Ideas for Improving Inspiration

the Jester

Legend
I can't believe I forgot to mention this upthread in my earlier post.

I also award inspiration as a reward for things that don't earn xp.

See, to me, xp comes from activities that include danger. I prefer to reward social encounters, puzzles (but not traps- those I give ad hoc xps for) solved, or the like with inspiration, rather than xp; it's a tangible reward, yet maintains D&D's traditional dynamic of leveling up coming via dangerous activities. And I've also attached inspiration to other subsections of my game; for instance, a character who spends the time and resources to build or claim a stronghold that completes a long rest inside that stronghold gets inspiration.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
True.

I'm maybe looking at this from the other side of the coin, where Inspiration short-circuits the regular mini-game of Advantage, but true nonetheless.

The solution, of course, is to divorce Inspiration from Advantage :)
Yet another reason why "after-the-fact Advantage" is a good houserule for Inspiration.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
It was an error on my part to use terminology that loaded. Angry DM talks about this is in his own article complaining about Inspiration. There is not really a mechanical or in-fiction connection between how one earns and spends Inspiration.

In contrast, in Fate a PC gains fate points (FPs) through two means: Refresh and Compels. Refresh is the amount re-gained at the start of every session. With compels, the GM (rarely other players) offer the player a FP to accept a narrative complication based on the PC's Trouble aspect, though possibly also other aspects. But on the other side of things, the player can only spend those FPs on things that pertain directly to their character Aspects. In order to spend a FP (to reroll, gain a +2 bonus to the roll made, declare a story detail), the player must invoke one of their Aspects in a manner that is relevant to the fiction. Now in Fate, your Aspects are the bulk of your character. They describe who you are as a person. So this is a forefront element, and the FP economy of aspect invokes/compels makes it a central part of playing a character. In contrast, the player is spending Inspiration on whatever. Just a random roll without any connection to the Bonds/Flaw/Ideal system (or whim of the DM) that garnered that Inspiration.

Fate Points are regarded as dissociative mechanics in how spending them comes from a player decision. However, the means that they are gained and spent all connect closely with reinforcing the character concept in-narrative as expressed in the Aspects/Trouble.

I think they kinda try replicating this idea through the Personality Traits of Inspiration, but it falls a bit flat IMO. And this dissonance is fairly clear from the flavor text and the mechanics:
Here, there is the idea that Inspiration will be spent in a way in-fiction that is congruent with the character's associated personality trait. Okay, neat. The reality? Not so much:
And this cognitive dissonance is where it ultimately falls flat for me. It ain't got no soul in how it works.

Thing is, I love Fate, and I don't mind meta-mechanics as a general principle. But the implementation of Inspiration feels somewhat cumbersome and half-hearted.
If I'm reading this correctly, one of your complaints about Inspiration is that you get it for, say, roleplaying your character, and then 10 minutes later you get to spend it on, say, an attack. And it can be a pretty tall order to connect the two in the fiction. It's pretty weak (and just uninteresting) to say, "Um....I think back to how it felt when I let my greedy side get the better of me, and it makes me angry so I channel all that anger into my swing..."

I get that. I'm not disagreeing.

I also just don't care. I don't see that as a flaw of Inspiration, party because I don't really hold as a goal for RPG design the elimination of mechanics that are hard to explain within the fiction. I really enjoy storytelling and roleplaying, and I also really enjoy the tactical metagame. A game that combines both is better than a game that is exclusively one or the other.

If the carrot of having a free re-roll in your pocket for emergencies helps induce players to do more roleplaying I think that's good.

Again, not that I think Inspiration as it is currently implemented is great design, as evidenced by the number of people who forget to use it.
 
In Fate, you have to use your Personality/flaw/ideal (traits) in order to spend a fate point.

You don't have to keep track of why you got it in the first place but spending it has to be 'in character'.

So, you might gain an Inspiration because you have a 'greedy' flaw. (Maybe you stole someone's money pouch which almost got you arrested.)

You can spend it on anything you want but it should make sense to the character. Spend it in combat because your character has the personality trait 'Together we stand, Divided we fall' and he's protecting his buddy.

I use this method to 'compel' or encourage players to complicate the story based on their traits. "Hey, your character is 'Greedy', I'll give you an inspiration if you steal that gold statue of the mayor's mantle." Then they can take the inspiration and risk getting caught. Or they just turn it down. Players love this kind of thing and will often take huge risks just for a point of inspiration.

I'll further add a use for Inspiration which was inspired by FATE, (which I posted in two other threads today but it applies)

2. Use inspiration to declare something.

Hey GM, i'm new in town. Can I use an inspiration to declare that I have a contact here in town? I have the Personality Trait, 'friend to the masses'.

You get some cool stuff happening where the players now add to the story. Instead of them asking, 'is there a torch somewhere?' and the dm rolling % or having to decide, the player just spends his inspiration. (DM decides what is acceptable). Declarations don't have to be limited 'stuff' either. If it makes the story more fun, you could declare that a specific NPC might be your 'ex-girl(boy)friend' - which could have positive or negative consequences depending how that relationship ended....which would be up to the table to decide.

