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Catching up on YouTube stuff from my hiatus from gaming, I was watching this roundtable where three DMs were talking about why they hated the Inspiration rule in 5e and Mearls agreeing with them that it was made in such a way that it could easily be removed, that no other rule lean on it. (Other rules lean on having advantage, and inspiration gives advantage, which I think is elegant – it is integrated while not being strictly necessary.)
The case against inspiration were all centered around giving it out.
My case in favor of inspiration is centered on using it.
The rule is that you spend your inspiration before you make the roll – unlike Fate, where you can spend fate points retroactively after you made the roll.
I prefer the 5e way (as I argued here, writing " I think the rolls get devalued and the tension deflated if you can just change it after the fact“), it makes you have to be mindful of how much you care about a roll before you make it. It’s you having to be mindful of the bets you are placing. Generally I am in favor of placing the random elements at the end of resolving actions, situations, questions and conflicts rather than in the middle (which was the style for a while).
Listening to gaming tables you often hear “Oh, great roll! Good job!” but the truth is that dice are random. You don’t have power over them. Using insp is a way to get some of that power.
So to anyone thinking of ripping inspiration out of your game, that’s why I want you to reconsider.
Now, you can do what a friend of mine did, he gave every player inspiration at the start of every session just for showing up, and never any more, because of all of that. He was hip to all of the reasons Adam and the Matts had for removing insp, and all my reasons why I like using insp. It’s a good compromise.
But I’m also going to make a case, albeit weaker, in favor of handing it out during the session, to explain why I still do it.
I know I’ve said that I generally go to great lengths to deemphasize story. Story beats, story moods, the general Hamlet’s hit points thing. Focusing on the situation and the game world is what I’m here for. My role is only to set the stage. But: getting insp for when your character take emotional or social concessions and then translating that insp into successful action does tend to create interesting narrative. Quoting Fiasco, p50:
Is it weird that you can wallow in failure the entire game, collect a ton of black dice from all those bad scenes, and then have a happy ending? I’d point to the source material – in the films Fiasco references, true sad sacks often come out smelling like a rose.
You take your beatings in the beginning and then the gods of luck smiles for you in the end. When I first read Hamlet’s Hit Points, I was like “this sucks, no way am I gonna go back to trying to curate scenes to that degree now that I’ve belatedly learned about player agency”. And then when I read Hillfolk I was like “Ooooooh! So that was the point of Hamlet’s Hit Points, now I get it.” You don’t curate scenes but having a token econ to affect how scenes are resolved automatically create a curve of downbeats followed by upbeats. (And, it’s only advantage, it’s not automatic success. You can still die in the end so the tension of D&D is still there.) [That said, as I argued here: “The economy was fragile. I sometimes would ponder solutions to this problem but nothing struck me as good.” the economy in Fate and Diaspora would often grind to a halt. The way 5e works solves a lot of that, by:
Anyway much love. Thanks for reading.