We need to acknowledge the Tarrasque in the room. Inspiration in 5e Dungeon & Dragons sucks balls. It just does. In most game sessions it goes unused and forgotten about, both by players and DMs. But this Inspiration house rule will change all that. It’s called TPT or Total Party Turn and it’s going to spice up your combat encounters. I promise.
Why does Inspiration suck? There are a lot of reasons, but the main one is that the reward just blows. Advantage is a situational modifier granted by so many different variables that Inspiration is just lost in the melee. That alone makes it a pretty unimportant thing to have been “awarded”. It’s like winning a pen with the word inspiration printed on it. Whoo-hoo.
At Arcana Times, inspiration is truly Inspiration and buys a TPT (Total Party Turn), and these points are never left on the character sheet at the end of a session. I will give you an example of how inspiration plays out at our table, and then I will explain the rules and workings of the system.
Jo, Jim, Karen, Eric, and Nub are fighting a group of orcs in Great Hall of an abandoned castle. A gigantic set of locked wooden doors are holding something huge out of the Hall, and it’s pissed. The party engages with the orcs, hoping to finish them off before whatever is on the other side gets in. Too late, the doors burst open and an Ogre charges through.
It’s Jim’s turn and he has an inspiration point. He declares he is going to attack the Ogre with inspiration. He rolls to hit with his short sword and beats the creatures AC. He burns the inspiration point and the entire party is inspired. Time seems to slow. Everyone else rolls a d20 and adds any ability mod they want to the outcome. Those that beat the AC get to assist Jim in his attack and add a damage dice, those that miss the AC get to aid, but no damage. In game it looks like this:
Jim charges at the Ogre with his short sword drawn. While fighting her orc, Karen kicks a rock into the face of an orc between Jim and his target. It knocks the orc back, clearing Jim’s path. Eric squats, cups his hands, and when Jim steps into them, launches him into the air. Jo tosses the in-flight Jim her own short sword and he catches it. Nub yells go for the throat, reminding Jim that he has seen this ogre before and it already sports a wound to its neck. Jim plunges both swords into the ogre’s neck, removes them and hops to the ground, striking a heroic pose.
Everyone beat the AC so they all hand Jim a 1d6 to add to the normal damage he would roll for a short sword attack. He does 22 damage to the ogre. Initiative order resumes where it left off and it is now Karen’s turn.
So how does this work?
- At the beginning of his turn, a player declares his inspiration attack and what weapon or spell he is using. If the attack succeeds, he burns the point for a TPT. If the attack fails, he burns the point to retry his normal attack without inspiration. Or in the case of a spell caster, restore his spell slot and start his turn again (without inspiration).
- During a TPT, the entire party acts as one team on one person’s turn. Each player has a TPT damage die granted by the DM. The die should be close in size to the average party level, at the DM’s desecration.
- All other players roll a d20 and add any ability mod or skill mod they want to the roll. If this roll beats the target’s AC then they can assist on the attack in a way that uses the ability or skill mod they added. So if a player is granted an Assist using base STR they can trip a target, or charge through an impediment, imagination is free to run wild. This can change the battlefield and positions, but cannot cause damage or impose conditions on other enemies. More examples would be adding a deception mod to a roll and the player yelling out to the target that there is something behind it. A DEX mod could mean tossing the player a dagger. Whatever happens Assists get to hand the attacking player their TPT damage die.
- Any player failing to beat the AC is granted an Aid. When you aid a player, you help but don’t get to add your die to the pool. A player granted an Aid can still alter the battlefield and position of enemies.
- When the DM approves the scenario, the attacking player rolls for their normal damage and bonuses and then adds the damage rolled on the TPT dice. The DM then alters the battlefield to reflect the consequences of the inspiration attack.
- Play resumes on normal turn rotation.
TPTs can change the tide of battle and that is what inspiration is all about. DMs should allow the players’ imagination to run wild during a TPT. Attacks of opportunity and other limits should be ignored to a certain extent, but in the end, the DM still has to approve the scenario. Assisting and Aiding the attacker should be the primary goal not improving personal positions. This gives the players a considerable amount of power and as such, other Inspiration rules have to change to accommodate this house rule.
Inspiration should be granted sparingly and only for heroic actions, self-sacrifice, or actions that are above and beyond the call of duty. Did the Rogue pick a DC20 lock under a hail of arrows to allow the party to escape? Inspiration. Did the Fighter shield an NPC from a dragon’s breath weapon taking all the damage himself? Inspiration. Basically, award inspiration points for things that ACTUALLY inspire the rest of the party and then the character can use that point to inspire the party again. It is inspiration in the bank, waiting to be spent.
Also, only the DM can grant inspiration points and they cannot be passed from player to player.
There you have it. Inspiration that actually inspires. Stop letting those points die on the character sheet and start making your sessions heroic and inspired.