In fact, you could do fun stuff like, "Hey DM, can I say that girl used to be my ex-girlfriend?" Offers an inspiration.

DM: "actually, that's a great idea. But why don't you keep your inspiration...and take another for good measure" (cackles)
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
If I'm reading this correctly, one of your complaints about Inspiration is that you get it for, say, roleplaying your character, and then 10 minutes later you get to spend it on, say, an attack. And it can be a pretty tall order to connect the two in the fiction. It's pretty weak (and just uninteresting) to say, "Um....I think back to how it felt when I let my greedy side get the better of me, and it makes me angry so I channel all that anger into my swing..."

I get that. I'm not disagreeing.

I also just don't care. I don't see that as a flaw of Inspiration, party because I don't really hold as a goal for RPG design the elimination of mechanics that are hard to explain within the fiction. I really enjoy storytelling and roleplaying, and I also really enjoy the tactical metagame. A game that combines both is better than a game that is exclusively one or the other.
What's more, if this is a problem for someone, then all that's required as a solution is to think up an in-fiction reason why it works the way it works. I don't give a flumph about it myself, but if I did, that's what I would have to do. Same way people justify how hit points work.
 

Elfcrusher

Adventurer
What's more, if this is a problem for someone, then all that's required as a solution is to think up an in-fiction reason why it works the way it works. I don't give a flumph about it myself, but if I did, that's what I would have to do. Same way people justify how hit points work.
Yeah. We all do this ALL THE TIME. These games are just not even remotely realistic, so we have to tell ourselves all kinds of lies, constantly, to make the fiction somewhat believable. So to refuse to do that in cases where we simply don't like the mechanic is...well, fill in the blank.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
I call them gimmick because they have dozen or more different names in each system which provides thrm - fate, drama, plot, story, hero, action, shineys, etc etc etc and gimmick points just saves time. They were not new - they have been around a long long time.
No, I don't accept that we should use a derogatory name on them just because the concept has had different names across different RPGs. It's like calling HPs or AC a gimmick, because it also has a lot of terms in different RPGs. If you want to call them a neutral name, go ahead. But don't pretend you're just giving them a common name and not putting them down when you use the term gimmick.

The **use** of them is to spend the point as a player and gain advantage- no "in character" requirement to use them, which means they are divorced from the character at time of use. "Goid dance last night" allows "advantage on initiative today."
Maybe yo you that's "in character" but it's not the style of play we like.
Now this is fair. I was focused on the getting of them, but this is a real criticism of spending them. At my table, they are usually spent in way of people going above and beyond because they are inspired (or Inspired) because they are Fighting for Queen and Country, or whatever the appropriate trait was. But you are right - by the rules there needs not be any connection. I agree, that's something to fix.
 

Hriston

Explorer
I have a couple issues with the way inspiration is presented in the rulebooks.

The first has already been mentioned. It's how the way the mechanic is used doesn't match what's implied by the description, most notably the sentence about the Beggar Prince. It just seems sloppy.

Second, and I think this is more important, DMs should be encouraged by the rules to put their players' characters in situations that address their characters' personality traits. This can drive a more narrativist style of play and seems to be one of the untapped strengths of inspiration as presented.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
So to bring this back around to the original topic (which was "how to improve Inspiration" and not "why your particular problem with Inspiration isn't valid")...

Our table houserules inspiration to apply whenever it is relevant to a background trait. So just straight up advantage when a trait is relevant to what is happening.
[MENTION=6748898]ad_hoc[/MENTION]: How does this work out, in practice? How do you prevent it from being abused? Like, I could imagine someone with the Ideal of "Survival" wanting to get advantage on every single saving throw...

I'm asking because I really want to try this system for my next game. My biggest problem with Inspiration is the Traits/Ideals/Bonds/Flaws are very hard to use -- there's too many of them (5 per PC???) and a lot of them are not very well thought-out. Traits in particular are mostly role-playing prompts, and I don't see them motivating consequential actions the way Ideals, Bonds and Flaws might. I'm worried that someone with a Trait of "I always use big words" will do that (which is good) and consistently get advantage on all Charisma (Persuasion) checks (which is over-powered).
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
I would also consider importing a modified version of the Dungeon Worlds Bonds system. Bonds are principally about the relationships between the PC and other PCs, though also possibly NPCs, generally determined by class/playbook. Though it rewards XP, it does not seem unfeasible to have it provide Inspiration. But one could then stipulate that Inspiration is used to assist another player character.
 
I think Inspiration should be used to reward players to complicate the story based on their flaws and traits. They can then use them to spend them when things get hairy.


Similar to the Action Hero who gets the crap beat out of them at the beginning of the movie but then comes back to kick butt at the end. Which is why I like giving out more than one.

In fact, I use them as an incentive to complicate things. I'll offer them a course of action and the potential to earn an inspiration.

"You like 'ACTION OVER WORDS'. This diplomatic talk is boring. Why don't you do something to spice it up?"

