think everyone understands that's how it works even though class feature descriptions of ways to spend your bonus action don't bother to repeat that fact. Or that something stopping you from taking Actions also stops you from taking Bonus Actions.

Or a feature that lets you make an Attack some way other than taking the Attack action on your turn. It doesn't replace that mechanic.


(Correction: this NPC can only do this while Strahd is in sight. But just as an example, consider an NPC that really could do it every round without limit, even when there's no danger or threat present. The same applies during a social encounter with Strahd for the actual NPC; it would be super broken if you could bank up stacking inspirations while chatting.)

A creature that can give out inspiration every round means you should expect the whole party to start every combat with inspiration (unless they spent it on an ability check that started combat), and for every out-of-combat ability check to be made with inspiration. (Unless two whole-party checks or saves in a row used up inspirations before the NPC had a chance to re-inspire each PCs, one per 6 seconds.)

If it could stack without limit, this would obviously be unbalanced. Given 10 minutes outside of combat, the NPC could hand out 100 total inspirations spread across the party, or 600 per hour of being awake. So you'd expect the party to roll every check, save, and attack with advantage for the entire rest of the time they accompany this NPC, and probably for days after parting company if it doesn't expire on a long rest. That's a massive boost, and another clear sign that this interpretation is not intended.

(Sanity checks like this are more helpful in deciding on a ruling for your game, even if there is a loophole in the RAW. Especially for modules or UA material, loopholes are occasionally possible if RAW doesn't actually say what the designer intended.)


This is very similar to a bard giving out Bardic Inspiration: a creature can have at most one die from the bard. Bards have a very limited supply, but can inspire a creature of their choice each round for a few rounds.

Bardic Inspiration only lasts 10 minutes, so re-inspiring a creature could refresh the duration, but otherwise be a wasted action. Nothing in the rules stops you from wasting your action by trying to inspire someone who already has inspiration, or taking the Dodge action twice on one turn (as a monk with action + bonus), or re-casting a spell that was already active.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good answer in general, but note that the ability only applies "while in sight of Strahd", so the "expect the whole party to start combat with inspiration, and have inspiration on all out-of-combat checks" assumption would only apply if they're able to keep Strahd in sight at all times. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Sherohman Aug 25 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DaveSherohman: Ah, I missed that, thanks. That avoids silliness for general usage all the time when not in danger. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Aug 25 at 8:50
0
\$\begingroup\$

No it is a unique NPC ability that simply mirrors the effect of DM inspiration but is not the same as it and as such works alongside it as all in game abilities do.

The way I have always played this is like a variation of bardic inspiration in fact I think the way it is worded in the adventure is poor.

If you considered the wording to be:

Once a turn, while in sight of Strahd the NPC can give any one player character an advantage dice to be applied to any skill check (Including combat rolls). A player may not stack this ability but may receive it multiple times.

Then I think this would work a lot better and it becomes clearer that this is an NPC special ability that grants a buff similar to inspiration but still unique to it but that isn’t linked to role playing behavior.

If you compare it to the Rulebook inspiration description.

Your GM can choose to give you inspiration for a variety of reasons. Typically, GMs award it when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way. Your GM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game.

You either have inspiration or you don’t—you can’t stockpile multiple “inspirations” for later use.

Using Inspiration If you have inspiration, you can expend it when you make an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. Spending your inspiration gives you advantage on that roll.

Additionally, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration.

There are a number of ways the NPC ability is clearly different to the awarding of DM inspiration, the NPC award is not linked to GM opinion on roleplay, or gaming behaviour and it goes against the flavour of the ability for a player to be able to pass this inspiration onto another player.

This is clearly an NPC ability and in order to reduce word count the author decided to phrase it in the way they did when it is clear that the meaning behind the ability is to try and give an NPC a cool skill to help buff the party. The NPC awarding of the ability though should not be linked to roleplaying, how does the NPC know who is roleplaying well.

Slightly off topic but in my own games as a DM I houserule that Inspiration is actually treated in a similar way to bardic inspiration, I award a D4 or a D6 depending on the level of reward, this can then be stored and used to bolster any roll including adding it to a bardic inspiration dice. The main reason I do this is that there are numerous ways to gain advantage on a dice roll so having DM inspiration that you can't use on the important dice rolls because you already have advantage means it can become less of an incentive.

For this adventure though I keep the given rule (advantage dice given) meaning the NPC has a slightly more unique ability.

| improve this answer | |
\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't really address the question regarding whether or not the NPX Ally's ability to grant inspiration supercedes the normal limits for inspiration. Is there a way to incorporate that into your answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Aug 24 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Have updated is that better? \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Aug 24 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I definitely think it's speaking more to the question of "How do I interpret the NPC ally's ability?" but I think you might improve it yet further by discussing the supporting rules text for how Inspiration works and why your rewording (which I agree with, by the way) is the correct way of looking at it :) \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Aug 24 at 21:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Will have a look tomorrow when I am in front of a pc vs my phone :) \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Aug 24 at 23:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.