Inspiration! – DM’s Pocket Guide
Welcome to DM’s Pocket Guide, where we discuss the rules, spells, and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition.
Tricia: Today we’re going to talk about Inspiration.
T: This is something that we did not use, well actually, I still don’t think we use it most of the time –
R: No. If I have inspiration, I usually forget that I have it.
T: And if I’m a DM, I usually forget to give it. But I have seen it used really, really well, and it’s something I want to get better at as a DM.
R: For sure. So the rules for inspiration are on page 125 of the Player’s Handbook. It’s three different paragraphs – there’s not a huge amount to it. So what it is is, when you have inspiration, you can spend that inspiration to gain advantage on an attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. You can only have one inspiration point at a time, so you can’t hoard up a bunch of inspiration. It’s usually given out by the DM.
T: Yes, typically the DM would give it because the player has done something that is very based in their character flaws, bonds, personality.
R: It’s really encouraging role play.
T: Yeah. And I particularly like that piece because if the player acts on their flaws, you can reward them with inspiration. Because I find that a lot of people who are playing characters in D&D – they want to be perfect and never make a mistake and always be the hero. But interesting characters have flaws, and this is a way to encourage players to lean into that a little bit.
R: Yeah. If you’re playing with characters over a period of time, you get to know them. You know what you would expect them to do and what – are they playing their character particularly true? That’s the sort of thing that you want to reward with inspiration.
T: Yeah, a DM’s not the only person that can reward players with inspiration. The Player’s Handbook also mentions that inspired characters can give that inspiration to someone else if they see them playing their character well, which was something I did not know!
R: Which is also a really cool thing, like, one of your characters has this resource and they’re willing to give it up to someone else to reward their role play? That’s really nice. That’s something that I would love to see my players do.
T: Yeah, it really involves team bonding. Another piece that is not an official rule but is something that I have heard done and seems intriguing to me is that players just in general can reward each other inspiration. So it is that team bonding element again of like, “Wow, that was such a good role playing moment, you should have inspiration!” Probably the DM needs a final say on whether that’s true or not, but I like that sense of giving players themselves that responsibility to, yeah, encourage each other and say, “Good job!”
R: [sarcastic] But my players are going to abuse that! They’re just going to be giving each other inspiration for no reason at all.
T: Well you know what? Like, is that the worst thing in the world?
R: It’s not the worst thing in the world, and also, that’s the thing of building the trust in your group. Whichever one of these rules works for you and your group…
T: That’s true. I think what I was saying about ‘Is that the worst thing in the world?’ is that I do tend to think of inspiration as – well, when I think of it at all – it does feel like you’ve got to really earn it. But I have seen The GM Tim in particular, when he plays games, he gives out inspiration all the time. If you do something interesting or character-driven, he will just be like, “That’s awesome! Take inspiration.” It encourages players to use it quickly, because that’s a problem that you forget you have inspiration. And it encourages this sense of like, everyone’s mood goes up. “I did do good! I want to do more of that!” And keeping it frequent – have advantage on a roll is good, but it is not the most powerful thing in the world. It’s not going to break your game.
R: Absolutely not. So it sounds like The GM Tim uses the “rule of cool” to award this. If a player does something that is, “Yeah, that’s awesome!” Give them inspiration. You don’t have to be an inspiration dragon creating a giant hoard of inspiration points that you very rarely give out. Reward your players for doing that stuff.
T: Yeah, definitely. You have also said that what you’ll do to remember you have inspiration is you’ll set aside dice that is your inspiration dice.
R: Yeah, so because I have a big hoard of dice, I can do that. I’ll usually use a bright-coloured one or something like that to have it in front of me just so I remember that I’ve got it. I recently took the Lucky feat with one of my characters where I get three of those, so I really have to remember that I have this thing, or I’ve wasted that particular use. It’s definitely made me a lot more aware of that. Having a physical representation of my inspiration can be useful. There are also some variant rules for inspiration as well. Granting advantage is one way to use inspiration but there is one in particular that I’m thinking of that involves the Tarroka deck. This is based in the Curse of Strahd campaign where if you gain inspiration, you pull a card from a deck and it gives you access to like, single uses of magic spells that you wouldn’t have access to otherwise and maybe other abilities. I haven’t gone through the whole stack, but that was a nice little variation. I think it does make inspiration powerful, but –
T: But also more random. It’s a little like the Wild Magic Surge table. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, this is exactly what I need.” It’s very powerful. Other times it’s useless to me, so I’ll find a funny way to use it or just get rid of it for the next thing. But it does make it fun to play around with different kinds of – inspiration doesn’t have to mean just advantage rolls, it can be something else!
R: Yeah, so the takeaway is – Inspiration, all the time. All the time, inspiration!
T: So that is the Inspiration rule which is on page 125 of the Player’s Handbook.
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