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This problem came up during a post-game discussion in my D&D 5e campaign last night. It concerns the curse ability of the Rakshasa and how that interacts with preparing spells. In game we managed to avoid the encounter; to the relief of the DM, as he was unsure what ruling to make in this situation.

The Rakshasa's claw attack states:

[..] and the target is cursed if it is a creature. [...] The cursed target gains no benefit from finishing a short or long rest. The curse lasts until it is lifted by a remove curse or similar magic.

Our party is level 16 and has a cleric so access to the remove curse spell shouldn't pose much of an issue. However, since the cleric did not have remove curse prepared at the time a question arose as to what would happen if it was the cleric that was cursed.

The cleric's spellcasting feature states the following about preparing spells (emphasis mine):

You prepare a list of cleric spells that are available for you to cast, choosing from the cleric spell list. [...] Casting the spell doesn't remove it from your list of prepared spells.

You can change your list of prepared spells when you finish a long rest. Preparing a new list of cleric spells requires time spent in prayer and meditation: at least 1 minute per spell level for each spell on your list.

We agreed that as DM's we would all likely allow the cleric to change spells while cursed as we tend toward more player-positive rulings. However we aren't sure that is the correct interpretation by RAW and ruling the other way could lead to some interesting consequences.

Does changing your list of prepared spells count as a benefit of a long rest for the purpose of the Rakshasa's curse ability?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does your cleric have access to Greater Restoration in their list of currently prepared spells? \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Sep 6 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ The remove curse isn't solely available to the cleric, it's also available to all Paladins some Warlocks and all Wizards. Does the party have any of those who could cast it? \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Sep 6 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro Yes, and we do also have a Paladin. Solving the situation is besides the point of this question though. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Sep 7 at 0:16
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Yes.

Is it a benefit? Yes. It's certainly beneficial to be able to change spells, in that it lets you get access to spells you didn't previously have prepared, with no real downside, since it's optional.

Does it result from finishing a long rest? Yes, the rule for changing prepared spells says you may do it upon finishing a long rest, but doesn't say you can do it any other time.

Therefore it's a benefit of finishing a long rest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The wording is pretty clear "When you finish a long rest": as with prepared actions the trigger happens first, then the resulting action - so changing your spell list will happen after the long rest ends. There is ambiguity in the wording, but this argument also implies that you don't get to sleep (another "benefit" of a long rest by this interpretation) - which can give exhaustion levels too (but not to death, just unconsciousness). \$\endgroup\$
    – Rycochet
    Sep 7 at 8:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rycochet Sleeping is a requirement of a long rest, not a benefit of finishing one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Sep 7 at 12:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ No - sleeping it listed as part of the requirements for it, but when you don't sleep you (potentially) gain the exhaustion, so it is also a benefit of it - if using the logic that something mentioned elsewhere is a benefit, then the same logic makes sleep into a benefit and not just a requirement. The curse stops you from benefitting from a long rest, so it is exactly the same argument as used in your answer. You can't have it both ways ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – Rycochet
    Sep 8 at 8:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rycochet It's worth noting that the rule you're referring to isn't from the PHB; it's an optional rule from XGtE. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 8 at 11:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rycochet I'd agree that, if you are using the XGtE rule for sleep, the curse will cause you to gain exhaustion. However, that's outside the scope of this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Sep 8 at 13:49
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It depends

D&D 5e uses the natural language meaning of words, unless contradicted by a defined game term. Benefit is not a defined game term.

Benefit, under the normal meaning of the word is:

an advantage or profit gained from something.

Being able to change spells is contingent on completing a long rest.

The Rakshasa's curse reads:

The magical curse takes effect whenever the target takes a long or a short rest [...]. The cursed target gains no benefit from completing a long or short rest. The curse lasts until lifted by a remove curse spell or similar magic.

Is being able to change your spells an advantage or profit?

It depends on what and when you are swapping it.

For the specific spell in question, remove curse, in this DMs opinion the answer is yes. The creature would gain an advantage or profit by being able to now cast remove curse (and thus remove the curse). As a result the creature is unable to prepare remove curse specifically (or greater restoration).

As to other spells and their preparation, that's where the "it depends" comes in. It depends on your DMs answer to this question. If they think swapping one spell out for another would be profitable or advantageous, then no you can't. If however they don't then you can. For example, swapping out Cure Wounds for Purify Food and Drink can be advantageous in some circumstances but very disadvantageous in others. In the good scenarios they cannot swap it out, but in the bad ones they can.

Can you potentially swap out higher level spells, or forgo preparing all of your spells, or delay enough that an important quest fails (or now has a significant likelihood of failure), to make the trade for remove curse "non-advantageous" from the perspective of the feature?

That is very much in the realm of a DM call. It depends very much on the situation. Are the heroes in a time sensitive situation where an extra day of delay would cause dire circumstances to come to pass, or be significantly harder to prevent? If so, then probably, otherwise no. Note it's important to remember that the heroes in this case are at the top end of tier 3 of play, and the threats they are facing could cause bad things for whole regions or continents. In that context the idea of "advantage" or "profit" is a very mushy context?

