Dungeons & Dragons inspiration is one of the more interesting game concepts in the fifth edition of the world’s greatest role-playing game. 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.”
What is Dungeons & Dragons Inspiration?
Inspiration basically allows a character to gain advantage on one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. Inspiration is a reward given to a character 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 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, 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.).
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The Negative Aspects of Inspiration
As a game concept, Dungeons & Dragons inspiration should make the game more fun for everyone. Inspiration isn’t OP (overpowering) and advantage on a roll won’t break the game in any way. Still, there are a few negative aspects to keep in mind:
- In many instances, the awarding of inspiration is 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 inspiration can be subjective, it runs the risk of being awarded unfairly.
- Inspiration gives a busy DM one more thing to track among many.
- 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.
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 and hand worthy players a special d20 to use for their advantage roll. 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, though awarding inspiration once per session as suggested doesn’t always work out.
For more experienced groups though, 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 declare a re-roll once per session to see if they can change fate and improve a bad die roll).
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.