You'd be surprised what a player will do just to get a point of inspiration.

I'm convinced that Inspiration was inspired by FATE but they implemented in to the game poorly.
 
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Elfcrusher

Adventurer
I would also consider importing a modified version of the Dungeon Worlds Bonds system. Bonds are principally about the relationships between the PC and other PCs, though also possibly NPCs, generally determined by class/playbook.
Agreed. I've always seen the 5e background traits as inferior to DW bonds, which are simple, colorful, and fun to incorporate. Make it about the relationship between the PCs, not just about each PC in isolation.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Agreed. I've always seen the 5e background traits as inferior to DW bonds, which are simple, colorful, and fun to incorporate. Make it about the relationship between the PCs, not just about each PC in isolation.
That would be a somewhat harder setup for AL type games and some pickup or player pool games, plus there's nothing stopping anyone from including DW-style bonds right now. Personal characteristics can be written however we want.
 
Our DM told us that he couldn't run today's session because he'd be out traveling, and that he'd have to run it via text and I, jokingly, told him I was going to bring brownies to roll20 and he wasn't going to get any. I thought of this thread and I told him they were Inspiration Brownies. He laughed and said he was up for that. So, today, when everyone logs on, they will have an Inspiration Brownie which I made by making a custom deck of cards which the players can draw from. It's infinite Brownies.
 

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Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Okay, while I am not of the "Inspiration is borked" train, in the spirit of the thread I'll make suggestions on how to make it better.

First, I would make it that spending Inspiration needs to be linked to one of your traits. So you gain it as below, but it can be against any of your traits, positive or negative, that you need to narrate out the use of it.

Second, five traits per PC is a lot to keep track of. While FATE often has five Aspects, they replace a bunch of other mechanics that 5e has, and even then are often put up on index cards or other play aids. So I'd suggest less traits that gain points.

Thirdly, the nature of the five that 5e picked has the possibility to be gamed by players who write overly broad positive traits. Instead I would suggest Inspiration only comes from negative traits. If a player wants to write them wide so they come up a lot - and mess up the characters a lot - that's just as valid as writing them narrow and definitive.

I'd like to see negative ones in two parts - general ones that define how I can act against my own best interests, and interpersonal traits that can cause consensual drama between characters (as opposed to drama between players which isn't as fun).

An example of the later comes from a blog post by Rob Donoghue, co-creator of FATE, talking about how to adapt PbtA bonds into more open-ended ones for a rotating cast. But that method also opens them up for interactions with NPCs and makes a nifty way of describing interpersonal flaws. His examples are:

Gullible – Tell me a lie I believe
Liar – Believe and act on a lie I’ve told you
Righteous – Offer me an easier solution I must refuse on principle.
Outsider – Refuse my aid because I’m different
Leader – Allow me to make a decision so you can criticize it.
Heroic – Let me keep you from going first into danger so I can go myself

Just some examples, you would come up with your own. But they would need to be specifically actionable.

Interpersonal ones like these would grant inspiration to BOTH parties involved. So the rogue offering to torture the prisoners for information that gets opposed by the Righteous paladin would gain them both Inspiration.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
An example of the later comes from a blog post by Rob Donoghue, co-creator of FATE, talking about how to adapt PbtA bonds into more open-ended ones for a rotating cast. But that method also opens them up for interactions with NPCs and makes a nifty way of describing interpersonal flaws. His examples are:

Gullible – Tell me a lie I believe
Liar – Believe and act on a lie I’ve told you
Righteous – Offer me an easier solution I must refuse on principle.
Outsider – Refuse my aid because I’m different
Leader – Allow me to make a decision so you can criticize it.
Heroic – Let me keep you from going first into danger so I can go myself

...Interpersonal ones like these would grant inspiration to BOTH parties involved. So the rogue offering to torture the prisoners for information that gets opposed by the Righteous paladin would gain them both Inspiration.
interesting stuff here. taking notes.
 
Okay, while I am not of the "Inspiration is borked" train, in the
First, I would make it that spending Inspiration needs to be linked to one of your traits. So you gain it as below, but it can be against any of your traits, positive or negative, that you need to narrate out the use of it.

Thirdly, the nature of the five that 5e picked has the possibility to be gamed by players who write overly broad positive traits. Instead I would suggest Inspiration only comes from negative traits. If a player wants to write them wide so they come up a lot - and mess up the characters a lot - that's just as valid as writing them narrow and definitive.
.
One of the things you get good at playing FATE is making traits that are double-edged. If they are too positive, you don't gain Inspiration and, if they are too negative, you can't spend them.

Something like, "Always Ready" hardly nets you anything because it's good to always be ready. But "Always Expecting the Worst" still lets you be ready, but can lead to some interesting complications and rp situations.

But Fate points are an economy in FATE and not a 'gimmick' as someone put it. The game doesn't really work without them and you need them to flow back and forth. That said, you might want to specify in D&D that some Traits should be positive and some should specifically be 'flaws' if you're worried people would game the system.
 
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