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I'd like to push my players to try and do more heroic things and take fun risks in every session. I'm considering having each player start with Inspiration to encourage this - but they can still get more in-session as well to do it again if earned.

I'm not sure if this un-balances the dice or not, or if it's such a small change that it'll be okay. In addition, are there any classes/races that could use this to their advantage more than others (aka is it balanced for all?)

I aim for 4-5 encounters per adventuring day with about 2-3 encounters per session. Encounters are generally at a ratio of 2:1 in terms of Combat to Roleplay.

Note: I also allow using Inspiration to force Disadvantage on a save or attack by an enemy.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What happens to the "starting" inspiration if they don't use it? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jun 22 '18 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ Just like regular inspiration. If it's unused, then they still have 1 next session. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 22 '18 at 15:19
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Talk to your players rather than trying to use a gameplay solution

I'd like to push my players to try and do more heroic things and take fun risks in every session.

I read this as a narrative thing; you want their behaviour to create more interesting moments in the story. Having one free advantage every session is a mechanical gameplay thing, and not something I'd expect to drastically change the narrative.

Personally, I'd suggest talking to the players about this and firstly seeing if this is something they'd want more of as well (because if not, they'll just take your free inspiration and otherwise ignore your intention for giving it to them) and secondly to find out why they're not doing so and to reassure them that you're not going to kill off all their characters for taking a few risks.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I can definitely say a player won't die for taking a risk. A risk is still a risk - but having advantage on that risk can make it much less risky. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 22 '18 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I didn't mean to say they would never die; wouldn't be a risk otherwise. Just that you're not trying to trip them up on purpose and punish them for falling for something (some people can be paranoid about their DMs like that), so just to reassure them that you'll be fair, but not necessarily overly generous \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jun 22 '18 at 18:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm hoping that you aren't really thinking about killing players. It's traumatic enough when their characters die. :) \$\endgroup\$ – NomadMaker Jun 22 '18 at 21:21
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It's not more unbalancing than Advantage as a mechanic

The DMG section on Inspiration (p. 240-241) lays out an intent to reward RP and taking risks by having a chance at the roll of more than a single d20 when "something" happens; technically, it applies advantage (roll two d20, pick the best result) when "something" risky is about to happen.

This additional roll of the d20 is mechanically similar to the Lucky Feat, Halfling Lucky racial characteristic, and a whole host of spells and abilities that provide advantage. (To me, advantage is a d20 re-roll done up front; the two Lucky tools have the second roll happen after the fact). You then have 'circumstantial' advantage granted by a DM based on a situation. Roll 2d20 and pick the best.

Applying advantage during play (Chapter 7)

The DM can also decide that circumstances influence a roll in one direction or the other and grant advantage or impose disadvantage as a result. (Basic Rules p. 57, / PHB p. 173)

You don't need inspiration to do that as a DM, but that is a DM discretion tool versus a player discretion tool. Inspiration is a limited use of advantage under player discretion.

What you are doing with this choice as a DM is putting a few more "roll 2 d20 and pick the best score" situations into the game under player discretion rather than under DM discretion, with the play/fun objective of increasing risk tolerance of your players.

  • I'd advise against is stacking inspiration. The DMG intent seems to be that this is a limited resource.
  • Experience point: based on how I have seen inspiration used by players, over 4 years of play, I'd recommend that you start each player off with a point at character creation, and then award inspiration as DMG suggests, when they do something noteworthy. Most of the players I play with forget that they have an inspiration point to spend. It often takes DM reminder on a sucky roll "you had an inspiration point, didn't you?" and I have seen more than one DM offer to allow the inspiration point as a re roll when the player realizes "Doh! I had an IP I forgot about!" ... but that will vary by table.

Note: I also allow using Inspiration to force Disadvantage on a save or attack by an enemy.

That's similar to a Divination wizard's portent ability that can change someone else's roll. In limited doses shouldn't influence balance, since you as DM can at any time apply Disadvantage to an NPC based on a circumstance or situation.

