In all the 5e games that I've run or played in, "inspiration" has either been ignored or delegated -
as a mechanic, it feels very grafted onto the system, as if they were trying to encourage better
roleplay, but didn't know quite how to do it mechanically. Traits and Inspiration are clearly
inspired by the Fate/Fudge "aspect" system, but are not core to the 5e game, and so are often
overlooked or ignored by the DM and even the players.
I've seen a few attempts at fixing that, most interestingly (to me) AngryGM's various hacks, best
described in this post: https://theangrygm.com/fix-yourself-break-the-game/. You don't have to read
that though, it's kind of a wall of text; I'll summarize the core of it, and how I'm applying it.
- You get 5 aspects:
- Ideal - What injustice really gets to you? What could you see and just not be able to stand
idly by? There are likely more than one; if so, pick whichever you'd fix if you could fix only
- Interest - What makes your character go "ooh!"? Are they attracted to all forms of historical
lore? Focused on the image of power? Most curious about what makes other characters tick?
- Fear - What would make your character hide in a cupboard and let the rest of the party handle
it? This isn't the kind of fear that's really a motivation in disguise, like abandonment, or
"my friends getting hurt", it's the kind where your skin crawls and you are mechanically
frightened when you encounter it.
- Trouble - what character flaw do you have that is constantly cause serious problems for you
and your friends? Heavy Drinker, Can't Say No to a Beautiful Face, There's No Time for Careful
Planning.. these are intended to be ways you can cause problems for the group with my help.
- Quirk - what thing about your character would make other characters notice them? Do they hate
the constriction of clothes past a loincloth? Do they detest (but not fear) getting wet? Do
they annoyingly interrupt anyone that's talking near them to share their 'wisdom'? This can
also be used as a second of any of the other aspects.
- Those aspects change over time.
- Session zero is about writing prequels introducing your characters - their first solo adventure,
and one adventure with each of two of the other characters. Keep the adventures light on detail,
it shouldn't contain more information than the back jacket of a fantasy/mystery novel. Each of
those adventures should exhibit/give you 1-2 of your aspects.
- Every time your character gains a level (or when it becomes obviously appropriate), you should
update or replace one of your aspects to reflect your recent experiences - we'll go back over
the things that happened to your character during that level, and replace some aspect with
another (possibly related) aspect that better describes who they have become during that period.
Stories are about the changes events produce in characters; if they are unaffected by the
things occurring around them, then they are not participating in the store, just riding along.
- In particular, these aspects don't need to line up with the above list in the long run. Your
character is developing: overcoming their problems and gaining a better understanding of their
ideals and selves. Characters will have major milestones of their own often as a result of
focused plot arcs, which may significantly update their aspects (and often give a boatload of
- When the character is actively pursuing an objective related to their Ideal or Interest, they are
Inspired. "We'll keep an eye out for arcane objects" isn't enough - you have to be pursuing and
making obvious progress towards your goals. Secondarily, Inspiration can be long-term when you are
actively pursuing one of your goals, but it can also be short-term when you are temporarily
dragging the party along to address an immediate goal - if the sorcerer that can't stand child
labor forces the group to take a detour into a mine to save a kid, she'll have Inspiration during
that pursuit, but the paladin focused on destroying the undead will lack it (unless it turns out
the mine is being run by the undead).
- Ways to earn Character Points:
- When a character's Fear becomes relevant (they fight a pack of giant spiders, or swim through an
underground cave), they gain a point.
- When a character loses more than a quarter of their hit points in one round (between their
turns), they gain a point
- When a character causes meaningful trouble for themselves because of any of their aspects, they
gain a point.
- When a character's Trouble causes a serious problem for the group, all the PCs gain a point.
- Points earned by any character are doubled while they are Inspired.
- For calibration purposes, skipping your turn in a dangerous combat is worth a point, plunging
alone into a fairly deadly situation (and forcing your party to come save you) is worth two
points for the character and possibly one for everyone else. Points awarded depend on risk and
cost, and are generally requested by players and alloted by the GM.. but I won't be telling
anyone how much they can expect for a given action before they commit to it.
- Ways to spend Character Points
- You can spend a point before making any d20 roll to give yourself advantage on the roll
- You can spend two points before any opponent makes a d20 roll to give them disadvantage
- You can spend two points in either case for double advantage/disadvantage (roll three dice).
- You can spend 2 points to take an extra move action during your turn
- You can spend a point to have brought a non-magical item with you that you didn't actually think
to pack (like climbing gear, a bullseye lantern, 100 more feet of rope), as long as you could
feasibly have "had it all along".
- You can spend two points after failing a save to attempt it a second time.
- Points spent by any character are doubled while they are not Inspired.
As you can see, you'll want to pick your Interest and Ideal very carefully - if they are
sufficiently counter to those of the rest of the group, you'll rarely be Inspired, or you'll
be constantly battling to turn the group towards your goals. You'll all start off the first session
with 6 character points, and not Inspired.