So is the party out of luck?

No. Not being able to remove the curse themselves is a pretty dire situation and would, for me as a player, result in returning to whatever safe haven is nearest to enlist the help of whatever cleric, druid, or other spellcaster that could cast greater restoration or remove curse on me. I would be explicitly disincentivised from doing any further adventuring.

Your cleric also has the option of trying their divine intervention feature every day until it succeeds. After 7 days of repeated request, at 16th level, the cleric would have a 71% chance of success in asking their god to intercede on their behalf. By 20 days they would have a 97% chance of success.

As a DM, this situation is an opportunity to provide the players with a social and exploratory pillars of the game. At level 16, the party will, almost certainly, have accrued favours and goodwill from the great and the good of the land. This situation is the time to cash them in. Whats more, the party should, by this stage, have access to fast travel via magic that can put them almost anywhere in the world.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you saying that if I were subject to the Rakshasa's effect, I could swap out spells at the end of the long rest, but only if I made some poor choices? \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ This ruling might make theoretical sense, but I don't think it makes gameplay sense. You're basically saying that yes, the cleric can prepare new spells, but only if the DM deems them to be useless (or close enough to be considered "not beneficial"), based on the current situation. How would you play that at the table? Have the cleric start reading out spells from the PHB while the DM says yes or no? That seems very likely to grind the game to a halt. I suspect that the only playable answers to this question are an unqualified yes or no. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 at 20:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given that the player has the choice to not swap out spells, can't we safely assume that they expect it to be advantageous? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Sep 6 at 21:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @illustro If you're saying that getting to prepare spells is not a "benefit" because the player might pick the wrong spells, then by that standard, is anything a benefit? "Regaining spell slots isn't necessarily a benefit, because you might use them to cast Fireball on yourself." \$\endgroup\$
    – Mark Wells
    Sep 7 at 2:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanC.Thompson it's also worth pointing out that the question didn't ask for gameplay sense, they asked for RAW. I make rulings that are contrary to the strict interpretation of the rules all the time (they are close enough in the moment to make sense) so the game runs smoothly and we don't spend 75% of a 4 hour session reading the rules, instead we only spend 5%-10% (ish) actually reading the rules, and most of that is interpreting spell text in game. It is eminently possible that RAW interpretations of the rules make the gameplay measurably worse because the designers made a mistake. \$\endgroup\$
    – illustro
    Sep 7 at 12:34
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Rules As Written (RAW): Maybe

There is some ambiguity due to the word "benefit" not being used in the Resting or Class sections of the PHB, and that has an argument for being consistent between both.

Contrasting this are several magic items that regain charges after a long rest (most state dawn though). There is also a subclass (I forgot which, so feel free to edit / correct) where the spells are regained at dawn, and not after the long rest!

Rules As Intended (RAI): No

Simple enough. To be a benefit of a long rest then it should be listed a part of the Long Rest block on page 186 of the PHB.

At the end of a long rest, a character regains all lost hit points. The character also regains spent Hit Dice, up to a number of dice equal to half of the character's total number of them. You regain at least 1 Hit Die when you finish a long rest.

As mentioned in the other correct answer, the spell changing is part of the Cleric block (and other classes where relevant) - this is not a benefit to a long rest, but just something that happens.

For the RAI major reason - not having it prepared could mean taking an extra long rest to prepare, or even having to hunt out and find a magic user or other source of removing the curse, but if they still have that spell slot free they could potentially learn it for the day after they realise what has happened (not being able to regain spell slots might make it the same issue anyway).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your "should" position is a post hoc editorial assertion. The PHB passage you cite is general, and applies to all characters regardless of whether or not they cast spells. Bardic inspiration and many other class features reset/recharge after a long rest. (Divine Sense, Channel Divinity, and so on). Spell casters are, for the LR prep, covered in their own class features. Your "I'd have written it differently approach" hardly counts as RAI (To be fair, I too would have organized the PHB differently than they did, as well as written some other things differently). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 at 17:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant meta: Please avoid using the RAI acronym, or use it carefully & be clear in context. You should edit your answer to expand the acronym, or rephrase to avoid it entirely. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 7 at 15:16
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No

From the preparing and casting spells section for the cleric:

You can change your list of prepared Spells when you finish a Long Rest. Preparing a new list of Cleric Spells requires time spent in prayer and meditation: at least 1 minute per Spell Level for each spell on your list.

Note the word "finish". You don't prepare spells during a long rest so it's not a benefit of having a long rest. Recharging your spell slots on the other hand would likely be considered a benefit of a long rest though.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting that your argument hinges on the word 'finish' when the Rakshasa quote says: "The cursed target gains no benefit from finishing a short or long rest.". Not saying you're wrong (tbh I agree) but am hoping someone can find a stronger argument than that. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin
    Sep 6 at 3:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that all the benefits of a rest are conferred when you finish the rest. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 6 at 4:31

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