All right fellow travelers, lets talk about inspiration. Dungeons & Dragons inspiration to be more exact. In my humble opinion, inspiration is one of the more interesting (yet often overlooked) game concepts in the fifth edition of the world’s greatest role-playing game.

What is Dungeons & Dragons Inspiration?

So what is inspiration exactly?

*clears throat and does his best "rules lawyer" voice*

As explained on pages 240 and 241 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, inspiration is a means to encourage role-playing, risk-taking, and for rewarding players for taking “actions that make the game more exciting, amusing, or memorable.”

Inspiration basically allows a character to gain advantage on one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. Inspiration is a reward given to a player from the Dungeon Master (or as a variant, from other players if the DM so chooses).

  • A character can only have one inspiration at a time.
  • A player can award his or her inspiration to another player.
  • Inspiration must be declared before the dice roll.
  • Inspiration as a game concept is optional, and is at the discretion of the DM.

When Does a DM Award Inspiration?

Dungeons & Dragons inspiration is awarded as the DM sees fit. According to the Dungeon Master’s Guide (again using my "rules lawyer" voice), a general rule of thumb is to reward inspiration to each character once per session. Inspiration can be awarded to a character for:

  • Good roleplaying (a character makes an important decision or takes a notable action consistent with their character’s personality, bond, or flaw),
  • Acts of heroism (encourages characters to get involved in the action and take risks when fighting monsters, etc.),
  • A reward for victory (awarded after characters defeat an important opponent, complete a goal, etc.).
DnD Inspiration

Dungeons & Dragons Inspiration can be awarded for good role-playing and risk taking.

The Negative Aspects of Inspiration

As a game concept, Dungeons & Dragons inspiration should make the game more fun for everyone. Inspiration isn’t OP (overpowered) and advantage on a d20 roll won’t break the game. Still, there are a few potentially negative aspects to keep in mind:

  • The awarding of inspiration is more-or-less subjective. As a result, some players may feel upset or irritated that they weren’t awarded inspiration for something their character did that they believed was worthy.
  • Again, because of the subjectivity of inspiration, it runs the risk of being awarded unfairly.
  • Inspiration gives a busy DM another thing to keep track of during a game.
  • Although inspiration is supposed to encourage players to be good roleplayers and risk takers, players may lose sight of the bigger picture — the game at hand — and may find themselves focusing too much on earning inspiration instead of having fun.

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Do You Use Inspiration?

Personally, I’ve experimented with Dungeons & Dragons inspiration in my own games. Generally I find that my players like the concept. Following one of the suggestions in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, I award inspiration by giving worthy players special d20s to use for their advantage rolls. Once inspiration is spent, the d20 is handed back and tracking doesn’t become an onerous burden.

I always try to be as fair as possible (like any good DM does), though awarding inspiration once per session (as suggested ) doesn’t always play out.

One thing I noted with more experienced groups is that inspiration seems to stand in the way of the game. The award almost becomes silly in some respects. Players are already practicing good role-playing and risk taking for no other reason than that’s what’s expected of their characters. In these instances I forgo inspiration all together and simply grant all players one “re-roll of the night” (at their choosing, a player can make a re-roll once per session to see if they can change fate and improve a bad die roll). Re-rolls can't be carried over to the next session (use it or lose it), and, unlike inspiration, players don't have to declare the re-roll before the dice are cast.

Final Thoughts

So how about you? Do you use Dungeons & Dragons inspiration in your group? What are your experiences (good and bad)? Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. And as always, happy adventuring!

May 17, 2021 — Shane Scarbrough
Tags: RPG Tips

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