There are already quite a few structural re-rolls in the game, and loads of ways to get advantage. They don't have a big enough impact on balance to not be in the game.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there is still confusion. They are not identical to the Lucky feat or ability because those can be done after you roll the die - Inspiration cannot. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 22 '18 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I did not say identical, I said similar. The end result is "roll more than one d20 and take the better score". \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 22 '18 at 15:39
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As others have said, giving Inspiration isn't really going to completely change the balance of power, and even if it does all you need to do is provide slightly tougher challenges or stop giving out Inspiration quite so freely. It's certainly much less of an impact on an encounter than the details of the challenges they're faced with and the tactics their opponents use.

It may or may not accomplish your goal of "push my players to try and do more heroic things and take fun risks in every session", however. In fact, I think the way to do so would be to explicitly make sure your players know that they can get Inspiration every time they attempt something heroic or take a fun risk. You may even opt to give them the opportunity to use that Inspiration on the specific die roll related to that attempt, rather then it giving them advantage on something unrelated to the heroic deed. This would be more in line with the idea of Inspiration as a mechanic, rather than giving it out just for showing up.

For some more ideas about tweaking and revamping Inspiration to encourage certain player behavior, I suggest reading The Angry GM's "11 Ways to Take the Suck Out of Inspiration in D&D" (warning: he uses strong language). Some of them do involve starting each session with Inspiration, but limiting use of it to only actions specifically related to the behavior that's being encouraged.

There are a lot of possibilities for "house rules" for Inspiration, but with any of them I wouldn't worry much about it being "unbalanced". Just make sure that everybody is on board with the idea that you're experimenting, and may need to make changes as you all go along. After all, the people who playtested to come up with the official rules weren't your specific group, and there's no reason to think that their ideas are definitely the absolute best option to use, even though they're a perfectly reasonable place to start.

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Balance is Relative

This is less a question of balance and more of how well each character can use it. Your players are one end of the scale and your encounters another. You have full control over the encounters and obstacles on that end, so if you unbalance the player side, you can simply add more to the encounter side. The real problem in balance tends to come about on an individual basis - are each of my players pulling their weight? Is one player way too strong and the rest feel helpless? Or is one helpless and the rest too good? These are issues that can cause player strife. But giving each player the same bump has mostly an equal effect. Can a Wizard make use of advantage as well as a Rogue, and under what circumstances? These are important questions to consider.

So manage your encounters and obstacles accordingly and balance won't be an issue. The difficulty of every campaign is impacted in ways the DMG can't always anticipate, such as how well equipped your party is. So "feeling it out" is an ever present battle, since no book can give you a concrete answer to what is and is not perfectly balanced.

Caveat

Since the limit on inspiration dice is 1, you should consider what having a free inspiration die means and how your players will react. If you intend to reward them with a die when they do something heroic, they won't feel the need to do something heroic if they can't get rewarded for it. Since they already have 1 die, until they use it they can't get rewarded. You would hope they would do heroic things regardless of the reward, but incentivization is a powerful tool when managing humans in any context. If you remove the incentive during part of your sessions, they won't work towards that endeavor. If you intend to encourage heroism with inspiration die, I would suggest you allow that incentive to be ever-present in your session to a reasonable degree. Consider increasing the limit to 2 or 3 inspiration dice.

With one die, they are incentivized to use it when they have it, but not incentivized to gain more. With unlimited dice, they are incentivized to gain more dice, but not incentivized to use them. Using the original rules of acquiring an inspiration die, the same "problem" arises. Incentivized to use them when they have it, but not incentivized to acquire more. This is less of an issue usually because inspiration dice are harder to come by. But when you start every session with 1 die, you're opening up this problem at the start of every session, which also creates a pattern. This pattern can be useful, but be aware of it.

With a limit of 2 or 3, they can simultaneously be incentivized to use and gain dice to a reasonable extent. It eliminates some of the "overlap", as it were. Discourage hoarding, but encourage the acquisition of dice.

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