In current 5E rules, inspiration is a great concept, implemented poorly. In theory, it provides the GM with a tool to reward good roleplaying. It also provides players with a resource to improve their odds.
However, the original implementation of inspiration was flawed. The GM must remember to award inspiration, which is easy to forget while they’re running the whole darn world.
Because GMs hand it out so infrequently, players are reluctant to use inspiration except in the direst of straits. Then, on the rare occasion the GM does remember, the players are sitting on it already, and can’t have another one.
Despite eight years of getting it wrong, recent playtest rules take only baby steps to make inspiration more useful. “Heroic Inspiration” expands the mechanic minimally, providing inspiration when a player rolls a natural 1 on a d20 Test.
Instead of a half-baked solution, let’s concoct a rule worth using at the table.
As a player, you should gain inspiration easily and often. You should also feel empowered to ask for inspiration when appropriate. To that end, inspiration arrives:
After a Long Rest. You automatically gain inspiration after your character completes a long rest.
Rolling a Natural 1. After rolling a natural 1 on a consequential D20 Test, you automatically gain inspiration.
At Encounter’s End. After completing a consequential exploration, social, or combat encounter, you and your fellow players decide among yourselves who had a cool or memorable moment during that encounter.
- For combat encounters, you could reward a player’s excellent tactics or willingness to take risk to defend a helpless ally.
- For social encounters, you could reward the player who made a cutting remark or proposed a clever diplomatic solution.
- For exploration encounters, you could reward the player who forged your path through the mountains, built a defensible camp, or cooked a tasty campfire stew.
Players discuss and agree to award inspiration to one character. The GM can award inspiration to additional characters.
At GM Discretion
Failure by 10 or More. After you fail a consequential D20 Test by 10 or more, your GM can choose to award you inspiration. After the GM announces the result, you or your fellow players can ask your GM whether you failed enough to gain inspiration.
Doing Something Cool. The GM can always award inspiration for good roleplaying. You are explicitly encouraged to ask your GM when you feel that a fellow player deserves inspiration for roleplaying.
You can never have more than one inspiration point. You can spend it to gain any of the following benefits:
Reroll a d20 Test. You may reroll a d20 Test and use whichever result is better. You must spend inspiration in this way before your GM announces the result of the d20 Test.
Reroll Damage. You can reroll a number of your damage dice, up to your character’s proficiency bonus. You must use the second result, even if it’s worse.
Grant Proficiency. You spend 1 minute in quiet contemplation, then gain proficiency in one skill or tool of your choice. This proficiency lasts for 1 hour, or until you spend inspiration to grant another proficiency by spending inspiration in this way again.
Matters of Consequence
These rules refer to “consequential” encounters and d20 Tests. This term means you need skin in the game to earn inspiration.
Consequential encounters involve risking death or the loss of something significant. This could be combat with a foe of an appropriate challenge rating, debating a noble whether to go to war, or trekking over perilous tundra to the next dungeon.
Don’t expect inspiration for fighting harmless woodland creatures or arguing with louts in a tavern—those are not consequential encounters. (And if you do get inspiration for these, the GM is telling you something.)
Consequential d20 Tests are d20 Tests where you lose something on a failure, such as taking damage, suffering a condition, or other immediate negative repercussions.
When using knowledge skills (Arcana, History, Nature, and Religion) or investigative skills (Insight, Investigation, or Perception), you must act upon what you learned to gain inspiration. This may mean that your GM gives you false information, a half-truth, or accurate information.
Inspiration does not come from failing at nearly impossible Tests, like knowing where the closest book of ebon tides is located.
Try this along with any other playtesting you might do, and tell us how they work in the comments!
Want more great options for your game? Tome of Heroes delivers! Get over 70 new subclasses, a dozen new backgrounds, unusual new equipment, and downtime activites for your characters when they’re not delving. Get it at the Kobold Press store or your local game shop! It makes a great last-minute gift!