Because roleplaying is social, creative, fun… and kinda cool!

A Little More on Why Heroic Inspiration…

…should take a long walk along a short pier.

In my last post, I made some small use of all those ‘how to write and format a professional screenplay’ books I bought with stars in my eyes, and punched out a scene straight from the future of my D&D table in courier font. The point behind it is fairly obvious: to illustrate how irritating players being able to frequently re-roll their d20 ‘tests’ might get – especially used in conjunction with abilities to modify these ‘test’ results.

A bridge for Heroic Inspiration to cross…

A little Twitter trade-off with a re-roll advocate if anything made me more convinced about my position. The d20 is Dungeons & Dragons’ chief tool for resolving outcomes. If you don’t trust it to do so, why roll it in the first place?

Making re-rolls a more common part of the game, as (the currently proposed) Heroic Inspiration will do, just serves to weaken the authority of the dice. The drama of making an important roll in front of the whole table is going to evaporate. At least in any situation where a player still has their Heroic Inspiration, which looks like it will be virtually all the time as you pick it back up whenever you roll a 1 on any test, in or out of combat (see Tweet below). Variant humans might also get it automatically after a long rest, while the Lucky feat will likely continue to exist in One D&D too, adding to the numerous occasions when the dice will be picked back up from the table and set to work again.

This reshaping of dice-established destiny just feels very “anti-D&D” to me. You’ve already rolled the die to determine what happens. Why stop the game and roll it again? If you’re not prepared to accept bad luck and failure in crucial junctures of the story, I’d question whether you should you be playing D&D when perhaps a collaborative storytelling game would suit your table better.

Or, if you want to play D&D, but on easy mode, why not lower DCs, and save the effort of doing something twice; or lower the CR of the monsters, so you don’t have to rely on this bulky, time-consuming mechanic (I can already envision players not really being able to keep track of when they have Heroic Inspiration and when they don’t, esp. when they start using it for trivial things, which they will start to do, because they will likely get it often enough to be worth using on minor rolls too).

Is Inspiration a Problem in 5e?

Despite my misgivings about frequent rerolls, I’m not totally against players being able to mould the narrative on occasion, and that’s why I actually like the existing 5e Inspiration rules. See Tweet below.

If players forget to use it, that’s fine by me. When I’m DMing I will remind them if it’s a key juncture and a little dramatic justice is desirable. And if DMs are forgetting to hand it out, also fine by me (it is, after all, a completely superfluous mechanic).

But, if you really consider that D&D suffers from a lack of a working Inspiration system, then I think a much better solution would be if players gain it at the start of a quest (one of my DMs uses this system and it works well), or else perhaps get it when they level up.

A Question for One D&D Designers

While I see some ‘pros’ in Inspiration, and its One D&D variant, Heroic Inspiration, overall do they override the cons of re-rolls that I set out in the comments’ section of my last post, and which I expand upon here?

Cons of Re-rolls

1. Interrupt / slow down the game

2. Revise the reality already established by a die roll the table witnesses

3. Undermine the authority of the dice to determine outcomes

4. Create a cheat mode for players (that monsters don’t have)

5. Create potential pain points in gameplay (How long before you can call it? “Immediately after the roll” is easier to say than enforce. Will players be able to track it effectively?).

I will leave you with the bemusement of DM David, whose Tweet sums up my thoughts here


The Insidious Revisionism of Rerolls


How To Run (Murder) Mystery Adventures in D&D


  1. Daniel

    yeah the more I think about inspiration the less I like it, and I definitely prefer the less is more approach.

    everyone getting it (only) at the start of an adventure is a pretty cool idea.

  2. I give inspiration out at the beginning of every session to everyone who writes an in-character campaign journal between sessions (and everyone almost always does). And they still forget to use it most sessions.

    • duncan

      I like that idea a lot…. or at least have them do some kind of character/roleplay related homework, between sessions. I think my players would remember to use it.

      Could also consider offering in-game rewards for good real world behaviour too. Like turning up on time for the session… “congrats you just earned inspiration for this session.”

  3. PK

    Agree. 100%.

    Re-rolls are ruining the D&D experience.
    And It also brings the players closer to a Total Party Kill (TPK): DM’s now need bigger and deadlier creatures to challenge the players to survive a few rounds to make it interesting with the players Rerolls and temp HP, and death bounces (from 1 hp healing spells). Ultimately, it pushes the game further along the design spectrum towards a binary outcome – you win again, or you all die.

    By perpetuating the power creep of 10 years with 5e supplements in OneD&D, WOTC have changed the settings dial far beyond heroic fantasy.

    Sadly we needed a 6e. The cleanse of new editions comes from a reset in power levels, back to a modest level.

    OneD&D is already boring, because it’s too Heroic. The power of the spells take away the “in world” adventuring experience: Goodberry removes need for food, Long rests restore all Hit Points, characters fly at 1st level, and teleport at 3rd level, or permanent spider climb. Most characters get the Shield spell and someone in the party doing the ritual for Leomund’s tiny hut. This all changes the game from adventuring (player agency) to plot-points (player railroading) because authors are now writing stories (snooze)! There is no play when modules become stories.

    Sadly we needed a 6e.

    That said, 5e needs more recognition for its successes:
    – New Settings and Modules – Wild Beyond the Witch Light, Mythic Odyssey, Avernus, Dragon Heist, Radiant Citadel
    – Great Production Quality: Ghosts of Saltmarsh, Ravenloft, Eberron;
    – A good game
    – Strong community feedback loop

    Homebrew is the way forward IMHO.


    • duncan

      Hi PK

      Wow, that’s quite a lot of stuff I hadn’t considered before.

