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Watching a video stream of a game, one of the players, the Bard, asked if he could inspire himself with his Bardic Inspiration feature. The GM objected and said that the feature specifically said that you must target another target with your Bardic Inspiration. I thought this was strange and when I looked it up, he was right. In the end, the GM let the Bard inspire himself and he used the Inspiration die to succeed on an ability check.

I find it weird that Bards can't inspire themselves and I can't find a mechanical reason why they should not be able to; they are still expending a resource, anyway. Thankfully this hasn't come up in our games as the Bard is perfectly happy inspiring others while playing a folk metal tune on his phone. But if it does come up, I'm inclined to say why not?

Is there a mechanical consequence I'm potentially missing if I allow a Bard to Inspire himself?

Would that break the class?

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Allowing a bard to inspire himself is giving him a close variation on the level 14 ability of the Lore bard (Peerless Skill). The timing is a bit weaker, but the bard would be able to use the die on attack rolls and saving throws, so it's more versatile. One could even argue that it's strictly better. Giving a level 2 bard an ability that's only available to one specialization of a level 14 bard, while not necessarily game-breaking, is probably not a good idea.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, an answer to this question that actually brings up an issue in mechanics. I would definitely argue that changing Bardic Inspiration to include the caster would make Peerless Skill virtually useless, which is not something you want for a high level class feature. Nice catch! +1 \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Nov 12 '15 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not to be snarky, but I would imagine a bard to be quite taken with himself and to find himself rather inspiring. \$\endgroup\$ – Escoce Nov 13 '15 at 14:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Escoce true, though I find it questionable whether he could trigger himself to feel extraordinarily self inspired in critical situations (modeling the usage of Bardic Inspiration). Either way, as you can see, these things are a matter of personal opinion, while the mechanical issue brought up in this answer is a no-brainer. \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Nov 13 '15 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh obviously, my comment was more of a humorous note. \$\endgroup\$ – Escoce Nov 13 '15 at 16:17
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It would greatly change the role of the Bard in the group, and could make other members feel less useful.

Bards are meant to be social characters that buff the party. Having a bard in your group is wonderful, because it means your rogue can be that much sneakier, your fighter can lift that much more weight, and your monk can do that many more flips in mid-air when they're inspired by their bard. It builds party cohesion and it makes the other players feel really cool.

Because the bard is not able to give herself inspiration, she is necessarily going to spend the majority of her out-of-combat time buffing the party. People love being buffed! And with bounded accuracy being such a huge presence in 5E, the addition of a d6(3.5), d8(4.5), or d10(5.5) to a skill check is huge! It's massive! It's amazing!

...Until you realize that it is huge, massive and amazing for anyone. In 5E, the world's strongest, most athletic barbarian has a pretty decent chance of losing when arm-wrestling anyone off the street. A monk who has spent her entire life training to be an acrobat can expect to lose a tumbling contest against the local tavern owner, and when asked to do even trivial tasks like climb a ladder, she will fall off about 10%-15% of the time. A 9 foot tall, battle-scarred fighter who has fought literal gods can very easily fail to intimidate a small child. Bardic inspiration can make huge differences in these checks. When you add that to the fact that the bard is already an extremely skilled class (Jack of all trades and expertise skills), you're giving the bard less and less reason to waste his precious bardic inspiration die on the unskilled losers in the rest of the party, and more and more reason to buff themselves to the heavens.

If your party bard is very selfless, this rule change will likely not affect the game. However, if this bard has any amount of selfishness, there is a great potential for them to spend the bardic inspiration dice solely on themselves. In fact, when your bard gets Cutting Words, they will be able to make checks with a +d6/+d8/+d10 themselves, AND a -d6/-d8/-d10 to other people (including party members), meaning a midlevel bard can expect to have a 9 skill point advantage on any check they want. Someone with that kind of power will be able to easily make themselves party leader and essentially go unchallenged in any and all skills. That same bard can lie to the entire party and virtually never be found out, pickpocket anything from any party member with no chance of being caught, and intimidate even the most seasoned barbarian in their sleep.

If you don't foresee your bard doing this then you're really just giving him a high-level bard ability for free. If you do see your bard having a bit of a devious streak, out-of-combat encounters are going to become 'The Bard Show' and the rest of your party will likely just sit around, waiting for combat while your bard raises armies, topples kingdoms, and charms great swaths of people with ease, all while out-acrobating the monk, out-lifting the fighter, and out-perceiving the druid.

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The mechanical consequence of allowing a Bard to use Bardic Inspiration on themselves is that, starting from 1st level, in addition to the other class features, the bard can exchange one use of their Bardic Inspiration in order to talk to themselves as a bonus action and grant themselves an Inspiration die.

That is literally the only mechanical consequence.

Does that unbalance the game? That might be the actual question you are trying to ask. If that is the case, the answer will be subjective.

If you must have some sort of reason of why it shouldn't work, I will throw two:

  1. It dilutes the role of the Bard in the party.

  2. It would also imply a logical contradiction, see below.

Arguments

Bardic Inspiration implies that the words used provide some kind of information (praise, encouragement, hints, etc) which helps the ally with their task. Bards know how to convey this information in a manner that is useful for their allies (thus, this is a class specific feature).

Nothing in the wording of the feature suggests that the words are magical. Otherwise, Bardic Inspiration wouldn't work inside an antimagic zone or similar.

Bardic Inspiration requires the words to be spoken aloud for the ally to hear. If you were to modify it for use on oneself, you have to answer this question: Does the Bard have to speak aloud to himself to get the benefit? Can he silently use this feature simply by thinking?

Also note that the number of times you can use this feature depends on your Charisma, thus we can assume it depends on your strength of personality / social skills.

Conclusions

If you allow the Bard to use his Inspiration without talking to himself, this would be drastically changing the way the feature works. It would remove a weakness that Bards tend to have (the need to speak/sing/dance to perform many of their tricks not directly related to hitting things). Not game breaking, but definitely a larger impact. It would also suggest that Bardic inspiration is some kind of psychic or magic power, since the Bard already knows all the information and doesn't even have to do any sort of Bard thing (spout lore, dance, sing, play an instrument) to convey it.

Finally, if you decide to keep the prerequisite of having the Bard sing/praise/explain stuff to himself, balance is more or less preserved, but it would look pretty silly. Other characters might be unable to take such a Bard seriously. And why would such an ability be limited by their CHA modifier?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What about the scenario of psyching yourself up? Bard Joey, who has nerves like anyone might, speaking out loud to himself: "C'mon, Joey, you can do this. You've got the stuff. Relax and let them come to you." Or something like that. Is that relevant to Bardic Inspiration? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 12 '15 at 6:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe that using Bardic Inspiration on oneself would also detract from the spirit of the class (in 5e, at least). The Bard is a team player, one that fills the blanks in his party's skill set and helps his teammates go beyond their own limits. Bards are (usually) not the kind that would fight alone. I would allow the rule only if I was running a solo campaign for someone and they wanted to be a Bard. Even then I might instead just give them an NPC ally to inspire. \$\endgroup\$ – DaFluid Nov 12 '15 at 7:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... Now I kinda want to make "self-inspiration as a mantra" for a MOnk archetype... \$\endgroup\$ – Nigralbus Nov 12 '15 at 9:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaFluid I am in the same boat, and I wouldn't allow it for party role reasons, however I wanted to give a different answer based more on mechanics as OP asked. \$\endgroup\$ – arthexis Nov 12 '15 at 16:16

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