Inspiration is a rule the game master can use to reward you for playing your character in a way that’s true to his or her personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw. By using inspiration, you can draw on your personality trait of compassion for the downtrodden to give you an edge in negotiating with the Beggar Prince. Or inspiration can let you call on your bond to the defense of your home village to push past the effect of a spell that has been laid on you.
Your DM can choose to give you inspiration for a variety of reasons. Typically, DMs award it when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way. Your DM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game.
You either have inspiration or you don’t – you can’t stockpile multiple “inspirations” for later use.
If you have inspiration, you can expend it when you make an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check. Spending your inspiration gives you advantage on that roll.
Additionally, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration.
Awarding inspiration is an effective way to encourage roleplaying and risk-taking. As explained in the Player’s Handbook, having inspiration gives a character an obvious benefit: being able to gain advantage on one ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. Remember that a character can have no more than one inspiration at a time.
A Reward for Victory
Players and Inspiration
More details on these elements can be found in the DMG
Dungeon Master’s Guide, pg. 240-1
Inspiration is a (supposedly) fun little addition to DnD 5e that allows for a Dungeon Master to reward their players with a mechanical benefit for non-mechanical behavior. There are a whole host of official rules for the awarding, spreading, and using Inspiration in your game, as well as a whole lot more homebrew options.
I’ll cover how Inspiration is run “by the book,” as well as give some of my favorite examples of homebrew rules for Inspiration in DnD 5e.
How Does Inspiration Work in 5e?
Inspiration is a bonus awarded to a player from a DM when the player roleplays well or adheres to their character’s personality, bonds, flaws, or ideals. It is entirely up to DM fiat to award Inspiration, but DMs should tell players how they plan on awarding Inspiration so they know how to earn it.
A player can only have one Inspiration at a time. When a player uses their Inspiration, they give themselves advantage on the next d20 roll they make, be it an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check.
A player can give away their Inspiration to another player if they feel they deserve it, using the same basic principles as a DM awarding Inspiration; if that player “does something exciting” or true to their character.
DnD tables often use a token as a way of remembering who has Inspiration.
That’s the basics of Inspiration in DnD 5e, but it’s one of the most common rules in the game to homebrew and tweak.
What Are Homebrew Inspiration Rules in 5e?
Common ways to tweak Inspiration in DnD 5e with homebrew include the following:
Allow for rerolls on failed d20 attempts. Rules as written, Inspiration gives you advantage on a d20 attempt before you attempt it; not after. But the most common house rule for Inspiration is to allow for a player to reroll a failed d20 roll (attack roll, saving throw, or ability check) instead.
This also has the advantage of making Inspiration forgotten about less often. Players don’t like failing, and will regularly use their Inspiration to retcon their mistakes.
Make it a group resource. Instead of awarding Inspiration to a specific player, award it to the group, allowing Inspiration to stack to the number of players in the party. This way, any player can use the Inspiration for their d20 roll, which creates an interesting dynamic. Players will have conversations about the “best” time to use their limited group resources.
Allow for it to force an NPC disadvantage on their d20 attempt. Another very common house rule for Inspiration, this just allows players an additional way to use Inspiration — for times when they force an enemy to make a do-or-die saving throw (most commonly for potent save-or-suck spells).
Award it to everyone at the start of the session. This way, every player is aware that they have this “one-time” resource for each session. They’ll be more apt to remember they have it and actually use it, not worrying about “wasting” it on something unnecessary because they’re guaranteed to get it back.
A common variation on this house rule is to only grant this start-of-session Inspiration to players who arrive on time and/or contribute to recounting the events of last week’s session to reward punctuality, attendance, and engagement.
Award it more liberally. Such as whenever a player lands a critical success on an ability check. Or whenever a player makes you laugh (although, warning, this might create a pun overload at your table or incentivize time-wasting banter.
Allow it to be used at the moment when a player does something in-character. Instead of awarding Inspiration for later use, this house rule just applies advantage/reroll on a d20 roll a player makes on something that ties to their character’s personality.
For instance, a player might get Inspiration for making a poor tactical decision based on their flaws, so that they’re more likely to succeed on the poor choice. Or a player might get Inspiration on a saving throw made in an effort to defend an undefended village, if it plays into their ideal to always protect the vulnerable.
Allow players to award it. This way, DMs don’t have to remember to grant/track Inspiration all the time. Of course, DMs still have the final say, but this ultimately just leads to more Inspiration being available in a game, and gets players to be more involved with their fellow players’ backstories and personality traits.