      One thing I did consider was whether having so many rerolls for players is going to have to mean rerolls for monsters at some point to balance things… at which point we’re entering farcical territory, as we’re basically taking twice as long to play the same scenarios, adding nothing but delays as we do so.

      I do wish more thought was given about what powers can be achieved at what level, and then not make exceptions. Would def. be great for adventure writers… if you stick in a log bridge in a level 2 adventure you want to know that it stands up as an obstacle or not. And in general it would def. be great to keep the low level grittier fantasy vibe going for longer, where travel is dangerous and starving a possibility etc. Heroic fantasy is great… once you’ve earned it.

      Do agree that the 5e products have been great. Shame that the products get hyped and then totally forgotten…. I bought Theros but have hardly seen a stream, adventure or chat about it since and there’s no buzz or hype around it at all now. Even Radiant Citadel looks like it’s fading out of consciousness fast (right after I posted a 15,000 review on it!).

  4. Jose

    I don’t want to be to cynical, but… are we having another Pathfinder split? I can see why WOTC may want to spice things up to entice new players, the trend on most of the latest rules expansion books (Xanathar, Tash, etc…) is to make cool stuff happen earlier. (i.e.: do you want a Ranger? Here is the Gloomstalker, a killing beast from level 2 or 3. Do you want a new Cleric? Here’s Twilight Domain. And so on…)

    I think after the release of the basic books of 5th Ed., the trend from the last few years is to keep people coming in and to have plenty of power from day 1, which, don’t get me wrong, it is nice as an option, but defeats the point of having a campaign and one of the main targets of RPGs, which is to see your characters grow.

    In all fairness, every DM that I know already adapts the rules a little bit for one-shots (start with lvl 2 or 3 characters instead of lvl 1, for example), so I just wonder if WOTC want to actually split the market to reap more profits this way? A one shot, inviting set of rules and a slower/more experienced set of rules for the long run players?

    Food for thought…

    • duncan

      I agree with all your observations Jose, but I rather draw the opposite conclusion…. I think WOTC want to unite all the D&D players and end any edition wars, hence trying for this ‘One D&D’ moniker, and their claim that all your 5e stuff will still be relevant (although hard to see how the PH, XGtE and Tasha’s will be) and useable.

      It def. looks like One D&D is being built with players in mind… asking “what’s the most fun for them?” And then saying “Let’s give it to them.”

      Meanwhile the individuality of the DM is being eroded with specific mechanics to deal with social interactions etc. and more precise guidelines on what skills check to use in what situation etc. Why? I believe to give players a more consistent experience from table to table, which I guess they believe will help grow the game and enable folks to play online with anyone in the world without too much ‘culture shock’ from joining different groups.

  5. Frederick Coen

    I use “Luck Points” at my table. You get one for showing up to the game on time. (Has worked wonders for us starting on time!) You get one if your birthday is “this session” (within a week before or after the game). These last the whole session until spent, but are lost if not used by session end. You can ‘save’ them for the right moment…. A Luck Point can be spent to reroll any die that you caused or that affects you, like being critically hit, Nat 1 on your attack, or even to reroll damage (or healing!). [The Lucky feat is not allowed at my table; this mechanic replaces it and benefits everyone.] Note that BBEGs always start with 1 Luck Point…

    Additionally, we use “Lady Luck”, which is similar to OneD&D’s idea of Inspiration. If you roll a Nat 20, you have Advantage on any one roll you make before the end of your next turn. (Usually a d20 roll, but again, sometimes used for damage or healing.) However, if you roll a Nat 1, you have Disadvantage on your next d20 roll.

    This way there are maybe 5 rerolls per session (sometimes people show up late and don’t get a Luck Point, sometimes they wait to long to use it and it expires). Advantage and Disadvantage aren’t rerolls and don’t slow things down, and provide some swings in luck. Yes, Nat 20 causing advantage makes another Nat 20 more likely. Yes, Nat 1 causing disadvantage makes another Nat 1 more likely. It’s been fine in actual play.

    Yes, martials roll the d20 more than casters. But they are just as likely to get a “good combo going” (multiple Nat 20s) as to “fumble” (multiple Nat 1s), so it balances out. And I absolutely use the 5e rule on skill checks that Nat 1 is NOT a skill failure, it’s just a 1. the Bard, last session, still had a perfectly acceptable performance at the tavern with his Nat 1 (total result 11), no matter how embarrassing it was considering the previous night was legendary (29). DC 10, the 11 was still a success. But, flustered by his poor performance, he failed to secure “company for the evening”, having Disadvantage on his follow-up Persuasion check…

  6. Dave

    Anyone here ever play the old West End Games D6 Star Wars? Remember Force Points?

    It was a fun mechanic, a GM could hand them out in much the same way 5E allowed for DM handing out inspiration— for particular heroic accomplishments, achievements, good role playing, whatever. Players only had a few of them, but when you used a Force Point you could double any roll you made.

    The thing is, Force Points we’re *rare*. You might not get one every session, but they were so valuable to use that you still felt compelled to burn them. If you didn’t use them for evil, you’d get them back (I’d restore the FPs after a story arc— not at the end of the night, but maybe 3-4 nights).

    During the pandemic I ran a D6 Star Wars campaign for my table in between 5E sessions, just to mix it up, and I fell back in love with the Force Point dynamic. Just enough to be useful and not hoarded, but not so common as to make *my* job impossible (especially since all players only start with 1 and I control the throttle— after a year of playing, players had enough Force Points to feel heroic, but they didn’t have them all at once in the beginning).

    Long way of saying: awarding Heroic Inspiration should be the DM’s job, not a dice roll’s job, and it should be a rare resource if it’s used at all, a reward and benefit, not something assumed as a matter of course.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén