Your experience with Inspiration?


4th Edition

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Inspiration seemed like a neat mechanic when I read about it. In practice, however, I hardly ever see it used.

In my meatspace group (where I'm a player), I pretty consistently forget about the possibility of gaining Inspiration. (On top of that, I find that quite often the personality my character ends up with in actual play tends to differ quite a bit from the traits/ideals/bonds/flaws I wrote down when we started.)

In the Order of the Griffon PbP that I'm GMing, I decided it would be too much work to hand out Inspiration to players based on their traits, etc.; so instead I decided to incentivize regular posting by having each day in which a player posts at least once tick them up toward gaining Inspiration. (I thought this also might have a side benefit of preventing paranoid clenching, as players could see their next Inspiration coming and feel free to use what they already have.) However, it ended up being no less work for me, so I switched us to "nominate each other in Discussion". There's been, I think, one nomination to date. If I'm not mistaken, nearly everyone's had their current Inspiration for like five levels (reaching back to before we switched methods). It's just not getting used.

In the other PbP I'm running, I started us out on the "nominate each other in Discussion" method from the get-go. Not a single Inspiration yet.

In another PbP (where I'm a player), there was one day early on where the GM went through and named all the PCs who had earned Inspiration recently. Hasn't happened since.

The list goes on. I liked the mechanic when I read it, but for some reason it just doesn't happen. What have been other people's experience with it? Does it get used much? Any influential factors in your experience you'd care to share?


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I try to give out inspiration as much as possible. Not only do I give it out as a GM for any of the following reasons:

- Player has a good idea (regardless of character)
- Player does a good job roleplaying (in my opinion relative to player's skill)
- Player has PC does something I think is cool
- Player follows the guidelines of the Background

I also allow any player to give inspiration to another player as they see fit (all players, including myself, must agree).

We usually give out and use several points of inspiration per session.

For the PBP game I'm in, inspiration has a very specific mechanic. Whenever we spend an evening's downtime in a specific tavern, there is a percent chance we get inspiration the next morning. The percent chance to get inspiration increases the more we invest in the tavern. (There is also an investment mechanic the GM set up for improving local shops). In addition to this, we're required to state whether we have inspiration or not in our Character's status bar, so you can see it every post.

For both games, any player can use inspiration for themselves or for someone else.


Inspiration is a nice mechanic, but somehow we keep forgetting using it (DM forget to give some, and players forget that they had).

I recently found out that I had 1 point on inspiration written down on my character sheet, and neither the DM and I remembered when I got it...


In the 5th Ed game I am playing in now I don't think Inspiration has come up once. But we also have a gm who is more comfortable with older (1st and 2nd) editions and is still learning the game himself.

The first foray into the system under a different gm used it a little, but he seemed to have issues with allowing the party to rest - ever.


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It gets forgotten at our table too. I'm a fan of "players give inspiration" - I've introduced a rule that you can't give it if you've got it to try and incentivise spending it. I also plan to bring hard-to-miss physical tokens to remind players they have it (we're playing RotRL next and I'm bringing along a huge karzoug statue for each player).

FWIW, I think it's difficult to utilise in PBP when you don't know the group well. Spidre makes me laugh often and I'd like to award inspiration for that, but is that how everyone else wants to use it?

Also, the mechanic being unfamiliar, I find it feels a bit like cheating to just give myself advantage now as a consequence of something that happened weeks ago. (Which is silly, but I still notice it).


I absolutely detest the name they gave it, but like the idea. Makes it very confusing with bardic inspiration I've found in my gaming so far.

I basically broke it down into two things for my games. Those being inspiration (functions identical to bardic version, get a dice to add to rolls) and heroic souls (basically hero points converted to 5e). I hand out the inspiration for all the little stuff simply like good ideas, good roleplay, etc. The others are a bit harder to get and generally kept for achieving plot goals, character goals, being really heroic, etc.

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We use it all the time, especially in tough fights or when it's a mass Save or Suck effect. We share it pretty generously, too. My cleric in particular shares it because I almost always get sAdvantage when I spend Inspiration.

We usually begin each session with 1 point of Inspiration, but we almost never (not never never) earn it back. The GM hands out Inspiration tokens.

When I GM, the players hand out Inspiration. So far it hasn't been abused.


I think the problem is that players can be afraid of spending an inspiration point and treat it as a resource that they won't spend unless it's against a BBEG or some vital point.

Part of it is that they may not realize how liberal a DM will be in giving out inspiration. When in doubt...save.

I think a houserule that can make it so you see inspiration spent more is to give them the ability to save inspiration and have them have 3 inspiration points right off the bat. That way, they can feel free to spend 1 or 2 points and still have something left over for the REALLY bad instances.

In addition, make it so that it's easy to gain inspiration. If you are liberal in granting inspiration, they will feel more at ease at spending inspiration.

An alternate take that one might do, is taken from 4e. In 4e E (or 4.5 to some) they had the rule of gaining one action point every two rests (I think that was short or long rests). Do the same for inspiration in 5e, that way, even without other things, they will know they'll be getting a point of inspiration at set time periods...inspiring them to spend inspiration more often.

That is, of course, if you want the players using and utilizing inspiration more often.


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Jiggy wrote:

Inspiration seemed like a neat mechanic when I read about it. In practice, however, I hardly ever see it used.

<Snip>

What have been other people's experience with it? Does it get used much? Any influential factors in your experience you'd care to share?

Your experience largely matches mine. Generally speaking, people are mostly too busy playing the game to remember think about it, and when we (the table) have collectively tried to keep it in mind, we found it more of a distraction than anything else.

It's an interesting idea, but in my experience rewards for roleplay or generally "promoting fun" (which is what it is) are either best handled as a currency which is rewarded in retrospect (such as Force Points in West End Games' d6 Star Wars), or a true on-the-fly reward (such as stunt dice in Exalted). Inspiration has a foot in both of these camps, and - for us at least - was a lot less usable as a result.

What we did was make it a true On-The-Fly reward: When attempting a roll that involves or immediately follows good roleplay, or generally promoting fun at the table, that roll has Advantage. Essentially, we hijacked it and use it as a mechanical representation of the Rule of Cool.... and for that, we found it works pretty darn well :)


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I use it ALL the time. I've scrapped the "once per session" guideline.

The way we do it is to have a basket full of tokens. The GM handing you one means "You got insp" -- I award this for playing up the traits, and I'm especially happy to do it when sticking to the traits make you as player go more "Vorthos" and less "Spike", such as when the traits bring you trouble -- but makes me be able to hand them out even if you already have a couple. In short: me giving a token is me saying "your checkbox is now checked, I don't care if it already was"

Then when you spend it or give it away, you give up all of them. That's you saying "My checkbox is now empty".


I bought a deck of the Plot Twist cards and give players the choice whenever they earn inspiration to take the point or draw a card.

Some prefer the point, but those who draw a card get to nudge the storyline this way or that. It makes the game more exciting for me because I don't always know what my players are going to throw out and for them because they get to co-write the story (beyond their own PC) just a bit every now and again.

That being said, I don't remember to hand it out as often as I would like. So I have that common problem too.


GreyWolfLord wrote:
An alternate take that one might do, is taken from 4e. In 4e E (or 4.5 to some) they had the rule of gaining one action point every two rests (I think that was short or long rests).

Every two encounters, in 4e Main.

Quote:

Do the same for inspiration in 5e, that way, even without other things, they will know they'll be getting a point of inspiration at set time periods...inspiring them to spend inspiration more often.

That is, of course, if you want the players using and utilizing inspiration more often.

It would make a reasonable alternative for players/GMs who didn't want to track the actual ideals, bonds and flaws.

Personally, in the period where my group played 5e, we used it a lot. Practice with other systems using similar things, plus a general belief that the GM wasn't there to make things easy, meant we looked for opportunities to earn and spend inspiration points. We did make one change, which was that you could 'save' up to three points at a time, and I think people who had a point or two in reserve were much more willing to expend one rather than saving it solely for emergencies.


I'm the GM Jiggy mentioned above who originally made an individual post when a Player Character did something to earn Inspiration. I thought that would be a nice thing to do, but it seemed that only a small number of the players involved actually kept track of having inspiration.

Maybe I'll go back and try doing it again to see if I can get people more interested in keeping track.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Yeah, I can't really blame you for not keeping up with it, as I think I might be the only player who actually used their inspiration after you gave it everybody.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Our table has a divination wizard and 3 characters with the Lucky feat, so we're used to d20 rolls being re-rolled or replaced.

I think a Halfling divination wizard with the Lucky feat would have all of the re-rolls!


To me, having the players inspiration tokens start piling up is a sort of reminder to them that it exists and they can use it.


Great mechanic
Terrible name

I reckon each player gets about 4-5 in a 2.5-3 hour session

Sovereign Court

I need to figure out what kind of chit/token to give out to represent inspiration. I think that will go a long way towards reminding people to use them.


The one time I played a tabletop 5e game, I used my set of absolutely humongous d20's as Inspiration tokens.

The player's couldn't help but pick them up and keep them in their hands playing with them, so they always knew they had "Inspiration" available to them.

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Yeah, handing out dice is pretty cool. Our DM uses flattish, rounded glass blobs.

Pretty much anything that stands out would be cool. Cocktail umbrellas, tiny stuffed animals, rocks, origami cranes, Matchbox cars, playing cards, paper airplanes, etc.


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I hand them my children. That forces them to use inspiration as soon as possible.

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Put the kids to work making macaroni Medallions of Inspiration! You wear it when you have Inspiration, and turn it in to the DM when you spend Inspiration!

House Rule: When you spend Inspiration, the DM gains Inspiration, but has to relinquish it if you earn it back before s/he can spend it.


Just now learning fifth to use as a GM

There are a lot of really nice variant mechanics in the game, and Inspiration is definitely one of the nice ones. However it is another mechanic that can just be forgotten and left to rot, like any other cool minor ability points that have in the past fallen to the same fate. Personally the only real major variants I intend to run are related to additional ability scores, Appearance has always worked out well, and I imagine adding Honor and Sanity to that to be a good idea as well, with the former being similar to alignment and being under a constant potential change. Regrettably, Inspiration just feels too much like any of the other token bonuses, and will be horded until forgotten. For that kind of setup you need a game like Dresden Files which centers around it and easily refreshes it.

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Inspiration is supposed to refresh through roleplaying. Especially through using traits, ideal, bond, and flaw. So that 4 or 5 roleplaying hooks right there. And it's easy to get additional bonds and flaws, and not unknown to gain new traits or ideals.

It might be a good idea to let other players reward Inspiration. Also, allow players to display their traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws so the other players know what to look out for.

Inspiration isn't really designed to be gameplay mechanic, but a concrete reward for roleplaying. It's supposed to inspire players to roleplay their characters, both positive and negative aspects.


I tend to forget about it as a DM, and some players are more keen than other to award them to fellow players.

In my next game, I mean to merge Inspiration with Hero Points as described in the DMG. Basically, the players have access to a pool of points (I call it the fellowship pool in honour of TOR rpg) that a player can spend to gain advantage on the next d20 roll (like inspiration) or to add a d6 to a d20 roll (like hero points).

The pool is equal to the number of players in the party (thinking of making halflings count for two because they bring luck) and refreshes at the beginning of each game. The pool also gain one point back when a player selflessly put its character in danger to save another one, or other great acts of camaraderie.

'findel


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We use Inspiration constantly. Love it. We have gold d20s the DM gives out to award Inspiration, and we roll that die along with our normal d20 when we use Inspiration.

We also allow it to be used after you roll your first die to gain advantage after the fact (to offset disadvantage you still have to expend it before the roll).

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Yeah, our group is pretty loosey-goosey when it comes to the timing of using Inspiration, the Lucky feat, divination wizard's Portents, etc. I think it keeps it fun and lets everyone use their special abilities.


I forgot to add, I'm very strict about it being invoked before the roll only. (I make a couple of exceptions for new players.)

That's my preference, I like the "make a bet" feel, that you're investing more in a particular roll and that you aren't retconning as much.

I've heard a lot of groups invoking it after the roll so that's certainly not unheardof or problematic. It's just not how I want to do it.


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Now I gotta find me some gold d20s. :)

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A lot of 5th Edition abilities occur "after the roll," like paladin smites. I think the governing logic is that the powers that be don't want PCs wasting resources unnecessarily. For example, there is no need to spend Inspiration if you've already rolled a natural 20.


SmiloDan wrote:
A lot of 5th Edition abilities occur "after the roll," like paladin smites. I think the governing logic is that the powers that be don't want PCs wasting resources unnecessarily. For example, there is no need to spend Inspiration if you've already rolled a natural 20.

That's right about the Divine Smite and many others. Inspiration is an exception to that. Allowing it to be rolled afterwards is called out specifically as a variant on DMG p240: "...campaigns that inspire action-packed heroics. For such campaigns, consider allowing inspiration to be spent after a d20 roll, rather than before. This approach turns inspiration into a cushion against failure -- and a guarantee that it comes into play only when a player is faced directly by failure. Such an assurance makes risky tactics less daunting."

Again, it's a variant proposed in the DMG. I have no problems with other tables using variants from the DMG or other sources; I also use some variants from the DMG (including some pretty weird ones like replacing initiative rolls with initiative score).

For my campaigns I really prefer to not use this "spend inspiration after the roll" variant. I like the "I'm going to put extra effort into this roll" gambly gameplay that results.


By our second play session, my table had decided that Inspiration, being under player control, could be spent after the roll. Haven't changed our minds since.

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I guess we're using a variant then. :-D


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Give out gummy bears as inspiration tokens and tell players they may eat the gummy bear when they use the inspiration.


What happens if someone brings their own gummy bears as a snack? WHAT THEN?!

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You get inspiration! And you get inspiration!! And you get inspiration!!! And you get inspiration!!!! Everyone gets inspiration!!!!!


Hitdice wrote:
What happens if someone brings their own gummy bears as a snack? WHAT THEN?!

Monsters get gummy bears too.

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