Inspiration in DnD 5e

Inspiration is a great tool to reinforce with players that the ‘optimal’ decision is not always the ‘best’ decision when it comes to the game.

A rogue being awarded inspiration after staying on the ship to rescue people


What is Inspiration in 5e?

Inspiration is a mechanic that serves two key purposes. First, it encourages players to embody their characters more deeply, not just in terms of their abilities and skills, but also their beliefs, ideals, bonds, and flaws. Second, it provides a tangible benefit within the game mechanics, offering a potential boost when a player needs it most.

The decision to award Inspiration lies in the hands of the Dungeon Master (DM) but usually happens as a reward when a player’s roleplaying or decision-making significantly contributes to the game’s narrative or authentically reflects their character’s traits.

Awarding Inspiration

One of the things that is sometimes hard for new DnD players to grasp is that it isn’t always the most fun to have your character do the ‘optimal’ thing in any given situation. As a player, you likely have a wealth of meta-knowledge that really, your character does not. Your character also has their own unique background, personality and traits that should influence their decisions. This sometimes means that making the ‘wrong’ decision is actually the ‘right’ one for your character and the game at large. Your DM (maybe that’s you!), can decide to give a player Inspiration when they feel a player has done a particularly good job roleplaying their character and likely added to everyone’s enjoyment.

For example, I once played a character with the flaw of being extremely stubborn. This meant, while our party was negotiating for a reward, they absolutely refused to back down in the negotiations, even once we had been offered a fair compromise. This kind of roleplaying offered some new situations that everyone could lean into and in such cases, as with this one, the DM might choose to reward Inspiration.

5e Inspiration negotiationI was right about one thing. The negotiations were short!

Using Inspiration

Once you’ve been granted Inspiration, you can choose to a moment spend it by choosing to roll at advantage. This may be an attack roll, saving throw or ability check.

However, the decision to use Inspiration must be made after the roll but before the DM announces the outcome. This introduces an element of risk and strategy into the decision, as the outcome is not certain.

Sharing Inspiration

While the official rules don’t explicitly state that players can share their Inspiration with others, some DMs may choose to allow this. Sharing Inspiration can encourage cooperative role-playing and teamwork, enhancing the group dynamics and the overall gaming experience.

For instance, if a player’s character is in a dire situation and another player’s character steps in with a brilliant roleplaying moment, the DM might allow the second player to give their Inspiration to the first player. This rule is not universal, so as always, it’s important to discuss it with your group.

Expiry of Inspiration

By default, Inspiration does not ‘expire’. It remains until you decide to use it. However, you can only have one Inspiration ‘point’ at a time. If the DM tries you awarded you Inspiration while you already have it, the new Inspiration is lost.

To encourage active usage of Inspiration and prevent hoarding, sometimes DMs may choose to implement a rule where Inspiration expires after a certain period or at the end of a game session. This can add another layer of strategy to the game as players must decide when best to use their Inspiration.

Common Questions about Inspiration in 5e

When can I use Inspiration?

Inspiration can be used after you roll the die for an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check, but before the DM tells you the outcome. This means you can’t wait to see if your roll fails or succeeds before deciding to use your Inspiration. It introduces an element of strategy, as you have to weigh the importance of the roll and decide whether it’s worth using your Inspiration.

Can you stack Inspiration?

By the rules as written, you cannot stack Inspiration. You can only have one Inspiration at a time. If you already have an Inspiration and are awarded another, you do not receive the second one. This rule encourages players to use their Inspiration rather than hoarding it.

Can Inspiration be used after seeing the roll result?

No, the rules specify that you decide to use your Inspiration after you roll the die, but before the DM tells you whether you succeed or fail. This adds a layer of suspense and decision-making to the game. You can’t wait to see if your roll is a failure before deciding to use your Inspiration.

Can I give my Inspiration to another player?

The official rules do not explicitly allow for this, but some DMs may choose to allow it to encourage cooperative role-playing and teamwork. It’s a way of acknowledging another player’s role-playing efforts or to aid in a crucial moment. As this is not a universally accepted rule, it’s important to discuss this with your DM and other players.

Can you use Inspiration on death saving throws?

Yes, Inspiration can be used on any attack roll, saving throw, or ability check, which includes death saving throws. This can potentially turn the tide in life-or-death situations, making Inspiration a valuable resource in critical moments of the game.

Advanced tips and strategies for using Inspiration

Inspiration, while a simple mechanic, can introduce a profound level of depth to your DnD games if used strategically. Here are some advanced tips and strategies for both players and Dungeon Masters:

Inspiration tips for players

  • Use it, Don’t Lose it: Remember, you can’t stack Inspiration, so if you already have Inspiration and earn another, the new one is lost. Don’t hesitate to use it in crucial moments.
  • Character Driven: Actively play your character’s traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws. These are the primary ways to earn Inspiration, so lean into them, even when it’s not the most strategic move.
  • Timing is Everything: While you can use Inspiration after you roll but before the outcome is revealed, consider the importance of the roll. Is it worth using your Inspiration now, or might there be a more critical roll later?

For Dungeon Masters

  • Rewarding roleplay: Use Inspiration as a tool to reward good roleplaying. This can motivate your players to immerse themselves more deeply in their characters and the game world.
  • Highlight the narrative: If a player’s actions drive the story forward in an interesting way, consider rewarding them with Inspiration, even if their actions don’t necessarily align with their character’s traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws.
  • Group dynamics: Allowing players to share Inspiration can encourage teamwork and cooperative play. It can also lead to dramatic moments when a player gifts their Inspiration to another in a critical situation.

Be Inspired!

As with all aspects of D&D, the use of Inspiration can be tailored to suit your specific gameplay style and preferences. Whether you’re a Dungeon Master aiming to facilitate a rewarding and engaging experience, or a player eager to bring your character to life, the use of Inspiration can greatly enhance the storytelling and excitement of your DnD sessions.

So go forth, adventurers, and may your games be full of inspirational moments!

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First introduced to D&D by the cRPG Baldur's Gate after borrowing it from a friend in 1998, Mark is currently experiencing repeated bouts of unconsciousness trying to take his melee Wizard through a 5e campaign.