Dungeons & Dragons: What Is Inspiration And When You Should Use It

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  • What Is Inspiration?
  • How To Use Inspiration As A Dungeon Master
  • How To Use Inspiration As A Player
  • Homebrew And House Rules

One of the most iconic and influential traditional tabletop RPGs of all time, Dungeons & Dragons provides Dungeon Masters with a variety of rewards that they can provide to successful adventurers, as well as a wide range of tools for players to utilize throughout a campaign. Inspiration is a mechanic that is simultaneously a useful mechanic for DMs to use to help their players, as well as a useful resource for a player to use in key moments.

While it may be somewhat simple, Inspiration is a deceptively multifaceted tool that many DMs squander. So today, we're going to shine a light on the Inspiration mechanic and how it can be useful for Dungeon Masters and Players alike!

What Is Inspiration?

A Dungeons Master is capable of rewarding each of their players or a specific player with inspiration at any point that they see fit. Once a character gains Inspiration, they maintain it indefinitely until they decide to use it. To cash in Inspiration, a player can simply grant themselves an advantage on any attack roll, ability check, or saving throw. Once used, that character no longer has Inspiration until they gain it again. Unlike items that may be reliably purchased or obtained as loot, experience that can be gained through slaying monsters, or even milestones that can be gained through reaching key plot points in a campaign, when players gain Inspiration is completely at a DM's discretion.

How To Use Inspiration As A Dungeon Master

There is a wide range of reasons why a Dungeon Master can provide players with Inspiration, and it is completely up to them and their DMing style. Within an RP-heavy campaign, a DM may reward a player's strong role-playing that leans into their character's flaws or ideal with Inspiration, while within a puzzle-heavy campaign, a player solving a problem interestingly may lead to Inspiration gained. In the context of a combat-focused campaign, players may be rewarded with inspiration upon defeating difficult adversaries or key bosses. If a DM feels like leaning heavily into the use of Inspiration, they could potentially provide their players with inspiration at the end of each combat. It's truly up to how the DM wants to utilize the mechanic.

How To Use Inspiration As A Player

While the advantage on a single roll of a player's choice may not seem like much, it can be quite useful to have in key moments in a campaign. For example, as inspiration can be used on saving throws, a player could use Inspiration to potentially turn a failed death saving throw into a success. Alternatively, when fighting a major antagonist of a campaign, Inspiration can be spent to turn a potentially missed attack into a success when it matters most. How conservative a player should be with their Inspiration is entirely based upon how frequently the DM of that game rewards it. Players should feel free to discuss with their DMs how liberally or conservatively Inspiration will be rewarded within the campaign

Homebrew And House Rules

While Inspiration is a pretty straightforward mechanic, many DMs augment the way it functions within their campaigns through the implementation of homebrew systems and house rules. As is the case with those, it is entirely up to the Dungeon Master what types and how much of them will be allowed within a campaign. However, there are various means of spicing up Inspiration.

One popular choice is to utilize Inspiration cards. When using Inspiration cards, rather than gaining an advantage roll, a player is given a randomly selected card that they can choose to cash in at any time, with different Inspiration cards possessing a variety of possible effects. These effects can range from a potential bonus of a certain type of skill check, to even replenishing a resource like a used spell slot.

For DMs who enjoy the frequent use of inspiration and dislike when players hoard their inspiration for long periods, a house rule option is for players to automatically gain one point of Inspiration at the beginning of each session. This incentivizes inspiration to be used regularly rather than refusing to use it since this option also can provide a bit of a safety net for newcomers to the game.

To push the potential power of Inspiration and make it more impactful on a game, another house rule option is that rather than Inspiration supplying advantage on a roll, it can be used to provide a character with an additional action on their turn, much like a Fighter's action surge.

Whether a DM chooses to utilize any of these Inspiration house rules or use the official version of Inspiration, at the end of the day, Inspiration is a mechanic that should be used to encourage their players and to help make a game as fun as possible.

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